Courtney Whitaker flies Air Vanuatu Flight 51 from Auckland to Port Vila, Vanuatu.
A Boeing 737-800. One of a relatively new fleet of planes.
The seat: 11D — the middle child.
How full: Packed to the brim.
Fellow passengers: Holidaymakers, mostly. Although the back half of the plane looked to be locals, who clapped and cheered (with relief?) when we landed on the tarmac at Vanuatu.
On time: We were scheduled to leave at 12.05 but we left about 10 minutes early, arriving on time at around 2.15pm.
Entertainment: Here's a hack to make the three-hour 15-minute journey a little more bearable: the airline, along with their brand spanking new planes, has introduced an app that operates using inflight Wi-Fi after take off. On it, you will find a small selection of movies, TV shows and Vanuatu tourism promotional videos (which we found rather useful in planning our holiday gastronomy and subsequent beverage consumption). Download this before you board the plane (one of us was smart enough to do this), and Bob's your uncle. I imagine it's more enjoyable using this service with an iPad or laptop, as we found balancing an iPhone between two of us to watch a movie impossibly awkward.
Food and drinks: A choice of chicken curry and a beef pie. We missed out on the chicken, so had to make do with the pie which was actually fine, and came with a salad, fruit, and a cookie. There was a small selection of wine, beer and juice, and — in what we thought was a nice touch — a glass of Amarula on ice to wash it all down.
Service: Polite and efficient.
Toilets: Small, of average cleanliness.
Airport experience: Auckland airport always delivers on the Duty Free shopping and is relatively easy to get around. But on this particular day, the highlight for me was the almost non-existent queue through Customs. It was twilight zone stuff and I queried it with a friendly looking Customs Officer: "Travel in the morning," he said. "Try to avoid flights after 5pm." Easier said than done, but thanks for the tip.
Would I fly this again? Yes, especially as it is currently the only airline making the Auckland-Port Vila hop after Air New Zealand stopped its service in 2016.
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