Bethany Rolston flies aboard Air Chathams flight 3C401, the inaugural service from Auckland to Norfolk Island.
We're aboard Air Chathams' classic Convair 580. Built in 1957, the aircraft has been in passenger service for Air Chathams since 1996.
It's the airline's inaugural flight to Norfolk Island (we flew last Friday) and the excitement is palpable, with airline staff handing out branded Air Chathams hats for everyone to wear on the plane. Flight attendant Kaylee Morrison lets out a "wahoo" during her flight announcement, followed by some cheering from the passengers.
Taking on the flight to Norfolk Island — where other airlines have ditched the route — is a huge milestone for the family-owned company, which began in 1985 with one small five-seat Cessna aircraft.
: It's a cosy crew of three — two pilots and one cabin attendant. Airline founder Craig Emeny is our captain and his son Duane, the general manager, is the first officer. Flying runs in this family's blood, with another son, Matt, also a pilot.
Luggage: 23kg check-in and 7kg carry-on, more than enough for a few days on an island. There's no overhead compartments on board so make sure your carry-on luggage can fit under a seat.
My seat: There are 39 seats in a 2-2 configuration. I am in a prime spot, seat 10D in the last row, with a window, lots of leg room and stunning views over the North Island. Make sure to look in the seat pockets for a couple of Sic-Sacs, the coolest little sick bags I've ever seen — and hopefully never need.
Pretty chocka — 38 people in 39 seats.
Something to eat and drink? The standard water, tea and coffee, plus a Tim Tam, a strong contender for top aviation treat against Air New Zealand's Cookie Time. Top tip — don't finish your hot drink until you've received your biscuit, then you can say you've done a "Tim Tam Slam" (Google it) at 8000m, travelling 520km/h.
As you near landing you'll get an old-fashioned mint candy from Wally's Lollies, of Fielding.
Entertainment: Air Chathams' new in-flight magazine Air Chats is a delightful, aesthetically-pleasing read.
Price: Upwards of $199 one way (plus taxes), with flexible fares from $439. Flights are once a week, on Friday mornings from Auckland, with any increase in frequency based on demand. If you fancy jetting to Norfolk Island for Christmas this year, there's an additional flight on Saturday, December 21, to accommodate for silly season travellers.
The landing: It's a tradition for the Norfolk Island Fire Service (based near the airport) to watch and rate each flight as it lands, and hold up their score. We got a nine out of 10 for our landing — not bad at all.