Kirsty Johnston flies from Niue to Auckland with Air New Zealand.
: A lovely Air New Zealand Airbus A320NEO.
Price: From $596 return.
Flight time : 3pm. But it's Niue and things are a little different there. Check in is — get this — manual. There's a handwritten boarding pass and manifesto for the crew and the line to check in can move quite slowly because of this. Equally, the same crew do the arriving flight and departing flight, so everything needs to be done before the incoming plane lands. Therefore, the recommended check-in process is to check out of your accommodation around 9am, go to the airport, then head back to the Scenic Matavai Resort for a swim and some lunch (or into Alofi for a coffee), then make sure you're back at the airport before 1pm. You can just drop your rental car there and leave the keys in it, no worries. If it were anywhere else, it would probably be quite annoying but it's Niue, so it's simply charming, just like everything else on the island.
My seat : In the middle somewhere.
Fellow passengers : Delightful. At check-in I met my new mate Shirley from Melbourne, who I'd been on a snorkel tour with earlier in the week. We were already two pina coladas in by the time we got to the airport lounge, where we then ran into the star expert from Hawaii who'd given a talk the night before. It was like a mini reunion. Unfortunately former Housing Minister Phil Twyford was also part of the reunion — which was fine except I'd just written a critical story of him a few days earlier. Not awkward at all. But that's Niue. It's very small. You will run into every person from the plane while you're there.
How full : Chokka.
Entertainment : There was Wi-Fi! And probably movies but I went to sleep.
The service : Excellent. I love how they never blink at anything. "Can I have half orange juice and half champagne?" "Sure."
Food and drink : What can you really say about airline food? It was ... inoffensive. There was a vegetarian option, which was great. And two offers of water, also great. And obviously, the mimosas were as good as you'll get anywhere.
The toilets : It's only a 3.5 hour flight so I am unable to report on this but they appeared to be working.
Luggage : For four days (I went on Tuesday and came back on a Saturday) you can probably get away with hand luggage only — and I'd recommend it as the baggage handling is slightly shambolic.
The airport experience : It truly is like no other. There were chickens on the runway. The "duty-free" shop opens for half an hour only. The security checking your bag are probably the same guys who took you on a tour earlier in the week. There's only two flights a week. It's hilarious and adorable.
The bottom line : It's not often that the flight is a highlight of your trip but if you love experiences that are quirky and surprising, you'll love it. And to be honest, you've just had at least a week on a tropical island. By the time you're flying out, nothing's really a problem, is it?