Flight attendant has Fiji at heart

Qantas flight attendant Suzanne Bovoro. Picture: SUPPLIED

“EXCEPT for the fact that I was born in Australia, as the wife of a Fijian and having met my husband at a relatively young age, I grew up in Fiji. I consider myself to be Fijian such is the strong influence of the Fijian culture. I love Fiji with a passion.”

These first few lines struck me upon being introduced to Australia’s national airline, Qantas flight attendant Suzanne Bovoro, a fortnight ago.

Suzanne, 43, is more than just a flight attendant. She is in fact a friendly figure who would love to talk about her first journey to Fiji and how she ended up meeting her Fijian husband 32 years ago.

“32 years ago, Fiji Airways (then Air Pacific) leased a 747 aircraft from Qantas. For a short period of time they trained the Air Pacific crew who were converting to the 747. One Air Pacific crew member was placed in each Qantas Flight Attendant training class,” Suzanne started.

“The Air Pacific female crew member who sat beside me (Debbie Burness-later Debbie David) in the classroom is still my best friend to this day. “In the class behind Debbie and I, a then young Fijian man started training for Air Pacific with Qantas too! 18 months later (and after another short stint in the RFMF in 1987) we were married. We just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on the 28th June this year.”

Suzanne, a proud grandmother to two grandchildren, said she fell in love with Fiji on her first visit.

Suzanne, who married Mitieli Bovoro of Matailobau, Naitasiri, has travelled the world, lived in Bali, learnt to speak Indonesian and yet until the day she met her best friend and husband to be in the Qantas training, Fiji was one of the countries she was yet to visit.

“I fell in love with the people of Fiji before I even visited Fiji.

“For the six weeks of training Debbie and I were inseparable. After training finished I hopped straight on a plane to Fiji and from the time the aircraft door opened I felt I was where I belonged. I had a lot to learn and understand, but it’s been worth it.

“I love Fiji more than any country I have ever visited. Fiji is my home, my country. I wear with pride the flag of Fiji on my Qantas uniform name badge. I love the people of Fiji, the food, the weather and Fiji’s natural beauty. I also love the richness and complexities of the Fijian culture, which is why we plan to relocate to Fiji permanently in the near future.”

Suzanne was born in Sydney, Australia and her father died when she was 15 years old.

She said her mother had a strong influence on her life and helped them raise their two children which allowed her to continue with her flying career. Tragedy struck again when she lost her mum, who had a brain tumour, in 2008.

Her life, however, revolved around the aviation industry because her husband’s family members have one way or the other been a part of the growing industry. Despite her busy work life, she would always find time to travel to Fiji and visit her family in Matailobau.

She shared her first visit to Naitasiri was a drive on a wet day on the gravel road from Sawani to Vunidawa.

The vegetation was a mixture of brown and green, the result from the dust off the gravel road.

“Now we drive on a beautiful tarsealed road which is comparable or better than the Queens or Kings roads, with less cars and scenery of green vegetation, streams and rivers that would be the envy of many. Today, you can drive your car right up to the village which was not the case in the past.

“I’m able to receive daily updates on village activities from wherever I am in the world. I love this and it helps me to remain very connected to everyone and everything.” Suzanne has two children and two grandchildren.”

Her son, Arivakisati is training to be an electrical technician and Marama works for an Australian Airline as ground staff and whilst studying for her commercial pilot’s license to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot.

“I love my Fijian family with a passion. As I lost my parents and have no connection with any remaining family members in Australia, my Fijian family are my only family.

“My Fijian family is huge and I’m blessed to be part of them. My father in law -Tamaqu- Maika Ranamalo Bovoro-has from the day I met him has been a man of great strength and stability for me. He is a man of true faith and I’m honoured to be his daughter in law, or daughter.

“Sadly my mother-in-law Ana Seini passed a few years ago. I miss her enormously. We were very alike!! And I loved how she always believed in any conversation, that “Susannah is right”! Even if I may have been wrong.”

Despite the jokes and laughter, Suanne was willing to share a piece of advice for young Fijians wishing to join the aviation industry and in particular being a flight attendant.

“Do your homework!! It’s a highly sought after career and one doesn’t gain entry easily.
“Look closely of the entry requirements of an airline. Make sure you are a team player. You will be working in a much closed environment for long periods of time so flexibility is absolutely essential.

“On board there is a saying that flight attendants need to be babysitters, actors, concierge, police, plumbers, fire fighters, lifeguards, jugglers, dieticians, mind readers, negotiators, mechanics, psychologists, referees, safety inspectors, gourmet chefs, conservationists and above all models and “smile” permanently! This is so true”.

She adds that it is still the best career, despite the ever changing challenges and now now is the time to keep an eye on recruitment.

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