OPINION: A flight to remember

Ajay Bhai Amrit and Rahul Amrit in the cockpit of Fiji Airways Airbus A350 during flight FJ50. Picture: SUPPLIED

Bula readers! Firstly what a wonderful and emotional trip we had on the now historic Fiji Airways Flight FJ50 which glided around Viti Levu and Vanua Levu during Fiji Day and at one point even flying low over Albert Park.

I must admit — I was a little apprehensive as to what this flight was about as we were told that it was a very special flight and the money raised for the purchase of seats would go to the Fiji Cancer Society, apart from this little was known of the final itinerary.

The flight itself was already going to be a scheduled non revenue pre-storage flight anyway so Fiji Airways thought to combine this routine and mandated flight into a new flight plan and also invited 60 passengers to visit towns and cities throughout Fiji on this flight lasting about 2.30 minutes.

My apprehension when I arrived at Nadi airport was quickly surpassed by respect and reverence for the ground staff, check-in attendants, security check-in and all the cabin crew and pilots who made each and every one of us feel like royalty for a day.

As we entered the business lounge for a special 50th Fiji Day anniversary breakfast, I was expecting to see the cancer society with some of the patients who would join us on this historic flight.

Alas, I was told by one of the employees there would have been a few medical and logistical concerns for the patients, so it was agreed to donate funds to the cancer society instead, which sounds fine as health and safety should always be a priority.

The flight itself was something to savour as we took off on the giant flagship Airbus A350 with our 60 passengers aboard. What was most exciting was the fact that we were flying quite low for most of the early part of the trip as we left Nadi moving onto Sigatoka, Navua and finally into Suva.

As usual the hospitality from the Fiji Airways cabin crew was second to none and in my personal experience of flying regularly for many years, I have always been most impressed with there warm smiles, attentive nature and caring attitude.

Once we flew over Suva and took in the spectacular views of Albert Park, the surrounding buildings and architecture, we then immediately took a steep incline up to 15,000 and headed towards Fiji’s beautiful scenic Islands.

The rest of the flight was quite delightful as we were given a conducted tour of many of the hidden paradises of which our nation has in abundance.

The trip itself started with apprehension, but the whole of the FJ team made the 50th celebration of Fiji Day an incredibly special, historical and enjoyable event indeed.

Thank you team Fiji Airways, and I am certain I can speak on behalf of the 60 other lucky passengers, that this was truly a once in a lifetime experience and let’s hope that we can return to the skies next year and welcome back the tourists to our Island in the Sun.

More importantly, I pray firstly that we can get all our hospitality industry employees back to work as soon as possible and also we can finally fill the airport with all our Fiji Airways staff busy working with their friendly smiles welcoming our tourists.

For a brief moment in the skies it was almost like it was business as usual and we were all happy and smiling as we soared through the skies, but once we landed on the ground the bleak reality hit me that we had a very bare, barren and empty airport which desperately needed our local hardworking employers to fill and also the buzz of happy tourists.

I am well aware of the very stringent rules and regulations Fiji Airways have to abide by, but one suggestion I would like to make to the Fiji Airways executives is that on non revenue pre-storage flights which are mandated anyway, maybe you can choose another charity, charge a handsome fee and once again send up some very lucky passengers. This time they can pay for one seat and donate another seat to some lucky senior citizens or school children to enjoy the sights and also the hospitality of the world famous Fiji Airways team.

Finally, let us all work together in unison and not just a few in isolation to bring our tourists back and build our economy slowly but surely. It certainly looks like an uphill battle as our return dates to the skies seems to get further and further away.

I for one am optimistic that we will return to the skies sometime next year. When exactly is anyone’s guess, but when this happens I urge the executives do everything within there powers to re-employ all the Fiji Airways staff members once again.

I am convinced what makes Fiji Airways a premier airline is not its planes, not its food, not its in-flight entertainment system, but its employees, who once again proved during the FJ50 experience to be the best in the business.

Adios.

n Ajay Bhai Amrit is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily shared by this newspaper.

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