Flying Air Vanuatu

After flying to Brisbane with Qantas where Alfie was disappointed he didn’t have a personal screen, I foolishly consoled him by advising that once we boarded the international flight for Vanuatu, he would have his own screen.


Could he get any closer?

Waiting for our luggage.  Could he get any closer?

As too was my belief that when flying overseas you’re given slightly more leg room than when you take a domestic flight.

Drew and I don’t fly together well.  Perhaps our experience would be different if when boarding the plane we turned left and flew in the expensive seats but like most people, we take a right-hand turn and sit with the masses.

Welcoming musicians

Welcoming musicians

Drew is a big guy.  He’s tall but not like a reed; he has some mass about him.  And that mass (as in wide shoulders) extends into my seat.  And I have to sit crumpled and twisted trying to find somewhere for my own limbs.

Port Vila Domestic Terminal

Port Vila Domestic Terminal

Humans are getting bigger yet allocated space on economy flights is shrinking like the size of paddle pops and Big Macs.

The domestic terminal is very crowded and hot

The domestic terminal in Port Vila is very crowded and hot

So there were no screens and pretty-much nowhere to put your legs and Alfie and I scored two people sitting behind us who from take-off to landing, did nothing but kick the back of our seats.  When Alfie could take it no more, he turned around and screamed, ‘Stop it’, but that’s when they suddenly couldn’t speak English.

Queuing at Port Vila Domestic Terminal

Queuing at Port Vila Domestic Terminal

The plane did have shared screens and for a period of time they showed an episode of ‘Modern Family’ however the video play halted intermittently stopping the sound and jumping forwards and backwards making the show impossible to watch.  It was then pulled and replaced with a map showing us how much distance the plane had traveled.

I found the meal served to be disappointing.  There was a choice of chicken or beef and it’s like a toss of the coin and hoping your coin lands the right way up.  Alas, I found the beef meal inedible and was relieved when the air hostess finally removed it from the tray table.  However, Alfie loved his chicken and rice dish and ate everything he was served bar the stale bread roll.

Time to board the plane

Time to board the plane

What was lovely about arriving in Port Vila was walking off the plane and onto the tarmac.  After being packed like a sardine there is something so relieving about feeling the fresh air enter the plane as soon as the door swings open.  Walking across the tarmac is always better than walking into an air-conditioned terminal.

Except the terminal at Port Vila airport isn’t air-conditioned.  The men working in little booths in customs and immigration have towels beside them that they use to mop the sweat from their brows while overhead ceiling fans do their best to whip about a bit of air.

Walking towards the plane

Walking towards the plane

While you pass through the casual processes of all the arrival procedures, a group of musicians sings traditional songs which is a lovely welcome and helps put you in a holiday mood.

The next morning we arrived at the Port Vila domestic terminal.  It’s a very basic building that’s more like a shed.  Again, there’s no air-conditioning and the seating is limited and you have to be alert to when your flight is departing as notifications are not loudly vocalised.

Walking off with his eggs

Walking off with his eggs

Our flight to Espiritu Santo was on a small plane with propellers.  All five of us had been allocated seats in different rows of the plane.  I don’t know if you’re like me but when I see someone coming on board holding a screaming toddler as well as juggling a large bag of groceries, I hold my breath and cross all my fingers and toes hoping they are not going to take the seat next to me.  Alas, this poor woman sat beside me.  She tried to stuff her groceries under the seat in front of her and meanwhile her infant son was becoming more and more worked up and he had tears pouring out of his eyes that were running down his face and hitting his legs.  His mother kept apologising to me which wasn’t really necessary as I’ve been in that situation and know, there’s nothing you can do but ride it out.

It was a very hot day and even hotter once on the plane as the air-conditioning either wasn’t working or wasn’t switched on.  Everyone grabbed magazines from the seat-pocket and started fanning themselves.  The seats were vinyl and in my summery dress and with all the sweat, I was sticking to the seat.

Fresh air

Fresh air

The very crowded flight took off but the lack of air-conditioning didn’t improve.  I could only get a trickle of air from that switch above my head and so for the flight, everyone just kept fanning themselves.  It was a 50-minute flight and I guess too short to be considered one where refreshments would be served.  This was the first flight I’ve ever been on where you’re not given as much as a bottle of water.  And in that heat, some water would be nice.

The flight from Efate to Espiritu Santo is very pretty and I did have a window seat so I could look out and enjoy seeing the islands and the turquoise waters of the Pacific.

The new international terminal, Santo-Pekoa

The new international terminal, Santo-Pekoa

Arriving at Espiritu Santo is again a walk-across-the-tarmac affair and again, it was a relief when the rear door was opened and air filled the cabin and I could un-glue myself from my seat and start walking off the plane.

I’ve taken some unusual items in my carry-on bag but never walked on with two trays of eggs.  I was so surprised to see this optimist walk on with all these eggs and then see him walk off with not one having cracked.  I can’t get my eggs home from the supermarket without smashing a few.

Walking off with his eggs

Walking off with his eggs

Santo-Pekoa is a newly-built international airport.  We walked into the terminal which is pretty much all one room with people arriving and departing all bunched in together.  It’s not an air-conditioned building which by now, I wasn’t expecting.  There was a lengthy wait for luggage as it seemed only two men were on duty to deal with the suitcases.  When they did finally have the luggage on a trolley, there was no motorised vehicle to bring the trolley to the terminal; instead, the two men had to push the trolley.  And then the luggage isn’t put onto a moving conveyor belt, the men have to lift all the luggage onto benches where you help yourself.  The men of Vanuatu are fit and strong!

Hauling that luggage

Hauling that luggage

While most of the planes in the Air Vanuatu fleet are older and smaller planes, they do have one Boeing 737 in their fleet.  I understand this plane flies every Tuesday from Brisbane, to Espiritu Santo and then on to Port Vila.  If holidaying in Santo, I would recommend booking Tuesday’s direct flight from Brisbane.

While our experience on Air Vanuatu was a little disappointing due to a lack of space, lack of in-flight entertainment and below-average food, I don’t think Air Vanuatu stands alone in providing an experience that for economy passengers, has to be endured.  Sadly, economy travel has become no-frills budget travel and I’m yet to find anyone who raves about the experience.

Economy travel bliss

Economy travel bliss

What Air Vanuatu has in spades, are flight attendants who are welcoming, friendly and helpful.  The level of service they provide exceeds the budget-travel experience.  And that welcomes you to the country they say has, ‘The happiest people on earth’.


  1. That last photo is one of the happiest people on Earth. 🙂 I wondered how Air Vanuatu was as an airline. You get what you pay for.

    I can understand the eggs if you live on an island without any.


    • But Maureen, there are chickens running around all over the place on Santo. And all the eggs are organic and free-range. I think he must have been given them as a gift!

  2. Goodness, what an ordeal! This is exactly why I don’t get on planes often.. 🙂 I hope the rest of the trip was glorious though – the IG photos looked like you were having great fun. Drew certainly isn’t a small guy to squeeze into an economy seat! xx

  3. Hi Charlie, Sounds like your husband may need to book one of those roomier areas in a plane. They usually they are near the doors or bulk heads of the plane. It is an option worth pursuing if he is largish.
    Your trip sounds like fun, desite some of the discomforts.

  4. Oh, well, you are there now Charlie and hopefully enjoying the destination – you summed it up at the end about economy travel – I think.

  5. It’s the thoughts/hope of the fun you will have at the end that keeps you going through the trip, if you’re an optimist. 🙂

  6. My word, I do hope the holiday is word the dreadful trip to get there. Have a great time!

  7. I take my hat off to you Charlie, I surely would have lost my nut at any of the challenges you endured. It would put a damper on my holiday knowing I’d have to go through it all again. I must admit that I’m not familiar with this place so I look forward to the photos that I’m sure (hoping) you will be sharing.

  8. Dear Charlie,

    Not sure if I’ll fly to Vanuatu though. Our beaches are world class with good amenities. I might consider the romanticism of the Mediterranean though.

  9. Have fun on your trip, Charlie… may the start not be an indication of the adventure xo

  10. I always take our own food when we fly now – just a sandwich from Baker & Spice but it’s better than what gets served up on China Eastern or Air China. Economy is the pits I agree – especially for long limbed people I imagine. I can recommend Emirates economy though if you ever get the opportunity – it’s like flying Premium Economy.
    Judging by your photos the horrors of this flights are far behind you now 🙂

  11. Hope its all up from here – can’t get any worse? How funny that we have come to expect, air-conditioning, personal screens, and reasonable food. However I do love the thrill of the doors opening and descending the stairs to walk across the tarmac – some old fashioned things are quite lovely (except when its raining)!

  12. Eek. I hate flying so much. I have an ear problem which makes it even worse:). Have a great break anyway charlie

  13. Ha… this is nothing… have you ever been on an economy Delta flight from Asia to States for 15 plus hours of well you know..economy bliss..we used to call them Northworst. Bless you for handling it so well.

  14. Well, if anything, you will definitely remember these flights that will go down in family lore.

    Enjoy your get-away at the happiest place on earth.

  15. Holy cow… what an adventure getting to your holiday. As long and lacking as it was, it will for sure become the story that you all talk about every time you travel. Remember the time when…. 🙂 Happy times ahead I hope. xox

  16. The advent of budget airlines is a blessing as we get to reach more destinations at a lower cost. One of the downsides is what you just mentioned – lesser frills and leg space :(…Anyways, happy to see you all together in a trip 🙂

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  17. Great photos, but that last one is wonderful. Really, really good. Flying stinks these days, even when you’re lucky enough to turn left after boarding the plane. But we all have to do it to get to the cool places we want to see and experience, alas. Fun post — thanks. And Happy New Year!

  18. Another reminder of how “unfun” it has become to travel economy-style, the way I must go. But it sounds like the end result is worth the agro. Happy holidays!

  19. I gotta agree with Maureen, Charlie – that last photo IS of the happiest people indeed!
    Sorry to hear about your travel circumstances – gah – specially those people kicking at yalls seats – glad Alfie said something!

  20. Wow, Charlie! That was quite a trip to get there. Hope you’re having a wonderful vacation though! Can’t wait to read more 🙂

  21. Apart from the flight, the best part of this story is that the whole family is together. Getting older children to accompany their parents on a trip is not the easiest thing in the world but you have done it and it’s wonderful to see. Enjoy!

  22. Yikes! After all the traveling we’re done over the past two weeks, I’m grateful for the decent food and legroom. Bill and I did upgrade (for once!) and it was worth it. I think everyone ate too much in NZ, except for picky Katie! Hope you enjoy your holiday!!!

  23. My husband has the hardest time flying because he is incredibly tall and his legs are always crammed in the economy class seats 🙁 If only first class wasn’t so darn expensive! LOL

  24. Oh dear, seats are getting smaller (and I’m positive burgers are too!). I hope you’re having a relaxing time there with the family! It’s lovely that everyone can come along 😀

  25. What we’ll do to get a little vacation away from home! I think the flight without air conditioning would have been the worst. I felt like I couldn’t breath just reading it! I’ve flown once 1st class, to Hawaii. It was heavenly. I could not believe the difference. Tony flies a lot for work and his biggest complaint is people “spilling” over into his seat. It is America after all where the people seem to be getting larger and the planes smaller.

    So happy you finally made it and are enjoying a wonderful holiday! ~ April

  26. Wow, I hope that you now can enjoy your vacation…what an ordeal…
    By the way…Happy New Year Charlie!

  27. You certainly deserve a holiday to recover from that journey Charlie! At least you know what to expect on the return trip – forewarned is forearmed 🙂 xox

  28. What a trip … I bet you were looking for a tall, cool drink after that flight! I’m still chuckling over the guy with the eggs!

  29. You have a lot more patience than I do, Charlie! Maybe this is old news…but great to see Archie’s face sans moustachio again! 🙂

  30. You are very brave getting on to those little planes. I am a terrible flyer and pretty much choose my destinations around the places Qantas flies to. Sad but true. I hope you are having a good time and am about to jump in an read some of your other posts.

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