“Passengers of flight FJ 005 to Suva, onward to Labasa, please proceed to gate 10. Your plane is now ready for boarding.”
I blink twice. Did I hear that right?
I check the time. 5:50 am. My plane is bound to take of at 6:10. I can’t believe it. Air Pacific on time? I smile carefully. Then search around for hidden cameras of Fiji’s Funniest, but all seems fine. A little too fine…
A bit unsure of what’s going on, I walk to the gate.
I smile again.
On Nadi airport (every airport in Fiji for that matter), there’s only one way to get to the plane. And that gate is numbered as gate 1-15. How convenient.
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Arriving at the gate, and in the cue for security, I sense nothing of a loophole in the smoothness of my boarding today. I feel happy.
But then, right as the lady from security looks a bit concerned at some of the content of my carry-on bag: a set of 12 ping pong balls and an enormous bag of popsicles (the basic needs of surviving your trip to a tropical island, I figured), it happens.
I can almost hear the needle scrape across the record. It desperately tries to keep playing ‘I believe I can fly’ by R. Kelly, but ends up sounding like my grandma’s pants ripping when she stood up to quick after dinner last Christmas – bless her.
As I see our bags going on board of the plane, there seems to be some kind of ‘technical problem’, that they are about to resolve with some Scotch tape, or so it seems like.
I however fully trust the capability of the mechanical ground staff and sit down in the lobby awaiting further instructions…
After an hour of listening to ‘please, no smoking’ announcements, and the reassuring words of the Australian woman sitting across me (“Last month I was delayed for four-and-a-half hours hun, but that was nothing, cause you know, I married this Fijian guy, he’s great, but anyways, we’re building this house and I came over to look at the size of the windows, you know, to measure for curtains and all, but when I got there they hadn’t even begun pouring the cement for the floor yet, you know what I mean? Fiji Time. But no worries mate, you’ll be fine”), I decided to pay a visit to the check-in counter.
Being told your plane is delayed is one thing, being told it’s delayed to an indefinite time is a second.
The man behind the desk found my remark ‘so I could end up waiting here for the next two weeks?’ utterly funny (and from the look on his face, I guessed that this already happened once before), but my dead-serious face (that also works on McDonald’s personnel and cashiers in supermarkets that try closing their counter just in front of me) made him reconsider his answer and he booked me on another flight.
I was assured that my bag would be transferred onto this new plane.
– Insert insane giggling pause here –
After waiting another hour in Suva, because apparently the plane from Labasa was delayed too (I appreciate the synchronicity of the airline in all this), my bag is still nowhere to be found…
To The Rescue
After the next announcement, that my flight is now delayed until 10 o’clock, I crack up and can feel the floodplains behind my eyes welling up a bit. An old guy from security seems to be getting a bit concerned about me at this point, and he turns my bad luck into his own personal quest.
He promises me that he’ll make sure they find the bag, and even though he mumbles a lot, I think he’s saying ‘even if I have to walk all the way to Nadi to get it for you’.
I believe him.
During my next series of waiting (another half an hour, but we get a free drink and sandwich this time), every 10 minutes the old man shows up with the look of a hopeful gold-digger on his face (‘This time I really think I’m onto something’) and drags me to the counter to show me the same black suitcase over and over again.
I own – dear readers – a green backpack, as he is well aware of, but I appreciate him trying to make me feel better.
I think it’s working as well.
Around eleven-thirty, the ground staff clearly had enough of the game and decided it was time for us to board the plane.
No bag so far.
I have a little chat with the boys that load the plane, but it’s not easy getting a message across screaming to a guy with earmuffs on, when the engine is rolling and he’s trying to convince me that my bag is already on board.
I make the ‘I want to see it with my own eyes’-sign, which ends up looking like a combination of the ‘I’m watching you’ and the well-known ‘I am about to take that plane hostage’-sign, so three guys dive back into the sea of bags and suitcases and drag out of the belly of the plane something that makes my heart beat again.
Over and Away
I have never wanted to go to dirty, smelly Labasa so badly and never enjoyed the in-flight orange juice look–a–like in a cup (that is made to spill over you) so much before.
When they announce the landing, I almost cry again and have to stop myself from kissing the ground when I get out (after all it’s still Labasa).
And you know?
It’s easy to forget days like these real quick when you’re spending the rest of your holiday under a mango tree, eating banana cake, listening to the sounds of the sea and the music of the local people.
If only there was a way of getting here that doesn’t involve flying…
“Vina’a Va’a Levu, enjoy your stay and thank you for flying Air Pacific.”
Did you ever get your bags missing? How did you keep your sanity?