Fiji, was closed to tourism and travel from the United States for almost two years as a result of the pandemic. Then, in November of 2021 word started getting out that Dec 1, 2022 Fiji, would open its borders for international travel.
The rumor was true and in December of 2021, the boarders were opened. Sure, there were protocols to be followed that required being vaccinated, PCR tested, getting Covid insurance in Fiji, having verified & certified transportation and accommodations, and getting tested 24 hours prior to leaving.
When I went to check in with Fiji Airways, my paperwork was verified. Once everything was confirmed, I was given a document to give ticket agent and the rest of the process was easy. The flight was uneventful, and going through customs was easy. Within minutes I was on my way to the approved accommodation.
I was enjoying my dive vacation and on the fifth day of my trip, I got an email from Fiji Airways that my return flight had been canceled. My new flight was a week later. No reason was provided. It has always been my experience when an international flight is is canceled, the airline is responsible for accommodations and meals until such time the flight can resume. The email from Fiji Airlines did not comment make any such statement.
As I didn’t have a local phone, I asked the resort to get in touch the airlines and find out why the flight was canceled, and how much they were paying for accommodations. It took 20 emails and a dozen phone calls over five days to get someone from Fiji Airways to respond.
Rather than explain why the flight was canceled, or answer my questions about accommodation, the airline sent me a routing back to Hawaii, on a long haul 11.5 hour flight to California, then a five hour layover for a connecting 6 hour flight to Honolulu. The flight landed late enough in the evening that an overnight layover in Honolulu was required as the first flight back to Maui was at 7 AM.
Fiji Airways said they would not pay for the layover hotel, taxi, or meals for that schedule. That schedule would require 38 hours plus several hundred dollars to get home. The original flight back home was six hours and direct to Honolulu, and 2 two hours to get through customs and fly to my island. Thats 8 hours compared to 38 hours.
Not a fan of long haul flights, I decided to stay in Fiji, and asked the airline to cover some of accommodations and meals over the week. The airline said no, and that I should make a claim on my trip insurance. I had covid and evacuation insurance but not specific coverage for airline cancelation. Who would have thought that just weeks after opening the airline would cancel flights.
The lesson learned, is always get the best travel insurance coverage possible. These days, airlines like Fiji Airways pass off their responsibilities to the passengers, and if not careful, you could get stranded like I was. That can cost a lot in terms of money, stress, and employment.
The trip to Fiji, other than the flight issue, was great. I went to RakiRaki, the northern most point of the main island and stayed at the Volivoli Beach Resort. Each day I went out with Ra Divers to explore the world class sites of Fiji.
The resort was beautiful and the staff was friendly and attentive. The boat captains and dive masters choose dive sites based on conditions and always picked the best sites possible due to wind, waves, and sea conditions. The crew was always smiling, but clearly focused on taking care of the divers.
I hope to go back to VoliVoli, to enjoy Fiji hospitality, and the world class diving. The next time I travel though, I will have the best insurance possible.