A media flight is always a special event, but there are a few things that can make it even more special. So how special is a media flight that also happens to be a delivery flight flown by two Airbus “expert pilots” who preformed a 2 hour low altitude fly by with the airline CEO on board as well as the artist responsible for the airlines brand new image? Yea, that is special. What else could Air Pacific, soon to be Fiji Airways, possibly have added to this flight to make it more special? I can’t think of anything. This is the story of a small airline that made a big impression.
Air Pacific is re-branding in a big way, which I detailed in a review of their new Airbus A330. To help promote these big changes, Fiji Airways in cooperation with Tourism Fiji invited a small handful of travel bloggers and journalists, as well as one #AvGeek (me), to fly out to Fiji and witness the delivery ceremonies of their second new Airbus A330.
The night before the flight, Fiji Airways took a large group of travel industry professionals from the Los Angeles area to tour the new aircraft, as they are the people responsible for filling it up with passengers. Fiji Airways is run by smart people and they know that the best way for travel agents to communicate to potential passengers about the nice new aircraft is simply to invite them on board.
The media group was given the first tour, lead by Fiji Airways acting CEO Aubrey Swift, who knew the airplane inside and out. Sadly, we had to leave the aircraft for the night, but we were able to return the next morning for our flight to Fiji.
Bright and early at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, all of about 30 passengers checked in for the media flight and we took the long walk down to the remote bus gate. I had never boarded like this at LAX before and I’m not sure many people do. We ended up at some concrete ramp of a gate once off the bus, where Namuka-I-Lau, our A330, was waiting for us to board.
The boarding process and subsequent procedures were very standard, which was not what I was expecting for a media flight. We had to push back on time, and after a quick safety briefing, that is exactly what we did. So long, LAX. Hello, 14 hour journey.
Soon after take off, we were served a delicious (but special media flight) breakfast, it was time to explore the aircraft a bit. I had just recently been on a delivery flight a few weeks before, but that flight was packed compared to this one. With only about 35 passengers on board, it was exciting to see so many empty seats, as it meant I could explore the aircraft without bothering anyone else.
The flight was long, and most people on board decided to sleep for a few hours. I, however, had other plans. There was a good amount of light bleeding through the front galley curtains, and I needed to know why. Passing through the curtains, I discovered that the door to the flight deck was open and I quickly asked if I could have a look inside.
Not only did I have a look, but I sat on the jump seat for a solid hour, talking with Fiji Airways Chief Pilot, as well as the two Airbus pilots. Captain Yann Lardet, who holds the official title of “Flight Operations Expert Pilot,” showed me many details of the A330 flight deck, which I never would have known about otherwise.
Watching as Captain Lardet requested an increase in cruising altitude by means of digital communications only was quite interesting. No audible communication was necessary to request the change in altitude.
During my time spent in the flight deck, I inquired about a map that was on the center console and I received the best answer ever. The long, winding, amazing flight plan I spotted turned out to be the plan for our 2 hour, low altitude fly over of the Fiji islands.
When I asked more about the fly over, the pilots were concerned about the weather in Fiji, and that if visibility was too low, it would have to be scrapped. Thankfully, the weather cleared, and our epic two hour tour of Fiji began.
As the fly over began, the travel writers asked me if I had ever been on a fly over like this before, to which I responded with a grin, and a comment along the lines of “hahaha….no.” We dipped down to altitudes as low as 900 feet, banking and turning over the mountainous outer islands of Fiji. The Pacific Ocean zipped by below, as did entire towns and groups of trees.
We would bank heavily to the left, only for moments before the engines roared and we banked hard to the right, creating stunning views out the windows. Our “expert pilots” put the A330 to the test, and it was one hell of a ride…something I am not likely to ever be a part of again. There are no words that can properly describe how awesome this was.
Although this was the airline’s second of three new Airbus A330s, it was every bit as important as the first to the airline and people of Fiji. As a part of Fiji tradition, the pilots quickly made their way down the air stairs, where they were mobbed by a group of women and cloaked in robes. That’s one hell of a welcome!
This media flight was one that I will never forget,as I was able to cross a lot of “firsts” off my list. My first true delivery flight, my first low-altitude fly over, my first time spending a significant amount of time in a flight deck while in-flight. Every minute of this flight was simply amazing, one to remember forever.
Soon I will be sharing my experiences on the ground in Fiji.
ADDITIONAL FIJI AIRWAYS GOODIES:
- More photos of the Fiji Airways A330 media flight on Flickr
- Video of the arrival celebration from Fiji Airways
- My review of flying in Business Class on the Fiji Airways A330
|This story written by Jason Rabinowitz, Senior Correspondent. Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true “AvGeek”, he enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft.@AirlineFlyer | Facebook ||