Nothing can burst my bubble, not even the corona-chaos of the last week.
A smile beams from under my mask as I strut down the gate to Fiji Airways flight FJ914 and sink into seat 3B.
I’m on the first flight to Fiji and I couldn’t be more ready for a white-sand beach and a poolside cocktail if I tried.
Hell, I don’t even care if it rains the whole time (well, not totally true). I can tell the honeymooners at check-in have been waiting for this day.
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So too have the couple in business class with a gregarious toddler-in-tow, she’s blissfully unaware of the milestones she’s sharing with a flight full of people.
After almost two long years and what felt like an even longer week, the Bula Bubble is open for business and here I am on my way to the Pacific Islands.
Fiji is welcoming Aussie tourists, as well as those from other Travel Partner Countries, under a WHO-approved reopening plan known as Care Fiji Commitment (CFC).
I’ll admit that, despite the flight being under four hours, preparing for this international trip felt a lot more stressful than it did prior to the pandemic.
As part of the quarantine-free travel agreement, I’m required to show proof of a negative PCR test at check-in (I used Douglass Hanly Moir and paid $145), as well as proof of a travel insurance policy that covers COVID medical expenses, proof of accommodation with a CFC-certified provider (these can be found here), for the first three days and proof of my transfer to the hotel, which also needs to be with a CFC-certified provider.
After 48 hours, guests are required to undergo a rapid antigen test at their hotel and can use the resort facilities and take day-trips, as long as it’s with a CFC-certified operator.
Travellers are then free to explore the rest of Fiji, but it’s advised to avoid low-vaccinated areas.
Before I leave home, I check over and over again that I have all my forms together, and yet I still feel anxious about having forgotten something when I arrive to the airport.
But, thankfully, check-in is very smooth and besides having to fill out a COVID declaration for immigration in Fiji, it’s all very streamlined and straight-forward.
My seatmate, Michael, Fiji is a first-timer like me and travelling solo. “Anywhere they open up, I just go,” he laughs, recalling a trip to New Zealand earlier in the year. It’s only 6.30am, but this is cause for great celebration, and we both reached for a champagne when it’s offered by crew member Vili, who punctuates every exchange with a smile and a friendly chuckle.
“We hope you’re as excited as we are, says” Captain Moses over the PA, offering a very heartfelt message about how COVID has affected us all and how eager Fijians are to welcome Australians back to their island home. We leave Sydney in the rain, but when the A330 reaches cruising altitude it’s all blue skies, bright and sunny, much like how I’ve been imagining Fiji.
The service in business class is exceptional; upbeat, enthusiastic, while being genuinely helpful and caring. Fiji Airways A330 and A350 business class product is super impressive and a great value product, with roomy seats, huge TVs and convenient storage spots.
I choose the cheese and mushroom omelette for breakfast and swill it back with another champagne before lying the bed near flat and watching (aka falling asleep to) the Entourage movie. Before we land, the crew serve up enormous slices of chocolate cake to help celebrate this momentous occasion.
We touch down to a royal welcome at Nadi, where fire trucks shooting water create a procession as we taxi down the runway. Out the window, I can see airport staff filming us on their iPhones, as we point ours back at them.
I’m one of the first off the plane and feel overcome with emotion as I walk out to smiling faces yelling ‘Bula!’ as claps and cheers erupt and cameras start clicking.
There’s a rumble off in the distance. As I get closer, I realise the rumble is a group of me welcoming us in traditional Fijian dress with song and guitar.
The atmosphere is electric, and I can sense the anticipation and desperation for this moment in their voices. Much like check-in at Sydney, the process at Nadi is surprisingly swift and streamlined. There’s an initial check-point where staff go over the COVID declaration and then I’m ushered straight into immigration, where it’s all over and done within a matter of minutes.
I collect my bag, handover the arrivals card while my bag gets X-rayed and I’m ready to go. When I get to my hotel, there’s a temperature check on arrival and QR code check-in required, so make sure you download the Care Fiji app.
Was it worth the effort? Hell yes. What are you waiting for? Bula Vinaka!
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