Tropical cyclone Sarai hit Fiji late last week, killing two people, displacing thousands and wreaking havoc for Fiji Airways and other airlines flying into Fiji. The majority of Fiji AIrways and Fiji Link flights were cancelled on Friday and Saturday and the impact continued to be felt over the weekend as Fiji mopped up and airlines scrambled to get flights back on track.
Category two Sarai did not make landfall in Fiji, rather skirting south-east around Viti Levu. Nonetheless, Fiji was lashed with winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour and torrential rain. As of earlier Sunday evening, the cyclone’s eye was northwest of Ono-i-Lau and tracking towards Tonga.
Fiji Airways and other airlines cancel flights
Consequently, Fiji Airways and Fiji Link canceled over one hundred flights on Friday, 27 December 2019 and Saturday, 28 December 2019. These flights included not just commuter flights around the islands but flagship international services to the United States, New Zealand, and Australia.
By yesterday, Sunday 29 December 2019, Fiji Airways and Fiji Link flights were getting back to normal but services to and from the island of Kadavu remained canceled.
Other airlines that canceled flights to Fiji included Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar. Air New Zealand canceled three return services between Auckland and Nadi across the 27th and 28th of December 2019. Their service on Sunday 29 December was delayed owing to the situation in Fiji.
Biggest impact felt at Fiji Airways
Fiji Airways is the dominant airline at Fiji’s main airport, Nadi International. Additionally, it operates Fiji Link, a commuter airline that skips around to the various islands that make up Fiji. Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have two flights per day from New Zealand and Australia respectively. Qantas and Jetstar both fly in daily from Sydney.
Fiji is a highly popular tourist destination from both Australia and New Zealand, and at this time of the year, having just come into the long summer school holidays, flights to Fiji are in hot demand. With thousands of holidaymakers having had their travel plans disrupted over the past few days, airlines are now swinging into action getting delayed travelers onto or off the islands.
Getting back to normal with some additional flights
A spokesperson for Fiji Airways has said;
“We will rebook guests who flights had been canceled due to Tropical Cyclone Sarai on the next available Fiji Airways or Fiji Link service. Some supplementary services will be scheduled to cater for some of the cancellations.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused as a result of flight disruptions due to Tropical Cyclone Sarai in Fiji. The safety of guests and crew is of paramount importance for both airlines.”
This morning, flights appear to be getting back to normal at Nadi with no significant delays or cancellations cropping up. International flights have resumed. Next in Cyclone Sarai’s firing line is Tonga. The cyclone is due to impact on Tonga over the New Year and could cause the same problems with flights there that we have just seen in Fiji.