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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Air Kiribati Makes Tuvalu More Fun

Air Kiribati has landed in Funafuti. Photo: Air Kiribati.

What is happening to the world? Angola is now issueing visas on arrival for people from over 60 countries. Saudi Arabia is accepting non-religious tourists. And Tuvalu is now connected to the world by another airline!

Travelling to every country has never been easier. Although there are still some tough nuts out there, i.e. Yemen, Libya and South Sudan.

Tuvalu has been the world’s most isolated country for years, being served by propeller planes from only one destination by one airline. That has now changed! Air Kiribati (pronounced Kiribass) inaugurated their Tarawa-Funafuti-Tarawa route earlier in March. Funafuti is the capital of Tuvalu, and has the best airport code in the world: FUN.

You can now fly from Kiribati to Tuvalu and back every Wednesday, creating more FUN [traffic]. That is great news for both locals and tourists that previously would have to fly via Fiji and spend at least one night in between. Air Kiribati connects the two countries by a Dash 8 100 series which can carry 35 passengers. You are in other words still depending on propellers to get to Tuvalu, but the number of places you can fly from just doubled. The route has not been in operation since 2001, when Air Kiribati connected the countries for a short while.

“We are very excited to reconnect Kiribati and Tuvalu with this once a week service using our Dash 8 aircraft. These two nations have strong traditional ties and we are confident that the service will be well supported. We are thrilled to play a role in foster greater access for economic development and trade as well as facilitate increased tourism for our island nations”, said Danial Rochford. He is General Manager Commercial and Operations at Air Kiribati.

Most of the passengers and crew of the first flight from Funafuti to Tarawa. Photo: Tuvalu Government Media Office.

The flight leaves Tarawa at 12:00 and arrives Funafuti at 15:00. It returns 16:00 and is back in Tarawa at 19:00. Prices start at 350 Australian dollars, which is a bargain. Comparatively speaking, that is. Nine paying passengers flew from Tarawa to Funafuti, while 20 travelled back. Add 15 VIPs, and the return flight was totally full.

But has this service really made much difference to Tuvalu’s status as the most isolated country? There are still flights only 3 or 4 days a week (Fiji Airways’ service operates Tuesdays, Thursdays and sometimes Saturdays), but having two companies and two destinations, instead of just one certainly makes an impact. Travelling around the region is now easier, and who knows, there may be more to come. Rumour has it that Air Kiribati plans additional new routes in the Pacific. Exciting times in an exciting and less-travelled part of the world.

Nauru is now the only island country in the world served by only one airline, but at least you have a choice of three direct destinations (Tarawa, Nadi and Brisbane) and you’ll fly a jetplane (Nauru Airlines have 5 Boeing 737-300s). So, depending on which criteria you look for, the most isolated country in the world is now Tuvalu OR Nauru. Being the indisputable champion of isolation is a title I am sure Tuvalu is happy to share.

And yes, you should visit. The country is beautiful. And among the world’s least-visited ones.

The runway in Funafuti is used for anything but planes, most of the time.

Me, on both sides of the country (at least of Funafuti).

Expect contrasts and colours you aren’t used to.

Kiribati ain’t too shabby, either.

Room with a view over not so troubled water.

But you might need a ferryman.

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