Kiribati: First commercial flight since border lockdown

Kiribati was in celebration mode last Thursday as the island gathered at Bonriki International Airport to welcome the country’s first commercial flight, two and a half years since the island nation’s COVID-19 border lockdown.

Fiji Airways FJ231 landed at Bonriki International Airport with more than one hundred passengers and were welcomed by the Ngaon Nareau choir, whose chants and singing echoed welcoming sounds of the islands throughout the terminal building.

Also present to celebrate the occasion was Minister of Tourism, Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives (MTCIC), Booti Nauan. He said that he hoped visitors will enjoy their Kiribati experience. He also extended an invitation to them saying “take the time to learn about who we are as a people and the values that we hold dear to our hearts. Immerse yourself in our tropical islands and turquoise lagoons and most importantly, remember to make the most of your time here in Kiribati.”

At the arrival’s concourse, passengers were greeted by reigning Miss Kiribati, Paepae Kilei and staff of the Tourism Authority of Kiribati (TAK) who garlanded travellers and returning residents with katokabau, the traditional Kiribati floral head piece presented to special guests.

Entertainment by the Tekeang ni Marawa dance group at the arrivals area filled the terminal building with more excitement as some passengers could not resist the invitation to join the dancers as they made their way to their eagerly awaiting hosts and families. For many of these travellers, it was a happy and emotional reunion after having being separated from their families for a very long time.

The first commercial flight to Tarawa is a significant milestone achievement as it represents the Government of Kiribati’s efforts to manage COVID-19 and to bring back some normalcy to its tourism industry, the statement said.

Discussions on the resumption of flights into Kiribati’s second international airport and fly-fishing mecca, Kiritimati (Christmas Island) this year is continuing and the TAK will share reopening details once information is available.