The long way home: Getting repatriated from Aotearoa to Tonga (Part IV)
Another post to the Long Way Home series! Good news though, the journey from London to Tonga has finally ended! Therefore, in this blog, I'll be sharing my experiences in getting repatriated from New Zealand to Tonga.
On 05th May 2021, I finally landed back home, since leaving Tonga for further studies on 19th September 2019. It's taken a whole lot longer than I anticipated to get back, but at least I'm now home. (I'll share more about the Tonga Quarantine Experience in Part 5)
After I finished MIQ in Auckland, I was able to spend time with family and friends (hence why there were no blog updates for a while lol). At that time, I was also in touch with officials in Tonga to liaise my seat on the repatriation flight. I had assumed that the repat flight to Tonga would be easy to arrange (considering I had been emailing them since January 2021 of my travel plans 😅 😂). However, again, I was wrong. It was not easy, and it was another round of ta'emahino and ta'epau-ness. Why have I not learnt from previous experience? 😅 😂 Anywaaysssss
Email ta'emahino No. 397860879 from Tonga Repat Organisers 😂
I had emailed Tonga officials BEFORE leaving NZ MIQ on 01st April 2021 about the repat flight. I was advised there is a flight scheduled for 28th April 2021. I was told I was on the Priority list but the repatriation list was not confirmed and they'll get back to me.
Followed up 2 weeks later: Same response. No progress. No change. No confirmation.
Found out on the news that the flight for 28th April was delayed 😂😂. There was no official email from Tonga about the flight delay.
Got a random email on 28th April 2021 from the Travel Agency first in Tonga letting me know I've been confirmed for a flight on 05th May 2021. The official email from the Tonga repat committee came a day later, basically saying the same thing. 😂😂
Email from Travel Agency:
And yesssss, that's right. You are not allowed to bring alcohol into Tonga on the repat flight. My low-key alcoholic self was a bit crushed by this. 😅 😂 Oh well, moving on. 🙄
Pay for a flight from Auckland to Tonga
As above, the travel agency in Tonga (Kingdom Travels) will email you to let you know that you've been confirmed for the repatriation flight. In later emails they will:
Ask if you currently hold a return ticket to Tonga.
However, if you don't have one, they will let you know what are the available seats and ask your preferred method of payment.
The payment options are either online bank transfer, or someone can pay your ticket at the branch in Tonga.
The option given to me was Normal Economy fare which cost $855 TOP on ‘Works' (this includes a meal and 1 checked-in bag of 23 kg weight).
*Suggestion: If you have too many excess luggage pieces exceeding 23 kg, consider sending your luggage via sea freight from NZ to Tonga instead. Paying for excess luggage at the airport is EXPENSIVE and the repat flight is STRICT about weight restrictions. However, if you're rich, and you like paying excess baggage fees then skip this part. 🤣🤣
In my case, I used CFR LINE NZ LIMITED in Onehunga (Auckland) to send 2 bags to Tonga. Each bag was about 15 kg and only cost me $30 NZD per bag. It will take a few weeks to arrive in Tonga, but you'd be in quarantine anyway. By the time your bags reach Tonga, you should be out of quarantine to go pick up your bags. How's that sound? Moving on.
Booking a Covid test in NZ
Once your ticket is sorted, you must get a Covid test book 72 hours before the flight.
In some clinics, you need to provide your confirmed flight itinerary at the time of booking to confirm your appointment. There are many private clinics that offer Covid-testing for travel but do make sure you check the clinic is reputable as well as the turnover rate for their testing (i.e. make sure they can get you the test results within the required 72 hours. Some places are cheap but slow to release the results).
In my case, I went to Travel & Vaccination Centre 8/101 Apollo Drive, Albany, Auckland. The Covid test took less than 5 mins. It cost me $ 265.00 NZD and I also got my Covid-test within 24 hours. ✌️✌️
Once you get your Covid test result, you must email it to the Tonga repat committee.
Check-in at Auckland Airport
You must wear a mask when checking in at the Auckland airport.
Make sure you take a hard copy of your Covid-test result on the day of the flight.
There were Tongan officials at the airport that first check your name on the repat list, as well as your Covid test result before you can queue at the Air NZ check-in counter.
When you line up at the check-in counter, a NZ Health officer will check your temperature and give you a health departure form to confirm you are healthy.
At the counter, the Air NZ staff will double check your Covid test and health form so make sure you keep it with you at all times.
Only some Duty free shops were open at Auckland airport. Remember, you're not supposed to bring alcohol on the Tonga repat flight, so just admire those 40% bottles for next time. 😅 😂
You can still fana tavale the kaloni mamafa at the shops though. Those are still open 😂.
Get on the flight
Breathe easy for a bit once you get on the plane. Home is a 3-hour flight away from Tamaki Makaurau.
Done breathing easy? Good. Now get yourself mentally ready for the 21-day quarantine in Tonga 🤣
Summary of costs mentioned in the blog:
Covid test in NZ: $ 265.00 NZD (i.e. $428.14 TOP)
Flight: $855 TOP (AIR NZ Economy Works)
Sea freight excess luggage: $30 NZD (per 15 kg bag) (i.e. $48.47 TOP)
(Total cost: $1,380.08 TOP)
And that's how it goes getting repatriated from NZ to Tonga. Hopefully, this blog piece will be useful to someone in the process of getting repatriated to Tonga or satiate the curiosity of those who just wanna know.
The last piece (hopefully🤣) of the Long Way Home series will be about my Quarantine Experience in Tonga at the Tanoa Hotel. As always, thank you for reading and tu'a 'ofa atu!