Thursday, 28 April 2011

Airlines PNG - a New Way to Fly!

After last week’s excitement, frustration and rage Phil and Sandra approached the airport with mixed feelings. Tickets for Kiunga had been confirmed and we were flying Airlines PNG not the now notorious (in our eyes) Air Niugini!
Check-in  fine. We blag our way into the “Paradise” lounge (blag because we don’t have our membership letters and we are not flying Air Niugini so technically cannot use the lounge). Flight is delayed 40 minutes by the time we sit down.
All in all not bad we are seated on the plane at 9.00am. The hostess makes an announcement that is met with disbelief by the passengers up front (we can’t hear as we are 7 rows back and the engines have started – 36 seater Dash 8 if anyone is interested!). The message is relayed back that actually we are flying to Wewak, then Tabubil then Kiunga. By our reckoning that means another 2 hours flying time to two places we weren’t even scheduled to go to in the first place. We are travelling with Kini from our office and she was adamant that we should choose a flight that doesn’t land in Tabubil. I think this is because the runway is so short it has a dogleg right at the end of it and it can be quite alarming. Also it is generally shrouded in fog so flights turn back (hopefully to Kiunga in our case). Additionally Sandra is going to Wewak on Thursday anyway so this will be twice in one week.
Phil is surprisingly (and unusually) calm but maintains a high level of sarcasm when he points out that at least they will be able to visit a school rather than arguing at the airport. The fact that the school day will probably be over when they finally get there may be an issue.
Preparations are underway for refreshments. We are intrigued as to what they might be. All we have had so far from Air Niugini is biscuits! Looks like it might be crackers (hope it’s my favourite “Lik Lik Wopa” ) and coffee. We are pleased we had breakfast before leaving!
What else could possibly go wrong?     
Well we eventaully arrived 3 hours late and just caught up with the school.
The following morning the driver was sent to the airport to check us all in so we could be at the school. We are despatched to the airport for a 10.00am departure. Upon arrival we find the plane is somewhere else and won't depart for a further 2 hours. Never mind we are kept mildly entertained by helicopters flying in and out, Missionary Airways landing and taking off and a strange very small highlander man with quite a big stick who appears to be quite mad!
Tired and starving we arrive in Port Moresby. Three hours in the school, 3 hours waiting for the plane and 6 hours on the plane (flight time should have been 1 hour 45 minutes each way!). Maybe Air Niugini is not so bad after all!     

Friday, 22 April 2011

Kimbe (After the riots)

 As you can see Kimbe is a beautiful place. the week before we visited though there was a full scale riot as a policeman had beaten to death someone for spitting betlenut juice! The local tribe took umbridge and marched on the town setting light to government buildings and looting the local shops for good measure. Things were quiet when we were there but shopping more limited than usual!

We were there to visit one of our schools but were able to extend the trip for another night so we could do some recreation too. On the Saturday we went out on a boat and snorkelled which was great and a relaxing way to spend a Saturday.

 The hardy youngsters were playing in their Spiderman tent in the school but bear in mind the temperature is in the high thirties but they weren't fazed by this as you can see!
Sandra on the hotel jetty

Not sure if Phil was trying to be arty with this shot or if the girl just looked up at the last minute!

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Definition: Typical Air Niugini Fuck Up

Phil’s blood pressure reached an all time high today. Here is the timeline:

Early March 2011 flight to Popondetta paid for and confirmed

20th April
5.00am                 Get up have breakfast, drive to airport
5.55am                 Attempt check-in but told we are waitlisted as a large group of trekkers were pre-booked on the flight. Retire to the inappropriately named Paradise Lounge to wait in expectation.
6.20am                 Phil attempts flanking manoeuvre by seeking out flight supervisor (inaccurately named) who assures him that since we are travelling on business a seat will be allocated at the departure gate (hopefully by throwing off trekkers – who haven’t even arrived at the airport)
6.35am                 Boarding announced. We are told that no seats are available. Phil plays his trump card only for the supervisor to deny all knowledge of said conversation. Grubby trekkers arrive (late) and occupy aircraft.
7.00am                 Major fuss caused with managers requested and demands made to see everyone in authority. Promises made that they would contact and update us but numerous reminders made by Phil and Sandra.
9.20am                 Another supervisor appears and explains that mistakes have been made and the trekkers had lots of luggage and so had to use 3 seats for the luggage. Yes OUR 3 seats (we are travelling with the Executive Director of our company). Phil demands a charter, helicopter or space rocket but we are offered another flight by an alternative airline. They will pull strings to get us on board. They will update us in 10 minutes.
10.30am               Ever patient Phil and his boiling blood pressure goes through security for the 6th or 7th time and seeks management. It transpires that the flight we have been promised has been cancelled (presumably a long time ago). Obviously no one brave enough to come and tell us.
10.50am               Phil’s 8th run through security (he is now well known by all the airport staff) reveals a new manager the Domestic Terminal Manager. He assures us the General Manager will be with us in 10 minutes. Phil tries the “If I was David Beckham you would get me to Popondetta approach” but sadly this fails as he has never heard of David Beckham!
11.20am               Phil’s 9th run through security to continue the game of hide and seek. Trevor (we are on first name terms now – but not best of friends) informs us a charter is not out of the question but needs authority from another manager and will get back to us in 5 minutes. He will also inform the CEO of Air Niugini and seek his assistance.
11.45am               No message. Joe, Executive Director leaves for office. Phil tells him he will phone when the helicopter is ready!
Yes we have been at the airport for 6 hours (and there is NO alcohol in the “Paradise” Lounge)
11.55am               No message Phil has some cheese (curiously named Coon Tasty), biscuits, dairy milk chocolate (that was a surprise) and his 4th can of ginger ale.
12.05pm               Phil approaches desk clerk in lounge to request that Trevor (aforementioned manager) be paged for the non-existent update promised by 11.30am.
12.15pm               Sitting back down again having had conversation with another minnow sent to inform us that Air Niugini have managed to arrange an additional flight for tomorrow.  Minnow’s head bitten off by both Phil and Sandra, informed to get the General Manager and CEO to see us as this is not a solution.  Informed that both Trevor and the elusive John (he with the authority to authorise the charter flight) are coming to see us
12.20pm               Minnow approaches to inform us that Trevor is ‘driving in, so give him 10-15 minutes’.  Sandra queries this as no mention is made of ‘John’ – he isn’t coming, apparently.
12.35pm               Guess what? Trevor still hasn’t arrived. 
12.45pm               Trevor and A.N Other arrive (John obviously far too busy to come himself) Long conversation as the only option being offered is the additional flight tomorrow.
1.00pm                 Inform Trevor and A.N.Other to go back to John and attempt to arrange a private charter from outside Air Nuigini resources.  Frequent mention made to the severe fallout which will come if a solution is not forthcoming within the next 20minutes.
1.28pm                 Minnow returns with message that A.N.Other has ‘phoned and is waiting for John to get back to him and then he will return.  Am probably going to smash the mobile phone of the annoying  man sitting opposite.  This may sound extreme but both he and his ringtone are generating extreme feelings of anger within me!
1.30pm                 Phil has gone for another walk.
1.45pm                 Dynamic Duo have returned and still have no ability to offer a solution.  Drafting letter for them to fax to Popondetta to demonstrate that our ‘no show’ is no fault of our own.
2.20pm                 The fact that we demanded a letter within 10minutes has, not surprisingly, been unachievable.  Already 30minutes and counting............................................................!  Phil now getting annoyed with the desk staff and insisting they track down the missing letter.
2.30pm                 Letter arrives and we head back to work, only 8 and a half hours after arriving!

Phil (aka POMPOM) writes a letter to the local newspaper

Phil has decided to join the throng of PNG people writing letters into the local newspaper
Bumped Off For a Bunch of Trekkers
Come on Air Niugini sort yourself out. Three of us arrived at POM airport early and ready to check in with our confirmed tickets. At check-in we were told we were waitlisted as there was a large group of trekkers travelling on the plane. So what? We had booked our expensive seats and as executive club members travelling on important business in Popondetta expected to be given priority over a group of grubby gung ho Hooray Henrys who wanted to get bitten by mosquitoes on the Kokoda Trail. We sat in the Paradise Lounge in expectation. The flight was called and we went to the departure gate only to find no seats were available and despite the flight being officially closed the Kokoda Trail Trekkers still hadn’t cleared security. The supervisor had previously promised to get us seats as we were travelling on important business but in true Air Niugini fashion denied this and wasn’t able to fulfil his promise. Perhaps Air Niugini has gone into the private charter business for the Kokoda Trail Trekkers? Surely PNG travellers who are forced to pay their exorbitant prices should be informed of this? There seems little point in getting up early and paying well in advance for flights which are knowingly overbooked. Worse still we later found out (after the plane had flown out) that 3 seats were used for the trekkers’ excess baggage!  We PNG residents  pay millions of Kina for Air Niugini flights plus the executive club membership every year. What for?  We are bumped off the flight for a grubby bunch of occasional Australian visitors and their bags of insect repellent. The profits from the trekkers will presumably have gone back to the Australian economy!!
Come on people of Papua New Guinea, stand up for your rights and DEMAND a better service from your NATIONAL AIRLINE – it’s time for a revolution!!!!!
Stop being TANFU’d (Typical Air Niuigini F*** Up).  It doesn’t make it ok just because someone says ‘sorry’ and most times they don’t even say sorry!!
POMPOM a disgruntled Air Niugini Customer

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A couple of video uploads

Sandra’s best friend Cocky the Cockatoo (if the vid or sound doesn't work cut and paste this link). Cocky is an old cockatoo who can speak and whistle but rarely does and if he isn't in the mood will just turn his back on you. Sandra has adopted him but as you can see he still won't speak to her!! Having stayed mute for our visits he usually lets out an ear-splitting screech the moment we walk away, just to prove who has the power in this relationship!

Our drive to work (if the vid or sound doesn't work cut and paste this link). Gives you a flavour of driving in PNG but actually very few hazards on this run!!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Newspapers, supermarket announcements and a localised drought

A new resolution is to read the local newspaper. It is published daily and for some reason we get a copy delivered to our office. The highlight this weekend was found when reading about a conference in a faraway place. The list of companies was quite long but half way down was "Mr Shit". Further research revealed that he owns a fertiliser company and stood for election in the 1997 election. There is a facebook campaign "Vote for Mr Shit" . There are elections in 2012 so he's got our vote!
There are some very entertaining letters and articles which makes any UK paper seem very tame indeed.

Whilst walking through a supermarket yesterday there was an announcement over the tannoy saying " would Sharon Fuk come to the office", I was the only one who batted an eyelid though. There was also another person we came across the other day who was called Mrs Tuat ! School boy humour - it never dies!!

We are used to internet, TV and power failure but water failure at home is a new thing. Last night we were left with a trickle. Thoughtfully Phil switched to beer so as not to diminish water supplies in the kettle. Convinced all would be well in the morning we awoke with great expectation, sadly no water though. Never mind the work force has been mobilised and the guy who is going to fit a new battery in my car (yes that broke down too - but fortunately on the drive) will take a look. I am confident we will have water again certainly by the end of the week. Interestingly the water pressure at the office is now very low so we may resort to collecting rainfall soon.