A brand new Boeing 737-800, with new livery, a roomier interior and larger overhead lockers.
Sydney to Port Vila
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer (One World alliance)
Business Class, seat 1A
3 hours, 20 minutes
The business class section is tiny, with just eight seats in two rows of a 2-2 layout. The flight's so short, most people make do with economy, but I revelled in being the only one there, and choosing seat 1A. It meant I could also enjoy the added luxury of being able to take up two seats, and have the bathroom all to myself. They're 21 inches wide, 4 inches wider than in economy, and plenty of leg room; there's 38 inches between the back of your seat and the one in front (economy has just 31).
You can check in as many as three separate bags weighing no more than 40kg and take 7kg in carry on.
Before the cabin doors close, you download the Air Vanuatu entertainment app on your own device – phone, tablet or laptop – for movies, TV series, music and games. There are also drop-down 13.5 inch LCD screens. The standout show is Tanna, last year's gorgeous Australian movie filmed on Vanuatu about two young lovers star-crossed by inter-tribal conflict, which won two awards at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
The seats don't recline very far back but, seriously, how much reclining do you need to do in just over three hours? The seat and footrest are perfectly adequate. Added entertainment was provided by a small Ni-Vanuatu boy who kept escaping his parents to wander in for a chat and to press the button summoning the flight attendants. Every time, he was ushered back with smiles.
Air Vanuatu makes much of its crews' reputation for friendliness and warmth, and it's no overstatement. They couldn't do enough for their passengers – back in economy class as well as in business. Water, offers of French champagne and coffee simply didn't stop.
French-inspired with Asian influences and the best of local specialities, my five-course Business Class meal started with canapes, moved on to poached tiger prawns and mango chutney, and continued with pan-fried beef tenderloin. Dessert was Vanuatu vanilla bean creme bake, and a trio of cheeses, washed down by Philippe Morizet or Grand Cru champagne or Australian whites, and Australian and Spanish reds. Local Tanna Island coffee, good and strong, ended the meal.
ONE MORE THING
My flight left at 11.30am which I think is the absolute perfect time to fly, with a relaxing morning and arriving to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
The jaunty local ukulele music played in the cabin as we filed on board put everyone in a holiday mood immediately, with three passengers starting an impromptu conga line down the plane. Aided and abetted by the crew, that feeling continued throughout the flight.
There are nine flights a week from Sydney and Brisbane (2½ hours) to Port Vila, as well as daily onward connections to the outer Vanuatu islands.
airvanuatu.com or phone 1300 780 737
Tested by Sue Williams, who travelled courtesy of Air Vanuatu.