Essential Tips for Taking Domestic Flights in Tonga
To kickstart your experience in Tonga, you’re probably going to want to get to one of Tonga’s more idyllic islands as quickly as possible. In that case, domestic flights in Tonga are the answer, providing the quickest and most comfortable way to do interisland travel in The Kingdom. However, flying in Tonga comes with its quirks, whether it’s the old-school booking process or flights being cancelled… often! So take a look at our tips for flying in Tonga to learn how to have a smoother journey across The Kingdom.
For more advice on flying in Tonga, don’t miss Domestic Flights in Tonga: A Guide to Interisland Flights.
1. Your Flight Might Get Cancelled…
Yes, it’s fairly common for flights to get cancelled in Tonga. The main reason is usually due to unfavourable weather conditions, which can change quickly in the tropical climate of Tonga. Flights have even been known to “turn back” if pilots haven’t been able to land safely. Gulp! Thankfully, you will be rebooked onto the next available flight free of charge. You won’t, however, be refunded or compensated for having to cancel your hotel booking, for example, so you might want to consider travel insurance or use Booking.com with a free cancellation policy.
2. Never Use a Domestic Flight to Connect with Your International Flight Departing Tonga
In relation to the point above, it’s generally a bad idea to book a domestic flight on the same day as you intend to fly out of Tonga. While rescheduling a domestic flight in Tonga is a fairly easy process, the same cannot be said for international flights, which will likely have heavy associated costs. All in all, it’s best to be back on Tongatapu at least a day or two before the end of your holiday. See our The Best Tonga Itineraries for 1 Week and The Best Tonga Itineraries for 2 Weeks for examples of how to do this in style.
3. Look Out for Seasonal Sales
Look out for seasonal sales on the Lulutai Airlines Facebook Page for cheaper airfares! Deals the airline has had in the past include “off-peak” fares to Vava’u, “Back to School Special” at the beginning of July, “Family Month Specials” in May and much more! Note that sale prices are typically for a smaller baggage allowance and are non-modifiable. When you see a sale, it’s best to book and mention the sale over the phone, by email or at a Lulutai Airlines sales office in Tonga.
4. The Booking Process Might Take Some Time…
When making a booking through the Lulutai Airlines’ website, note that your booking needs to be manually processed before you will receive an email to confirm your booking. Therefore, it may take up to 4-5 business days to receive your tickets, especially if your booking has been made on a Sunday (Tonga time) when the Lulutai Airlines office is closed as per Tongan law (see point #10!). Needless to say, patience is needed when making flight bookings in Tonga.
5. Confirm Your Flight is Still Scheduled
Most of us prefer to get flights locked in early, so it’s pretty normal to book flights a few months in advance. However, be sure to contact Lulutai Airlines closer to your travel dates to confirm that your flight is still scheduled, as schedules can change and they don’t always inform passengers personally. Updated schedules are typically posted on the Lulutai Airlines Facebook Page.
6. “Island Time” Doesn’t Apply to Flights
Other methods of transport in Tonga are known for running on “island time”. For instance, ferries are known for having erratic schedules while local buses have no schedules at all. However, the same cannot be said for domestic flights. Flights run on a strict schedule, so you should turn up for your flight around an hour before your flight is scheduled to depart. Flights can be delayed in bad weather, for instance, but this isn’t something you should rely on to take things slow.
7. Arrive for Check-in an Hour Early
Speaking of time, the recommended check-in for domestic flights by Tonga’s airline is 90 minutes before your departure time. You can get away with checking in around an hour before departure, but leaving it too late when the check-in for the flight has closed, can incur a TOP$50 “no show” fee. For more airport tips, see What Are the Airports in Tonga?
8. Have Photo ID Available for Check-in
Even for a domestic flight in Tonga, you’ll need to show a photo ID when checking in for your flight. So basically, don’t bury your passport too deep into your suitcase.
9. You Can “Share” the Baggage Allowance
Your check-in baggage is weighed on check-in and must be within the weight and dimensions of the baggage allowance – see baggage allowances in Domestic Flights in Tonga: A Guide to Interisland Flights. However, if you have multiple bags in your party to check in, note that baggage allowance/weight can be shared across multiple bags as long as each bag does not weigh more than 30 kg (66 lbs) the sum of the greatest outside linear dimensions (length+width+height) does not exceed 270 cm (106 in).
In other words, you don’t have to physically transfer items to make all the bags weigh 23 kg. If, for instance, you are a couple with a 23-kg bag ticket each and have one bag in your group that weighs 26 kg, a 26-kg bag and a 20-kg bag is usually fine.
10. Flights Don’t Operate on a Sunday
Finally, the golden rule for most things in Tonga is that “nothing happens on a Sunday”. Due to Tongan law, flights do not operate on a Sunday. This also applies to international flights. Tonga’s domestic airline also does not operate flights on Christmas Day and Good Friday. For alternative things to do, check out the 10 Things to Do in Tonga on a Sunday.
More Tips for Flying in Tonga
That’s it for our list of essential things you need to know about flights in Tonga. For more related advice, take a look at the following guides:
- Domestic Flights in Tonga: A Guide to Interisland Flights
- Tonga Airfares: How Much Do Flights Cost in Tonga?
- Airports in Tonga: Where Can You Fly to in Tonga?
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga.