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 inter-island travel in the Kingdom. However, flying in Tonga comes with its quirks, whether it’s the tiny baggage allowance 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, see The Guide to Flights in Tonga.
1. Be Aware of the Limited Baggage Allowance
When packing your bags for Tonga, think about the domestic baggage allowance! The baggage allowance for flights between Tongatapu, Vava’u and Ha’apai is a mere 15kg (33lbs) and even less so for flights between Tongatapu and ‘Eua, and Vava’u and The Niuas at only 10kg (22lbs)! You’ll have a leeway of 1kg (2lbs) over the baggage allowance before excess baggage charges start applying (or more in our experience, but we can’t guarantee this every time). Otherwise, excess baggage is around TOP$3-10 per kilo, depending on which flight you are taking, or an extra check-in bag is around TOP$50-$150, again, depending on which flight you are taking.
2. Book Your Flight Early
Like you’ll find with many airlines, the earlier you book your flight before your departure date, the cheaper flights tend to be (up to a certain point, of course). This is also true for Tonga’s domestic airline, where you’ll see cheaper airfares for flights if booking three months before departure compared to booking a week before departure. For more money-saving tips and other advice on flight costs, see How Much Does it Cost to Fly in Tonga?
3. Travel in the Low Season for the Best Airfares
Speaking of ways to save money on flights, Tonga’s airline frequently does airfare sales in the low season, and particularly around November/December. In the past, they have done sales for Tongatapu to Vava’u at TOP$200, to Ha’apai for TOP$150 and to ‘Eua for TOP$50 (tax-exempt), for example.
4. Your Flight Might Get Cancelled…
Yes, it’s fairly common for flights to get cancelled in Tonga. There are a number of reasons why flights might get cancelled, from low visibility to bad weather to the royal family chartering the planes at the last minute to pigs digging holes on the runways… Flight have even been known to “turn back” if pilots haven’t been able to see the runways. Gulp! Thankfully, you will be rebooked onto the next available flight free of charge. You won’t, however, be 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
5. 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 in 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.
6. Use the “Special Offers” Tab
Don’t be one of those travellers that miss the “Special Offers” tab at the top of Tonga’s airline’s website… Unlike other airlines, there are often special (and useful) airfares in it! There’s not much else to say on the matter other than making you aware that it exists!
7. “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 to a strict schedule, so you should turn up for your flight on time. Flights can be delayed in bad weather, for instance, but this isn’t something you should rely on to take things slow.
8. Arrive for Check-in 90 Minutes 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?
9. 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.
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.