24 May 2024

Passenger details what's involved in latest Kiwi evacuation flight from New Caledonia

5:41 pm on 24 May 2024
Andre Capiez and other Kiwis on New Caledonia evacuation flight

Andre Capiez settles in for the flight to Auckland. Photo: Supplied / Andre Capiez

Another 50 New Zealanders who were on holiday in New Caledonia when riots started have arrived home.

A third evacuation flight from Nouméa took off at around 11.45am and arrived in Auckland about 2.30pm.

Passenger Tayla Simmonds said she felt like she was in a movie after becoming stranded in the French territory.

She travelled to New Caledonia for a solo holiday to celebrate turning 21.

"I was staying with a lovely family that we know over there so I was very blessed to be with local New Caledonians, or a Kiwi New Caledonian family and they took very good care of me. But it was crazy, all night you would just hear big explosion noises going off."

She was meant to fly home last Saturday, but each night she would check her emails and see the flight had been pushed back again.

It was good to be home, she told RNZ.

Andre Capiez was one of the passengers invited on board the Hercules plane at Magenta Airport.

"I got a phone call yesterday afternoon telling me that I would be on the flight and had to make it to a rendezvous point this morning... at 7am outside one of the tourist hotels," he said, ahead of the flight.

"I had a friend drive me there and then we had to register, fill in a medical form, set our baggage aside and then we had a briefing about the plane."

Capiez had been staying in southern Nouméa, which he said was fairly removed from rioting in the northern suburbs.

"Most [other passengers] feel okay because the tourist areas have been fairly safe," he said.

Andre Capiez and other Kiwis on New Caledonia evacuation flight

Andre Capiez before boarding the flight. Photo: Supplied / Andre Capiez

But on their way from the rendezvous to Magenta Airport, the group "went the long way around the bays to stay in those southern suburbs".

He said the airport was heavily guarded.

"We are at the domestic airport in the local flying club area, not the commercial side of the airport. There are French armed forces around so it's very secure."

Overall, Capiez said the evacuation process had been very smooth.

"It's been really good because the consular staff, NZDF people, MFAT people have all been very amazing," he said.

"They walked us through what to expect, that we should arrive in Auckland mid-afternoon. Staff were seeing if they could re-book [flights] for people who need to fly elsewhere in New Zealand."

Andre Capiez and other Kiwis on New Caledonia evacuation flight

Evacuees were warned the flight would be noisy. Photo: Supplied / Andre Capiez

Defence Force staff had distributed earplugs and warned passengers that the flight would be noisy, but many were just happy to go home, Capiez said.

"There's a number of people here with young children and babies, so it's going to be a big relief for people to get home."

As many as 150 New Zealanders are still waiting to be evacuated.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said consular officials will work closely with the affected New Zealanders.

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