The island of Ovalau is one of Lomaiviti Islands in the group known as Fiji. The major town on Ovalau is Levuka and it has an airfield, known as Bureta Airport, located some 14 miles from the township of Levuka.
Two important elements make flying in and out of Levuka a matter of contingency. Firstly, flights onto off the island depended on the condition of the runway. Heavy rain would cause major holes to develop on the runway itself.
Secondly, somewhat ‘unusually’, at check-in, persons and luggage were both weighed! Small 8-seater planes were used, and so weight distribution was critical.
When I was living on Ovalau I did not use the flight service with any regularity, however on one occasion I was needed in Suva with some speed. So, I booked and paid for a flight. On the day I was to fly, I was driven to the airport, presented myself and my bag, gave my name for the seat I had purchased only to be told, “Sorry, Saka (the Fijian word when addressing a priest) we are full! We have our maximum weight!” “But, I have a ticket!” I protested! “Saka you must show up on time. The first eight are taken!” (Local rules, which of course everyone knows!!)
It is certainly a very narrow gate!. Booking a seat does not ensure you! Paying for that seat does not ensure you! This Sunday’s Gospel from Luke (13: 22 -33) reminds us that “once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door” that is it!