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Highjacking in paradise: Easter Island!

Updated on October 16, 2011

Australia to Chile and back

Many years ago we needed to fly from Sydney, Australia to Chile, for my husband toat train some engineers at El Teniente mine. We first flew to Tahiti and then boarded the Lan Chile flight that would take us to Santiago, with a stopover in Easter Island. Unfortunately, the stop in the island was too short, so we did not have time to go and see the famous statues on our way. We spent a couple of weeks in Chile (do visit my Haiti and Chile hub with the first part of this story) and also went by bus to Argentina to visit some people before returning to Santiago to take the Lan Chile flight back to Australia. We had another stop in Easter Island on our way back, but this time it was different. We were greeted in the Matavari Airport by local residents with placards and they would not allow our plane to leave! Everything was done in a peaceful way, but they still took our passports away! Apparently, locals were complaining about Lan Chile increasing airfare and cargo prices, as the airline had a monopoly on the route, being the only provider of flights to and from the island.

sylvia13 standing next to an Easter Is. statue
sylvia13 standing next to an Easter Is. statue
Mataveri Airport in Easter Island
Mataveri Airport in Easter Island
Protesters in the airport when we arrived
Protesters in the airport when we arrived
Lan Chile plane on the Easter Island airport
Lan Chile plane on the Easter Island airport

Passengers were then assigned rooms in the few hotels in the island and we were also given food there. In the meantime, negotiations started, but we did not know when we would be allowed to leave the island. So we were in the middle of the Pacific, unable to do anything, but watch other planes flying high above us! In the next few days, locals and passengers who supported them, played music close to the airplane, with much of a party atmosphere!

A fellow female passenger reckoned that we had been highjacked, so she insisted insurance companies should pay us! Calls were also made to Australia, but there was nothing anybody could do, but wait. We did many walks around the island, had a look at the famous statues, visited the volcano and my husband even did a tour of the island with some locals he had met. I was not as happy as he was, as after a few weeks on the road we had no more clean clothes to wear!

After about a week the situation was solved and the plane was finally allowed to leave. It might have been a highjacking, but it had all been very peaceful, so everybody found it hard in the end to say goodbye and many tears flowed among both passengers and locals!

Once we had said goodbye to the locals, we boarded the Lan Chile plane once again, knowing full well that we had missed the connection that would take us back to Australia, so we had to wait until we arrived in Tahiti to find out.

Maeva Hotel in Tahiti
Maeva Hotel in Tahiti
Tetiaroa Island in French Polynesia
Tetiaroa Island in French Polynesia
Newspaper article that appeared in the Australian press about our Easter Island highjacking!
Newspaper article that appeared in the Australian press about our Easter Island highjacking!


As I was travelling with my Peruvian passport at the time, where I appeared as single, when we arrived in Tahiti, I negotiated with the airline personnel (in Spanish) so that they would give us a double room instead of two single ones and I specifically requested the Maeva Beach, as I had been there before and we were lucky to be given a room there!

Since we had a few days until our flight departed, one of the hotel employees asked us if we would like work for a day with a group of Japanese who were making a film. They would fly us on a small plane to Tetiaroa, which was Marlon Brando’s island, they would provide lunch and then they would start filming with the two of us as extras! With nothing better to do, we accepted the offer and were taken to the Papeete Airport to catch the small plane.

After a short flight we arrived on the island and then we boarded a boat. We were then told to just chat among ourselves, as there was no script, or any indication as to what the film was all about! By then we realized that it must be a cheap production, so my husband suddenly got worried that his friends in Japan might recognize him if they ever saw him on the film! In the meantime, he sat in the front of the boat, very carefree, wearing his swimming suit and sunglasses, getting a tan. But that was not the end of it all! When we arrived back in the Pappete Airport, we were each given US50.00 for our services! Well, what does one do after having a crazy highjacking in one island? Appear in a crazy Japanese film in another island, I guess, what else?

When we got to Australia I approached the insurance company and claimed compensation for my glasses, which had broken in Chile and the highjacking, as by then an article had appeared in the press actually calling the incident a highjacking and they paid us!

When checking the name of the Easter Island airport on the Interent I also found out that apparently those high jackings are not rare, as there seems to have been a couple in 2009!

Map of Easter Island


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