Air Tahiti Nui improves product and introduces premium economy as 787s replace ageing A340s

On 8-Oct-2018, Air Tahiti Nui took delivery of the first of its four 787-9s, kickstarting a rapid fleet renewal project which will result in the phase out all its A340s over the next year.


Summary

  • Air Tahiti Nui has taken delivery of the first of four 787-9s;
  • Air Tahiti Nui plans to place into service all four 787s over the next year, replacing its current fleet of five A340s;
  • Air Tahiti is improving its product as it introduces 787s across its network as the new type has lie flat seats and a premium economy cabin

In 2015, Air Tahiti Nui committed to acquire four 787-9s. The first two 787-9s are being leased from ALC and the other two are being acquired directly from Boeing. The remaining three aircraft are slated to be delivered in 2019.

The French Polynesia flag carrier plans to place into service the first 787-9 on 8-Nov-2018 from Papeete to Auckland, its shortest route. Air Tahiti Nui plans to transition all of its flights from A340-300s to 787-9s by Sep-2019.

Prior to the milestone 787 delivery, Air Tahiti Nui’s entire fleet consisted of A340-300s. It currently has four A340-300s that were manufactured in 2011 one younger model aircraft that was manufactured in 2005, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.

Air Tahiti Nui’s average fleet age will be reduced from 16 years to less than one year once the last A340 is retired in 3Q2019. While the airline is reducing the size of its fleet by one aircraft, Air Tahiti should be able to utilise the 787 significantly more, enabling it to maintain its current schedule.

Air Tahiti has a small network of four destinations – Auckland, Los Angeles, Paris CDG and Tokyo Narita. Air Tahiti Nui’s overall capacity will remain relatively flat as its new 787-9s have almost the same number of seats as its A340-300s. However, Air Tahiti is significantly improving its inflight product as well as introducing a new premium economy cabin.

The 787-9 features 30 full lie flat business class seats compared to 32 angled flat seats in the A340-300. The A340-300 has 264 economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration while the 787-9 has 232 regular economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration along with 32 premium economy seats in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Air Tahiti already has seatback IFE on the A340 but is introducing a modern new system, the Panasonic eX3, with larger screens. Business class on the 787 will have 16in screens, premium economy 13in screens and economy 12in screens. Air Tahiti is introducing wifi with satellite broadband from Panasonic.

The product upgrades should help Air Tahiti Nui compete as only its Tokyo route is not served by other airlines. Air New Zealand competes on Papeete-Auckland and Air France competes on Papeete-Los Angeles and Papeete-Paris via Los Angeles. Low-cost long-haul startup French Bee also started competing in the Papeete-Paris market in May-2018 with a one-stop three times weekly service via San Francisco. French Bee is now the largest foreign airline in the French Polynesia market with a 15% share of seat capacity.

Air Tahiti Nui currently accounts for 54% of international seat capacity in its home market. In addition to French Bee and Air NZ, Papeete is served by Hawaiian Airlines, LATAM and Aircalin (with limited service to Honolulu, Santiago via Easter Island and Noumea). Sister airline Air Tahiti operates domestic services within French Polynesia and has one weekly international flight (to Rarotonga) using ATR turboprops.

The 787 marks a major development and new chapter for Air Tahiti Nui, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary next month. The airline is using the renewal of its fleet to update its branding, logo and uniforms.