Air France Planning Vancouver To Tahiti Route

Filed Under: Air France/KLM

There are a lot of people from Metropolitan France who like to vacation in Tahiti, though it’s a long way between the two places, and almost all ways involve transiting the US:

  • Air Tahiti Nui and Air France both fly from Paris to Los Angeles to Tahiti
  • French Bee flies from Paris to San Francisco to Tahiti
  • United flies from San Francisco to Tahiti, which can be booked in conjunction of any of their other flights out of SFO

United 787 in Tahiti

The problem with transiting the US is that sterile transit isn’t possible, so all passengers have to clear immigration (and have the required visa for the US) in order to take this flight. This is a hassle for many passengers.

Along those lines, it looks like there may soon be another option for traveling between Paris and Tahiti. The Canadian Transportation Agency has approved a route request from Air France to fly between Vancouver and Tahiti.

While details haven’t yet been finalized, and while we don’t know if Air France will follow through on this, the fact that they requested permission to operate the route does suggest that they’re at least somewhat serious about it.

In terms of distance, the route from Paris to Vancouver to Tahiti is only about 50 miles longer than the route from Paris to Los Angeles to Tahiti, so the difference in distance is negligible.

It’s also unknown if this route would be operated in addition to their current flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti, or in place of. While California to Tahiti is a crowded market, at the same time presumably there is a good amount of demand between the US and Tahiti as well.


Air Tahiti Nui 787 in Tahiti

Major Canadian airports generally allow sterile international transit (at least under certain circumstances), so if this is launched I could see a situation where they could create a sterile transit option for passengers.

Air France and WestJet also have a partnership, so WestJet could provide some feed for this flight.

Lastly, while I’m not suggesting that this is the motivation for the route, keep in mind that Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith was at Air Canada before, so he’s obviously very familiar with the market.

Do you think Air France will launch a Vancouver to Tahiti flight?

Comments
  1. YVR also has neat swing gates that can maximize the transit zone (though super sterile), and they have been handling routes similar to this such as CX’s HKG-YVR-JFK, PR’s MNL-YVR-JFK for a long time now, so if it is approved, it could get running in no time, and WS can run feeds from YUL to complement as transiting in US has always been a headache. Meanwhile, LAX is probably a trial run of hell on the surface of this planet.

  2. I try at almost all costs to avoid transiting in the US. I already spend enough of my life dealing with immigration queues, without also having to handle them during transfers.

    If there are more like me, I wonder what the cost of lost business is to US airlines and airports?

  3. If AF doesn’t cancel LAX-PPT, I can see YVR-PPT as a seasonal route. I’m not sure if there’s a large enough market to have both LAX-PPT and YVR-PPT year-round.
    Also, if Mexico City airport can provide a sterile international transit, perhaps that may be another option as well. MEX is a skyteam hub and can provide feed from Central/South America.

  4. @Baserate
    The point of doing YVR is to avoid the US, not move to another point in the US. SEA would really not be much different from LAX.

  5. I’m wondering if AF YVR-CDG is not quite living up to expectations and this is a strategy to keep that route alive while allowing for sterile international transit and/or increase capacity to Tahiti?

    AF is only five days/week on the route in summer, and three in the winter. That makes it a tougher market to get business travellers, although KL is daily which helps.

  6. Transit of the US is not worth the hassle, there’s always a better and easier way to reach your desination especially when you start out in a place with stringent security.

    The US system is not fit for purpose and I’ll avoid it as long as the current arrangements continue.

    I would imagine if Air France are looking at Vancouver – Tahiti then that route will become the norm and they will ditch the connection through LAX to the relief of all their passengers who can avoid Team America World Police.

  7. It might not be obvious to US readers (the majority here) but for the rest of us this looks like an intelligent way to sell more tickets. The French and Tahitians will enthusiastically welcome a way to avoid a US border experience and they’ll pay a premium for it. This is a leisure route, with few “trusted travelers” (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry, etc) so the prospect of queueing for hours to beg admission to The Shining City they don’t want to visit is very unappealing. Canada Border Services Agency has a slightly less menacing reputation (notice the word “security” isn’t in their name?) and Canada guarantees service in French to anyone dealing with any federal employee. AC makes a fortune transporting people between Latin America and Europe via Toronto, avoiding the obviously shorter MIA, DFW, IAH routes. This AF move is inspired and driven by Marketing/Revenue motives.

  8. @WP

    Since the whole avoiding the US thing has already been covered, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go to SEA over YVR. SEA must have the shittiest facilities on the West Coast.

  9. I’m American but live in France half the year and so many of my European friends absolutely refuse to fly to or through the United States. It reminds me of when I was young and there was a general reluctance in the west to travel behind the Iron Curtain, because you feared something bad might happen to you there. I’m not sure Americans get that. Sadly, countless travelers around the world now see the United States as a place to avoid.

  10. @Super VC10 Exactly. Canadian carriers and airport operators know it. Typical passenger on any flight to/from PPT will not have any magic card to bypass queues in USA or Canada, so they’re comparing the non-privileged traveller experience in LAX/SEA/SFO to YVR/YYZ?YUL. If I didn’t have Global Entry, I’d think twice before using USA as a connection point from my home in YYZ to elsewhere.

  11. Sterile transit in the US would require a redesign and I’m assuming construction to make the passenger flow work. Another thing sterile transit requires is immigration checks when going in and out of the international terminal. I like that the US doesn’t check anything on the way out. This means walking from your inbound United flight at LAX to TBIT will most likely be blocked. Or going between all terminals at DFW.

  12. @Jack no it wouldn’t mean closure of the bridge ‘tween terminals at LAX but it would mean certain gates were in sterile zones. Canada doesn’t “check anything on the way out” either, but there’s a US Transborder zone in every Canadian airport, with separate lounges, retailers, gates. Nobody can enter these zones without a passport and permission from the government of the United States of America.

    A sterile zone can be “constructed” in any airport. The US “constructs” isolation zones in foreign airports all over the world. Similar arrangements exist in airports elsewhere, including the Middle East. But none on US soil.

  13. My view:
    AF’s CDG-YVR does pretty well currently – I’ve flown it and it was completely full even when they upgraded us from a 772 to a 77W. That isn’t the issue. This route could be an incentive for AF, however, to add daily service to YVR. I think YVR is a good choice because Canada has a lot of French people and connections from YUL and other areas with higher French speaking populations are possible especially with WestJet. YVR has a better transit experience than LAX/SFO, so that’s also a good thing going for it. I don’t feel like it would be a seasonal route. I imagine it would be year round – people in Vancouver love Tahiti and Bora Bora so this is just another opportunity for our large upper class to take a vacation.

  14. All of you shouldn’t forget that even though you may not need to collect bags, pass immigration etc, all non-US / CANADIAN citizens still require a(n electronic) transit visa and nowadays, approval delays are experienced which may complicate journeys.

  15. Zortan: Case in point: Vancouver native Margaret Sinclair met her husband, future Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, on vacation in Tahiti. (Likely much to his subsequent regret.)

  16. AA
    July 14, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    I would point out:

    Europeans only need the ETA, IME you get it in 30 seconds.

    Canada will be a preferred option over the US for anyone from Europe.

  17. @Nick Flight shame is very much a thing in France. Recently some French politicians proposed to forbid domestic flights.
    But when it comes to French overseas territories that are on the other side of the world, there aren’t many alternatives to the plane.

  18. Lets not forget the big three airlines don’t like Sterile areas nor 5th freedom rights, because their product sucks. Can’t have a superior product from another airline to compete against.

  19. I live in Seattle and have been considering visiting Bora Bora. Id be thrilled with this new route!

  20. To all the non-Americans trashing traveling thru the US I am one Californian who agrees 100% with you……..remember there are many of us here that are thoroughly embarrassed at our government and our infrastructure………if I didn’t have a home in California undergoing construction I would nagging my wife to move to France………Vive la France!

  21. This is exceptionally good news for Canadians. Travelling across the US borders is a nightmare and totally unappealing thus a way to get to the South Pacific without a US connection would be wonderful.

    We could still use our Nexus (Global Entry) cards on departure and return.

    We also wish Margaret had used an aspirin between her knees.

  22. Makes sense to me. I am based near SFO, I would welcome a transit at YVR to avoid LAX. I just did the SFO- LAX-PPT-LAX-SFO on Delta (DL-AF-DL) and it was a hassle. I would prefer the YVR transit even if it is a longer flight. The flights in business out of SFO could not get much more expensive at $4200-$5500. to PPT!

  23. Agree with everyone else on here this is a very smart move… my guess would be they drop the routing via LAX once they have this running via YVR. As an American based in Europe I still try and avoid transiting US airports at all costs. Most Europeans will pay a premium for this.

  24. @DenB

    “no it wouldn’t mean closure of the bridge ‘tween terminals at LAX but it would mean certain gates were in sterile zones. Canada doesn’t “check anything on the way out” either, but there’s a US Transborder zone in every Canadian airport, with separate lounges, retailers, gates. Nobody can enter these zones without a passport and permission from the government of the United States of America.”

    Right. So there are areas the terminal which would not be accessible without an additional check as people would need to be contained. Certain gates would likely be TBIT in thge LAX case. Additionally, airlines such as United would need to move all international operations to this space.

    “A sterile zone can be “constructed” in any airport. The US “constructs” isolation zones in foreign airports all over the world. Similar arrangements exist in airports elsewhere, including the Middle East. But none on US soil.”

    If I had to guess most US traffic is O/D. With few exception like this French Polynesia case I don’t see airlines making the US a hub like the middle east. Especially in the current age of long thin routes.

    But yes. These can be constructed.

  25. In fact the Tom Bradley Terminal is pretty much well designed for international transit. If you fly in Air New Zealand from London to Auckland and vice versa you pass via immigration and then back airside into the sterile transit area – great hall with access to lounges , shops and restaurants. Bags are also checked to final destination. I believe it’s the same for AF.

    Last time en route to AKL it was very quick and took me around 25 minutes

    The midfield concourse which opens next year may have added facilities. I think it also has swing gates – international passengers entirely separated from domestic The latter being directed to buses to transfer to/from the terminals. International passengers will use a tunnel If you’re familiar with the terminal you will observe the large “ gateway “ building being constructed adjacent to gate 148

  26. Ps there’s a lot of high yield traffic from LAX to Tahiti. LA also has a large Polynesian population as well as quite a substantial French community Am sure there are also a lot of tour operators using the route and it’s also a joint venture with Delta. Therefore Vancouver could be an additional service

  27. Agree with everyone else on here this is a very smart move… my guess would be they drop the routing via LAX once they have this running via YVR. As an American based in Europe I still try and avoid transiting US airports at all costs. Most Europeans will pay a premium for this.

    AND I AGREE WITH YOU.

  28. @ Jack
    “If I had to guess most US traffic is O/D.”

    Well, yes: that’s because most of us positively avoid transiting there. Chicken, egg, etc.

    Look at Miami. Ideally placed to be a transfer hub for NW Europe — Latin America (for those many countries/ cities not connected directly).

    Personally, I instead connect in either Madrid or Lisbon (or, for some southern destinations, São Paulo).

    The US is leaving money on the table.

  29. Well this is a French domestic flight afterall, so understandable that they want to make it free of any immigration hassle…

  30. Easiest way to eliminate concern: stop in somewhere in one of those former colonies of France in the Carribean.

  31. International to international transits at Canadian airports still go through immigration control

  32. Anything that allows passengers to avoid the surly and sometimes aggressive Customs and Immigration officers at LAX is to be welcomed.

  33. In order to transit in the United States, passengers have to clear immigration and transit security. Due to some reason Air France has to go one of two ways with this new route.

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