Air Tahiti Nui Operating World’s Longest Commercial Flight

Filed Under: Air Tahiti Nui, Other Airlines

While global aviation is struggling to cope with the ever-changing health advisories and travel restrictions, the situation of aviation to & from Tahiti is an especially challenging one at the moment. Airlines are dealing with it in some pretty innovative ways.

Why US travel restrictions are tough for Tahiti

French Polynesia is a popular destination for visitors from “continental” France, given the connection. However, Paris and Tahiti couldn’t really be further apart. Looking at the French airlines flying to Tahiti:

  • Air Tahiti Nui operates a flight from Tahiti to Los Angeles to Paris
  • Air France operates a flight from Tahiti to Los Angeles to Paris
  • French bee operates a flight from Tahiti to San Francisco to Paris

The airlines all have pick-up and drop-off rights in the US, but for many of the passengers, they’re just looking to travel between Papeete and Paris as directly as possible, and these routings are best.

The US doesn’t allow “sterile” transit, which means that passengers have to clear immigration in the US while in transit. Now there’s a new Europe travel ban, though, and foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen area in the past 14 days aren’t allowed to enter the US.

In other words, non-Americans can no longer fly from Paris to Tahiti via LAX or SFO, since they won’t be allowed to clear immigration in the US.

Airlines are coping with this in some pretty creative ways…

Air Tahiti Nui operating world’s longest domestic flight

Last night, Air Tahiti Nui 8 was supposed to operate from Papeete to Los Angeles to Paris at 11:15PM. Those traveling to Los Angeles departed at that time, as the flight still operated as far as the US.

However, those traveling to Paris were re-protected on Air Tahiti Nui 64 on Sunday, March 15, 2020, which will depart at 3AM.

Air Tahiti Nui 787-9

This flight will be operated nonstop from Papeete to Paris, making this (to my knowledge) the furthest commercial flight ever:

  • The flight will cover a distance of 9,765 miles, making it longer than the world’s current furthest flight from Singapore to Newark, which covers a distance of 9,534 miles
  • This flight is only possible because of the tailwinds the entire way, as the flight time will “only” be about 16hr30min; there’s no way the flight could operate nonstop in the other direction
  • This is only slightly shorter than the recent Project Sunrise “test flights,” though those weren’t available to the general public, and only had a few invited guests

Not only will this be (to my knowledge) the world’s longest commercial flight ever, but the flight will be entirely domestic.

Air Tahiti Nui business class

How airlines are otherwise avoiding the US

The above flight is a one-time service, so what happens beyond that? Both Air Tahiti Nui and French bee have come up with new plans to avoid the US.

Air Tahiti Nui will operate:

  • The March 14 flight from Papeete to Paris via Vancouver, rather than Los Angeles
  • The March 15 & 18 flights from Papeete to Paris via Guadeloupe, rather than Los Angeles

French bee will operate:

  • The Papeete to Paris flight via Guadeloupe rather than San Francisco, from March 20 through April 10, 2020

With the Guadeloupe stopover, this has to be one of the most interesting “domestic” flights we’ve ever seen.

Both airlines had pick-up and drop-off rights in the US, so this means that flights between the US and Paris will largely be canceled. Then again, that was probably going to happen either way, given the travel ban.

View approaching Papeete

Bottom line

The US not allowing sterile transit is causing some issues for French airlines operating their otherwise “domestic” flights between Tahiti and Paris. Air Tahiti Nui will be operating the world’s longest commercial flight as a one-off, and otherwise we’re generally going to see airlines route via Guadeloupe rather than the US, so that they can get around travel restrictions.

  1. That is one heck of a long flight…and if your in the back , yikes.

    I couldn’t do It, leave me in Tahiti! lol

  2. This is cool on so many levels! Question: couldn’t they operate eastwards from Paris to Papeete for the “return” flight, taking advantage of those tail winds? Or is that a step too far?

  3. I just booked my trip to Tahiti for Easter on United! My first on a 787! Yeah, I flew A350-900 and 1000 a number of times but never a 787…it’s about time!

    @Peter: Air France still shows their flights between LAX and PPT at the moment

    @Dennis: I think the other way is too far even with tail wind.

  4. @Dennis, Perfect question, I was thinking the same! But I guess is that over the Pacific (Eastwards) there are not such Tailwinds available. I guess these is an Eastbound “issue”, but over the Atlantic.

  5. It’s not “continental France”… It’s Metropolitan France, Mainland France or France Métropolitaine… Please, study a little bit of Geography…

  6. @ Salem; were do you read that’s a “Continental” Flight? Lucky mentions “French Polynesia is a popular destination for visitors from “continental” France.”
    Further on, Lucky calls it a “Domestic” Flight, which is correct.

  7. Wow wow wow. Well, there’s an airline nobody expected to be the contender for the world’s longest flight.

  8. @Nelson There isn’t such thing called “continental France”… the part of the french territory that’s located in Europe is called Metropolitan France… Tahiti (French Polynesia) is a collectivité d’outre mer. I’m not contending that it’s a domestic flight… Just do not call European France as continental

  9. Yeah they could make the flight in the other direction as well. The 787 she’s a tough son of a gun. Ain’t she ?

  10. @Nelson, yeah I think you’re right. The strongest easterly jet streams seem to fall in the 40-60 degree latitude range.

  11. “The US not allowing sterile transit is causing some issues for French airlines operating their otherwise “domestic” flights between Tahiti and Paris.”

    Great way to keep spreading coronavirus to fragile areas of the world with limited supplies.

  12. “However, those traveling to Paris were re-protected on Air Tahiti Nui 64 on Sunday, March 15, 2020, which will depart at 3AM.”

    What does “re-protected” mean?

  13. An eastbound CDG-PPT flight would be at least 11,000 miles, quite a bit longer than this already-record-breaking flight.

  14. The US should allow technical stops, like for refueling only. Don’t they already have that? I thought Anchorage used to do that (stops but passengers remained on board)

  15. Why don’t they put a fuel stop in Vancouver? Or do a stop-over in Montreal where you might even get transfer traffic in the long-term? I get that right now it’s hard to make decisions, but worth switching to Canada in the long-term.

  16. In the CDG-PPT direction, there is an additional constraint about diversion airport, which requires more fuel reserved, given PPT is very isolated, and the closest alternate is Rarotonga, which is 771 miles away (and further from CDG)

  17. @ Derek, I think ANC is used most for Cargo stops to refuel. The 5th largest Cargo Airport in the World.

  18. Just flew UA101 IAH-SYD. This was “only” ~9100 miles but it took 17hrs 50min. It was pretty comfortable in J but I did empathize with those in the back since I’ve flown long haul in economy…just not that long.

  19. Would be better if Air Tahiti Nui Or French Bee to fly to Tijuana Since their A bridge that connects to the US and would be only 2 hours 30 mins from LAX

  20. I live in Anchorage and yes they have an international terminal that is now barely used ( seasonal charter flights only) but they used to allow technical refueling stops for passenger flights that now over fly the airport due to modernization of aircraft types. We are the 5th largest cargo airport in the world. Air Force 1 stops by sometimes to refuel on the way to Asia.

  21. They should switch their flights to Canada, the hell with the US. Many self centered US comments on here.

  22. @Salem we call the lower 48 states and Alaska the continental United States. I feel like you could see how the author applied the same idea to France. Further, not one person from the US or presumably anywhere outside of France gives one flying fuck what the correct way of relating French Polynesia to France is.

  23. Not sure if it counts as a “commercial flight,” but the longest ever flight with paying passengers was back in 2006 when a BA 777-200ER flew non-stop from Brussels to Melbourne with Tony Blair and his entourage aboard; it was 17,157km/9,264 nmi/10,661 mi and took 18h45m.

  24. Canada not offering “sterile” transit and requiring all passengers to obtain visa or eTA is also creating problem for the flight. BTW TtHT operated CDG-YVR-PPT instead of PPT-YVR-CD on March 14. All future CDG-PPT flight will be CDG-PTP-PPT. So the CDG-YVR-PPT is only one off.

  25. @GetOverYourself the lower 48 are the “Contiguous” United States not the “Continental” United States, which is meaningless. There isn’t a continent called “United States.” The last time I checked, Alaska is still part of the North American Continent as is Canada & Mexico and 20 other Independent States. What many call Latin or Central America is in fact part of the North American Continent too. The border between Panama & Columbia define the boundary between North America & South America. Hawaii is not part of any continent geographically, but is considered to be North America politically.

    Perhaps a little research before declaring the Contiguous United States an Continent. A geography lesson from a friendly Neighbour both North and South of the USA. It that puzzles you, British Columbia Canada that Borders Washington State, Idaho, Montana & Alaska.


  26. @Cmorgan – ANC fall from grace so much planes. It’s fall wasUSSR/RUSSIA opening it’s airspace to overflights. ANC became the transit point it was because USSR/RUSSIA wouldn’t let flights between Europe and Asia over fly using it’s airspace.

    @James – you seem to be missing what is being said. Poster never said there was a continent called the US. Continental US is in fact a term. It includes the contiguous US (lower 48 states) and Alaska. Stop trying to impose your own definition to commonly used terms.

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