Air Tahiti Nui Wants To Launch The World’s Longest Flight… There’s Just One Problem

Filed Under: Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui is currently in the process of refreshing their fleet. The airline used to exclusively fly five A340-300s, though is retiring those planes in favor of four Boeing 787-9s. Over the course of about a year the airline will be going from an all Airbus to all Boeing fleet (which is an especially interesting move for a French airline).


Air Tahiti Nui A340-300

The 787-9 represents a nice improvement for the airline, as they finally have fully flat beds in business class. Furthermore, from an economic perspective, the 787-9 has much more favorable operating costs.


Air Tahiti Nui 787-9 business class

In theory the 787-9 is also a significantly longer range aircraft than the A340-300.

For the most part Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t really need that range, though, as the airline flies:

  • From Papeete to Auckland, Los Angeles, and Tokyo Narita
  • From Los Angeles to Paris

Their current longest flight is from Tokyo Narita to Papeete, which at 5,863 miles is well within the range of either aircraft.

Airways Magazine has an interesting interview with Air Tahiti Nui’s CEO, in which he talks about why the airline chose the 787-9 over other aircraft, including the A350. Here’s his answer:

And for ultra-long-haul, what we needed is range. And the best range comes with the Boeing 787-9.

This plane would allow us to fly nonstop from Tahiti to Paris. We would beat the current Singapore – Newark flight in terms of time and distance. We are really thinking about it. The Los Angeles stop is not really that comfortable for our French passengers.

So it’s interesting that he talks about needing the range, because obviously that’s not needed for their current routes.

There’s no doubt that there would be big demand for a nonstop Tahiti to Paris flight, as the airline already carries a lot of people between the places. Air France and French Bee also both operate one-stop routes between Paris and Tahiti, through Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively.

There’s also no doubt that the US stop is a pain in the rear for French passengers. This would otherwise be a domestic flight (since Tahiti is a French territory), but all passengers have to clear immigration in the US.

A nonstop flight from Paris to Tahiti would cover a distance of 9,765 miles.

For context, the world’s longest current 787-9 route is Perth to London, which covers a distance of 9,009 miles, while the world’s longest flight is Singapore Airlines’ Singapore to Newark flight, which covers a distance of 9,534 miles and is operated by an A350-900ULR.


Air Tahiti Nui 787-9

So to be honest, I’m really confused:

  • While there would no doubt be dig demand for this route, it’s above the published range of the 787-9
  • At the same time I can’t imagine Air Tahiti Nui spent nearly a billion dollars on a type of plane specifically because of the range it offers, only to find out the plane can’t actually operate the route

So yeah, I guess to sum it up…

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Comments
  1. Theoretically they could fly PPT-PTP-CDG, making stop in France territory of Guadeloupe, it would be 10643 miles instead of 9765 PPT-LAX-CDG, but no immigration and also would work for French public sector workers in both places.

  2. Could the 787 do CDG-PPT with weight restriction? Maybe that’s how they are planning to make the route work

  3. The economics of this can’t make sense. ULH to a leisure destination? Even if the 789 could fly this route, it would never be profitable.

  4. Change it to PPT-SNN (9216) or PPT-KEF (8392) – with just a fuel stop, either in each or in one direction. Helps avoid the US nonsense.

  5. Canada allows holding pens, seems like they could avoid immigration (still required to deplane) if they made that detour. The French territory example makes more sense IMO

  6. If they’re so bothered by the LAX stop then reroute via Montreal where there would be no immigration and you could connect up Francophone territories

  7. It could possibly be done if weight restricted because a quick google search shows range is 8,000nmi to 8,500nmi and the distance between Tahiti and Paris is about 8486 nmi. What confuses me the most tho is that if it’s going to be longer than the Singapore to Newark route then why does Singapore have A350ULRs and they’re in a premium heavy configuration. In addition, how would this work with aircraft utilisation given that they have only ordered two 787s and are going to be replacing their a340s. If they were to follow through with this route I could see them ordering another 787 in a premium heavy configuration.

  8. However not all passengers are flying Paris to Papeete. A large proportion are either flying just to LA of between LAX to Tahiti So would it be worth offering just 1-2 weekly non stops

    Having transferred at LAX myself it’s a pain but not that bad – at least when I did it The Tom Bradley terminal is nice. If you on the same aircraft ie air New Zealand to/from London (and I think the same applies to Air France and Air Tahiti Nui to/from Paris ) I was given a transit card , directed to immigration and then to security and back airside I didn’t need to collect my bags or go through customs
    You only collect bags and go through customs when changing airlines

    The former is not so different from a transfer from a non schengen – schengen flight within Europe

  9. Perhaps I missed it, but while you mention that their is a published range for the 787-9, I believe you’ve left out that vital detail. Would be helpful to know what that is.

  10. Boeing 777 , 200 LR would have been best for this route , but Boeing must educate , recommend , analysis to every coustomer , partially fault of Boeing also , coustomer is going to send millions and Boeing could not educate a coustomer , very dum on part of Boeing .

  11. Maybe I didn’t read the article carefully enough but I saw no reference to the range of a dreamliner. Isn’t that relevant for this article?

  12. I’ll throw it out there… Fly east and take advantage of the air currents. How many kilometres would that be? Apologies for my ineptitude in advance!

  13. Weight restrictions could give it the range. Also, when SP flew 313 on PDL OAK they would stop and crew change in YYZ with pax onboard while aircraft was refuelled. NO CBSA clearance.
    Reason they bought 789 was something to do with French tax laws which rendered the 359 too expensive.

  14. Air Tahiti Nui can take this strategy:
    CDG-PTP-PPT (pure domestic flight via Pointe-a-Pitre)
    LAX-PPT (axe the CDG sector, otherwise keep it as is)
    AKL-PPT (don’t forget demands from Australia and New Zealand too!)
    HKG/SIN-PPT (make French Polynesia appealing to Asian tourists)

  15. This makes sense for the simple reason it allows them to bypass the US nonsense. Instead they can transit through own territory.
    Fact is the US is not yet able to handle sterile transits like nearly any other country does, and that is a big unnecessary pain in the ass for travellers. I for myself would never volunteer transiting through US as it adds lots of uncertainty, not in the least of simply not making the next flight in time.

  16. Many people on this site seem to know this clearly. However for those of us in the US, it is worth stating again: Europeans and Latin Americans hate transit stops in the US. Over and over I hear how unpleasant, rude and unkind transit personnel are, both governmental and airline.
    I know, I know and I’m an American.
    I invite you to complain to both government agencies and the airlines. We Americans are getting absolutely nowhere pointing out these shortcomings.

  17. Air Tahiti plan to fly nonstop from Tahiti to Paris, 9765 miles or 8486 Nmi. B787-9. The seats are limited? Qantas fly B787-9 with 236 seats filled and fly nonstop from Perth to London, 9005 miles. Headwinds or tailwinds made the different things to fly. Singapore A350ULR fly from Singapore to Newark, NJ 9500 miles 18-19 hours, the seats are about 200 passengers. I wonder if A350ULR fly more longer miles than B787-9.
    Boeing 777-200 LR can fly more farther, it did flew over 12,000 miles with 20-25 employees or engineers on it.

  18. @Cassandra

    Unpleasant/rude/unkind is one thing, but I have also met plenty of friendly officers over the years. I don’t really care about the kind/rude thing as I just ignore it.
    It is more that the process is so inefficient that it makes transiting a highly unpredictable exercise, where most of the staff couldn’t care less if you make or miss your connection.

    Eg I would have no issue of doing a 1,5 or2 hours transit in SIN, ICN, BKK, CGK, AMS, FRA, CPH, etc. but would not even dream about booking anything tighter than 4 hours through eg JFK, MIA, LAX.
    Esp MIA is an absolute disaster and I will not ever again connect through MIA to South America, I rather go through Mexico or Panama. And happily pay more to bypass the US transit experience.

  19. I’m thinking Boeing has been quoting unannounced longe range version parameters to certain select CEOs in conjunction with their bid for QFs Project Sunrise. Any plane able to do SYD-LHR for Qantas would easily be able to do CDG-PPT. I smell Air Tahiti Nui sub-fleet plans.

  20. @Rick I the Project Sunrise plane will likely be a 777X, which would be much too big for Air Tahiti. Interesting point about unannounced possible yet-unannounced changes/ additions to 787-9.

  21. Never understood why Air Tahiti Nui or Air France never earmarked a CDG-YUL-PPT run, it’s only 100 miles further than their LAX one stopper. There would be a big market out of YUL for PPT and lots of traffic CDG-YUL. There would only be a 240min ETOPS needed for an AF 777 and no such requirement for Air Tahiti Nui A340.

  22. An airplane doesnt care how much ground distance it makes. It cares abour air distance. Therefor it can be possible for the flight to be non stop in one direction (probably westwards) and with a fuel stop in the other direction.

  23. Isn’t range also dependent on weight? Perhaps they’re looking into reducing the number of economy seats and increasing biz which will allow them to fly non-stop.

  24. Why not fly:
    1) via French Carribean Territories
    2) Tahiti – Singapore -Paris
    3) via Montreal or Quebec Canada where large french speaking poulation
    4) via French Guyana

    Maybe something outside the box like Tahiti- Noumea – Reunion -Paris
    or my personal favourite:
    via Saint Pierre – tiny french owned island off Newfoundland Canada!
    Avoid the USA problems!

  25. @ Aniljak

    Agree. Interesting options. Anything is better than having to transit through US airports which are not yet properly designed and equipped to handle efficient transits, even if it makes the flight longer or more expensive.

  26. For those asking the question, the published range of a 787-9 is 7,600 nm or 8,746 statute miles. However that is with a standard passenger load as calculated by the manufacturer. Qantas Perth to London exceeds this range with a premium heavy configuration. By subtracting some more passengers, the necessary range to do Tahiti – Paris non-stop could probably be achieved. The competing A350-900ULR is able to do Singapore – New York by taking about 150 passengers out of its standard manufacturer configuration.

  27. Sounds totally crazy to me while I’m writing but: a stop in Dublin (or Shannon) is exactly (or nearly exactly) in the way between PPT and CDG and within the range of the b789

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