The group, history and activities
Air Tahiti is a private Polynesian company with a public service role.
It is a driving force behind the economic and social development of the archipelagos and leads the development of tourism in French Polynesia.
Air Tahiti's aim is to continually improve the pricing and quality of the various air transport services offered to customers in the various fields of air transport activity in French Polynesia.
History of the companyAir Tahiti over the time
The history of Air Tahiti is closely linked to the history of aviation in Polynesia.
The advent of a scheduled commercial air service between the islands came in 1950, when a handful of entrepreneurs founded Air Tahiti. To begin with, flights were made in a seven-seater Grumman J-4F Widgeon seaplane. Its low capacity meant that the need for a second aircraft soon became apparent. In 1951, the French ministry for the overseas territories purchased a Grumman Mallard for the territory. Little by little, Air Tahiti spread its wings to cover all of the Polynesian islands. The first sea landing in the Gambier Islands was made on 25 June 1953. In October 1953, the first flight to the Marquesas and a sea landing in Taiohae/Nuku Hiva took place.
In July 1953, Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux (TAI), the commercial operator of the state-controlled inter-island air network, Régie Aérienne Interinsulaire (RAI), asserted its entitlement to the allocation of local transport services, under agreements signed with Air France. The territorial government withdrew Air Tahiti's operating licence for the Mallards, in favour of the TAI, and with it, the Air Tahiti emblem disappeared. The RAI operated on behalf of the ministry of public works and transport. It purchased two Catalina seaplanes to expand the service linking the islands of French Polynesia. These orange-liveried aircraft received a registration number with the prefix F-OA, reserved for aircraft operated overseas.
Gradually, the network continued to expand. In 1955, the Austral Islands began to be served by seaplanes, with the opening up of the waters around Tubuai and Raivavae. In 1958, the state-controlled "Régie" became "Réseau" (network) Aérien Interinsulaire.
Seaplanes may have seemed ideally suited to the island context, but in fact broad expanses of water free of obstacles and sheltered from the swell were hard to come by. It therefore soon became necessary to develop runways and aerodromes.
The opening of Tahiti Faa'a International Airport, in 1960, meant that Tahiti could now receive international commercial flights. Meanwhile, across the territory, an extensive runway-construction programme was launched by the French State. Four runways were built in the 1960s, and 27 in the following decade.
In 1970, the RAI became Air Polynésie, a subsidiary of UTA. Nicknamed "Air Po" by the Polynesians, the airline further asserted its Polynesian identity, putting in place scheduled flights throughout French Polynesia, in particular to the islands furthest away from Tahiti.
In 1986, the former UTA, which in the meantime had been taken over by Air France, sold its share in Air Polynésie to local investors. The sale gave rise, in 1987, to the birth of Air Tahiti, in its current form. The new airline was keen to modernise, and in 1987 acquired its first ATR 42, marking the start of a long-term partnership with aircraft manufacturer ATR.
> Read the article in the Air Tahiti Magazine about the history of inter-island air travel in Polynesia.
Activities of the group
The main airline in French Polynesia, Air Tahiti today has a network that covers 47 of the country's islands, connecting more than 90% of the population. It provides administrative, school and medical transport between Tahiti and the islands, contributing in this way to the country's regional and economic development. In this context, tourism, which accounts for 30% of Air Tahiti's customers, offers development opportunities in which it plays an active part, through the expansion of the network of islands served and efforts in terms of flight scheduling and pricing.
Air Tahiti also operates flights to Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands.
Air Tahiti provides ground-handling services for international airlines that operate flights to Tahiti-Faa'a Airport. Those services include checking in and boarding passengers and their baggage, putting the catering on board, cabins cleaning, handling and managing international cargo...
> Read the article in the Air Tahiti Magazine about the International ground handling
To meet occasional and specific requests, Air Tahiti also charters its aircrafts for the transport of passengers or cargo. For goods transport, some ATRs can be converted into cargo aircraft, whereby the cabin is dismantled and the seats are removed to accommodate the cargo. Air Tahiti aircraft are regularly chartered for the transport of agricultural produces (flowers, potatoes, lychees, etc.) or oysters (imported to the islands from overseas).
The maintenance of Air Tahiti's aircrafts is carried out at the airline's Engineering Centre. The maintenance programme is based on a cycle of 400 flight hours for ATRs. Its expertise is recognised by the manufacturer and by the region's other airlines.
Air Tahiti provides indeed occasionally major maintenance work on ATRs for other companies in the Pacific like Pacific Sun (subsidiary of Air Pacific).
Founded in 1996, Air Archipels is a private airline.
Wholly owned subsidiary of the Air Tahiti group, Air Archipels operates flights for local organisations and for Air Tahiti, especially for medical evacuations using specially equipped aircraft.
The company also offers private custom flights to all destinations in the Polynesian islands opened to civil air traffic.
It operates three Beechcraft B200 King Air and two Twin Otter DHC6-300 aircrafts.
Bora Bora Navettes runs the shuttle service across the Bora Bora lagoon between the islet where the airport is located and the village of Vaitape on the main island. It is a 97% subsidiary of Air Tahiti, the commune of Bora Bora being the other partner in the company.