New Caledonia’s Aircalin has received the first of two A330-900s from Airbus. The new aircraft (F-ONEO/F-ONET) will replace the South Pacific carrier’s aging A330-200s.
Airbus published details of the Toulouse handover on July 30th. In a press release, the manufacturer wrote of the type’s “boost to capacity and non-stop connectivity”. That sits well with Aircalin’s ongoing plans to renew its entire fleet to enable higher frequency flights on its best-performing routes and launch new routes.
F-ONEO will begin flights between La Tontouta and Tokyo Narita on August 10th. The second A330neo (F-ONET), is expected to arrive in September. This aircraft will fly long-haul to Asia and Australia.
The carrier’s A330-200s are 14 years old, according to the CAPA Fleet Database, while its two A320s are 9 and 13 years old. The airline plans to replace its existing A320-200s with A320neos in due course.
French airline Aircalin (Air Calédonie International) opened for business in 1983. 99% of it is owned by the New Caledonia’s sovereign government and 1% by employees of the company. The carrier flies predominantly international flights from Grande Terre’s La Tonouta airport.
Currently, the airline flies to 12 countries around the world including Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The carrier’s choice to replace their old A330 type will, according to The Blue Swan Daily, result in a 9% capacity increase for pre-existing routes.
Swapping the A320 old for new will bring about a 15% increase.
The four new planes – expected in the next few years – will allow Aircalin to expand its network. CAPA suggests the A330-900 will serve Aircalin’s long-harbored ambition to break into the lucrative Chinese market.
Aircalin’s A330-200s currently fly five times a week to Narita, two times to Sydney and Osaka and once to Tahiti. The carrier’s A320-200s fly more frequently to various destinations in Oceania including Sydney, Melbourne and Fiji.
New Caledonia consists of numerous small Pacific islands. The combined population numbers around 300,000 with most living on the colony’s principal island Grand Terre.
There are at least 10 minor airports within the territory serviced by Air Caledonie, a 60-year-old domestic venture owned by New Caledonia’s government, Air France and various Pacific provinces.
Aircalin does not operate domestic flights within the territory.
Aircalin’s plans for expansion are heartily supported by the New Caledonia government. The colony relies heavily on tourism for its survival. Although it has experienced a small turn around in fortunes since 2014, its visitor numbers still languish below 120,000.
In 2013 the New Caledonian government devised a tourist-boosting scheme to combine the efforts of those intrinsic to the trade. The project, called “Destination contracts” demanded the attention of local government, airlines and tourism companies. The purpose of the project was to agree on a method to increase visitor numbers.
The arrival of the A330 and A320neos is an exciting prospect for Aircalin as well as the island territory. A rejuvenation of non-stop connectivity between the Pacific chain and the hungry markets of Japan and Australia may be just what is needed.