Air Tahiti Nui Delays Planned Airbus A340 Retirement

French Polynesian international airline Air Tahiti Nui has pushed back its planned retirement of the fourth of its five A340s.

Air Tahiti Nui A340 take-off
Air Tahiti Nui postpones retirement of fourth A340. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Reports Routes Online, the Airbus A340-300 was previously slated to end its run with Nui on September 2nd this year. The type now remains in service between Papeete and Auckland until at least September 24th.

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We have contacted Air Tahiti Nui to ask of the reason for the deferment, but are yet to hear back.

The airline, based at Faa’a International Airport on the island of Tahiti, began a systematic phasing out of its A340s at the end of 2018. This was in tandem with the delivery of four Boeing 787-9s.

Last month the carrier retired F-OSUN, the third of its five A343s.

Fleet modernization

Air Tahiti Nui operates flights between Tahiti and Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. In March of last year, the carrier revealed its intention to replace its A340s with Boeing’s 787-9.

The airline had purchased two of the type in 2015 and secured a leasing agreement for two more from Air Lease Corporation.

Air Tahiti Nui concept B787 in flight
All-American aircraft for the carrier of the French Republic. Photo: Air Tahiti Nui

Nui began flying one of the leased 787-9s in November of 2018 with flights between Tahiti and Auckland. These flights marked the start of the airline’s phasing out of its Airbus fleet in favor of a fleet consisting entirely of American-built aircraft. For a French colonial carrier, the move surprised some industry analysts.

The carrier specified its new Dreamliner should seat 294 passengers in three classes, including a much-enhanced business class configuration. The Pacific carrier’s newest aircraft includes 232 seats of Moana Economy, 32 seats of Moana Premium and 30 seats of Poerava Business Class.

With the arrival of the 787s, writes OMAT, the average age of the airline’s fleet will drop from 16 years to just a few months.

The airline’s fleet of five A340s was expected to be completely phased out by September 2019. That would have coincided with the airline’s 20th anniversary. The recent announcement makes that synchronicity unlikely.

Why the 787?

The replacement of old with new is often a major step for a carrier. And Air Tahiti Nui’s comprehensive replacement of its aging widebodies could be regarded as a new beginning. The changes follow six consecutive years of profitability that have brought hope not just to the airline but also to the island.

Air Tahiti Nui A340 at gate
The swap is seen by some as game-changing for South Pacific aviation. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, in terms of the competitive standing, the swap is seen by some as game-changing for South Pacific aviation.

Following its launch of the Auckland Dreamliner flights, Nui began to operate the 787-9 on its Los Angeles routes, and thereafter on flights to Tokyo. Flights between Narita and Papeete are currently thrice weekly.

Nui’s brush with bankruptcy was, according to CEO Michel Monvoisin, the catalyst for the upgrade of the fleet.

In an interview with Airways Magazine, Mr. Monvoisin said of the A340: “It was too expensive to keep flying with four engines when the rest of the world was switching to only two. Airbus had stopped producing the A340 and our planes kept getting older.”

Of the choice of Dreamliner, Monvoisin added: “For ultra-long-haul, what we needed is range, and the best range comes with the Boeing 787-9.