Bora Bora! When you think of the most exotic and far-flung south pacific island in the world, the idle mind reaches out to the captivating image of Bora Bora.
But such a dreamy destination is actually rather hard to get to.
Currently, the best way to fly there is to fly to the island of Tahiti (French Polynesia), and then fly on an Air Tahiti ATR Turboprop aircraft an hour to Bora Bora (It may stop at one or two other islands along the way!). You can read our comprehensive review of the route.
To clear up any confusion, remember there are actually two Tahitian airlines, Air Tahiti who service the islands, and Air Tahiti Nui whom already have five Airbus A340-300s and focus on incoming tourism to the main island only.
This is because Bora Bora’s runway is only 1500m long!
Bora Bora actually had direct flights back in 1960, from Los Angeles. Bora Bora was served by French air carrier Transports Aeriens Intercontinentaux (TAI) with Douglas DC-7C propliner service direct to Los Angeles (LAX) via a stop in Honolulu (HNL).
But what if there was another way to fly there?
New Zealand direct to Bora Bora
Air Tahiti currently only has smaller turboprop planes, but they have come out of the gate announcing that they considering buying their first jet aircraft. They are primarily looking at the, more likely, Airbus A220-100 (formerly the Bombardier CS100) followed by the Embraer 195-E2.
“We are thinking about a maximum of a 100-seat aircraft. As a first step, we would order two aircraft” – CEO Manate Vivish, Air Tahiti
Bora Bora is the most popular tourist route of the airline, servicing tourists from the main island of Tahiti to the mountainous reef atoll an hour away.
“Also on such a route, we could use jets like the A220-100. The airport could accommodate them” – CEO Manate Vivish, Air Tahiti
With Bora Bora confirmed as the destination, where would planes fly from?
According to the Airbus website, this is the range of the A220-100:
Easily within range is the large city of Auckland, a major hub for many airlines and a good choice for Air Tahiti to fly directly to Bora Bora.
How viable is this route?
Running a route across the south pacific like this is quite a challenge. In fact, Air Tahiti has 46 routes, but only five or six make a profit. The rest are run at cost or a loss to support island populations as their only air service. With their hub so far away, they must be as independent as possible, have their own supply of expensive fuel and be maintained easily.
Any new route for the airline would need to be profitable immediately.
Let’s start with passenger numbers:
|Week Starting October 8th 2018…|
|Monday||Air New Zealand||787||275|
|Tuesday||Air Tahiti Nui||A340||294|
|Thursday||Air Tahiti Nui||A340||294|
|Friday||Air New Zealand||777||342|
|Sunday||Air Tahiti Nui||A340||294|
Using the seats available for October, we know that 1499 seats fly each week to Tahiti on the various airlines above. Of the Air Tahiti Nui passengers, 882, half will continue onto Los Angeles and then eventually Paris, leaving 441 in Tahiti. The 441 will be joined by 617 passengers arriving on Air New Zealand, thus 1058 landed. Not all flights will be full, so if we assume a load factor of 85% we are left with roughly 900 passengers in Tahiti.
If half of the 900 people went on to visit Bora Bora, that’s 450 passengers a week that could potentially be served by a direct route from Auckland in New Zealand.
As an Airbus A220-100 can fit 116 passengers, it would be viable to have this route in existence and makes business sense.
A prediction could be made for 3-4 flights a week, on a Thursday, Sunday and Tuesday. We imagine passengers come for a long weekend or a week, then regretfully return back to New Zealand.
We would potentially see the route enter service in the next two to three years.