Air Tahiti

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For the international airline, see Air Tahiti Nui.
Air Tahiti
Air Tahiti Logo.jpg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1987
Hubs Faaa International
Fleet size 14
Destinations 48
Headquarters Faaa, Tahiti, French Polynesia, France
Key people Joël ALLAIN (CEO), Manate VIVISH (General Manager)

Air Tahiti is a French airline company which operates in French Polynesia. Despite its private company status, it has a public service mission. Its principal base is Faa'a International Airport.

Air Tahiti Company[edit]

Its activities[edit]

The primary purpose of Air Tahiti is scheduled air transportation between the islands of French Polynesia. However, the company provides other related activities in the field of aviation.

Domestic air transportation[edit]

From Tahiti, Air Tahiti operates 46 islands of French Polynesia, connecting more than 90 percent of the population. The company provides administrative, school and medical exchanges between Tahiti and her islands, contributing to the development of the Territory.

Charter flights[edit]

To meet specific and selective requests, Air Tahiti charters its aircraft for the transport of clients and/or goods. For the latter, some ATRs can be converted into freighters. The cabin is reconfigured and the seats removed to allow the loading of freight. Thus, Air Tahiti is regularly chartered to transport oysters (from abroad to the islands) or agricultural products (flowers, potatoes, fruit).

ATR maintenance[edit]

Air Tahiti aircraft maintenance is performed at the Technical Center of the company. The maintenance schedule is based on a basis cycle of 400 hours for ATR. Air Tahiti Technical Center expertise is recognized by the manufacturer and by other companies of the region. Its expertise is recognised by the manufacturer and the region's other airlines. Air Tahiti provides indeed occasionally major maintenance work on ATRs for other companies in the Pacific.

Airport assistance for the international stopover[edit]

Air Tahiti provides assistance for international airlines serving the airport of Tahiti-Faa’a, by carrying out on their behalf: the check-in and boarding of their passengers and their luggage, the catering, the cabin cleaning, the handling and managing of the international freight.

Air Tahiti capital share[edit]

Air Tahiti share capital is 2.76 billion francs XPF.

Subsidiaries and shares[edit]

  • Air Archipels : 100% of capital
  • Air Tahiti Real Estate : 100% of capital
  • Bora Bora Navettes : 97% of capital
  • Air Tahiti Nui : 3.43% of capital
  • Kia Ora Village : 4.3% of capital

Numbers and financial data[edit]

Turnover - Passengers 11 254 000
Residents passengers 480 000
International passengers 231 000
Employees in permanent contract 1 266


Air Tahiti covers a network of 47 islands in French Polynesia, an area as large as Europe (5.5 million square kilometres). The nearest island from Tahiti, Moorea, is 15 km away and is connected by plane in seven minutes. The furthest one, Mangareva in the Gambier archipelago, is 1600 km distant from Tahiti and is connected in about 3hr 30min (non-stop flight).

Flying in French Polynesia[edit]

The Polynesian network is somehow atypical.

Its 47 airstrips have varying characteristics which affect the choice of aircraft and the permitted payload (limited seats on sale). Other aspects are to be taken into account such as the length and the width of the runways, the obstacles, the safety and aeronautics materials…

Some runways are not equipped with lights, 12 out of 48 only are equipped, and therefore the time of sunset is a very important criterion to establish the flight schedule.

Air Tahiti is assisted by one of it subsidiaries "Air Archipels" to allow flight connections with the most remote islands.

Air Tahiti is operating international flights between Tahiti and Rarotonga since April 2007.

The uncommon network operated by Air Tahiti has allowed the company to obtain the ETOPS certification. Air Tahiti was the 1st company to obtain this certification on ATR 72.[citation needed] As a safety measure, aircraft flying over water must never be more than a certain distance away from an alternate aerodrome. In view of this constraint, some flights cannot follow a linear route, but instead proceed in a broken line. Air Tahiti is not concerned with this restriction as ETOPS (Extended Twin Operations) has been approved on many aircraft thus allowing us to minimise the flight duration and maximise payload as well as including an island to the list of routes permitted.[citation needed] Without this certification, our ATR-72 couldn't flight between Tahiti and Nuku Hiva.

Islands served on ATR (regular flights only) by Archipelago[edit]

Society Islands

Tuamotu Archipelago

East Tuamotu-Gambier archipelago

Marquesas archipelago

Austral archipelago

Islands served on Twin Otter (regular flights only) by Archipelago[edit]

Marquesas archipelago

Islands served on Beechcraft or Twin Otter (unscheduled only) by archipelago[edit]

Tuamotu archipelago

International flight by ATR[edit]


Air Tahiti ATR72 F-OIQR at Bora Bora Airport

As of January 2016, the Air Tahiti fleet consists of:[1]

Air Tahiti Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
ATR 42-600 2 48
ATR 72-500 6 68
ATR 72-600 3 68
Beechcraft King Air B200 3 8
Twin Otter DHC6-300 2 19
Total 16

Given the specific nature of its network, Air Tahiti chose the ATR as the aircraft best suited to the majority of its routes. Able to operate from airstrips under 1,200 m (3,900 ft) long, the ATR 42 and ATR 72 offer service similar to that of jets.

Air Tahiti regularly renews its ATRs in order to maintain its fleet. It recently acquired the latest model of the aircraft, the ATR 600, which has a new type of engine, new cabin layout and new cockpit.

Air Tahiti also operates a DHC- 6-300 Twin Otter belonging to the territorial government for flights between Marquesas islands of Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Pou and Ua Huka (the latter two can not accommodate ATR) and a King Air B200 belonging to Air Archipels which serves the Tuamotu Archipelago unserved regularly by ATR.

Company history[edit]

The story of Air Tahiti is closely linked to the history of aviation in Polynesia.

The debut by seaplane[edit]

Far away from continents, Polynesia was late in developing air routes. It was only during the Second World War that aviation took off in earnest with the construction of the first runway in 1943, in Bora Bora, by U.S. forces. In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans intended to protect and supply routes between the U.S. coast and the southwest Pacific.

Regular commercial air service between the islands started in 1950 at the initiative of a handful of entrepreneurs who created the company Air Tahiti. The flights were operated by a 7-seater seaplane, a Grumman Widgeon J-4F. With such low capacity, the need for a second aircraft was quickly apparent.

In 1951, the French Ministry for the Overseas purchased on behalf of the Territory a Grumman Mallard. Gradually, Air Tahiti spread its wings to all the islands of French Polynesia. In June 25, 1953, the first landing in the Gambier archipelago was achieved. In October 1953, the first flight to the Marquesas islands took place with a sea-landing at Taiohae / Nuku Hiva.

In July 1953, TAI (Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux - International Air Transports)' a commercial exploitation of RAI (Régie Aérienne Interinsulaire – Inter-Island Aviation Board), asserted its rights in the mutual allocation of local transports, under an agreement with Air France.

The Territory withdrew the Mallard licence from Air Tahiti in favour of TAI. The Air Tahiti brand then disappeared. RAI operated for the Department of Public Works and Transport. It acquired two Catalina seaplanes to expand links between the islands of French Polynesia. These aircraft with orange livery received a F-OA registration restricted to aircraft operated overseas.

Gradually, the network continued to expand. In 1955, the Austral archipelagos inaugurated seaplane service with the opening of routes to Tubuai and Raivavae. In 1958, the "Régie" became "Réseau" (Inter-Island Aviation Network).

The development of runways[edit]

Although seaplanes would seem appropriate to the insular context, it is difficult to find suitable large bodies of water, unhindered and protected from sea swell. Therefore, it became necessary to quickly develop runways and airstrips.

With the opening of the Tahiti Faa'a international airport in 1960, Tahiti could host international commercial flights. Thereafter, a vast construction program of runways was launched by the French Government over the whole of French Polynesia. As a result, four runways were built in the 1960s and 27 in the following decade.

Air Polynesia[edit]

In 1970, RAI became Air Polynesia, a subsidiary of UTA. Nicknamed "Air Po" by Polynesians, the company asserted more of its Polynesian identity and implemented regular services throughout French Polynesia and especially to the more remote islands.

Air Tahiti[edit]

In 1986, the former UTA (by then absorbed by Air France) sold Air Polynesia shares to local investors. This assignment gave birth in 1986 to Air Tahiti as we know it today. The new company, wanting to modernize, in 1987 acquired its first ATR 42, marking the beginning of a long collaboration with the aircraft manufacturer ATR.


Air Tahiti has coped with one accident since 1987.

On April 18, 1991, approaching the airport of "Nuku A Taha/ Terre Déserte" in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, following an engine failure, the Dornier 228 F-OHAB flying the route attempted to land near the coast. Ten passengers out of twenty in the aircraft were killed.


1. ↑ "The Fleet" [archive]. Air Tahiti.

External links[edit]