Air Transport World

Connecting paradise: Air Tahiti weathers the downturn thanks to prudent fleet selection.(PROFILE)

AIR TAHITI DESCRIBES ITSELF AS "AN ENGINE FOR THE economic and social development" of Tahiti and her islands, and indeed it is. It is the closest thing to a local bus service that can be achieved to serve the 4,000 sq. km. of land made up of 118 far-flung islands and atolls that speckle the 4 million sq. km. of ocean that constitute French Polynesia, as Tahiti officially is known. Covering virtually the same area as Europe, French Polynesia boasts a population of slightly less than 300,000.

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So great are the distances between the pockets of population that the only realistic mode of transport is by air, and Air Tahiti's fleet of ATR 42s and ATR 72s (48 and 66 seats respectively) has its work cut out providing regular links to the 48 islands the airline currently serves.

It is an operating environment "unique in the world," according to Christian Vernaudon, who has been CEO of Air Tahiti for 23 years. The majority of flying is over water, and apart from the main island of Tahiti itself, which boasts a population of about 180,000, the other islands tend to be thinly peopled. Few of the Tuamoto atolls, for example, which are about 1,000 km. …

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