United Airlines will serve Tahiti, broadening its portfolio of South Pacific routes to a new and exotic leisure destination.
Subject to government approval, United will start seasonal nonstop service between San Francisco (SFO) and Fa’a’ā International Airport (PPT) in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia. The route will operate three times per week between October 30, 2018 and March 28, 2019.
The new route will utilize a 787-8 aircraft with lie-flat seating in Polaris Business Class. Business Class features 36 seats (2-2-2 seating), EconomyPlus 70, and United Economy 113.
|UA 115||SFO – PPT||Tues/Thurs/Sun||2:45 p.m.||9:25 p.m.|
|UA 114||PPT – SFO||Tues/Thurs/Sun||11:45 p.m.||9:50 a.m. next day|
Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network, stated–
We are excited to announce Tahiti as our 13th new international destination this year, and we are even more thrilled about offering our customers a whole new world of vacation opportunities. We know our customers want more destinations to choose from to escape the winter weather, and we look forward to being the airline that connects them to this corner of paradise.
I had a chat with Quayle on the phone about the announcement and he expressed strong confidence that the new route would perform very well. He also downplayed any concern regarding over-saturation on the route, drawing a contrast between United’s full service, truly lie-flat beds, and IFE/Wi-Fi throughout the plane versus the competition.
Competition from French Blue = Consumer Win
The announcement comes just days after French Blue announced its own service to Tahiti.
French Blue and United offer two very different business models. French Blue is a lost-cost leisure carrier that will fly twice per week from Paris to Pa via San Francisco.
BF710 Paris Orly to San Francisco dep 7:15PM arr 9:25PM
BF710 San Francisco to Papeete dep 11:55PM arr 5:15AM (+1 day)
BF711 Papeete to San Francisco dep 7:30AM arr 6:30PM
BF711 San Francisco to Paris Orly dep 8:45PM arr 4:20PM (+1 day)
The carrier will utilize an A350-900 and is working with the DOT to secure pick-up rights in San Francisco. As of now, SFO is just a technical stop.
French Blue offers no true business class, but does offer “Premium Class” similar to a standard premium economy product.
With two new carriers serving Tahiti, look for downward pressure on pricing.
A South Pacific Vacation = Tahiti + New Zealand + Australia
United and Air New Zealand are JV partners and the new service sets up an ideal situation for visiting multiple destinations in the South Pacific.
For example, you can now take United’s new service to Tahiti, stay a week, then continue on Air New Zealand from Tahiti to Auckland. From there, all major cities in New Zealand and Australia will be within reach.
We’ll wait and see how good award space is on the new route, but this is the first time in well over a decade that your Star Alliance miles can feasibly get you to Tahiti.
Will Tahiti Be Overwhelmed?
When rumors of this route broke last month, Air Tahiti Nui’s CEO warned that the island’s infrastructure could not handle the influx of new flights.
I have now way to address this intelligently, but it is true that Tahiti will potentially receive over 1,000 new visitors every week with the same number of hotels and limited number of internal flights.
Tahiti, Bora Bora in particular, is a a favorite destination for many Award Expert clients. I typically see Air Tahiti domestic flights sell out weeks in advance. Sometimes months.
I’m not sure how easy it is for Air Tahiti to increase frequencies, but five additional flights per week will surely increase demand for domestic connections.
I’ve been holding off taking my wife to Tahiti for a few years and now have no more excuse. I am already planning a trip to Tahiti and New Zealand next year and now know how I will get there!