Two of Air Tahiti Nui’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners are destined for storage at Goodyear, Arizona. Eagle-eyed planespotters noted the first Dreamliner landed in Arizona on Tuesday, with the second plane reportedly due to head there shortly.
The first Air Tahiti Nui Dreamliner landed in Goodyear on Tuesday
According to RadarBox.com, F-OMUA Fakarava, a Boeing 787-9 just over two years old, departed Papeete for Los Angeles on February 13. The Dreamliner then cooled its engines at Los Angeles for ten days before departing to Goodyear on Tuesday. That short 50-minute flight departed Los Angeles at 10:59 yesterday morning and arrived at Goodyear at 12:49 (local time).
Before the February 13 flight, F-OMUA’s last tracked flight was on January 26. The aircraft operated TN111 between Los Angeles and Papeete that day.
According to Airport Webcams, the world’s biggest live airport webcams database, the other Air Tahiti Nui Dreamliner destined for storage is F-OTOA. That plane is presently in Papeete, having operated TN111 down from Los Angeles on February 12.
LIVE: 2yo Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787-9 F-OMUA just left LAX for storage at GYR. F-OTOA is also due to join it, direct from Papeete, leaving only 2 of 4x 787-9s active.
— Airport Webcams (@AirportWebcams) February 23, 2021
Travel bans curb demand for Air Tahiti Nui’s Dreamliners
Air Tahiti Nui has recently scaled back its long-haul flying. Authorities temporarily banned leisure travel to Tahiti earlier this month. That ban remains in force. Further, Tahiti is enforcing a mandatory self-funded 14-day quarantine for all travelers entering the country. It’s not a set of circumstances that boosts long-haul business for Air Tahiti Nui.
“Flights from February 14th – March 31, 2021, between Los Angeles and Papeete and Los Angeles and Paris, are temporarily suspended due to these new Government directives and EU, US travel restrictions. Flights are planned to resume from April 1st onwards,” the airline states.
Looking at RadarBox aircraft tracking data, TN68 and TN67, the Papeete – Vancouver – Paris – Vancouver – Papeete services continue to operate but will reduce to just once a week. The current ban on inbound travel is expected to last until at least April 1.
It’s been a tough twelve months for Air Tahiti Nui. Flights from the crucial North American market shut down entirely at one point. They tentatively re-opened mid-2020.
“We have enjoyed a good period of travel from the US market since July 2020, when the destination reopened,” an airline spokesperson said earlier this year.
The Dreamliners were bought to replace Air Tahiti Nui’s aging fleet of Airbus A340-300s. The last of those only flew off into the sunset in late 2019. In 2015, Air Tahiti Nui ordered four of the Dreamliners, buying two direct from Boeing and taking two on lease from ALC.
Travel downturn scuttles Air Tahiti Nui’s short term Dreamliner ambitions
The Papeete-based airline had big ambitions for its Dreamliner fleet, including connecting Tahiti with destinations like Tokyo, Los Angles, and Paris. However, the travel downturn of 2020 and its attendant border restrictions severely impacted the airline.
Owing to the suspension of flights earlier in 2020, Air Tahiti Nui picked up a US$21 million loan from the French Polynesian Government. Over 100 employees also took voluntary redundancies to help the airline conserve cash. These are big numbers for a small airline.
But there were a few bright points. The airline scored a publicity coup last year when it began bypassing its usual Los Angeles stopover in favor of Vancouver. That was due to tough US border rules. Also in 2020, Air Tahiti Nui flew nonstop between Papeete and Paris using one of their 787-9 Dreamliners. That would be a significant long-haul flight under any circumstances. What really gave this flight flair was the fact it was technically a domestic flight.
But a spike in media attention doesn’t offset the ongoing broader problems at Air Tahiti Nui. Without strong tourist flows in Tahiti, the airline’s long-haul flights cannot prosper. That’s going to be an on-going problem for Air Tahiti Nui and their fleet of Dreamliners.