While global aviation is struggling to cope with the ever-changing health advisories and travel restrictions, the situation of aviation to & from Tahiti is an especially challenging one at the moment. Airlines are dealing with it in some pretty innovative ways.
French Polynesia is a popular destination for visitors from “continental” France, given the connection. However, Paris and Tahiti couldn’t really be further apart. Looking at the French airlines flying to Tahiti:
The airlines all have pick-up and drop-off rights in the US, but for many of the passengers, they’re just looking to travel between Papeete and Paris as directly as possible, and these routings are best.
The US doesn’t allow “sterile” transit, which means that passengers have to clear immigration in the US while in transit. Now there’s a new Europe travel ban, though, and foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen area in the past 14 days aren’t allowed to enter the US.
In other words, non-Americans can no longer fly from Paris to Tahiti via LAX or SFO, since they won’t be allowed to clear immigration in the US.
Airlines are coping with this in some pretty creative ways…
Last night, Air Tahiti Nui 8 was supposed to operate from Papeete to Los Angeles to Paris at 11:15PM. Those traveling to Los Angeles departed at that time, as the flight still operated as far as the US.
However, those traveling to Paris were re-protected on Air Tahiti Nui 64 on Sunday, March 15, 2020, which will depart at 3AM.
This flight will be operated nonstop from Papeete to Paris, making this (to my knowledge) the furthest commercial flight ever:
Not only will this be (to my knowledge) the world’s longest commercial flight ever, but the flight will be entirely domestic.
The above flight is a one-time service, so what happens beyond that? Both Air Tahiti Nui and French bee have come up with new plans to avoid the US.
Air Tahiti Nui will operate:
French bee will operate:
With the Guadeloupe stopover, this has to be one of the most interesting “domestic” flights we’ve ever seen.
Both airlines had pick-up and drop-off rights in the US, so this means that flights between the US and Paris will largely be canceled. Then again, that was probably going to happen either way, given the travel ban.
The US not allowing sterile transit is causing some issues for French airlines operating their otherwise “domestic” flights between Tahiti and Paris. Air Tahiti Nui will be operating the world’s longest commercial flight as a one-off, and otherwise we’re generally going to see airlines route via Guadeloupe rather than the US, so that they can get around travel restrictions.