While I can’t say this is a rumor I previously heard, I can’t resist sharing it and speculating.
The website tahiti-infos.com has an article (in French) claiming that United is considering adding flights between San Francisco and Papeete in Tahiti in September 2018. While nothing is official yet, the article claims that the government has been made aware of this new route this week, and an announcement could be happening in the coming days.
I’m certainly not taking this route for granted, though I think it’s fun to talk about, if nothing else. I can’t say this is a destination that I ever assumed was on the radar of mainland US airlines, though I think there could actually be some merit to it.
As of now the only flights from the US mainland to Tahiti are on Air Tahiti Nui and Air France, and they exclusively operate flights out of Los Angeles. At the moment Air France is offering 3x weekly flights between the airports, while Air Tahiti Nui is operating 8x weekly flights between the airports (though there’s quite a bit of variance in terms of their schedule).
The flight from San Francisco to Tahiti would cover a distance of ~4,200 miles, which isn’t terribly far. There has been a ton of downward pressure on yields on longhaul flights, thanks in particular to competition from Norwegian, WOW Air, the Gulf carriers, and the growing number of Chinese airlines.
So while we’re seeing ~$500 roundtrip economy fares pretty regularly between the US and Asia, Europe, etc., Tahiti is a destination where economy fares don’t get as low.
In looking at the schedule, the lowest fares I see between Los Angeles and Tahiti are ~$1,000 roundtrip in economy, and that’s on the low end. So Tahiti has the benefit of not having fares get as low as other destinations, though the downside is that it’s a leisure market. So while many leisure passengers are paying more on average, there’s also not a ton of last minute demand for business travelers, which is where airlines make their money.
This is presumably also a market with fairly limited demand (given the limited number of hotel rooms), and presumably adding capacity would put downward pressure on yields.
Still, you’d think a 3x weekly flight on a 787 could be quite lucrative for an airline.
Do you think we’ll see United add flights between San Francisco and Tahiti, or nah?