Fresh from resuming flights to Australia in February, Noumea-based Aircalin will restart flights to New Zealand in May. The airline is easing its way back into New Zealand, with one flight a week from May 8, before ramping up to two flights a week in June. Noumea is the capital of the French territory of New Caledonia – one of the world’s nicer boltholes. After a prolonged border closure, New Caledonia reopened to fully vaccinated tourists recently, and the territory’s flag carrier is getting back to business.
Weekly Aircalin flights to Auckland from May 8
Every Sunday from May 8, SB410 will close its doors at Nouméa’s La Tontouta International Airport (NOU) at 08:00 local time for the two hour and 40 flight south to Auckland (AKL), landing there at 11:40 local time. After 90 minutes on the ground, SB411 will leave Auckland at 13:10 and get home to Nouméa at 15:00.
Flying every Friday from June 3, you can factor in a second weekly flight with the same flight numbers, departure and arrival times as the Sunday flights. Aircalin is using their sole Airbus A320neo (F-OTIB) on the Auckland run, with the option of bringing in one of their two A330-900s in peak seasons. Aircalin’s A320neo has 168 seats onboard, with 160 seats in economy class and eight seats in premium economy class.
Aircalin will resume flights to Auckland on May 8 using their Airbus A320neo. Photo: Airbus
Aircalin’s rather good short-haul inflight offering
This tiny (and rather stylish) airline may not fly to an airport near you, but it could teach the big carriers a thing or two about their inflight product. Even their cheapest fare, the economy saver ticket, includes a free checked-in 23-kilogram bag, free seat selection, inflight WiFi, seven kilograms of carry-on, individual LED HD touch screen TVs with more than 90 programs available, and free meals and drinks. Of course, this is the South Pacific and what’s cheap is all relative. Aircalin’s one-way fare on the route starts at US$353, so you might reasonably expect a complimentary wine or two inflight.
Aircalin’s return to Auckland Airport follows the resumption of flights to Sydney and Brisbane in February. However, flights to Aircalin’s pre-pandemic ports of Tokyo and Seoul remain paused. Aside from freight and charter flights, Aircalin had effectively ceased operating scheduled passenger services owing to border closures in New Caledonia and at other ports in its network.
A difficult pandemic for Aircalin
It was a case of bad timing for the airline as borders closed just midway through a fleet renewal program. The two A330neos landed in 2019, replacing A330-200s, while the first of two A320neos ordered landed midway through the pandemic to replace an A320ceo. The pandemic triggered somewhat of a crisis at Aircalin. The airline asked the French Government for a loan and moved to slash the US$31 million-plus paid in annual employee salaries. That might be beer money to big carriers, but it was a critical drain on cash flow for a small airline that saw its passenger revenue dry up.
Two years down the track, Aircalin has turned a corner. As more countries on its former route map reopen their borders, more flights will take off. In the meantime, Aircalin is happy to welcome you aboard their Auckland flights.
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