Air Tahiti Nui, beating heart of a territory – Money

In 1920, the Polynesian sky opens and Air Tahiti Nui connects the metropolises of the world to the island of Tahiti, a land of plenty that exhilarates many imaginations. The arrival of this operator has greatly benefited its ecosystem. Behind this success, an unwavering tandem. Michel Monvoisin and Mathieu Bechonnet, respectively Chairman and CEO of the airline, who lead several consolidation projects. The pandemic? A question of opportunities rather than threats. Crossed interviews at the antipodes.

Tourism is a key sector of Polynesia. What was the impact of the creation of Air Tahiti Nui for the sector?

Michel Monvoisin : Air Tahiti Nui belongs to 64% to the community. The 15 remaining% are distributed among nearly 300 shareholders, with a somewhat larger hard core of shareholders who are mainly represented by the large hotel groups in Polynesia and the Socredo bank. Air Tahiti Nui is undeniably a tourism development tool. The company began operating in November 1920 to open up the Polynesian sky. In Polynesia, this sector is the first industry, so we had to have our own company and stop being dependent on outside companies. It is with this objective that the company was founded.

Mathieu Bechonnet : If Tahiti has always been on the world map of large companies, it is because at the time, to go to Japan or Australia, planes landed in Tahiti for lack of autonomy. Tahiti was a technical stopover and Polynesian tourism began thanks to it. The history of Polynesia and the beauty of the places present in the myths of the greatest writers have greatly contributed to the development of tourism. I was not yet in this position at the time, but I was offered this tandem with Michel and I accepted it. Since 2000, we are therefore in a much more stable phase, with a renewal of the fleet. We have the same volume of devices but we have reviewed the basics which are the device, the teams, the organization among others.

Tell us about a few words of your respective backgrounds.

MM : I started in the automotive sector, and I am very fast spent in banking where I spent most of my career at Socredo, a local banking group which has been a shareholder of Air Tahiti Nui since its inception. I fell into aviation quite by accident. When there was this renewal after the period of crisis in 2013, the president de Socredo called me to ask me to take over the reins of Air Tahiti Nui. It was a new challenge for me so I accepted. I was still old enough to embark on a new adventure… And I have no regrets! Air Tahiti Nui is not just a simple carrier. There is this double world of transport and tourism.

Michel Monvoisin, CEO @ Air Tahiti Nui MB : For my part, I have trained as an aeronautical engineer. For quite unexpected reasons, I turned to the financial and then the commercial side of airlines. I started in a design office on Airbus Aérospatiale where we were working on replacing the Concorde. I moved to Air France very quickly where I worked in a flight management analysis position. It was a very good school but I wanted to see something else. In the years 1998, I was in French Polynesia and I had the chance to meet the first CEO of Air Tahiti Nui who offered to join them. Full of carefree and youthful ardor, I said yes. I had the chance to watch this company grow, and at my age and level of experience, this is an incredible opportunity!

How would you define- you the DNA of Polynesia?

MM : It is an exclusive destination which is not subject to mass tourism. We have a target of 286 tourists all year round and today we turn around 250 , while Hawaii is at 8 million. We try to stand out. We invented the water bungalow, a very popular concept that was later adopted by the Maldives, Mexico and Bora Bora. We have an image of a country that is relatively unspoiled and there is a strong appetite for the Polynesian people because they are naturally welcoming. In the history of Polynesia, the population is due to the fact that the country was a mythical stopover at the time of the great epic of boats. We have implemented campaigns very focused on the preservation of the environment, beaches and Polynesian culture. And the success was there because today, in terms of tourist frequentation, the demand is higher than the supply. The preservation of the environment is an important reason for purchasing, we are very attached to it in Polynesia.

What makes Polynesia different from other islands , like that of Saint-Barthélemy?

MB : Polynesia is a unique experience. The new luxury paradigms focus on the experiential and the quest for authenticity: our territory has all the components to offer this. We find there the diversity of the islands, the sensory immersion, the cultural approach with an immersion in the history of the Polynesian people… These are not things that can be bought.

Mathieu Bechonnet, DG @ Air Tahiti Nui MM : It has become the place to be for the entire west coast of the United States. So of course, when we extended our airline fleet, we adapted our product to demand. We decided to make a real premium economy class with more comfortable seats and mid-range products, while starting with a very high-end product for the business class. We have just received the gold medal for the best business class from French airlines.

How do you see the future of Air Tahiti Nui?

MB : There is clearly this restructuring phase to be carried out with large investments in digital. It is necessary r to capitalize especially in this period of crisis. We know that as long as we are not out of this health crisis and its impact on our international trade and on borders, this context will challenge us. As for the growth of our company, opportunities exist in the region and will allow us to keep our status as a benchmark company. Finally, one of the elements of our consolidation, will undoubtedly be our Polynesian identity.

© Air Tahiti Nui To go further :

Air Tahiti Nui, in figures

280 millions of euros: turnover before the pandemic

621: employees including 53% of women and 24% of men

53: cities served

49, 7%: market share in the destination, far behind its challenger United Airlines with 15, 8%

100. . 240: members of the Club Tiare, company loyalty program

Tahiti Nui Helicopters subsidiary

Distinctions: Award 2013 for the best airline in the Pacific -South, best leisure airline, gold medal for best business class cellar (white wine and sparkling wine category)