Airbus A330-900s and A320neos ordered by South Pacific airline
Aircalin, the Nouméa-based carrier in the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia has signed an agreement (MoU) for two A320neo single-aisle and two A330-900 wide-body aircraft, Airbus said.
At list price, the value of the purchase is about US$700 million, although airlines often secure a discount.
The A320neo engine choice will be made at a later date as will the cabin configuration of both aircraft types. The A320neo will be deployed on existing regional routes to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. With the A330neo, Aircalin will boost services to Japan for onward connections and the possible opening of new routes such as to China, the airline said.
“As part of our plan to boost tourism to New Caledonia, Aircalin has made a strategic decision to renew its complete fleet with the A320neo and the A330neo to grow routes and connect New Caledonia to the region,” said Didier Tappero, the Aircalin chief executive.
Tourist numbers to New Caledonia increased by 6 per cent last year, providing a glimmer of hope in an economy struggling with the falling price of nickel.
The vice president of the southern province, Martine Lagneau, said the island had 114,000 visitors in 2015, the highest on record and an increase of 7,000 visitors since 2014.
Most vistors came from nearby Australia and New Zealand, which recorded increases of 15.8 per cent and 25.8 per cent, respectively.
In 2015, the tourism industry injected US$219 million into the territory’s economy, which has been struggling with a sharp drop in the price and demand for nickel, its key export.
Bernard Deladrière, the chairman of the board and member of New Caledonia governmen, said: “Aircalin is taking on an even more strategic step for its future, as it is about its profitability and its competitiveness.”
Christopher Buckley, the Airbus executive vice president for Europe Africa and Pacific added: “We are delighted that Aircalin has embraced our best-selling A330neo and A320neo family aircraft to secure a successful, profitable future, and to grow tourist traffic to New Caledonia.”
New Caledonia is a French territory comprising dozens of islands in the South Pacific. It is known for its palm-lined beaches and marine-life-rich lagoon, which, at 24,000 square kilometres, is among the world’s largest. A huge barrier reef surrounds the main island, Grand Terre, a major scuba-diving destination. The capital, Nouméa, is home to French-influenced restaurants and luxury boutiques selling Parisian fashions.
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