27 Sep 2017

Talks open on Polynesia air link boost

5:24 pm on 27 September 2017
Rarotonga airport

Rarotonga airport Photo: RNZI Walter Zweifel

Talks have started between the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Samoa on possible airline connections between the three countries.

The Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown said the initiative was part of the One Polynesia approach of doing business to ease financial burdens on Polynesian countries.

Air Rarotonga's managing director Ewan Smith said east-west regional air links across the South Pacific had been the subject of recurring discussion ever since the demise of the so-called Coral Route linking Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Fiji early in the last decade.

He said traffic then comprised round-the-world and circle Pacific leisure travellers taking advantage of stopover options in the South Pacific en-route to or from the USA and Europe.

But he said a return to those days did not fit with modern airline economics.

Mr Smith said in terms of short-haul tourism, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu were all in competition with each other for destination tourism traffic from Australia and New Zealand.

Air Tahiti plane

Air Tahiti plane Photo: RNZI/Walter Zweifel