French Polynesia startup airline FLY CORALway is eyeing a mid-2022 launch. The airline initially wants to connect island nations in a part of the world where inter-island connectivity can be poor. But beyond that, FLY CORALway has bigger ambitions, and the airline thinks the Airbus A321LR could be the right plane to get them there.
FLY CORALway plans to start small and grow
FLY CORALway’s Chief Executive Officer, Olivier Moana Bôle, wanted to start out flying A220-300s to places like Wallis Island, Samoa, Fiji, and New Caledonia. But the in-demand planes are not available at a price point to suit Mr Bôle. Instead, he’s looking at slightly bigger planes from the A320 family.
“We’ve been looking at the Airbus 319 and the 320. Now, we are fully focused on the A320 because the lessors still have plenty of these on the ground. The 320 gives us options, and particularly the A320neo because that gives us the range to fly direct from Tahiti to Hawaii and Tahiti to Noumea,” he told the recent Future Flying Forum.
“The real need now is to fly regional, to fly from hubs to hubs and to connect the different South Pacific communities.”
A bigger plane than the A320 is needed if FLY CORALway is to spread its wings
But beyond the short and medium-term, Olivier Moana Bôle sees a bigger role for FLY CORALway than connecting South Pacific islands. When borders fully reopen and travel recovers, the FLY CORALway founder is keen to exploit the easy on the eye charms of French Polynesia and build up the country as a key transpacific stopover, perhaps even snatching away a little business from places like Hawaii or Fiji.
“Giving an option in the South Pacific of flying through Tahiti and connecting through Tahiti… the A321LR should be an option afterward to develop a network to long-range destinations.”
How long-range? Well, Mr Bôle mentioned South America, Canada, and the USA. “The A321LR is the perfect aircraft to reach the American borders.”
The A321LR can get to destinations 4,600 miles (7,400 kilometers) away, whereas the A320 type can do up to 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers), although this will depend on the exact aircraft and payload.
“When you take the example of New Caledonia, you are at the limits of the A220 or A320,” explains the FLY CORALway boss.
FLY CORALway is not in the air yet
FLY CORALway is still awaiting its air operator’s certificate and first planes. They’ll start out small, with just a handful of aircraft, and build from there. Olivier Moana Bôle is acutely aware of the challenges facing the startup airline, noting it is a balancing act between ambition, capabilities, and economics.
Mr Bôle also faces an added hurdle – distance from the rest of the world. But he says his startup airline and is really no different from any other startup.
“Because we are located in French Polynesia, sometimes we are considered an exotic project. The fact is, we are absolutely not exotic, we’ve got real needs, we’ve got communities that want to travel. We’ve got exactly the same requirements as other parts of the world.
“Even if we have traffic flows that are more reduced compared to other markets, but the air services needs for our communities is crucial.”