Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi was at the Auckland International Airport yesterday to celebrate a milestone for Air Tahiti Nui.
Tuilaepa joined Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, President of French Polynesia, Tagaloa Eduard Fritch and other top regional officials to welcome Air Tahiti Nui's first Dreamliner.
The aircraft landed in Auckland marking a new phase for the airline.
The entry of the first of four Dreamliners into its fleet coincides with Air Tahiti Nui's 20th anniversary this year, the NZ Herald reported.
The 787-9 has been named Fakarava after the picturesque atoll in French Polynesia's Tuamotu Islands, which boasts a lagoon with similar shades of blue to the aircraft' paint job.
The airline says the design and colours are inspired by the beauty and richness of the Polynesian islands, the livery features Air Tahiti Nui's trademark tiare flower, a tattoo pattern representing a story of Tahiti and its people, and the blue hues that the islands are synonymous with.
The airline is phasing out its current Airbus A340-300 fleet. The twin engine Dreamliner is more efficient than four-engine A340 and the airlines estimates it will save close to 30,000 tonnes of fuel a year..
The French Polynesian flag carrier has bought two of the planes and two leased through the Air Lease Corporation.
They are powered by General Electric engines, not those from Rolls-Royce whose earlier model Dreamliner power plants need more maintenance and repairs.
Each plane has 30 business class seats, 32 premium economy seats and 232 economy seats.
Air Tahiti Nui flies to Paris via Los Angeles. It says that with faster aircraft it aims to reduce travel times by around an hour and a half on a return flight to Paris.