Aviation

One-on-one with Air Tahiti Nui’s Daniel Eggenberger

Travel Weekly recently sat down with Air Tahiti Nui’s Pacific general manager, Daniel Eggenberger, to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the airline.

How have you found your role at Air Tahiti Nui since joining late last year? What has been the biggest surprise?

The general manager function as such is much in line with previous roles I had with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France. Airlines are run in very similar ways all over the world, irrespective of whether they are one of the biggest in the world or a boutique niche player in the South Pacific. In this respect, there were no major surprises.

What did surprise me, however, is how modern and innovative Air Tahiti Nui is. I started end of October, just days after the company moved to a brand-new headquarters next to the Airport in Papeete. Open spaces, modern yet authentic design everywhere, and equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

Eight days later, I welcomed the brand-new Tahitian Dreamliner on the Auckland-to-Papeete route. The entire fleet is currently being renewed by phasing out the Airbus A340s and replacing them with the Boeing 787-900s. The new livery of the Tahitian Dreamliner has already won an award, and all crew uniforms are being changed. Their design and colours are perfectly matched to the colours of the beautiful French Polynesian islands.

Around this time, Tahiti Nui Helicopters was also launched, offering scenic flights as well as heli transfers to and from different islands. Within the coming days, we will implement a special promotion on scenic flights with a discount of 50 per cent. Check out our airtahitinui.com/au webpage for more details.

What is the biggest challenge that Air Tahiti Nui faces regionally? And what is the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge is that our growth strategy depends largely on hotel capacity in Tahiti and its islands, together with an outdated perception that Tahiti is expensive, compared to many other island destinations.

It’s also one of our greatest opportunities, which we are actively targeting with our new marketing, sales and PR approach. The rapid growth of Airbnb, guesthouses, and apartments allows our visitors to find great accommodation for as little as $100 per night. Add to this the ‘roulottes’ – those famous food trucks throughout Papeete – and a vast array of local restaurants to the offering and you attract a wider range of clientele.

With a network that extends to Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo, a Tahiti stopover is becoming even more desirable to break a long-haul trip and experience paradise, en route to a final and farther destination.

What is the focus for Air Tahiti Nui regionally in 2019?

Sales-wise, we are going to change our pricing and fare structures in order to become more competitive and easier to sell. We take feedback from our travel trade partners into consideration and work on such improvements.

One of the biggest changes will be to market test one-way fare structures. This will give more flexibility to our customers and allow them to shop for the cheapest combination of fares.

Marketing-wise, we are increasing our brand visibility in Australia with a new PR approach in cooperation with our newly appointed PR agency Elbe Marketing Communications. We will focus on an integrated marketing and PR strategy by approaching each identified customer segment with a different tone of voice and a tailor-made offering.

Are there any upcoming changes to Air Tahiti Nui’s fleet, in-flight offering, routes, partnerships or codeshare arrangements?

Our fleet renewal program is in full swing and all the A340s will be phased out and replaced with the brand new B787-9 by 3 September. As of that date, all our routes worldwide are served by the Tahitian Dreamliner. This will make our fleet the youngest and most modern of any airline.

The inflight offering has been completely re-vamped on the Tahitian Dreamliner, with WiFi on board, new interior design, new larger screens, and much more choice in terms of entertainment.

In terms of routes and partnerships, we are always looking at additional codeshare possibilities and potential new markets to offer to our client’s better connections to our Tahiti.

What is Air Tahiti Nui doing to become a more environmentally sustainable airline?

Sustainable development is of great importance to us, and since 2015 we are voluntarily engaged in several corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Our CSR policy is based on four pillars – responsible operations, environmental footprint, committed employer, and vector for development – and contains 10 different commitments. One of the best examples of this year is the complete fleet renewal, which reduces our CO2 emissions by over 20 per cent. This is a saving of roughly 88,000 tones of CO2 per year.

Is electric aircraft technology on Air Tahiti Nui’s radar?

The company monitors such developments with interest, and once such new technologies are sufficiently tested and approved by aviation authorities, we will consider embedding it into our strategy.

How do you see the commercial aviation industry evolving over the next five to 10 years?

IATA forecasts that air passengers will nearly double to 7.8 billion by 2036. This growth trend will be visible over the next five to 10 years.

Furthermore, globalisation will drive growth in developing countries, business aviation will have its best decade, and customers will have more choice.

Low-cost carriers (LCCs) and long-haul LCCs will continue to thrive, and the lower the ticket fare, the more important the ancillary revenues become. On the other hand, a model will evolve to cater for passengers who are prepared to pay an all-in price for a seat with a comfortable amount of leg room and a free meal service. This will occur mainly in more mature and wealthier economies where consumers are willing to pay a premium for certain products, and our investments in our fleet and onboard experience will meet those expectations.

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