Air France bids to link Air Tahiti to SkyTeam venture

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SkyTeam partners are seeking to connect Pacific carrier Air Tahiti Nui to their transatlantic alliance, through a joint venture with Air France.

Delta Air Lines, Air France-KLM and Alitalia have an alliance, immunised from anti-trust, on transatlantic routes.

There are no plans for Air Tahiti Nui to become a member of this transatlantic alliance, or SkyTeam itself, says a US regulatory filing.

But the SkyTeam members are proposing to link Air Tahiti Nui to their pact, via a transatlantic joint venture between the carrier and Air France. The venture will enable the two to co-ordinate their services and enhance their ability to compete in the transatlantic market.

In the filing, which seeks immunity for the tie-up, the airlines state that the "centrepiece" venture would provide "metal neutrality" and revenue-sharing on the Los Angeles-Paris route, as well as codesharing beyond Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Immunised co-ordination would enable Air France and Air Tahiti Nui to balance their transatlantic services "as if there had been an operational merger between them", they add, and the proposal would expand the Tahiti-based carrier's "very limited" transatlantic network.

Air Tahiti Nui operates Airbus A340-300s to Los Angeles and Paris - a "vital lifeline", the filing claims - as well as to Tokyo and Auckland.

Air France has a long-standing co-operation with the carrier. But the filing says an arms'-length codeshare on the Los Angeles-Paris route is "not an option".

Closer links to the immunised SkyTeam venture would give Air Tahiti Nui access to Air France's Paris network, it says, providing benefits not otherwise attainable through a codeshare.

"Our joint venture with Air France will provide our passengers with more frequent flights between Los Angeles and Paris, and will link Air Tahiti Nui to the Air France network in Europe," says Etienne Howan, chairman and chief executive of Air Tahiti Nui, in a statement. "This will expand Air Tahiti Nui's global reach by providing improved service to passengers traveling between Tahiti and Europe via Los Angeles."