Aircalin has an interesting route network, with many destinations in the South Pacific and Australia. However, what the airline doesn’t often say about its 12 destinations is that service is just once or twice a week, including their flights from Noumea to Melbourne on an A320.
Ticket prices fluctuated a lot but sold at around $300 to $600 incl. taxes and fees for the 1,800 miles to be flown. If you find availability, you can also redeem Flying Blue miles, at 17,500 miles and $100 in taxes and fees. I decided to use FlexPerks points, which paid for the fare and the taxes and fees. The fare did not show up online but it was available right away when I called.
Online check-in was easy and smooth and I could get a passport-compatible boarding pass in a few minutes. That was enough to get through security and immigration.
Noumea Airport is a very modern affair and, given the few flights per day, it is also rather empty. Security and immigration could not have been friendlier, with a smiling, “Bonjour” extended to us at both and the whole process took just a few minutes.
There is a coffee shop right behind immigration but make sure to bring some leftover local currency, as the minimum for credit cards is rather high.
Boarding was right on time and equally efficient, with most passengers being French or local residents and just a few Australians.
The seat pitch in economy is likely 35 inches. I had a lot of legroom and there was plenty of width in the seat.
After a few turns over the lovely lagoons of the island, we flew towards the Tasman Sea, which would wait for us with heavy headwinds.
Breakfast was served about one hour into the flight and the quality was excellent, with great coffee, a fresh croissant, an edible omelet (which I did not try myself, though) and fresh bread rolls.
The flight attendants seemed genuinely concerned and friendly – very similar to my last Air France Economy flight.
The plane comes with onboard device entertainment but you either need to download the Aircalin app (the airport WiFi is too slow to do that) or have Microsoft Silverlight installed on your laptop. I had neither, so no entertainment from the streaming server for me. There is no satellite WiFi, unfortunately.
In sum, this was a great routine flight that felt more like premium economy than what economy has become on most airlines. Both the redemption prices and fares are high but the product is better than what you’d expect – so spoil yourself from time to time.