Dead End Destination Rarotonga

Yesterday I posted the news that Air New Zealand will be discontinuing their Tahiti-Rarotonga service at the end of March, 2007. This development marks the end of the company's longstanding "Coral Route" service as Los Angeles-Tahiti-Rarotonga-Fiji-Los Angeles routings will no longer be possible. Air New Zealand has agreed to maintain a weekly nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Rarotonga, but only after the Cook Islands Government promised to cover any losses they may incur on the service. Upscale "boutique" resorts like the Little Polynesian, which are beyond the budgets of most New Zealand holidaymakers, have been saved from bankruptcy. Rarotonga's backpacker camps will probably notice a big drop in business beginning next year, but frankly, I doubt if that will bother the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation very much.

The point is, that with no flights to anywhere else in the South Pacific, Rarotonga becomes a dead end destination. (Air New Zealand currently has a service from Rarotonga to Nadi, but I expect that to be canceled in the near future.) Vacationers will still be able to fly to Rarotonga from Los Angeles and Auckland, but they won't be able to visit any other Pacific countries without flying back to Auckland for a connection. And considering the cost and nuisance involved in that, I'm pretty sure that after next March most South Pacific travelers who want to see more than one country on a single trip will just give the Cook Islands a miss.

Beginning in April, 2007, anyone interested in really seeing the South Pacific will have to fly directly to Nadi, Fiji. From Fiji, there are flights to almost everywhere in the South Pacific. Air Pacific has two different Pacific Triangle Fares: Fiji-Apia-Tongatapu-Fiji (US$486) and Fiji-Honiara-Port Vila-Fiji (US$800). Both are valid for one year and can be purchased at any travel agency in Fiji or direct from the airline. The 8th edition of Moon Handbooks Fiji will be released in mid-2007, just in time to serve the needs of all those island hopping South Pacific travelers who won't be visiting the Cook Islands.

UPDATE: Air Rarotonga and Air Tahiti will launch a joint code-share service between Papeete and Rarotonga beginning on April 3, 2007. Initially, a 66-passenger Air Tahiti ATR-72 aircraft will operate on the route twice a week. Online bookings can be made through the Air Rarotonga website.

<< Home