In 1983, Air Calédonie International, known as Aircalin since 1997, was founded as the international extension of the domestic airline Air Calédonie (Aircal). Aircalin is a French airline owned by Caisse d’Epargne Group (72%), Agence pour la Desserte aerienne de Nouvelle Caledonie (27%) and others, including staff (1%). Its primary base is La Tontouta International Airport, and the headquarters of the airline is in Noumea.
On December 2, 1983, the airline operated its first commercial flight Melbourne – Noumea – Melbourne, with a Boeing 747, in association with Qantas. That same year, it rented a Boeing 737-200 from Air Nauru.
The following years, Aircalin’s network grew rapidly by adding principal regional destinations such as Brisbane and Port Vila in 1984, Sydney in 1986, Auckland in 1987, Wallis and Futuna – operated with a DHC 6-300 Twin Otter acquired in 1987, Fiji – Nadi and Papeete via Nadi in 1988.
In 1987, Aircalin established the Air Caledonie International Freight Service – Aircalin Cargo.
In 1988, a Boeing 737-33A (F-GFUC) became the first aircraft in the colors of Air Caledonie International. The aircraft was sold the following year for another Boeing 737-300.
In 1990, Aircalin resumed the Noumea – Melbourne service, which became known as le Caledonian Express.
In March 1991, the airline launched its business class – Hibiscus. Hibiscus is not only the name of the business class, but also the airline’s logo, the flower that decorates the tail of Aircalin’s aircraft.
In 1992, the airline launched Club 500, its VIP Hibiscus lounge at La Tontouta Airport, and in-flight magazine Altitude.
In 1996, Air Calédonie International rebranded as Aircalin and was given a new logo and a new image. It also leased from Qantas a Boeing 767 to operate direct flights to Papeete.
In 2000, Aircalin inaugurated its first long-haul route Noumea – Osaka, with an Airbus A310-300.
In 2002, with the arrival of two Airbus A330-200 financed by New Caledonia, Aircalin started flights to Tokyo since Air France no longer wished to operate the Noumea -Tokyo leg of its Paris – Noumea route. The flights are operated under a joint Air France/Aircalin code-sharing agreement, and Air France continues to operate the Japan-France leg.
In 2004, Aircalin took delivery of an Airbus A320-200 to be used on regional routes. The aircraft replaced the Boeing 737 used since 1989.
On June 21, 2008, Aircalin operated its first flight to Seoul.
In 2012, Aircalin invested more than 20 million euros in the refurbishment of the cabins of its Airbus A330. With the new cabins, Aircalin’s passengers enjoy more comfort and increased services: seats with more individual space in Economy Class, “shell” type seats in Hibiscus (Business) Class, and, for all passengers, the latest in-flight entertainment system with a large choice of films, games and music on demand. Along with this change, the staff got new modern and elegant uniforms.
In September 2014, an Airbus A320-200, the latest acquisition of Aircalin to support the development of its regional network, was the first aircraft to flaunt the new livery of emblematic New Caledonian colours. Blending innovative graphics with traditional symbols and incorporating sculptural motifs inspired by Kanak art, the new livery represents the natural beauty of New Caledonia: the blue skies and waters of New Caledonia’s lagoon and the fiery red soil, its biodiversity and flora – the Hibiscus flower, adopted as the airline’s emblem.
At the end of March 2015, on a Noumea – Auckland flight, Aircalin and Air Tahiti Nui, the two French companies in the Pacific, began the codeshare partnership. Aircalin has also received from the US Department of Transportation permission to operate flights in code-share with Air Tahiti Nui from Noumea to Los Angeles.
In November 2016, Aircalinto decided to renew its entire jet fleet and signed an agreement (MoU) for two single-aisle A320neo and two A330-900 wide-body aircraft. The 168-seat A320neo, with 8 Business Class seats and 160 Economy Class seats, will be deployed on regional routes to the Pacific Islands, Australia, and New Zealand. The A330neo will feature a three-class configuration with 26 seats in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy Class and 244 in Economy Class.
In October 2017, Aircalin has firmed up its order for new Airbus aircraft. The two A330-900neos are scheduled for delivery from 2019, while the two Airbus A320neos are expected to join the fleet from 2020.
Starting January 2018, Aircalin and Air Vanuatu started their codeshare agreement signed in October 2017 to strengthen the regional cooperation between New Caledonia and Vanuatu and to offer better options to connect to other flights, such as domestic flights in Vanuatu to Tanna and Santo. All six flights between Noumea and Port Vila are operated under the new codeshare agreement, with Aircalin operating the route twice a week with turboprop planes.
No fatal accidents involving Aircalin were registered so far. As a French airways company, Aircalin meets the high safety standards defined by European Civil Aviation and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).