The Class of Business Class – Aircalin’s Business Hibiscus
Aircalin delivers French flair in the air
(Singapore, July 2022) When you rarely fly business class it is a bit of a thrill to take your seat at the front of the aircraft, accept the glass of champagne, and settle into the wide seat that tilts into a flat bed. And when the trip is to New Caledonia it is even more exciting. This was my first visit to the French territory in the South Pacific / Coral Sea and I was greatly looking forward to it.
On Sunday July 3, 2022, Aircalin made the return leg of its inaugural nonstop flight between Noumea (the capital) and Singapore. Aircalin, which began service in 1983, deployed their new Airbus A330neo for the twice-weekly service. The A330-900s can fly 291 passengers in two cabin classes, including 244 passengers in the main economy cabin, 21 passengers in premium economy and 26 passengers in business class. There are plans to increase the flight frequency in the coming months.
Although not well-known outside the Southwest Pacific (from Noumea the airline serves Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tahiti and Wallis-and-Futuna), it enjoys a good reputation in the region. With long haul flights now connecting it to Japan and Singapore the reputation is sure to grow.
Flying Business Class it is all about the comfort and connectivity of the seat. The Business Hibiscus Stelia Opal is a state-of-the-art seat envisioned by Bruno Saint Jalmes, a renowned designer who collaborates with world-class luxury car manufacturers. This comfort foam seat features three great innovations: it reclines to a perfect flatbed; it gives each passenger direct access to the aisle and the shell shape provides space and privacy.
There are numerous storage spaces including a "treasure" box to store your small belongings in during the flight, a swivelling reading light, and a large tray that will accommodate your laptop and of course your meals and drinks.
There is a USB socket and a 110-volt socket to recharge your electronic devices, and, if you wish, you can use your own headphones, but there is an excellent set provided to enjoy the experience of the large, state-of-the-art, 39cm HD LED touch screen with remote control. A rich and intuitive entertainment system with more than 150 programmes (latest films and classic movies, TV series, music, documentaries, games) and new features (3D interactive map, external camera) is what did me in. When I should’ve been sleeping, I was watching a movie.
Flying Business Class it is all about the food and drinks and this was what did me in. Champagne was served when we boarded and I couldn’t resist the excellent offerings on the menu and was so stuffed I couldn’t even finish my Main, of which there was a choice of four. There were two red wines on offer: a Bordeaux Rouge – Chateau Lalande Borie, Saint Julien 2014 and another Bordeaux – Domaine Maldant, Aloxe-Corton Vielles Vignes 2015. The white was a French Chardonnay, Louis Max
Prior to landing – on the eight-and-a-half-hour flight – a light meal was served – which off course included a selection of cheese, espresso coffee, herbal and black teas and liqueur. On both legs of the flight the food was excellent.
Flying Business Class it is all about the service and the staff in Hibiscus Business Class bettered all expectations. Before we landed in Singapore the Flight Attendant in my section had a brief chat with all the passengers she served. She asked if I was happy with the service and if there was anything that could be improved on. I assured her I was most happy with the food, drink and the attention from staff.
Aircalin describes its Business Hibiscus Class, as “resolutely modern and innovative. With different shades of beige, white, with subtle coral-coloured touches, the new Hibiscus Business cabin is elegant, comfortable and unquestionably Caledonian. The absence of luggage racks above the central rows further reinforces the impression of space and the cabin benefits from light fittings specially adapted to each phase of the flight. With more space, the new Aircalin new Hibiscus Business Class, is available on long and medium-haul Airbus A330neo flights.
“Inspired by traditional Melanesian weaving, the seat covering appears to be woven from four colours to give a unique and exceptionally elegant result. Through wooden motifs, "yellow headed" coral and Melanesian motifs, New Caledonia imprints its presence on the cabin. There are many subtle and elegant touches to discover throughout your flight, such as the sand of New Caledonia's beautiful beaches, the white and beige tones of the seat shell, the fabric, the walls and even the curtains which lend a sense of peace to the cabin.”
I particularly like the timing of the return flight Noumea's La Tontouta Airport (NOU) at midday and landing at 18:00 on the same day. The airport is 52km north of the city so is a bit of a drive if that is where you are staying. The overnight flight I tried to sleep, and little was accomplished. Flying through the day I didn’t need to sleep, but I did – with the help of a generous glass of whiskey.
Landing at La Tontouta provides a great and extended view of the translucent turquoise lagoon. The rising sun gives more depth to the colours as you cruise in slowly and lowly to touchdown.
Adding to the atmosphere, we were given a Kanak welcome dance that was performed with energy. A great way to begin our time in New Caledonia.
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