Islands Airline (Papeete) has won a court case against the French Polynesian government after it objected to the wording of its tentative Air Transport Licence (ATL) granted to it by the government, Radio New Zealand has reported.

French Polynesia's administrative court supported the start-up carrier's bid to operate under a licence that excludes a phrase that could enable the government to determine its conditions of operation.

The tentative OL had stated that "the conditions of operation of [Island Airline's] scheduled routes will be fixed by an order made by the Council of Ministers."

The court, however, upheld an expert opinion that the state’s powers were too broad and approved a less restrictive licence for the start-up competitor to Air Tahiti (VT, Papeete).

Islands Airline argued that "by reserving this right, French Polynesia intends to control its activity in order to protect the de facto monopoly of the company Air Tahiti, which can be characterised as a misuse of power".

The start-up aims to focus on trunk routes in the archipelago using two leased E175s, but the government has openly opposed its entry into the market. It was founded by New Caledonia-based businessman Bill Ravel whose previous ventures include Aircalin (SB, Nouméa La Tontouta) and Air Vanuatu (NF, Port Vila).

The future carrier's initial application for an ATL was rejected in 2017, but a court overturned this decision in late 2018, ordering the government to issue the licence.

According to the ch-aviation capacity module, Air Tahiti has a monopoly on domestic flights in French Polynesia.