As a part of a crazy itinerary that took me on 8 flights from Auckland to Tokyo via Santiago I found myself flying on a new airline to cross off my bucket list. I ended up taking Air Tahiti Nui from Auckland to Papeete and just as my luck would have it, the flight ended up being on board their brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The Dreamliner was just delivered to the airline on October 10, 2018 (F-OMUA). With 4 total on order the Dreamliner is expected to take over all A340 routes and will become the flagship plane of their fleet.
I arrived at the airport just under 3 hours before the flight. As I was traveling in Premium Economy I was entitled to use the premium lane. It turned out to be useful as the economy line had around 20+ waiting to check-in. The premium lane was empty and in just a few minutes my bag was checked through and I had my boarding pass.
Unfortunately Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t include lounge access with Premium Economy tickets. You can purchase a day pass for the Qantas lounge online or at check in for $60 NZD.. For anyone looking to upgrade at check-in, for this trip premium economy upgrades were available from $460 NZD (~$315 USD) and business class from $580 NZD (~$396 USD) pending availability.
Ok first, let me say WOW. I absolutely love this cabin. There is something just so fun about the color scheme that puts you in the island mood. They truly went above and beyond when they designed this plane.
The plane is configured with 30 Business Class seats, 32 premium economy seats, and 232 general economy seats. The Business Class seats are a big upgrade from the A340 as they go fully flat. Considering most people travel as a couple to Tahiti the 2-2-2 Business Class is an appropriate choice.
Premium Economy is a brand new cabin for Air Tahiti Nui. The Premium Economy cabin is set up in a very comfortable 2-3-2 set up. Each seat is 20.4” wide and has 36-38” pitch. The seats cradle you when you recline and slide forward a little bit so you don’t totally invade the personal space of the person behind you.
I was seated in the bulkhead in seat 10A on the window. While my seat slid forward the leg rest was inoperable, a bit of a shame for a new plane. The seat was well really well padded and reclined pretty far. SeatGuru claims that they recline 8”.
Seat controls were super easy as they were all physical push buttons.
Each seat had its own power port, USB port, and 14” entertainment screen. Non-bulkhead seats also had storage cubbies and foot rests in addition to leg rests. What’s weird is that the leg rests go up high enough to touch the seats in-front, al-la sky-couch style.
The one thing I really loved about the seats which I wish every other airline would follow suit was that the arm rests even on the window could be raised which makes it a lot easier to sleep and significantly increases seat space.
Amenities and Entertainment
Waiting at the seat when I boarded was a super soft and large Tahitian blue fleece blanket, pillow, and amenity kit.
Air Tahiti Nui did a great job by varying the color of pillows and amenity kits to add to the aesthetic of the cabin.
Inside the felt amenity kit were headphones, socks, an eyeshade, a toothbrush with toothpaste, ear plugs, and a refreshing towel.
The inflight entertainment had a handful of new and classic movies and some TV shows. There were options in French and English. For my 5-hour flight there was plenty to choose from but for anything longer than that I would recommend supplementing with your own movies. In additional to typical games, music, and moving map there was an extensive section called Tiare TV, which covered local Tahaitan sports, culture, and more and a section dedicated to information on the islands of French Polynesia. You could also view food, beverage, and duty free items for sale through the system, but in-seat ordering was not available.
One final unique offering was the ability to pair your phone to the entertainment. I could not get my phone to connect, but it didn’t seem like there was any benefit to it.Wi-Fi was available for purchase onboard. Plans started at $9 for 10 mb of data and went up to $49 for 200 mb.
Food and Beverage
Meal service started about an hour after takeoff. No formal menus were offered, just the options of chicken or beef. Considering that French Polynesia is known for its seafood, I was surprised that they didn’t offer a more diverse offering. The service was quick with everything being served on one tray.
Everyone’s tray in premium economy consisted of a cold towel, cranberry potato salad, bread roll, cheese and crackers and a tropical fruit mouse. The beef was tasty and the portion size was decent, although it was more of a ragu. The dish included carrots, broccoli, and pasta. The chicken option that my seat mate had included potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and green beans in a white sauce.
The airline seemed to be unique with its silverware packaging as they looked like they were recycled or eco-friendly but there was no mention of it and the tray contained a lot of single use plastics. Metal silverware and a real napkin would have been a nice upgrade.
In a perfect start to great service every passenger was given a white Tiare flower upon boarding, which happens to be the logo for the airline. The crew was well intentioned and genuinely seemed to care about their customers. Flight attendants made an effort to get to know each customer in premium economy by asking about where our travels were taking us as well as offering up bits of local knowledge that led to me to go to a fish market next morning at 5.
I would gladly go out of my way to fly with Air Tahiti Nui again. The airline will have the youngest fleet going to Tahiti as soon as their last Boeing 787-9 is delivered. The hard product and soft product made for a very comfortable ride. Should I find myself on a flight longer than 5 hours with them, I am sure I would find it equally as enjoyable. There is something to be said for a proud national airline and it truly shows with Air Tahiti Nui.