Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Review – Complete with New Cabin Interiors!

This post is part of a series of posts documenting my trip to French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. Other posts in this series include:

After our borderline adequate experience at the Air Tahiti Nui Lounge in LAX, my expectations for the Air Tahiti Nui flight experience were downgraded slightly, but still positive. I had recently read that all Air Tahiti Nui planes would be undergoing an upgrade to their cabins – with more business class seats being put in each plane (from 24 seats to 32 seats) and a better in flight entertainment system (IFE). The good news for us is that all of the planes were upgraded by early June of 2013, so it’s possible that our June 19th flight put us among the first people to enjoy the new Air Tahiti Nui business class product.

I booked our flight somewhere around 10-11 months ahead of time using Delta Skymiles. Even though Tahiti is only 8 hours away from the mainland United States, the redemption costs 150,000 Delta Skymiles in Business Class + $458.80 in fuel surcharges. While this is one of the more expensive “free tickets” you can get, it still represented a substantial savings over the $3,865 retail cost of the business class ticket had we paid cash. I was also able to get 2.7 cents per mile value from my Delta Skymiles, which is excellent in my book.

As I mentioned in my review of the Air Tahiti Nui lounge, we left in a rush to get to the gate after their slow Internet connection kept me in the lounge longer than I would have liked. So we rushed to the gate only to learn that our flight was delayed while they waited for another Air Tahiti Nui flight to arrive from Paris so that passengers could make their connection. I suppose when your airline only flies to a few destinations, waiting for connecting passengers is important.

4PM Departure was actually 5 PM

4PM Departure was actually 5 PM

While we waited at the gate, which was actually just a waiting area for us to board busses to the actual boarding area for the plane, we had a nice view of the planes coming and going from LAX.

Taking the Bus to the Special Terminal for Air Tahiti Nui

Waiting to take the Bus to the Special Terminal for Air Tahiti Nui

Perhaps the most interesting plane we saw was a British Airways 747 passing right by our window. These planes are just HUGE and it’s always cool to see them close up.

British Airways 747

British Airways 747

British Airways 747

British Airways 747 and US Customs/Border Protection

I also included a few more pictures of airplane porn for those who are into that kind of thing.

Singapore Airlines A380

Singapore Airlines A380

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Then it was time to take the bus to our destination. At first I assumed the bus would take us to the airplane where we would board directly from the tarmac, but to my surprise we went to another gate area that was at the far end of the airport.

LAX Busses

LAX Busses

The busses were crowded and even though business class boarded first, there was no preferential treatment or priority boarding on the plane.

Crowded Bus Ride

Crowded Bus Ride

Driving to our own Special Terminal

Driving to our own Special Terminal

After about 5 minutes, the bus dropped us off at a gate area with an Air Tahiti Nui plane parked outside confirming that we were in the right place.

Special boarding area for Air Tahiti Nui

Special boarding area for Air Tahiti Nui

After going up several winding ramps I caught a glimpse of our chariot through a clouded window.

 

I finally get a view of the plane only to have it obscured by a window pattern

I finally get a view of the plane only to have it obscured by a window pattern

This may be nice abstract art to some, but to me it was annoying that I couldn’t get a clean view of the plane for a photo.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Review

As we got to the entrance of the plane we were greeted with tiny flowers to place in our hair. I reluctantly accepted a flower, but did not put it in my hair.

Hair Flowers at Boarding

Hair Flowers at Boarding

Instead, I went right to the business class cabin in hopes of snapping a photos of the nearly empty cabin. I started with snapping pictures of the brand new seats and flamboyant pillows.

The New Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Seats and Legroom

The New Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Seats and Legroom

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Seats

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Seats

Then the in-flight entertainment system. With the window shades wide open and a lot of glare on the screen, this one turned into a “selfie” in the reflection.

Never Stop Reviewing

Never Stop Reviewing

Then I pondered what to do with the flower, eventually deciding that the flower wanted me to have a glass of champagne as my pre take-off beverage.

Trying to figure out what to do with my hair flower

Trying to figure out what to do with my hair flower

In Flight Entertainment and Seat-Backs

In Flight Entertainment and Seat-Backs

After snapping a few more photos, I decided to try and play around with the in flight entertainment system. As you can see, the monitors were impressive and HD quality. They were also fairly large compared to what you see on most planes, so I was impressed with the offering.

The controller, on the other hand, was not the most efficient tool that I have used. Instead of having arrow keys to navigate the screen, you use a square sensor that you rub your fingers over in order to move through screens. It’s somewhat like using a Nintendo wii controller and somewhat like an old trackball mouse. It also sucks.

An Introduction to the crazy In Flight Entertainment Controller

An Introduction to the crazy In Flight Entertainment Controller

After a few clumsy attempts to use the controller, I concluded that I would be better off just using my fingers on the touch screen.

The actual IFE Controller

The actual IFE Controller – the black square is a touch pad device

Welcome to Tahiti

Welcome to Tahiti

While playing around in the cabin, the nice flight attendants brought us pre-departure beverages of Champagne and a Mai Tai.

Pre Departure Beverages - Champagne and Mai Tai

Pre Departure Beverages – Champagne and Mai Tai

The empty Business Class Cabin

The empty Business Class Cabin

Our Flight Information

Our Flight Information

Soon amenity kits and noise canceling headphones were handed out. The amenity kit had an eye mask, socks and a few other standard but unsexy items. I neglected to take a photo of the kit because I was bored with it as soon as it was opened.

The Amenity Kit. I have no unboxing pictures, because it's underwhelming

The Amenity Kit. I have no unboxing pictures, because it’s underwhelming

When menus were handed out, my wife was excited to see that we had a shrimp and scallops option, because she loves scallops.

Dinner

Dinner Menu

Since we were leaving at 4 PM and arriving around 10 PM, we actually had two evening themed meals as opposed to a standard Dinner/Breakfast combo you see on overnight flights.

Second Dinner Menu

Second Dinner Menu

Red Wines

Red Wines

Champagne and White Wines

Champagne and White Wines

While enjoying my champagne, an appetizer of Olives and Cheddar Mini-Crepes were brought out. By this time I was quite hungry because of the flight delay and an early lunch, so I devoured the mini-crepes. I must say, they were excellent and reminded me quite a bit of the snack food Combos. If only Americans were as sophisticated as the French as naming our snacks, it would be socially acceptable to eat crackers and wash it down with Champagne.

Olives and French "Combos"

Olives and French “Combos”

Then came our appetizer, a medley of seafood, pheasant and pork.

Appetizer Close Up

Appetizer Close Up

All of the appetizers were decent, but nothing jumped out as extraordinary. Just good French influenced food.

Appetizers of Scallops, Cured Meats and Terrine

Appetizers of Scallops, Cured Prosciutto and Pheasant/Pork Terrine

For the main course, I ordered the chicken breast with orange sauce and it was decent but not spectacular. I enjoyed the St. Emilion wine that I paired with the dish as well.

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice

My wife enjoyed her surf and surf combination of Shrimp and Scallops.

Shrimp and Scallop Curry

Shrimp and Scallop Cajun Style

When dessert came around, I wasn’t very hungry, but decided to give it a try anyway. I found the pineapple and cream tart to be fantastic and ended up eating the whole thing.

Tasty Pineapple Dessert

Tasty Pineapple Dessert

After dinner I decided to give sleep a try so I put the seat into the angled lie-flat position and covered myself in a trusty blanket. At 6’2″ my feet were all the way to the edge of the seat, but I still found the seat comfortable. I found there was pretty much the same amount of legroom as my business class trips on Air France last year.

My feet fit snugly into the blanket

My feet fit snugly into the blanket

After about 4 hours of solid sleep I woke up to second dinner being served and the map indicating we were getting close to our destination.

Almost to our Destination

Almost to our Destination

The appetizer of Thai chicken salad was bland at first bite, and then became excellent once I poured the peanut/vinegar sauce provided on top of it. The pineapple tart was pretty meh while the cheese was nice and flavorful.

Cold Thai Chicken Salad

Cold Thai Chicken Salad

Before long we were landed in Tahiti and we disembarked from the plane and onto the tarmac for arrival.

Disembarking from the Plane

Disembarking from the Plane

I snuck one last picture of an Air Tahiti Nui plane as we walked to the customs area. It didn’t really turn out to be all that great.

My best view of a parked Air Tahiti Nui Airbus A340-300

My best view of a parked Air Tahiti Nui Airbus A340-300

As we entered the terminal in Tahiti I was relieved to be done with our long haul travel. Even with a few more flights to go, the long travel day was done.

Welcome to Tahiti

Welcome to Tahiti

Clearing customs was fairly straight forward, although a slow experience. By the time our passport was stamped our bags were already on the belt, so we quickly grabbed them and tried to find a cab to take us to the Le Meridien hotel where we were staying that night.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Summary

Nice seats, awesome In Flight Entertainment system (but not many good movies), quality service and decent food. Not the absolute best flight of my life, but very little to complain about either. It may not be worth ~$4,000 for a round trip ticket on an 8 hour flight, but I was more than happy to burn 150,000 Skymiles on the experience. With 32 seats in the newly configured business class, there are 8 more opportunities for award seats on Air Tahiti Nui flights. This should bode well to a points and miles focused traveler who wants to use either American Airlines miles or Delta Skymiles to visit the South Pacific.

4 / 5 stars     
About jeffsetter

I travel over 100 nights a year for business and leisure. Based in Minnesota, but my heart is all over the world. Travel has brought me to 4 hemispheres, 6 continents, 20+ countries and 40+ states. This blog is built to provide travel advice, share my experiences and open a new world to anyone who wants to listen.

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