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:
- Trip Planning: Booking on Air Tahiti is Scary, Booking Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Using Delta Skymiles
- Flights and Lounges: Delta Sky Club LAX Showers, Air Tahiti Nui LAX Lounge
- Videos: Kia Orana from Aitutaki in the Cook Islands
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.
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.
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.
I also included a few more pictures of airplane porn for those who are into that kind of thing.
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.
The busses were crowded and even though business class boarded first, there was no preferential treatment or priority boarding on the plane.
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.
After going up several winding ramps I caught a glimpse of our chariot through a clouded window.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While playing around in the cabin, the nice flight attendants brought us pre-departure beverages of Champagne and a Mai Tai.
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.
When menus were handed out, my wife was excited to see that we had a shrimp and scallops option, because she loves scallops.
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.
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.
Then came our appetizer, a medley of seafood, pheasant and pork.
All of the appetizers were decent, but nothing jumped out as extraordinary. Just good French influenced food.
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.
My wife enjoyed her surf and surf combination of Shrimp and Scallops.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before long we were landed in Tahiti and we disembarked from the plane and onto the tarmac for arrival.
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.
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.
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.