Monday, February 4, 2013

My Air Tahiti Nui Experience

Earlier this week Air Tahiti Nui (not to be confused with Air Tahiti, the domestic airline) announced they are overhauling the interiors of their entire fleet of A340 aircraft. Even though the news broke about ATN's new Business Class via facebook on Thursday of last week, it appears the blogging world is just catching up, and I noticed there were a few posts about it on Boarding Area today. Anyway, I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon and share my $.02 as well, seeing as how I was lucky enough to actually experience the airline not too long ago.

Air Tahiti Nui's New Poerava (Business) Class. Images courtesy Air Tahiti Nui
Air Tahiti Nui's New Moana (Economy) Class
My husband and I flew on Air Tahiti Nui in 2011 between LAX and PPT. At the time, with only United miles to burn (meaning the only way to get to French Polynesia was on Air New Zealand via AKL), we actually bought tickets to go to Tahiti for our 5 year anniversary- Scary, I know (both the part about buying tickets and being married for that long). I have to say, I was very satisfied with our experience in Moana (coach) Class, which of course is where we sat. I offered my initial impressions of the airline in an earlier trip report on milepoint. Admittedly my standards are a little low, based on all of my years at United, but Air Tahiti Nui was pretty darn nice I thought, even in the back of the bus! With all of the hype of a new Business Class product, some of the other bloggers seemed to have missed that ATN's Economy Class is getting a makeover too- although I'm not entirely sure it needed one.

Air Tahiti Nui Moana Class 2011
New Moana Class

Air Tahiti Nui already boasted wider-than-industry-standard seats, and their 2-4-2 seating configuration made for a very specious cabin. No changes there. The seat pitch of 31" is the same as Economy Plus on United and we were very comfortable for both of our 8-hour red eye flights to and from Papeete. Each seat had an individual entertainment system with movies, games, and a map. The new upgraded "on-demand" system is said to have more channels, including ones for kids, and "Tiare TV" featuring stunning imagery that will undoubtedly get you all excited about your upcoming visit to paradise, that is, if the giant wall-murals throughout the cabin don't do the trick.

Some Real-Life Imagery of French Polynesia

Where Air Tahiti Nui really stood out, in my opinion, was with their exceptional inflight service. Even Economy had printed menus and amenity kits, and we were offered 2 meals plus snacks on both flights. The food was actually pretty good too! (Again my standards may be a little low based on United). The flight crew was among the nicest I've encountered anywhere, but then perhaps that is to be expected when flying through Pacific. I've always had very pleasant experiences on Aloha, Hawaiian, and with United's Honolulu-based crews. I think friendly service and hospitality are a big part of the Polynesian culture, and Air Tahiti Nui does not disappoint there. You're going to have a hard time finding any airline that treats you better!

Moana Class Menu
Chocolate Crepes and a Grilled Peach for Breakfast. Yummy!
A Coach-class Amenity Kit- Minus Some Cozy Blue Socks That Are Now a Permanent Feature in My Carry-on :)
So while the upgrades to the back of the plane appear to be purely cosmetic, the ones to Business Class are a welcome refresher. We peeked into the old "Peorava" Class and I wasn't overly impressed- recliner style seats that looked kind of like domestic first on any of the main lines. Hopefully the exceptional service made up for it, but let's just say after seeing that, I wasn't too disappointed with the great deal we got on our seats towards the back of the plane. We didn't get a chance to check out their First Class, which will be going away entirely. Given Tahiti's central location in the Pacific and the shorter duration of most of their flights (8 hours is really not a long trip guys), I'm sure having just the updated Business Class will be perfectly adequate, as will the new angled-flat seats vs. true lay-flat. It's worth noting that the upgrade will increase premium cabin capacity from 30 now (24 Business + 6 First) to 32 (Business only). Hopefully, that means more award availability for those of us wanting to cash in American AAdvantage miles next time, but only time will tell. You can also redeem Delta Sky Miles on Air Tahiti Nui and/or their competitor Air France, who also flies LAX-PPT a few times a week. Naturally, we all want to trade in our airline miles for premium class travel to far away exotic destinations, but unless you're rich in hotel points too (which we weren't in 2011), French Polynesia can be very expensive. Going with a package deal, like we did, might be a good option to explore. Once we bundled everything together, our coach airfare was virtually free.

Tiare Flower Winglet of an Air Tahiti Nui A340.
No matter where you sit, Air Tahiti Nui is your best choice when flying to the South Pacific- it also kind of happens to be your only choice if you are looking for regularly scheduled flights to and from Papeete. Anyway, in the end, an already-nice airline is getting a fresh and modern new look to go along with an already-great in-flight experience. That, paired with the stunning beauty of Tahiti and surrounding islands, has me excited and looking forward to making a repeat trip back French Polynesia, hopefully sometime very soon.

1 comment:

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