Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
In summer 2022, I enjoyed an incredible holiday in French Polynesia (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora). You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to Los Angeles (today)
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class from Los Angeles to Papeete
- Review: The Brando
- Review: InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa
- Review: Air Tahiti ATR 72 Economy Class from Tahiti to Bora Bora
- Review: InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
- Review: St Regis Bora Bora
- Review: Four Seasons Bora Bora
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class from Papeete to Paris
Today: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to Los Angeles
Last September, I flew with Air Tahi Nui from Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris to Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti, with a short stopover in Los Angeles. This is my review of the first flight leg – Paris to Los Angeles – with French Polynesia’s flag carrier, which operates a small fleet of 4 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. With bright cabin colors, exotic crew uniforms, Tahitian music, and the smell of the Tiare flower, Air Tahiti Nui does a great job of making you feel like you’re already in French Polynesia as soon as you step on board. The airline calls its Business Class “Poerava”; Poerava – a combination of the Tahitian words poe and rava – means Black Pearl, a reference to Polynesian culture. The airline has configured its lie flat Business Class seats in a 2-2-2 layout; while not a cutting edge hard product, this configuration makes sense, given that most people traveling to French Polynesia are couples. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Air Tahiti Nui, especially the great soft product, the attentive service, and the Polynesian ambiance.
Have you ever flown with Air Tahiti Nui? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
- Trip: Paris (CDG) to Los Angeles (LAX)
- Airline: Air Tahiti Nui
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: F-OVAA (named Bora Bora)
- On time departure: yes (12 pm)
- On time arrival: (yes 2 pm)
- Miles: 5650 miles (9090 km)
- Flight time: 10 hours
- Seat: 5A
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my YouTube video):
- Air Tahiti Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Amenities & bedding
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict (score)
1. AIR TAHITI BOEING 787-9 DREAMLINER
In 2019, Air Tahiti Nui phased out its five Airbus A340-300s and replaced them by four modern Boeing 787-9s. Painted in the iconic blue tones that Tahiti is synonymous with, these “Tahitian Dreamliners” feature a stunning livery. Two red lines on its sides represent the flag of French Polynesia, an archipelago of 118 islands scattered over an expanse of South Pacific Ocean the size of Western Europe. The tail features the airline’s trademark Tiare flower while the fuselage is adorned with patterns and symbols taken from traditional Polynesian tattoos.
All international aircraft are assigned a two letter registration code designating its country of origin, and 3 more letters unique to each plane. Air Tahiti Nui used those 3 letters for meaningful Tahitian words: MUA, (forward), NUI (big), VAA (canoe), TOA (warrior). Woven together the airline’s fleet names have a hidden meaning: The warrior (TOA) going forward (MUA) in the great (NUI) canoe (VAA)!
Air Tahiti Nui does not have its own lounge at CDG Airport. Instead, its Business Class passengers have access to the Salon Paul Maxence, an independent lounge shared by several carriers (e.g. El Al, Saudia, Kuwait Airlines, Air Senegal, and Ukraine International Airlines). The Salon Paul Maxence is located one floor above the main concourse of Terminal 2A and shares it entrance hall (built around a glass hanging sculpture) with several other airline lounges.
Salon Paul Maxence is a small but chic lounge, elegantly furnished in a typical French style. Designed by renowned architectural firm Studio MHNA, the lounge’s warm and inviting decor evokes the splendor and elegance of a traditional Parisian apartment with a fireplace, bookcases, intimate alcoves, designer light fixtures, and curated art and furniture. There are two communal seating areas with leather arm chairs, as well as several quieter nooks on the side and an outdoor courtyard with covered terrace. A buffet is on display in the lounge’s main room, with a decent variety and quality of food and beverages on offer.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
The Tahitian Dreamliner exudes a tropical ambiance, immersing passengers in the “mana” of the Tahitian island as soon as they step onboard. A stunning floor-to-ceiling photo of Bora Bora island takes center stage in the plane’s entry galley, reminding passengers that they are about to head to French Polynesia, one of the world’s most beautiful paradises. Upon entering the plane, the traditionally dressed and always smiling cabin crew also hands out Tiare flowers; the Tiare is the national flower of the islands of Tahiti, believed to holds many secrets by the local population. It all evokes a sense of holiday, which continues throughout the airplane and which helps to leave behind the annoyances and stress of getting to and through the airport.
The Business Class cabin is located to the right of the entry galley and features 30 Rockwell Collins Diamond flatbed seats. These seats are configured in five rows on a six-abreast (2-2-2) arrangement. Air Tahiti Nui choose for a 2-2-2 layout in the premium cabin of its new Boeing 787s since most of the airline’s Business Class travelers are couples on their honeymoons or wedding anniversaries. Unfortunately, this also means that passengers seated in a window seat will not have direct aisle access, which can be rather uncomfortable when you are not traveling with a partner.
All seats face forward, with the seats on the side slightly angled towards the windows, away from the aisle. Paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm); together with a small partition, this creates some privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger (although the seats and cabin are very open) and at the same time allows enough interaction when you are traveling with a companion.
The Business Class cabin features a wonderful, refreshing and exotic design, inspired by the spectacular beauty of the islands of Tahiti. The seat’s marine blue fabrics and soft wooden finishes reflect French Polynesia’s natural elements and create a bright color palette that evokes the white sand beaches and turquoise water of the Polynesian lagoons. A Tiare motif is printed in the leather headrests of each seat, subtly reinforcing the visual brand image of Air Tahiti Nui. The wall on the back of the cabin is also adorned by a colorful painting of Polynesian women, which looks like a reprint of a painting of Paul Gaugain, the famous post-impressist artist who fell in love with French Polynesia.
The Tahitian Dreamliner’s Business Class layout is the same one which you also find on other airlines, such as KLM’s A330s, Qatar Airlines’ A330s, and Ethiopian Airlines B787s.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
Air Tahiti Nui’s Business Class seat is pleasant, although it doesn’t offer much privacy and the comfort of the flat-bed will largely depend on the seat that you choose (more on that below). The soft cushioned seat has a pitch of 78 inches (195 cm), which is defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. The seat width is 21 inches (53 cm) – defined as the space between the arm rests – which is comfortable but not among the widest in the industry.
Each seat features its own 16 inch HD touchscreen TV, which can also be controlled by a handset nestled in the armrest. Below the TV monitor is a drawer (which is large enough to store a laptop) and a footrest (which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined). The size of this footrest is variable: the bulkhead seats in row 1 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the other Business Class seats (so make sure to choose a seat in the first row if you can); also, the aisle seats have a larger foot rest compared to window seats.
The center armrest – which is shared between paired seats – features a small shared table (for drinks & snacks), a control panel for the seat positions, and a remote handset for the inflight entertainment system. It also holds a moderately sized fold-out tray table. Next to the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, somewhat difficult to reach storage compartment with a magnetic adaptor for the headphones. Each seat is also equipped with a standard universal power outlet and two USB ports
The seat goes fully flat (180 degrees recline), but your sleep comfort might depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in row 1 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are rather narrow and this may somewhat hamper a good night’s rest.
What are the best Business Class seats
- All seats in the cabin are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.
- The bulkhead seats in row 1 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some light noise disturbance from time to time.
What are the worst Business Class seats
- The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen though between adjoining seats which are also staggered by a couple of inches, creating some extra levels of privacy (albeit not enough).
- Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
- The window seats in the 4th row are lacking a window and are best avoided.
Click here for a seat map of the Tahitian Dreamliner.
5. AMENITIES & BEDDING
Air Tahiti Nui provides the following amenities to its Business Class passengers:
- A Poerava Business comfort kit, which comes in the form of a beige toiletry bag. It contains not only products made of recyclable materials (cornstarch toothbrush, bamboo fiber sock, organic cotton mask) but also a range of new cosmetic products made in Polynesia (face and hands cream hands and a lip balm) from the brand “Heiva”.
- A decently sized pillow (adorned with beautiful Tahitian motifs)
- A comfortable, warm and luxurious blanket
- Air Tahiti Nui branded noise cancelling headphones, which are of excellent quality
On this flight, a three course lunch (after takeoff) and light dinner (prior to landing) were served. The lunch service started with a welcome drink and a hot towel, followed by an amuse bouche of foie gras, served on a gingerbread toast with candied onions & carrot mousse with cumin. Next the crew came by to take lunch orders (there was a choice of three main courses). I choose the following selection from the menu:
- Land & sea starter: smoked duck breast and mimosa potatoes & fried scallops with turmeric and pineapple carpaccio
- Main course: beef cheek, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, green asparagus, carrots, reduced red wine and balsamic vinegar sauce
- Dessert: apple & caramel tartlet, gianduja & raspberry cream cabbage, chocolate ganache with Tiare flower, seasonal fruit salad
All dishes tasted excellent and the food was beautifully presented. During the flight, ham and cheese sandwiches were served as a snack for those who got hungry again.
Ninety minutes prior to landing, a light dinner was offered:
- Starter: pastrami, baby greens salad, cherry tomatoes, and grapefruit
- Main course: spinach & ricotta ravioli, with tomato & basil sauce, and parmesan shavings
- Dessert: fresh fruit wedges
Each Business Class seat is equipped with an interactive touchscreen which offers superior HD resolution. The inflight entertainment features the latest generation system from Panasonic, and offers a decent (albeit rather limited) selection of entertainment, with 16 movies, 40 music albums, 15 video games and several dedicated TV shows & documentaries channel. A highlight of the inflight entertainment is Tiare TV, a unique channel devoted to the islands of French Polynesia. Among others, Tiara TV features a documentary about The Brando, one of the world’s most exclusive private island resorts and former home of the late actor Marlon Brando.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Air Tahiti Nui offers highspeed Wi-Fi on their 787s. Business Class passengers get a voucher with 10MB of free data, which doesn’t exactly last a long time. After these date are used, one of the following packages can be selected:
- Package MAEVA (10 MB for $9 USD) – Send and receive emails with some small attachments
- Package IAORA (20 MB for $15 USD) – Send and receive emails, limited internet browsing, upload and download a few photos
- Package FENUA (50 MB for $29 USD) – Send and receive emails, browse the internet, upload and download photos
- Package NUI (200 MB for $49 USD) – Send and receive emails, browse the internet, upload and download photos, stream audio content
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: The service on this flight was both attentive and unassuming. The cabin crew did whatever it took to make passengers feel relaxed, comfortable and satisfied. They also changed from sleek city uniforms to elegant and comfortable Tahitian attire shortly after take-off. The crew’s colorful dresses and shirts reflected the charm, beauty and warmth that are typical of the French Polyensian islands.
# LAVATORY: There are three lavatories for the 30 Business Class passengers. One is located behind the cockpit and two are located in the galley between the Business and Premium Economy Class cabin. Calming Tahitian music is played inside the lavatories.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 7/10
- Food (quality): 9/10
- Food (quantity): 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- WiFi: 8/10 (but expensive)
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10
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