In summer 2022, I enjoyed an incredible holiday in French Polynesia (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora). Read my trip reports here:
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to Los Angeles
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class (Los Angeles to Papeete)
- Review: The Brando
- Review: InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa
- Review: Air Tahiti ATR 72 Economy Class from Tahiti to Bora Bora (today)
- 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 (Tahiti to Los Angeles)
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class (Los Angeles to Paris)
Today: Air Tahiti ATR 72 Economy Class from Tahiti to Bora Bora
Unless you’re taking a cruise or ferry, the only way to get to Bora Bora is by plane with Air Tahiti, French Polynesia’s only domestic carrier (although a new private start-up airline is expected to launch soon). Air Tahiti covers a network of 47 islands in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, covering an area as big as Western Europe: the closest destination to its hub at Faa’a International Airport is Moorea (7 min flight time) while the furthest is Mangareva (which takes 3 hours 30 minutes to reach). The airline has a fleet of turboprop aircraft: 7 ATR-72, 2 ATR-42, 3 Beechcraft King Air B200 and 2 Twin Otters. Air Tahiti choose ATR aircraft as its workhouse due to limitations at the remote airports of French Polynesia’s many islands (e.g. short runways, lack of night landing lights, and small fuel tanks). Air Tahiti is not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui, French Polynesia’s international flag carrier, which operates flights between Tahiti and Seattle, Los Angeles, Paris, Auckland and Tokyo.
Air Tahiti operates several flights a day between Tahiti and Bora Bora, a journey which takes approximately 50 minutes. In this review:
- Passenger experience at Tahiti Airport + boarding
- Flight from Tahiti to Bora
- Passenger experience at Bora Bora Airport + hotel transfer
PASSENGER EXPERIENCE AT TAHITI + BOARDING
Located on the island of Tahiti, Faa’a International Airport (also known as Tahiti International Airport) is the main getaway to French Polynesia. The airport has a separate check-in area and terminal for domestic and international flights. The domestic terminal is quite basic: there’s only one security check-point, after which you find yourself in a rather unappealing and compact space, featuring some seating areas as well as a small coffee shop with tables and chairs.
Once boarding is announced, passenger have to walk between the terminal and their waiting aircraft since there aren’t any jet bridges at the airport. Air Tahiti operates an open-seating policy, which means that passengers are not allocated a seat at check-in.
FLIGHT FROM TAHITI TO BORA BORA
My flight to Bora Bora was operated by an ATR-72 aircraft with registration number F-ORVA (built in 2015 and named Rereatau). Air Tahiti’s ATR-72 features only one cabin with 68 Economy Class seats arranged in a 2-2 layout. Service during the 50 min flight was limited: a juice is offered shortly after departure (additional items are available for purchase).
Landing at Bora Bora can offer spectacular views, but it’s impossible to predict what side of the plane will offer the best views. In general, the best views are enjoyed from the left side of the plane. But depending on the weather, another approach to the airport might be followed by the pilots, resulting in the best views to be enjoyed from the plane’s right side (which was the case during my flight). I would advise to ask the cabin crew at the beginning of the flight which side of the plane will offer the best views during landing and switch seats if possible.
PASSENGER EXPERIENCE AT BORA BORA AIRPORT + HOTEL TRANSFER
Bora Bora has a very small airport: There’s just one tiny terminal, used for both arriving and departing flights, and there’s no security check-point (which I found rather odd). Most hotels have a desk with staff at the airport, welcoming guests and guiding them to the boat dock.
The transfer from the airport to the resorts is done by boat (varying from 10 minutes to 30 minutes). Cold towels, iced water and floral necklaces are provided during the short trip. The views along the way are stunning: Bora Bora’s crystal-clear lagoon is colored in a million shades of blue with at its center the iconic Mount Otemanu, (2,385 ft or 727 m), believed to be the birthplace of the Polynesian islands in local mythology.