A few months ago I took a trip to French Polynesia flying Air Tahiti Nui between Auckland and Papeete in both directions. I booked the flights using AAdvantage miles for 30k per direction which also included the Qantas flights between Sydney and Auckland. Thankfully, this particular award has remained the same since the changes to AA’s award chart came into effect in March. I purchased the miles needed for this trip during a promotion similar to the one that is currently going until the first of June. To purchase enough miles for this award now would cost US$1266.79. The taxes might be another $100 or so.
As with many of AA’s partner airlines, availability for Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t show up on the AAdvantage website. What makes it even a little more challenging to find award space for them is that they aren’t a partner of QF or BA, so you can’t use those websites to check for seats either. Luckily for me, having access to a GDS makes it reasonably straight forward but otherwise you’ll likely need to call AAdvantage and ask the agent to find you some seats. If you do have access to a GDS or a service such as Expert Flyer, you’re looking for (I) class.
Even though AAdvantage doesn’t allow stopovers on award tickets, I was able to spend a night in Auckland on the way over as the stay was under twenty-four hours and thus considered a transit.
Air Tahiti Nui business class product
Air Tahiti Nui currently operate a fleet of five A340s, some of which have been fitted with their new business class cabin and some which still have the older one. It’s pretty straight forward to find out which planes have the new fitout and which don’t and then check out where they all are online, however I found this to be pretty pointless as they all seem to fly a pretty random chain of routes. You really won’t know which plane you’re on until you’re on your way to the airport.
On my flight from Auckland to Papeete I got the old business class cabin and on the way back I got the new one. This year, Air Tahiti Nui should be receiving it’s new fleet of 787s though, so both cabins are about to be obsolete. I imagine that’s why they didn’t go to the expense of refitting the remainder of their A340s. The planes with the older interiors still have a first class cabin which is one row of four seats. As you might expect, this is row 1. As they don’t have a first class cabin on the refit planes, they don’t actually sell first class tickets, so getting one of these seats is a pretty sweet deal. On the refit planes however, row 1 only has a middle section and the window seats don’t start until row 2. The two seats in row 1 are easily the least desirable seats in the business class cabin on these planes as they are sort of curtained-in. Due to this, TN don’t allow you to reserve row 1 beforehand on any of their flights. It’s definitely worth getting to the airport a bit early if you believe it’s an older configuration and trying to jag seats in the first row.
I wasn’t lucky enough to get these seats and I have to admit to being pretty disappointed when I found out we’d be flying on the older configuration. This disappointment was pretty quickly forgotten once I was onboard with a flower behind my ear and a glass of rose in my hand though! The FA’s on TN are super smiley and friendly and they serve Lanson rose, which I find delicious!
The seat in the old configuration reclines to pretty close to angled flat as well which I wasn’t expecting. The only thing that was a bit strange is that if the row behind you aren’t reclining the whole way back it seems as though you’re reclining into their lap, however I’m not entirely sure if this is actually the case. We were in row two with no-one in front of us and I didn’t get up to have a proper look at the leg room available to the row behind us. I wasn’t in the mood for sleeping though, so I just kept my seat semi-reclined and drank a bunch of champagne.
Obviously, being on our way to French Polynesia, we were all sorts of excited so it’s a little hard to be completely objective about the flight but I really enjoyed it and thought the service was fantastic. Sure, the seat was a little dated but it was perfectly comfortable. The food wasn’t anything amazing either but it was pretty tasty.
(the newer Air Tahiti Nui business class cabin. Photo from their website.)
The return flight from Papeete to Auckland was on the newer business class. It’s definitely a big step up from the older product. The seat was far more comfortable with more recline, going flat albeit at a slight angle. The seats also have shells so you don’t feel like you’re reclining into anyone’s lap. The IFE was much more modern as well.
(Photo from the Air Tahiti Nui website)
In Sydney we were able to access the Qantas business class lounge. We also had access to the Qantas business class lounge in Auckland in both directions which I actually prefer to the one in Sydney. It’s very similar in terms of food and drink offerings but on the few occasions I’ve visited it I’ve found it to be far less busy and hence a more relaxing place to pass a couple of hours. It’s also not too far from the small outdoor smoking area which may be handy if you’re so inclined!
As I said earlier, it’s pretty much impossible to be completely objective when it comes to reviewing a flight that’s taking you towards Bora Bora. So I’m not going to be! It was awesome!!!
Would I go out of my way to fly with them again? YES! Because that would mean I was going back to French Polynesia!