Following a 24-hour strike delay, we finally prepared to head home from Tahiti. Though originally not booked until Friday, Air Tahiti found us 3 seats to head home Thursday instead. Air Tahiti Nui B787-9 Business Class definitely isn’t the most updated product around. But it’s perfectly acceptable given the prevalence of couples and families on this route.
I redeemed 60,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles plus $86.57 in taxes/fees for each ticket for this flight. Unfortunately, Mileage Plan levies a junk fee of $37.50 for partner award bookings, though even with that, 3 Business Class tickets made for a nice find.
Air Tahiti Nui (TN) Flight 8
- Thursday, July 6, 2023
- Depart: Papeete – Faa’a International Airport (PPT), Terminal 1, 23:48, 3m late
- Arrive: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Terminal B, Midfield Satellite Concourse North, 10:32 (+1), 3m early
- Duration: 7 hours 44 minutes
- Seats: 5E, 5K, 5L
- Equipment: Boeing 787-9
Check-In and Boarding
I girded myself for trouble, what with rebooked award tickets issued by Mileage Plan and all. And indeed, when we arrived at the airport 15 minutes before check-in opened at 8:15, the line already stretched all the way down the hall.
Fortunately, the line for Business Class took no time at all. We made it through check-in in less than 10 minutes, then had to wait until passport control re-opened. (They close passport control after United check-in closes, then it reopens three hours prior to Air Tahiti’s departure.) That took about 15 minutes, and we headed to the (underwhelming) lounge to await our flight. Boarding began about 10 minutes late – but thankfully, it did indeed commence. We had our ride home!
Air Tahiti Nui boards at remote stands. At PPT, that means a walk across the ramp area to the air stairs. Once up to the top, the Business Class flight attendant directed us to our seats at the back of the cabin.
Air Tahiti Nui B787-9 Business Class – Seating and Interior
Air Tahiti’s “Poerava” Business Class consists of five rows of Collins Diamond Parallel seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats measure 20″ wide, and fold fully flat to make a 78″ bed. This certainly isn’t the most cutting-edge product, with no direct aisle access from all seats. However, given the target market for these flights (largely couples and families traveling for leisure), the layout makes sense. The reverse herringbone seat where you can’t talk to your significant other isn’t ideal for a honeymoon, after all. The aqua blue seat finishes and Polynesian pillow design provided the island feel you’d expect. The Dreamliner’s mood lighting also contributed to the relaxing vibe aboard.
If traveling solo, I recommend selecting a middle seat, which provide direct access to the aisle. This also avoids having your neighbor in the window seat crawl over you when getting out.
Seat controls are fairly simple, and are found on the armrest.
The seats are well-padded, and I found them quite comfortable for sitting and relaxing. So did my son. In fact, now that he’s enjoyed a taste of the good life, he gives me a hard time when we fly coach…
As mentioned earlier, the seat does extend fully flat in bed mode.
The blanket doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually pretty warm and snugly. My son fell asleep pretty quickly, and certainly enjoyed the flat bed.
I found the seat comfortable for sleeping, BUT there’s one issue. The footwell is very narrow. Even as a smallish person, I found the footwell rather constricting. So if you’re taller, keep this in mind, especially if you aren’t a natural side sleeper. Nevertheless, I slept soundly for nearly 5 1/2 hours.
Ashok also woke up feeling refreshed.
Waiting at each seat was a beige amenity kit, as seen in the first few photos of the seats. I apparently failed to bring the kits with me, so I don’t have pictures of the contents. However, they contain “Heiva” brand cosmetics from Polynesia, including lip balm, face cream, and hand cream. The kit also includes a tootbrush, socks, and eye mask. The most unique item? A lens wipe, something I haven’t seen in any other kit. But most welcome as someone who wears glasses.
Also waiting in each seat pocket at the side of the seat was a bottle of water for the flight.
Storage is fairly limited in these seats, with just a small shelf next to the headrest.
The tray table, meanwhile, is quite oversized. Honestly, the faux wood trim seems a bit out of place compared to the rest of the island design. US Airways called, and it wants its A330s back.
Overall, while hardly a modern Business Class product, it’s fine given the typical user of these seats. Traveling with my family, I appreciated the ability to actually chat with my son. Privacy just wasn’t the priority for this trip.
Air Tahiti Nui B787-9 Business Class – In-Flight Entertainment
Poerava Business Class seats feature 16-inch TV screens with remarkably good resolution.
Power options include 110v and USB outlets on the front of the center console.
An additional USB port is located to the side of the IFE screen. The one complaint I have about this location? You need a long cable for your phone to reach the center console. I found this more useful to plug in the phone while sleeping, while storing it on the counter below the IFE screen.
Air Tahiti also provides noise-cancelling headphones to Business Class passengers. These actually aren’t bad at all; while not quite top-end, they do provide a nice surround sound effect with the IFE system.
You can control the IFE screen either via a touch screen, or a separate IFE controller. Like many modern systems, you can watch two different programs on both the screen and controller. So naturally, I set the controller to display the moving map while I watched TV.
If you didn’t bring any entertainment with you, beware, the selection isn’t exactly stellar. There’s a rather limited variety of TV shows and movies, though at least a good number of these are Polynesian-themed. I watched a couple of episodes of The Explorers documentaries about French Polynesia. Perhaps more appropriate for the trip over, but enjoyable nonetheless.
There is also a selection of on-demand music, and a few video and trivia games. The music selection includes several Tahitian favorites if you want to get that island vibe going.
Interestingly, though the TV and movie selection is a bit lacking, there’s a ton of digital books and magazines to choose from.
Air Tahiti’s 789s do come equipped with WiFi. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately if you’re in full disconnect mode), it’s obscenely expensive, and most packages are data-based. Business Class passengers technically receive a coupon for “free” WiFi, but it’s only 10 MB of usage. That might last a few minutes at best, or let you send a few text messages. Other packages with data caps range from $8-38, or you can buy an unlimited pass for $68. No thanks at those prices. (I slept most of the flight, anyway, so not like I missed much.)
These flights generally don’t cater to business travelers, but if you need to work, expect to pay, a lot.
Air Tahiti Nui B787-9 Business Class – Food, Beverage & Service
Service began on the ground with a choice of pre-departure beverage. In this case, you could choose from water, champagne, or a mai tai. I went with the mai tai, of course. For those interested in the champagne, Air Tahiti Nui serves Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. That’s a pretty good quality champagne, which typically retails for $60-75 a bottle.
No, the irony of wearing an Arctic Circle t-shirt in the South Pacific wasn’t lost on me.
Shortly thereafter, the FAs handed out menus. Meal service included a cold light meal (single choice) after takeoff, and a choice of omelette or pain perdu for breakfast before landing.
Air Tahiti Nui has a pretty extensive French wine list on offer. All of these are moderately priced (generally $20-40 a bottle), and look like pretty solid selections based on reviews.
To view the remainder of the beverage menu, you’ll need to go through the IFE system. There are a couple of interesting choices, including a chartreuse and a pastis de Marseille.
I found meal service surprisingly slow to start, given this was a short-ish nighttime redeye. About 40 minutes after take-off, the FAs brought the light meal. This included a tuna tataki, tomato chutney, and what the menu described as “eggplant caviar maki”.
I usually prefer hot meals to cold. This one, though, I found decent for the situation, where something quick helps everyone get to sleep sooner. The tuna had good flavors, and I found the tomato chutney fresh and refreshing. Meanwhile, the eggplant certainly tasted fine, but it definitely wasn’t typical ikra. The texture felt more like a cake than a spread. But in any event, I found the main course tasty, if on the small side (though fine for a midnight snack). Ironically, my least favorite item was the cake; too much lemon made the flavor far too strong.
To drink, I ordered a glass of the rosé. I don’t usually drink rosé, but the FA suggested it, so I went with it.
It’s quite acidic, but pairs well with the tuna. Not a bad rosé, as it avoids the harsh herbal undertones I often get with these.
Although service started slowly, it proceeded efficiently, with everything cleared away about 35 minutes after serving. Both my son and I slept right through breakfast, not waking up until about 40 minutes before landing. Thus, I can’t comment on the breakfast sservice.
Due to the cabin crew strike, the email I recceived from Air Tahiti suggested crews might provide reduced service levels on board. I didn’t notice anything obviously missing, aside from dinner getting started a little late. Overall, I found service fine, but not particularly memorable. The FA serving our side of the cabin was friendly and efficient, but not particularly proactive. And as is too often the case, when I slept through breakfast, I found it impossible to even get a cup of coffee. (Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic notably proactively offered something after noticing me wake up. But I find that the exception rather than the rule.)
With a nearly midnight departure, there wasn’t anything to see as we left. Too bad, really, because the view arriving or departing Tahiti is pretty awesome. We did get to enjoy some last-minute views as landing approached in Los Angeles, though. Our flight path initially brought us in from the south over the OC, with a smoggy view of the Orange County mountains to the east.
Then, we hung a quick left turn to take us parallel to the San Bernardino Mountains to the north.
And then my favorite part of landing at LAX, the view of the LA skyline, even with the smog.
Another really cool thing on this approach – another plane coming in on the parallel runway, with the skyline still in the background.
We had a very short taxi to TBIT that morning, but still passed some interesting planes on the way to the gate. First up, a Qatar Airways A350-1000.
There was quite a tail parade on the west side of TBIT that morning.
First in line was quite the find, an Air Premia Boeing 787-9. Air Premia is a Korean “hybrid service carrier”, which provides a service level between low-cost and full-service carriers. Looks like I need to plan another Asian boondoggle to check these guys out…
Next to that, another exotic find, a Zipair Boeing 787-8.
And for you Airbus lovers, there were not one but two A380s visiting that morning, one from Asiana, and another from Korean Air.
A couple of minutes later, we reached our gate at the new Satellite Midfield Concourse north. The main drawback to getting a gate there – it’s a looooong walk back to immigration and customs.
Air Tahiti Nui B787-9 Business Class – Final Thoughts
This isn’t the most cutting-edge Business Class product. But for a leisure heavy route, I found Air Tahiti’s premium product decent enough to reach the islands. It provides a comfortable bed, along with decent service and food and beverage. It’s even better if you can find seats at 60,000 miles each way, even with Alaska’s junk booking fee.