Orlando (MCO) - Los Angeles (LAX) on United Airlines
Los Angeles (LAX) - Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) on Air Tahiti Nui
First, let me start out by saying that I love this web site. I’ve been a huge aviation fan since before anyone knew who Airbus was. In fact, I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering, but am not currently designing planes. This is my first trip report, so sorry if it sucks. Constructive criticism welcomed.
My wife and I took a cruise on the Paul Gauguin around Tahiti and her islands. Radisson cruise lines use Air Tahiti Nui as their primary carrier. We requested United flights to and from LAX since it had the best flight schedules for us.
MCO – LAX
Friday, May 10, 2002
United flt 273
5:35 pm – 7:42 pm
We boarded the United 757 at gate 44 concourse B, with no problem. We were seated in 21 D and F. (3-3 configuration). No one was in E. My wife and I usually book window and aisle when it is 3 across. That way, we usually get no one in between, and if we do, they never have any problem with taking the aisle or window seat so that we can sit together. Most people call to request window or isle, so they fill up quickest.
Once on board, we taxied out to the runway (don’t have the number, but we took of to the South). There was an An-124 at the far end of the field and I got a great view of it. We lifted off and turned toward the West. From our seats on the right (starboard) side of the plane, I could see Sea World. The flight was great. Really smooth nearly all the way, with about 10 minutes of turbulence around Abilene. I wished they had cheap internet service so that I could have tracked the flight, but I did pretty good using MS Streets and looking for major highways. The pilot came on every so often and gave us a major city that we were flying over, which helped.
The United seats had the fold out wings on the headrests, and they seemed to recline more than most. This was my first time with United in over 10 years. About an hour into the flight, we were served a beverage and pretzels, and about 20 minutes later came the dinner, which was beef or chicken. I was impressed with the quality. It was really good. My last several flights have been either short or on Southwest, so it was nice just to have a hot meal served.
After dinner, the movie The Majestic started. Where we were seated, it was a little difficult to see the movie. I could not see at all from the window seat and moved to the middle seat. This plane had the monitors on the ceiling every few rows – no seatback LCDs.
We touched down early at approx. 7:18pm. The LA airport sucks. I’ve only flown into LAX 4 times, and every one of those trips I cursed the airport layout. (As a side note, one time was the day that the Unibomber had threatened to bomb the airport – 1995 or 1997? – and so security was tight that day which made traveling miserable.
It was not clear which baggage claim we should go to. We arrived at concourse 6, but had to get our bags at concourse 7. We stayed overnight at the airport Hilton and I requested a view of the airport where I got to watch tons of night landings. Saturday morning I woke early to watch more planes from my hotel window. If my wife were not along on this trip, I’d have been at the airport about 6:00 am watching planes. We left for the airport around 9:30 am for our 1:00 pm departure on Air Tahiti Nui.
LAX - PPT
Saturday, May 11, 2002
Air Tahiti Nui Flt 001
1:00 pm – 6:35 pm
F-OJTN – Bora Bora
This is the second time I’ve flown to Tahiti. The first time was back in 1994 on Air France, which has to be THE worst flight in my life. Back then, there was a smoking section in the first and coach classes and the old 747 was terrible at filtering the air. My wife and I were not smokers, and the French do like their cigarettes. In fact, they did not have enough smoking seats reserved on the plane for all the smokers, and many people got out of their seats to have a smoke in the aisle in the smoking section. The seats were terribly old and uncomfortable. We boarded the plane in LA, after it had just arrived from Paris, and the smoke accumulated to the point where I thought there was a fire on board.
Checking in at the Tahiti Air Nui counter located in the Bradley International Terminal in LAX was a test of patience. Evidently, their computers were going down quite a bit. Finally, we were checked in and passed through security with no wait. It was eerie how quiet the terminal was. We started to board about 12:15 for the 1:00 pm departure. Boarding was smooth and quick, even though we had to show passports two more times.
The seats, (25 A&B for us) seemed a bit smaller in width and definitely in pitch compared with the United 757 flight. On the United I could easily place my Dell Inspiron notebook on my lap, but on this plane it was very difficult – actually, impossible when the person in front put their seat back. Seat layout in this plane was 2-4-2 in coach.
The flight attendants were all very friendly. The first thing I noticed was how warm it was in the cabin, and that there were no individual a/c controls. However, in the way of entertainment, there are large seatback video monitors for each seat. The removable remote control was intimidating to older people and those not tech savvy. It was a combination remote, phone and game controller. The flight attendants spent a lot of time explaining how the remotes worked to several individuals. On one channel it showed the flight status – location shown on a map, distance to destination, altitude, ground speed, etc. You had to select either audio mode or video mode, so you could not watch the flight progress and listen to music at the same time. However, there are larger monitors on the bulkheads which show flight status all the time – but we were seated too far away to see clearly. It stated in the pocket guide that only first class got to choose from a list of movies and that in coach, we just had to watch what was playing. However, for some reason, we were allowed to pick from several different movies.
We took off toward the West and made a gradual turn to the SW / SSW. The plane was quieter than the United flight the day before, and being the first A340 plane I’ve been on, I was not ready for the slow take off speed. Anyone know what Vlof is for this plane? Maybe it just seemed to have slower acceleration and lift off speed due to the lower engine noise.
Our flight level was 340 / 360 and ground speed averaged 520 knots
We touched down in Papeete a little early and disembarked via stairway to the tarmac. We walked by the new Air Tahiti Nui A340, the Mangareva. There was another Air Tahiti Nui A340 parked on the other side of the tarmac, but not close enough that I could read any markings.
On a side note, I used a pair of noise canceling headphones for the first time on a flight. These were a cheap pair of Maxells that use the Noisebuster technology. They only cost me $20 on buy.com. They are small, fold up for travel, come with airplane adaptor for those planes with separate jack for left and right channel, (the ATN A340), and are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I’ve tried the Bose at a factory outlet store and was impressed, but at 15x the price, they can keep them. They only cancel the low rumbling noise and not wind noise, higher frequency engine noise, voices, screaming babies, etc. What they do is let you watch the movie or listen to the music with the volume set lower. This is great when watching DVDs on laptops, which are notorious for having low volume levels when playing DVDs. Or, just by themselves, they lower the overall noise level in the plane around 50%. This may not seem like a lot, especially if you are expecting them to give you total quiet, but on an 8 hour flight, it significantly reduced noise fatigue.
PPT - LAX
Saturday, May 18, 2002
Air Tahiti Nui Flt 002
10:45 pm – 10:00 am +1
I don’t have much of a report since I slept nearly the entire flight. We were in seats 19 K & L. The main interior differences between this plane and the Bora Bora is that the Mangareva had light blue interior cloth seats instead of the red, and there were retractable foot rests in coach. If I had to guess, I’d say the seat pitch was slightly better. The widths were the same and laid out in the 2-4-2 configuration.
Flight level 390 with ground speed around 600 knots.
LAX – MCO
Sunday, May 19, 2002
United Airlines Flt 286
1:25 pm – 9:03 pm
Again, not much to report since I was in no mood for taking note of details, my vacation was now over and I did not even have a window seat. This flight was nearly booked solid and we did not have a seat empty between us like the MCO-LAX flight. We had to wait about 30 minutes for some people from a connecting flight and then we were airborne. I admit I am prejudiced to Boeing planes, and I’ll take a 757 over an A320 any day. The plane did have the LCD monitors that came down above the rows every few seats and that was better than the monitors above the aisle like in the 57.
Overall, flying Air Tahiti Nui was fantastic and I’d definitely fly them to Tahiti again – especially before I’d get on another Air France flight.
If anyone is interested, I have the in flight menus from both Air Tahiti Nui flights. Just contact me and I’ll send you a scan or description.