AIR TAHITI NUI Flight Information:
KTN102 27MAR29OCT 0004007 294343 AKLAKL1415 2110-1PPTPPT J
10.2 years old, delivered to Air Tahiti Nui in 2002
This flight continues to Los Angeles
AUCKLAND TO PAPEETE
Welcome to Air Tahiti Nui
Turning right I initially pass through the First Class cabin where only one person had occupied. The ambience there on first glimpse is quite laid back and -from where I'm at today- on a level far beyond my reach. However, the six-seater secluded cabin is, as we all know, one of the most unique offerings in today's aviation.
Passing through the Business Class cabin it was a slightly different story. An elite 'members-only' club had formed which seemed to no longer accept any additional applications. The cabin was fully boarded, and everyone had already established their respective cliques while sipping their snobbish welcome drinks and hence, a passing passenger like myself was more or less the equivalent of a fly trying to find its way out of the aircraft. Needless to say, no one cared who else was still boarding because they knew damn well they were not going to deal with them.
Arriving at my cabin -lowly Moana in Economy- it was quite the opposite experience. Though I was one of the very last to board this ultra-packed cabin, all eyes were still on this new 'object' that just strolled in. Where's it going to sit? What the hell is it anyways?
Today's flight was almost at 100% and today's flavor was 100% holiday-goers from all angles. Tahitian families returning or visiting home, smooching newly-wed couples basking in their -probably- millionth post-wedding afterglow, Aussies/Kiwis fresh off the codeshares, a few Americans headed to LAX
, and me.
At my seat at 18A, my seatmate had already occupied his B-side and was already dozing off whilst waiting to reach his final destination. I felt bad, but I had to gently wake him up, in which after a few sighs and pouts, he got up to let me in. Seriously now, what's with the attitude? At least that set the tone for me to keep my interaction with him to a bare minimum.
I had second thoughts in regards to comfort once I discovered how cramped the cabin looked. But once seated, I was pleasantly surprised that my personal space in Economy Class Moana was quite generous. Seat pitch -though reported to be at 32 inches- seemed plenty to maintain this comfort level even when the seat in front of me was reclined. Moreover, the seat itself was adequately padded and I had absolutely no issue making this my home for the duration of this flight. In fact, if this is the standard comfort level on Air Tahiti Nui, then I am sure I will have no issues on the ultra-long hop to Paris in a few days time!
On my seat were a freshly sealed blue blanket and a white pillow, neatly placed over the seatbelts. Across from me, the usual in-flight literature consisting of the airline's magazine, IFE guide, duty-free booklet, safety card, and barf bag, were placed in the seat pocket in front of me. One thing that I do not remember however, is whether there was an IFE box that obstructed my leg space. But I am inclined to state that there wasn't one, because I still hold a fresh memory of how comfortable my seating arrangement was.
Whilst we waited to depart, the cabin crew passed around with an offer for newspapers, before our captain made an announcement to welcome us on board, and to inform us that we were ready to depart only after the last passengers board. He also advised us of our routing to Papeete, and that our flight time this afternoon was to be 4 hours and 20 minutes.
We're all ready to go
The last passenger -only one more after me- had finally boarded and the doors had presumably closed after he trickled in. And at 2:30pm, we commenced our departure when we pushed back onto the apron.
The cabin crew was signaled to take their positions for the safety demonstration, which on Air Tahiti Nui is the good old fashioned manual way. As this was being done, I could hear each of the four hair dryer engines on this A340-300 spool up in a very high-pitched tone. Never heard that before, but perhaps because I haven't sat this close to these engines until today.
As we taxied across the airfield to the active runway, I tried to find Nicholas out the window as he was still around the vicinity spotting. While I couldn't exactly spot him, he spotted me for sure.
I am inside this bird!
At 2:45pm, we thundered down the runway in what was expected to be the usual drag until liftoff. The A340 may have many as such flaws, but it's these little imperfections that make it ever so charming. And hence, we now commence our journey deep into the core of my RTW, and towards French Polynesia.
Seconds after liftoff, a service announcement was made by crew to inform us that we will be served a hot meal with drinks, and that duty free and IFE will be available throughout the flight. Shortly afterwards -well not too shortly afterwards as this is an A340- we reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt sign was switched off.
Service commenced with the distribution of amenity kits and menus. Menus seem to be a crucial element in French service -and that is always to my advantage- however, I was pleasantly surprised to see amenity kits handed out for this short mostly-daytime flight.
I never open my amenity kits -and I never unwrap the plastic off them either- but apart from the usual contents, they also contained a pair of headsets that are yours to keep.
Amenity kit & menu
Meal service for today's flight
Most of the cabin crew in Economy Class were male, and most of the female crew operating today's flight -seemingly the minority in ratio- were working the premium cabins. Air Tahiti Nui's cabin crew wear a typical professional airline uniform whilst on the ground however, once the seatbelt sign goes off after takeoff, everyone changes into something a little more relaxed and cultural. The males wear a loose short-sleeve button shirt decorated with Tiare flower patterns, while the females turn into a similarly patterned -and very colorful- dress wrapped along their figures until it loosens just below their knees.
As the crew were busy changing and preparing for the meal service, I continued to explore what in-flight amenities were available in my seat pocket.
Inflight magazine and safety card
IFE guide and duty free booklet
Soon enough, the meal trolleys were rolled out and two male crew operating both aisles conducted the meal service. Both seemed friendly and courteous with every passenger.
"What you like? we have the lamb or the fish?"
"I'll take the lamb please"
"And to drink?"
"May I have a bloody mary please?"
"With vodka or just the mix?"
"With vodka please"
The very courteous crew handed me my meal tray which was very neatly arranged with all the necessary items including the starter plate of salad and prawns, a bread roll, my lamb main course, cheese & crackers, éclair for dessert, coffee cup, water cup, plastic-ware, and the usual condiments such as butter, salt, and pepper.
“May I offer you some water monsieur?”
“Sure. And would you like anything else to drink? Maybe some juice?”
“No thanks I am fine”
The salad was cold and fresh, and the prawns were not fishy which is great. The main course wasn't the best however. The mashed potatoes and the veggies were warm and homey however, the lamb had a slight aftertaste to it, which I did not like. The mint ragout that came with the lamb was perfect however it did not do very well with that aftertaste. I am quite hesitant about having lamb on a plane and this is one of the reasons why. But overall the meal wasn't bad and it went down pretty well with the Bloody Mary.
However, being an airline with French origins, I will naturally apply a higher weighting to the overall meal with my judgment on the dessert. If the dessert sucked, then the meal can be written off. But the éclairs were heavenly and the creamy filling was absolute madness!
During the meal service, I powered on the route map
The service so far was quick, smooth, and efficient. After the first round, the trolley was returned to the beginning of the aisle to serve those that were initially asleep, and to also offer any seconds on the beverages to others that requested. Everyone –at least on my side of the aisle- was served with a smile and with gentle care. It was almost the kind of software one could expect in an upper cabin, and I was so far quite impressed.
During the meal service
Coffee, tea, and water were offered towards the end of the meal service –in which I declined- before the trays were collected.
At this stage during the flight, the vibe had neutralized as normally expected. The cabin crew was busy with post-service galley stowage and the passengers zoned out to the dimming lighting conditions both inside and outside the cabin. Playing cards, sleeping, watching IFE, and simply chitchatting were some of the activities scattered in between the dots of brightly lit reading lights across the cabin. Eventually the cabin was fully dark, as we ventured deeper into the night. I gradually fell asleep for most of the remaining flight time. I figured I had a longer flight to explore more of Air Tahiti Nui, so why not kick back and chill for now.
Cabin lights dimmed
I awoke several hours later from what seemed to be quite the comfortable sleep. Whilst on a plane, my body has this strange habit of self-jerking itself awake only moments before falling into REM mode. Not sure why, but it has startled those seated next to me before. And of course, the more uncomfortable the sleeping position is, the more jerking there will be. In spite of this however, this odd behavior happened only a couple of times, which I assume meant I was quite content with the comfort levels on tonight’s flight.
But before getting there, a visit to the lavatory was required
At 8:25pm local time in Tahiti, this A340’s nose took a slight dip into lower altitudes; the first signal that we had passed top of descent. The crew made an announcement to this effect, and then arrival preparations commenced. This included last-calls to the lavatories, shuffling through carry-ons from the overhead lockers, final drink requests at the galleys, and the sounds of crew thumping and stumping in preparation for landing. And at 8:40pm, the seatbelt sign was switched on.
Cabin before landing
The cabin crew handed out boiled candy from a basket, and conducted their final checks before taking their seats for landing.
Our approach into Papeete was in absolute darkness, and not a single light was illuminated along the way. While it had a subtle sense of eeriness to it, I was yet ever so intrigued by this sensation. It was like a feeling of flying into infinity.
But back in reality, we touched down at 8:55pm and arrived FAA’A International Airport in Papeete some 15 minutes ahead of schedule and, a day earlier
than four hours ago at Auckland. It was a mere crossing of an imaginary date line along the way that simply –for my first time ever- turned me back one day earlier. This also fast-tracked me into severe jetlag that messed my entire mental moving forward.
Back on earth, and back into taxi speed, we backtracked on the runway in pure island-airport fashion and made our short hop to the parking stand. Naturally, this airport is fully aerobridge-free and exercises full walk-up apron facilities. During our taxi, announcements were made in both Reo Tahiti and English. It was my first time hearing this language, and it very much sounded like another ‘Bahasa’ from South East Asia. The arrival announcements ended just as we powered out and began frolicking to get out.
Ready to get out
A definite advantage of airports at tourist-heavy destinations is the ease of pointless restrictions on taking photos whilst on the tarmac. It is definitely no different here in Tahiti as I was able to freely take pictures of the aircraft and of the surrounding infrastructure.
At FAA’A, the arrival path from the aircraft to the terminal reminded me very much of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal at Kuala Lumpur. A simple outdoor stroll through metallic low-rise structures of minimal design, all with a nice surrounding view.
On arrival at Papeete
On the way to the terminal
Arriving the terminal building
There was a long queue to get to immigration, but entertainment was provided during the wait by a band strumming melodic island tunes. Most of the airport is on an outdoor setting with the outside air and a few fans serving as the air conditioning. It may not pass successfully in some climates, but the weather around here was –whilst on the humid side- cool and crisp, you’d hate to be indoors anyways.
After immigration and customs –more or less a simple affair- I was landside and eventually on my way to the hotel.
The next portion of my TR
will show you some of Tahiti and her islands.
Fly Roni. Aviation Journeys. Photos. Videos.