My friend A. drops me off at the airport at around 12:00, two hours before my departure to Tahiti. I am rather curious about this next flight. Not just because I am finally on my way to Tahiti, but also because I am going there with Air Tahiti Nui, an airline that, quite frankly, I do not really know anything about.
Location: check-in for Air Tahiti Nui is done by Air New Zealand, who code-shares on this flight
Facilities: only airport check-in available
Counters: there are six counters available for check-in, two of which are for Business Class passengers
I think Auckland Airport has some room for improvement here. The entire process from check-in through immigration and passport control is slightly chaotic. For some reasons I seem to keep bumping into people standing around haphazardly and for no apparent reason.
Location: behind the duty free and retail area, then one floor up
Type of Lounge: QANTAS lounge
Facilities: business centre, showers, hot and cold buffet
Internet: free, passwords available at reception
Air Tahiti Nui uses the QANTAS lounge here in Auckland, which is a bit surprising, given that they code-share with Air New Zealand on this route. The lounge is large and roomy. It is quite busy when I arrive, but then a few QANTAS flights are called and it empties fairly quickly.
Announcements are made in this lounge, which I normally find a bit of a nuisance. But today I shall make an exception. I have not slept that much since yesterday. Actually I have not slept at all. The flight from Perth was simply not long enough and then in Auckland I did not sleep either so I could catch up with my friend A. So in the sum of all things, I think I am rather glad they make calls in this lounge, because I seriously think I may just nod off.
Priority Boarding: there is a separate queue for Business Class passengers, boarding is by rows
There is a bit of a hold up at the gate because of my passport – what else…? Obviously the gate attendant has never seen one of these before. She is very nice about it. She apologizes and explains that she needs to check if I need a visa for Tahiti. I try to tell her that European Union citizens do not need a visa for other EU countries, but she does not seem convinced. Eventually though, she does allow me to board and wishes me a pleasant trip.
Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2
Seat: 30 seats
Pitch: 53 inches
Length as a bed: -
Width: 20.5 inches
Recline: 153 degrees, angled
Facilities: power outlet, reading lamp, overhead lamp
Audio and Video: AVOD, remote controlled
I must say, I am rather pleasantly surprised. I board the aircraft through the L2 door, take the second left and find myself in a bright and colourful cabin. There are five rows of business class seating. The row of seats between the two aisles is not aligned with the seats on the window rows to achieve a bit more privacy. As a result, there is only a row 1 in the middle row. On the window sides the bulkhead is on row 2.
The crew is a mix of men and women of Polynesian decent. They are not exactly gushing in their manner, but they are very accommodating and conscientious in the way they go about their duties. At the door every passenger is greeted with a jasmine blossom. Apparently you are supposed to stick it in your hair, but to be honest, that does look rather camp on a bloke…
Earphones and the vanity kit have already been placed in the seat pocket when I arrive.
Brand: no name, essentially it is a nicely decorated cardboard box
Content: L’Occitane cosmetics, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, ear plugs, socks, eye shades, pen – it seems to be fashionable for the airlines at the moment to include a pen in the vanity kit
Welcome drink on the ground: Tahitian punch
Hot towel before the meal: served on the ground before departure
Pre-meal drink: sparkling water, Tahitian brand
Choice: one starter, three options for the main course
Delivery: tray service
Type of meal: dinner, hot meal
- Bowl of nuts and candied fruit with the drinks
- Poached prawns, salmon roulade with crème fraîche, breast of duck, microgreens, cucumber and onion marmalade
- Mushroom stuffed breast of chicken in a sauce bourguignonne (red wine sauce), penne paste with pesto and tomato
- Selection of fruit
- Ricotta and quince cheesecake
- Selection of cheese (brie, cheddar)
Actually I’m surprised I’m hungry again after I overdosed on sugar at the Takapuna Beach Café in Auckland over breakfast…But where was I? The meal served on this flight is quite substantial and rather nice. The chicken breast has managed to remain surprisingly moist and even the penne have succeeded in escaping the faith of so many other penne that have gone before them into an airliner’s hot air oven and come out again as crisps. These are still chewy!
By the time the meal service is over, we still have another two hours and twenty minutes to go to Tahiti. Time to extend the seat and have a nap.
As we start our descent into Papeete, the crew pass through the cabin distributing mints. Unfortunately it is already dark, so there is not really anything much to see outside.
Papeete has a single runway and there are no taxiways. Landing aircraft are required to backtrack to reach the ramp. The runway must be quite long, because we slow down without having to use the thrust reversers and without any severe braking action. As we make a u turn on the runway I notice that we there still quite a stretch to go before the end of the runway.
The ramp is rather full when we arrive – which does not take much, mind… There are already two other Air Tahiti Nui A 340-300s standing there, in addition to a whole fleet of ATR-72 and little de Havilland Twin Otters. Fortunately there are no airbridges in Papeete, so you have to disembark using the stairs and then have to walk outside the length of the terminal building before you reach arrivals.
There are two queues for immigration – European Union citizens and others. As our flight has arrived from Auckland, there are only a few Europeans around, which makes the process quick and easy. And so this part of the journey ends, I have arrived, I am in Tahiti!
GETTING INTO TOWN
Departs from: Papeete Fa’a airport arrivals
Journey time: 10 minutes
In Papeete I am staying at the Intercontinental Beachcomber. I chose this hotel mainly on the basis of the close proximity to the airport. Tomorrow I continue to my final destination, the halfway point.
This flight felt very different to the previous ones I have taken so far on this journey. Mainly I think because Papeete is clearly more of a leisure destination than a business one. This seriously impacts the composition of the passengers. Whereas the previous flights and airlines clearly cater to the needs of the business traveller, on Air Tahiti there was only one guy in a shirt and tie and he stuck out like a sore thumb.
Even so, I think Air Tahiti Nui has really nothing to be ashamed of and provides a level of service that is in fact quite surprising for an airline of this size.