Review: Air Tahiti Nui Business Class 787-9 Los Angeles To Papeete

Filed Under: Air Tahiti Nui

We were connecting same day from American Airlines, and unfortunately our flight was delayed significantly. As a result, we sprinted to Tom Bradley International Terminal to make our flight (or so we thought at the time).

As we were running towards TBIT I received a phone call, and when I picked up I found that it was the Air Tahiti Nui gate agent asking if we were going to make the flight. I’m impressed she reached out, and she said we didn’t have to rush now that they knew we’d make it. Kudos to her for being so proactive.

Obviously we didn’t have time to use the lounge, though for what it’s worth Air Tahiti Nui uses the Los Angeles International Lounge, which I’ve reviewed before.

While I’d consider TBIT as such to be one of the nicest terminals in the US, our flight was leaving from gate 140, which might as well be a different terminal altogether. There are a bunch of gates in this area, and at best it can be described as a bus depot, as all flights from this area depart from remote stands.

This whole setup is just so poorly organized, because so many flights leave from this area around the same time, and there’s just no room to even move around, as the lines for the gate span the entire terminal area.

Fortunately we arrived at our gate at 10:20PM, literally the same minute they started boarding (for what it’s worth, our boarding passes indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 9:55PM).

We got on one of the buses, and about 15 minutes later were at the plane. For once the bus ride was actually sort of enjoyable, as we could catch our breath and stop sweating from our long run.

Air Tahiti Nui 101
Los Angeles (LAX) – Papeete (PPT)
Tuesday, December 4
Depart: 10:55PM
Arrive: 5:05AM (+1 day)
Duration: 8hr10min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 4B (Business Class)

We boarded through the second set of doors, and turned left into the business class cabin of this brand new 787-9. Ah, you’ve gotta love the new plane smell!

Air Tahiti Nui’s 787s have a total of 30 business class seats, spread across five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration (this takes up the entire space between doors one and two).

Air Tahiti Nui 787 business class cabin

Air Tahiti Nui 787 business class cabin

Air Tahiti Nui chose B/E Aerospace Diamond seats in business class, which are fully flat seats that are at a slight angle to the aisle. They efficiently make use of space because they have footwells that are underneath the seats in front.

If traveling alone many may prefer the center seats, since both passengers have direct aisle access.

Air Tahiti Nui business class seats 787

However, we instead opted for an aisle and window seat, 4A & 4B. I guess I didn’t put much thought into those seat assignments, because go figure row four is the one row with a missing window (so I’d recommend any row except for that).

Air Tahiti Nui business class seats 787

These seats aren’t exactly cutting edge, though Tahiti is mostly a leisure destination, so I suspect it’s quite intentional that they chose a configuration where you can sit next to a seatmate. This also isn’t a terribly efficient configuration — other airlines can fit the same number of reverse herringbone seats in this space.

One thing is for sure — these seats represent a massive upgrade over Air Tahiti Nui’s old A340 business class, which featured angled seats.

Anyway, I loved the seat finishes, and how nicely the bedding and other amenities complemented them.

Air Tahiti Nui business class seats 787

The one downside of these seats over other fully flat forward facing seats is that the footwell when in bed mode is fairly small, since you’re essentially putting your feet in a cubby underneath the seats in front. I don’t mind that too much since I sleep at an angle with my knees bent, but others may find that to be more bothersome.

Air Tahiti Nui business class seats 787

Each seat has a small storage compartment to the back of the seat and to the side, which is also where the headphone jack is located, as well as a bottle of water.

Air Tahiti Nui business class seat storage

Above the footwell there’s also a rack where you can place things during the flight, though just be aware those things can easily fall out.

Air Tahiti Nui business class seat footwell

The seat controls were located on the center armrest between seats.

Air Tahiti Nui business class seat controls

The tray table folded out from the center armrest, and could be folded in half.

Air Tahiti Nui business class tray table

Underneath the center console were power outlets, with both 110v and USB outlets.

Air Tahiti Nui business class power outlets

Also to the sides of the center console were the entertainment controllers.

Air Tahiti Nui business class entertainment controls

My one major complaint about the Air Tahiti Nui 787 is that they don’t have individual air nozzles at each seat, which is a feature I value.

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding was a pillow and blanket. I liked the thickness of the pillow, and the blanket was massive. It was almost too big and warm, given the lack of air nozzles.

Air Tahiti Nui business class pillow & blanket

Also waiting at my seat upon boarding was a very well stocked amenity kit.

Air Tahiti Nui business class amenity kit

Then there were headphones, which were pretty decent quality.

Air Tahiti Nui business class headphones

About 10 minutes after settling in we were offered pre-departure drinks. The only drinks on offer were champagne, which worked perfectly for us, though I did notice when they served others there were more choices on the tray.

Air Tahiti Nui business class pre-departure drinks

A few minutes after that we were presented with the menu and drink list for the flight.

Air Tahiti Nui business class menu & drink list

When boarding was complete, 20 of the 30 business class seats were taken. Then as is the case on many airlines, a few hugs and kisses were exchanged between the crew and either friends or family, and soon enough 24 seats were occupied.

At 11:05PM the chief purser made her welcome aboard announcement, and informed us that our flight time was 7hr50min. The door closed five minutes after that, and then at 11:20PM we began our pushback. I’m not sure why our flight was delayed on departure, as there was no explanation.

Around this time the safety video was screened, which I thought was pretty cool.

We had a fairly long taxi (given that our remote stand was at the very west of the airport), and at 11:45PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 24L.

As we climbed out I decided to check out the entertainment selection. Air Tahiti Nui’s new system is very good in terms of responsiveness and screen quality.

Air Tahiti Nui 787 entertainment system

I first checked out the moving map for our flight to Papeete, which had us flying straight out over the Pacific.

Air Tahiti Nui 787 entertainment system

Air Tahiti Nui 787 entertainment system

While the system as such was excellent, the movie and TV selection was extremely limited. There were only about a dozen movies, and a similar number of TV shows. I’m not sure if they just don’t intend to offer more anytime soon, or if this is because it’s a new plane and they haven’t increased the selection yet.

Air Tahiti Nui entertainment system 787

Air Tahiti Nui entertainment system 787

Air Tahiti Nui entertainment system 787

The Air Tahiti Nui 787 also has wifi, which is a nice addition. However, they charge based on data, and it’s extremely expensive. The pricing is as follows:

  • $9 for 10MB
  • $15 for 20MB
  • $29 for 50MB
  • $49 for 200MB

Business class passengers receive 10MB of free wifi, though that will last you a few minutes at best. On the plus side, the wifi speeds were quite good (probably largely because no one was using it due to how expensive it is).

Air Tahiti Nui wifi pricing

Despite a smooth climb out, the seatbelt sign was only turned off about 20 minutes after takeoff.

A few minutes after that the crew distributed vouchers for 10MB of free wifi. At this point the crew had already changed into more traditional Tahitian clothing, which they do during the meal services.

Air Tahiti Nui business class free wifi

A few minutes after that we were offered flowers.

Air Tahiti Nui business class flowers

Then immigration cards were distributed.

Immigration forms for Tahiti

This is a late night flight and also a fairly short one, so the service on this flight was really quick. Just 30 minutes after takeoff tablecloths were distributed, along with warm towels, which were served on cute plates.

Air Tahiti Nui business class warm towel

At that point the meal service began. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

The focus on these short flights seems to be on maximizing rest, so just over 30 minutes after takeoff I was presented the entire meal on one tray. There are no choices as far as the food goes, but rather everyone gets the same light meal.

On the plus side, the meal was right up my alley, and I thought it was excellent. It included a nicoise salad with tuna, fresh fruit, a cheese plate, and creme brulee. I was also offered a selection of bread.

Air Tahiti Nui business class dinner service

I thought the meal was truly excellent, and hit the spot. To drink I had a glass of champagne and some water.

Air Tahiti Nui business class drinks

Fewer than a dozen passengers even had anything to eat, and the entire meal was cleared less than an hour after takeoff. I’d say the crew was friendly but unremarkable. They went through the motions, and they were friendly enough, but nothing more.

After dinner I decided to check out the lavatory. There’s a lavatory in front of and behind the cabin, and they’re the standard 787 ones. They did have some nice flowers, though.

Air Tahiti Nui business class bathroom

At that point I reclined my seat with about 6hr45min remaining to Papeete.

Map enroute to Tahiti

Map enroute to Tahiti

Like I said, it’s not the most spacious seat in the world, but I managed to get really good sleep, much better than usual on a plane.

Air Tahiti Nui business class flat bed 787

I got over four hours of sleep, and woke up with about two hours remaining to Tahiti, as we were just over 1,000 miles away.

Map enroute to Tahiti

Map enroute to Tahiti

The crew stayed in the galley almost the entire time and wasn’t proactive between meals (which I don’t mind, since “stomping” through the cabin can disturb rest), but when I pushed the call button they quickly responded. I ordered a cup of coffee.

Air Tahiti Nui business class coffee

About 90 minutes before landing the crew turned on the cabin lights in order to start the breakfast service. First they let everyone wake up, and then about 80 minutes out they distributed warm towels.

Then 75 minutes out the first course was served, which consisted of a selection of fresh fruit, as well as something from the breadbasket.

Air Tahiti Nui business class breakfast

10 minutes later the crew asked which of the main courses we wanted. Ford ordered the omelet with sausage and potatoes, which was pretty standard.

Air Tahiti Nui business class breakfast

I ordered the chocolate chip pancakes (mainly so I could get a picture of both options). The pancakes were tasty but tiny.

Air Tahiti Nui business class breakfast

At this point the sun slowly began to rise, and we were treated to an absolutely gorgeous view.

Sunrise enroute to Tahiti

Sunrise enroute to Tahiti

Sunrise enroute to Tahiti

At around 5:10AM local time the captain made his first announcement, informing us that we’d be landing at 5:40AM, which was a bit behind schedule. At this point the crew came through the cabin to distribute candy and prepare the cabin for arrival.

Air Tahiti Nui business class candy

The seatbelt sign was turned on about 10 minutes before landing. Our first view of land was maybe five minutes before arrival.

View approaching Papeete

We flew in right over the main part of the city, which was bigger than I was expecting.

View approaching Papeete

View approaching Papeete

We landed on runway 22 at 5:40AM, and after rolling to the end of the runway we had to turn around and backtaxi, as the taxiway is closer to the middle of the runway.

Landing Papeete Airport

We had a very short taxi to our arrival stand, where we parked at 5:45AM, next to an Air Tahiti Nui A340 (which will soon be leaving the fleet).

Air Tahiti Nui A340 at Papeete Airport

The airport doesn’t have any gates, so they pulled up a set of stairs to the second door, which I was happy about, since it meant I could admire this beauty from the outside.

Air Tahiti Nui 787 upon arrival at Papeete Airport

Air Tahiti Nui 787 upon arrival at Papeete Airport

What a stunning plane, and I love Air Tahiti Nui’s new livery!

Air Tahiti Nui 787 upon arrival at Papeete Airport

What I like about the airport is that even though they have remote stands, you don’t have to take a bus to the terminal. Rather there’s a walkway spanning the length of the terminal, so we could just walk to immigration.

Walking to Papeete Airport terminal

In the arrivals hall there was some live music, which is pretty awesome, especially when you consider it wasn’t even 6AM.

Live music at Papeete Airport

We were through immigration in no time thanks to being among the first off the plane, and headed to the domestic terminal for our Air Tahiti flight to Bora Bora.

Air Tahiti Nui 787 business class bottom line

Having flown Air Tahiti Nui’s old business class, I can say that their new business class experience represents a huge improvement.

While I wouldn’t call their new business class cutting edge, it’s a solid product, especially given that they fly to a leisure destination with limited competition in most markets.

Personally I appreciated the abbreviated meal service on this fairly short overnight flight, and found the food quality to be good. The service was friendly, though unmemorable. And I liked the amenities they had.

I’d say their biggest room for improvement comes with their limited entertainment selection, and also their outrageous wifi pricing, which doesn’t seem to me like it would be maximizing revenue for them.

But all things considered I give Air Tahiti Nui’s new business class a big thumbs up.

  1. Do you know fo a fact it was real champagne served pre-departure?

    That’s an impressive wine list for a red-eye flight on a small airline. It’s a shame that Delta can’t offer similar quality wine, instead of the $8-12 bottle wines.

  2. @FNT Delta Diamond: I could not agree more with you. and such a nice menu with information and pictures about each wine. Extremely well done. Delta’s wine list is simply ridiculous and as you said you can buy those wines for $10 in any poor quality liquor store. Oh and they charge $10k for a round trip to Europe in Delta One. Problem is they are considered the best of all US airlines so that gives an idea on how bad US airlines are.

  3. @FNT anyone I speak to refers Delta as the worst US airline for international travel. Poor food , poor seats (even the suites ) and the worst lounge arrangement.

  4. Not entirely relevant to the review, but why do we always board through the left doors. I know the obvious answer is “because that’s the door the jetbridges are set up for” but there must have been some reason at some point in history, all aircraft were boarded from the left door.

  5. @adfer I’m flying US3 internationally by choice. Flying MAD to USA on AA in a few months with miles since the other option was BA using the same miles + over $500. Call me crazy, but I hear BA J isn’t all that great anyway. Certainly not worth $500 more than AA J and I don’t have to stop in London.

  6. @JDS is it like getting on a horse? Always from the left side? 🙂 Now I am curious too.

    Nice review and I like knowing this option exists and is worthwhile. So it seems they get you to PPT early enough to catch an inter-island flight the same day, correct? I know I read that some don’t and you have to spend the night on Tahiti before going elsewhere. Am I remembering correctly? If so, Air Tahiti Nui would have a huge advantage over United or anyone else.

  7. @Ryan I recently did a status match to DL from UA and flew 2 domestic and 2 international segments with DL. I was blown away by how much better DL’s hard and soft products were on the domestic sectors. I was even more blown away by how much worse DL’s hard and products were compared to UA on the international sectors. It was like flying 2 completely different airlines when switching sectors with DL…

  8. @JDS
    Like many conventions in aeronautics, it is product of aviation’s roots in the maritime industry. The practical reason behind this goes back millennia. Until the Age of Discovery, European ships were controlled by rear quarter mounted steering oars (The Chinese beat the West to center-mounted rudders by more than a millennium). As most helmsmen were right-handed, the oar extended from the right side of the ship. So that the steering oar would not get in the way, ships were loaded on docks/wharfs/piers from the left. This is the origin of the terms port/larboard (related to the Middle English lade meaning load) and starboard.

    This convention likely also survived in aviation because captains controlling from the left seat had better spatial awareness on the left side of the aircraft, and planes historically taxied close to the terminal itself where passengers unloaded via stairs and then walked across the apron. It is safer and easier to control passengers who have a large aircraft hemming them into the terminal area, while cargo and service items can be loaded from the outside/starboard.

  9. Odd that there are full-color glossy pages with effusive descriptions for each wine (I’m guessing these are sold as ads, to keep costs down), yet on the spirits and cocktails page they don’y even list the brands being served. Like, is your bourbon Woodford Reserve, or Early Times? Big difference there.

    Also, no choice on the late-night snack? So if you’re like me and find fish/seafood revolting, you’re SOL unless you pre-order a special meal?

  10. I work in the travel industry and attended an industry webinar on the new ATN 787, and you hit the nail in the head about the 2-2-2 configuration. They stated that Tahiti is by and large a leisure/honeymoon destination, so they purposely used this configuration to cater to couples! 🙂

  11. Some absolutely stunning camera shots in this review. What are you using these days for in-flight photography?

  12. Great and exotic review.

    I notice that Air Tahiti Nui´s seats have a shoulder harness, while Ethiopian´s don’t, despite the seats and aircraft being the same. I don’t recall the Ethiopian seats having airbags either.

  13. People do not “reach out” to yo, the contact you. Please cease using these silly HR type phrases.

  14. Your reviews and information is awesome and greatly appreciated, thank you!
    Is there a place to read about the points needed when you do the detailed review by carrier?

  15. Having just flown this exact trip, I would say the review is predominantly spot on even almost a year later. I was less impressed with the meal service however, but really not a concern on a red eye. Slept better on this flight than any other… probably due to the 787’s lower cabin altitude and more oxygen. The departure hall at LAX is a complete cluster… bus depot is a complement! As an aside, we were initially given access passes to the International lounge in Terminal B, only to have them taken away by the agent because we booked through American… so beware if you have a longer layover you will need to use the AA business lounge in Terminal 4 which is a long way from the departure gate! Also, this airline does NOT participate in TSA!

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