Feeling the luxe on Air Tahiti Nui's new Dreamliner

Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

What's the definition of luxury? When it comes to air travel, one of the closest I've discovered is boarding a Dreamliner that still has its new-plane smell, then stretching out and actually wishing for a longer flight so I can get a full night's sleep in its comfortable lie-flat seats.

My husband and I were only half joking when we simultaneously commented about how it would be nice if our eight-hour flight from Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui's new Boeing 787-9 was a tad longer.

With a 9 p.m. departure, we knew it would take a few hours to settle in and go to sleep, which would leave us only about four hours to actually sleep.

Turns out that was enough for me, although I think my husband was just getting into a good REM rhythm when the breakfast service began.

I was already up, enjoying the large screens on the inflight entertainment system, the various comfortable seat positions for lounging and the great food and service. A Tahitian vibe permeated everything from the floral print pillows to the art on the walls, even the Tahitian dresses the flight attendants changed into from the more traditional suits they wore on takeoff and landings.

It was the perfect way to get in the mood for a French Polynesian vacation.

The plane, which began service in November on the route between LAX, Papeete and Auckland, New Zealand, has 30 business-class seats that turn into fully flat 78-inch beds. The business-class pods include plenty of storage space and privacy screens. It has 32 premium economy seats that are 20.4 inches wide and offer eight inches of recline, compared to six inches of recline for the 232 economy seats.

But what also made the flight enjoyable was Air Tahiti Nui's food and service, which on any of its jets is a cut above most domestic airlines.

I flew its coach service earlier this year on one of its Airbus A340-300s and have to admit I was impressed with the comfort of the seats; the little extras, like a full amenity kit; and the overall cleanliness.

The 787-9 is the first of four expected to be delivered over the next year, and the A340-300 fleet will be phased out, in conjunction with Air Tahiti Nui's 20th anniversary in September.

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