Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Air Tahiti Nui - Paris to Auckland, business class

This was the biggest, and pleasantest surprise, on the flight back home with Air Tahiti Nui. Dog on a plane! Who knew? This is Zorro, a long-haired chihuahua, and he was accompanying his doting owner on the sector from Paris (where else?) to Los Angeles (where else?). And no, she didn't have to buy his own seat, it was conveniently empty - it actually cost her only $150, plus rather a lot of paperwork, for him to come along. He was no trouble, spending most of the time inside his padded bag, and many of the other passengers in Business probably didn't know he was there. And yes, I did ask about toileting - she brought a pad for him to use in the loo "But he doesn't like to go when anyone is watching".

The less appealing surprises were that when we did get to LA, we spent the entire hour or so on the ground sitting on a bus, trailing along corridors and up and down stairs, going through immigration, submitting ourselves to the hostile rigours of the US security check, and then getting back on the bus again - all this, despite being in transit. I'm guessing it's because ATN is a small airline and gets shoved to the outskirts of the terminal, without access to a transit lounge like Air New Zealand gets to use. Not their fault, but it sure messes with your enjoyment of the trip.
Similarly, when we got to Papeete, at 4am, for some insane reason we had to queue in the wilting humidity to wait to file past the immigration desk (where one person was working while three others stood behind her, watching) - I tell you, you can get pretty soon sick of listening to jangling ukuleles in those circumstances. Then we had to claim our baggage off the carousel and queue again to check in, to go through security, and to get back on the plane. We spent an hour sweating and shuffling that we could have passed in the airconditioned business lounge eating dinky cubes of Laughing Cow cheese. Why the clerk at Paris wasn't able to check us all the way through to Auckland, I have no idea.

Also, we were unlucky that the two longest sectors were on the older A340-300 plane, Nuku Hiva, with the hard seats, no USB ports and the clunky armrest-TV arrangement. After that, getting onto the smart new Rangiroa for the last bit to Auckland was a real treat. It seems to be the luck of the draw, which one you get.

So, Air Tahiti Nui - would I fly with them again? Probably. The service is friendly and good, and the fares are very competitive (just ask Zorro). They can't help what happens in LA, and surely our Papeete experience was a mistake. They don't compare to Air New Zealand, of course - but then, who does?

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