Air Tahiti Nui flies direct from Auckland to Papeete. The attached photo
Airline: Air Tahiti Nui
since: Oakland International Airport
to: Alfa International Airport (The plane was leaving for Los Angeles, but I got off in Papeete, Tahiti)
Visa and conditions: If you are traveling on a New Zealand passport and will not stay more than three months, you do not need a tourist visa, but your passport must be valid for more than three months from the date you plan to leave French Polynesia.
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When you arrive, you will have to fill out a customs declaration form – which will be given to you on board – which details your reasons for staying as well as your itinerary.
Departure airport experience: I arrived five minutes after check-in opened and a generous queue had already formed. It was moving relatively slowly, apparently, due to the huge amounts of baggage the passengers had brought in (there were some particularly long cars) as well as the pace of the five office staff. When I finally got to the front, with only one log bag, the process took a few minutes.
It’s early Thursday afternoon, all the stores are open, checkouts are busy, passports and security are in and out quickly.
seat: Passage in the economy cabin.
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crew: Wearing vibrant prints and smiles, the crew was welcoming and accommodating, and was as concerned with the logistics of being on a crowded plane as they were with the needs of the passengers.
Passengers: This trip was luxurious, and best described as somewhere between vacation relaxation and vacation elegance – perhaps couples in love on their honeymoon, surfers chasing legendary waves (a guy was riding a board bag, he was wearing a long-sleeved jacket), groups of girls who… Long dressed and those who need a holiday. There was a steady stream of American accents, and it is not surprising that these were on their way, through French Polynesia, to Los Angeles. Nobody wears a mask.
Food and drink: Dinner was, like most airline dinners, a very varied affair. I chose a chicken curry with beans, which came with chocolate mousse pudding (hard to go wrong), cheese and crackers (a reliable menu choice), and a roll (a bit cold but still everything I wanted in a palm-sized bagel, really).
entertainment: Wrapped in a blue blanket, this four-hour, 45-minute ride went by quickly, with a small edit of relatively new films, including Aubrey Plaza. Criminal EmilySci-fi meets CIA drama principle and the fantasy sword movie King Arthur to deal with me. A simple pair of headphones was provided, though they sometimes struggled to deliver the aural experience some of these films demanded (read: fight scenes, high-tension construction music).
Arrival airport experience: Tahiti International Airport in Papeete is so lively and warm (literally and habitually) that after you walk the tarmac, a group of singers in garlands play their ukulele lei—a surprising but not unwelcome greeting at 8:45 p.m. Immigration lines passed quickly and my bag showed up shortly after.
The best ever: Much of Air Tahiti Nui’s aesthetic is vibrant turquoise, its music is mesmerizing, and the general vibe accounts for the fact that you’re on your way to azure waters and sweet fruit – all an integral part of your destination.
The worst thing: My headphones didn’t have the best quality, which meant you remained stable throughout the listening experience, with some movies having to go back.
Final verdict: A simple trip that will end soon and it will be worth the visit to a true paradise.