As I have already reviewed Air Tahiti Nui’s Business Class between PPT and LAX http://patstravelreviews.com/air-tahiti-nui-b787-business-class-review-lax-to-ppt/ I thought I would review the other airline that flies between Los Angeles and French Polynesia. Like Air Tahiti Nui, Air France’s flight also continues on (and originates) to Paris CDG. Besides Air France and Air Tahiti Nui, the only other airlines that offers service between the US and Tahiti is United from SFO and Hawaiian from HNL. I am not sure when Air France will resume service to PPT, but as the world is opening up, hopefully it will be some time this Summer. Unlike Air Tahiti’s daily service, Air France only flies from LAX to Tahiti a few days a week.
My wife and I were originally going to fly back to Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui, but that flight left late in the evening and would cause us to have an eight hour wait at the PPT Airport. It had been many years since I last flew Air France long haul and was eager to try them again. Plus their flight left early in the morning and the one-way Business Class fare was reasonable. Both flights arrived the same day (morning arrival compared to early evening). This also allowed us an additional day in paradise spending one night at the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti in Faa’a which is right next to the airport.
We arrived at the airport two hours before departure. Check-in was friendly and quick. Passport & security were equally as easy. There are only a few international flights out of PPT so I would image security is never much of an issue. Outside of a Duty Free shop and a place or two to eat there is not much to see or do at PPT. There is one Lounge on the second floor operated by Air Tahiti Nui. Air France (and I think other international carriers as well) Business Class and SkyTeam Elite passengers are given access to the lounge. The lounge is fairly large for such a small airport and certainly a more pleasant place to wait for your flight then the Terminal. It is the only place at the airport air-conditioned. Despite being a little crowded (I think Air Tahiti Nui also had a morning flight) we had no problem finding an empty table. There is a decent selection of food and drinks, has a smoking room, toilets (with shower), magazines and a few computers. Boarding was announced in the lounge.
For the most part boarding was easy (always someone cutting the line). Business Class and Elite passengers boarded first only to wait outside near the tarmac (was covered) for a few minutes. Boarding was via stairs as there are no jet bridges at PPT. Air France has a few layouts on their B777’s (both 200 & 300’s). Most of their B777’s have the same seat’s as the aircraft we flew. The aircraft to PPT has two cabins in a 1x2x1 configuration. Seven rows forward and three in a smaller more intimate cabin to the rear. In addition to Business Class, this plane also has three rows of Premium Economy (Rows 19 – 21). We were seated in the middle row of the aft section. Seats 11E&F are the two seats in the middle. I prefer being in the smaller cabin, but initially felt the cabin was cramped for business class. Once I was settled in, it felt more private. Several other airlines use these same Zodiac Cirrus reverse herringbone seats with the same layout so I have experienced these seats before.
At the seat as we arrived was a blanket & pillow, sock & slipper set, bottle of Evian Water, hanger and headphone. After several minutes a flight attendant came by with a welcome drink. A choice of water, pineapple juice, or champagne was offered. My wife who would normally be excited about the champagne passed and had water while I had the pineapple juice. Unfortunately, both were warm. After the pre-departure drinks, amenity kits were distributed. A nice duel zipper case (choice of color) with Clarins products, toothpaste and toothbrush, headphone cover, eyeshades & earplugs, pen and glass cleaner. Like with most airlines these days the safety video was clever and playful.
Air France refers to their seats as a Cocoon in the Sky. The seats are at an angle (reverse herringbone) and every seat has direct aisle access. All the single row seats are at the same angle (unlike others where odd numbered seat at window and even more an aisle seat). American Airlines has similar seats on their B777’s and B787’s and they are one of my favorite Business Class seats. My initial discomfort was probably in part due to some confusion with two families over seating. But on American’s B777’s mini cabin (two rows) I get the same initial cramped feeling. Either way, the seats are spacious and fully lie flat. The seat pitch is 61″ and width is 21.5″, but when the seat is fully flat it extends to almost 6.5 feet. The seat flattens and connects to a good sized ottoman (allows for some food movement without hitting the wall while sleeping). The distance from the seat to the TV monitor is not as generous. Most of the room is under the seat in front of you. On the plus side you can easily access the touch screen control on the TV. My favorite part of the seat is it’s ample storage space. There is a bin next to your shoulder that houses the headphone jack and headphone, but also has plenty of room for other items. Underneath that bin is a large table. Besides the overhead reading lights (controlled by handset) there is an additional light conveniently at your shoulder (not hidden when seat is upright). If traveling as a couple or with someone else there is a fair amount of distance between passengers on the two middle seats. But, if traveling alone a divider slides out giving you a lot of privacy. There is also another storage area below the center armrest and tray table as well as some storage space for shoes under the ottoman. There is no overhead vent which usually irritates me, but the cabin was very comfortable (almost cool). The seat control is on the edge of the center tray for easy access. I do not like sleeping with the seat fully flat (I get claustrophobic), so I like controls that can get me into a cradle position and I was able to obtain that on my one hour nap. My wife however did sleep in the flat position and said she was very comfortable. The outer armrest lowers adding to the seat width which adds to the comfort (along with the large ottoman) while sleeping.
After take off the flight attendants changed into Polynesian attire (nice touch) and handed out a plush hot towel and menu’s. It took about a half an hour for the service to begin (one of the disadvantages of sitting in rear cabin – served last) when Champagne (or drink of choice – had to ask) and a small box of cashew’s with cranberries was served before the meal service. The first meal was in a Polynesian theme. It began with a Starter of Roast French Polynesian Shrimp and Sweet Potato Salad. A simple Salad was served with the starter as well as a large French Baguette. Wine, water and drinks were offered along with the Starter. There were two choices for both Red & White Wine (all French of course) along with Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne. The Red choices were a 2016 Pessac-Leognan La Garde Bordeaux blend and a 2018 Santenay Bouchard Pere & Fils Pinot Noir. The White options were 2016 Couvent Des Jacobins Jadot Chardonnay or a 2018 Chateau L’Hospitalet Gerard Bertrand. I do not drink wine and my wife does not remember drinking wine so I can not comment on any of these. Two of the four main dishes were keeping with the Polynesian theme. Polynesian Chicken Fafa, Foil-baked Mahi-Mahi in a Fei Banana Sauce, Red Mullet Fillet with Slow-cooked Leeks, and the vegetarian option was Eggplant and Vegetable Moussaka. All entrees were accompanied with a selection of three cheese’s. I had the Chicken with Fei Banana Rice and Pan-fried Pumpkin which exceeded my expectations. Food was fresh, hot and flavorful. My wife who loves seafood (I do not like) was not feeling all that well and only had a little of the Shrimp and had the Eggplant for her main dish. I am not sure why I didn’t have her take a photo of her meal other than your seatmate is a ways from you. She did however, say she enjoyed it very much. There was three choices for Dessert. Fresh Fruit Salad, A trio of Tarts (Lemon, Chocolate & Vanilla, Raspberry Almond) and a choice of Sorbet (Banana, Mango, Guava). I had the Tarts and a Guava Sorbet. Sorbet was very good but Tarts were a little disappointing (I had high expectations ;)). Coffee and Tea was served to finish up the main meal service.
In between meals there was some drinks and a very small selection of snacks available between the cabins. The flight time is a little under 8 hours so there wasn’t really a lot of time between meals so it was appropriate. I would have been disappointed if that was all that was available on a longer flight like CDG to LAX. The pre-arrival meal was served about an hour and a half before landing. There was only one choice for the Light Snack. A Pear & Roquefort Cheese Canape along with a Rolled Smoked Salmon Crepe. This was accompanied by a good sized bowl of Plain Yogurt and an equally good size Sweet Mini Loaf and a Blueberry Tartlet. The Tart was very good (better than the Dessert) but the Yogurt was beyond tart. So much so, I couldn’t eat it. While I wasn’t thrilled with the Light Snack it was suitable considering the flight time. I used to fly Air France frequently years ago and one of the things I liked most about their Business Class service was they had a full second meal on longer flights. Another hot towel was handed out after the second meal.
The In-flight Entertainment (IFE) on this B777 was standard to what other airlines currently provide. There was plenty of movies, both Hollywood as well as French. In addition, there was a large selection of International movies from all around the globe. TV shows both French, English and International (plenty of sit-coms), games, music, duty-free shopping, nice moving map, but no camera. You need to unlatch the 16 inch HD touchscreen and turn it on a slight angle to watch as the seats are in a herringbone position but the screens and center armrest face forward.
The handset is in a very convenient location right on your side. As usual I find the touch screen easier to navigate than the handset. So it didn’t bother me when my remote stopped working halfway thru the flight (also as it was daytime so overhead light was not needed). The headphones were already plugged in which is nice (it’s difficult to reach outlet while sitting) and they stated they were noise canceling. I used them for all programming I watched and while my Bose would have provided a clearer and better sound they were good enough that I didn’t use mine. The movie I watched was unedited. The power outlet and USB plug were under the center armrest/tray table. I do believe Air France has Wi-Fi on most of their B777 fleet (supposed to finish installation by end of this year) however our aircraft did not have it. I thought maybe it was just because of the remoteness of the route but I saw no evidence that this aircraft had it on any route.
There were several flight attendants assigned to Business Class. All were pleasant and all spoke English. Announcements were in English and French. One strange thing was there were only two lavatories for the 40 Business Class seats. Waiting to use the lav was never a problem, but most airlines would have three toilets on similar configurations. Confusingly, (I tried to use) there is a third lav near the cockpit door, but it is for crew only. Both lavatories were decent size and had a few Clarins products available and cotton rounds for application.
Even though we paid for this flight whereas we could have redeemed one award seat on Air Tahiti Nui I was very happy we choose to return on Air France. Mainly for the timing, but I also enjoyed the flight as well. I really like these seats and how convenient the storage areas are. Plus food is always a highlight on Air France. If asked which of the two airlines I would prefer to and from LAX and PPT I am sorry to say I do not have a strong preference. I enjoyed both flights. My personal motivation would be influenced by Alliance’s. Air France is a SkyTeam member and Air Tahiti Nui has no affiliation but does codeshare with American Airlines. Air Tahiti Nui’s daily service does allow more flexibility. Either way hopefully we will be flying this route again soon (heck I hope to fly anywhere soon these days ;)) and I will be happy to fly on either airline’s Business Class.