Flight test: Air Tahiti Nui business class

THE ROUTE

Tahiti (Papeete) to Auckland (and then on to Sydney code-share with Qantas).

THE PLANE

A340-300.

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END

Newly revamped business class, seat 2D (Tahiti to Auckland). ATN has five A340-300 planes, all but one revamped since a multimillion-dollar overhaul began last year.

TIME IN THE AIR

About five and a bit hours from Papeete to Auckland; then three hours from Auckland to Sydney.

THE SEAT STUFF

The pointy end has 32 angled lie-flat cocoon seats. ATN's business-class seats boast a 152-centimetre pitch and width of 51 centimetres. They recline 160 degrees. Cabin layout is a 2x2 configuration, offering the choice of window or aisle.

BAGGAGE

Business-class passengers get two pieces checked through (up to 32 kilograms each), plus 10 kilograms carry-on and one personal item (for example a handbag) of no more than three kilograms.

COMFORT FACTOR

The new-look business class is tropical chic, awash with refreshing blue and green. It's enhanced by the staff wearing frangipani or tiare (Tahitian gardenias) behind their ears. The uniform is a modern take on local dress - and the scent of tiare perfumes the cabin. Fresh flowers on the seats are a lovely touch - as are the L'Occitane products in the small gift pouch. In short, the cabin oozes a relaxed holiday vibe. And brand new cabins are always nicer than old.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

In-flight entertainment features new tablet-quality screens and on-demand access to dozens of movies and television programs - plus magazines, games and music. The system also includes kids' television and "Tiare TV" - information about Tahiti. In its new role as official airline of Tahiti's International Documentary Film Festival Oceanic (FIFO), Air Tahiti Nui is also screening films from the popular annual film festival in flight. It's not the biggest selection of films I've seen but it is more than satisfactory for the five-hour flight, with a reasonable range of cinematic styles.

THE SERVICE

Excellent. Friendly, attentive staff with typical laid-back (but courteous and efficient) island style. Extra blankets and pillows and the like are no problem. Requests are dealt with promptly. The cabin is not full, so there's a nice feeling of space and relaxation. I'm business class only on Air Tahiti Nui (I fly economy on the Auckland-to-Sydney leg with Qantas), but Air Tahiti Nui still sorts out lounge access to Auckland's Qantas business-class lounge, which has a stunning selection of New Zealand wines and fresh, healthy snacks. The lounge is on the small side, so gets busy at peak hours.

FEEDING TIME

I enjoyed a breakfast of Tahiti's trademark vanilla pancakes with fresh fruit, juice and tea as well as a cheeky morning champagne before takeoff at around 8am.

ONE MORE THING

Air Tahiti Nui has the monopoly on this route - but check its website regularly for Pacific specials (airtahitinui.com.au). Being a relatively small airline, it doesn't have a huge suite of FF partners. This list can also be found online.

THE FREQUENCY

The airline has three flights a week from Papeete to Auckland (Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday). It code-shares with the first Sydney-to-Auckland Qantas flight of the day to ensure a smooth connection in Auckland.

THE VERDICT

If you want to go to Tahiti, Air Tahiti Nui is pretty much the only way to go unless you fancy an extremely long kayak. And an extremely comfortable, friendly way to go it is, too.

Tested by Fiona Carruthers, who flew as a guest of Air Tahiti.

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