Review: Air Tahiti ATR72, Moorea – Bora Bora


French Polynesia is spread out across over one hundred islands stretching two thousand kilometers. With distance to cover like that, the transportation network around the country needs to include air travel. French Polynesia’s main domestic air carrier is Air Tahiti, which is not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui- the international carrier. We would take Air Tahiti on our domestic leg from Moorea to Bora Bora.

This post is one chapter on our trip to Fiji, New Zealand and French Polynesia. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan and AAdvantage frequent flier programs and enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air Tahiti ATR72, Moorea – Bora Bora

Booking Air Tahiti:

Air Tahiti is the national domestic air carrier of French Polynesia. In it’s small fleet of less than fifteen aircraft, it operates two versions of an ATR72 aircraft. We booked Air Tahiti via their website. We were able to book our open jaw tickets of Moorea – Bora Bora – Papeete with them for 48,054 CFP’s ($460 USD) ; hardly a steal for two flights of less than an hour in duration. The flights included a light fifty pounds of baggage allowance. As the sole carrier operating between these destinations, paradise doesn’t come cheap.

Getting to the Moorea Airport:

After our wonderful three day stay at the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, it was time to leave. I had the bell captain call for a taxi and happened to grab one that was just dropping off some other travellers. The driver asked me where we were going prior to accepting us as travellers and didn’t seem to fussed with us having to wait fifteen minutes for us settle the bill at the front desk, chatting with the bell captain staff to fill his time.

The bill settling process at the Sofitel took quite some time. It was well over fifteen minutes thanks to one group in the queue; some Spaniards that were reconciling every dinner with the hotel, and print outs over print outs.

The taxi ride up was only 7 minutes and 1,200 CFP’s ($12 USD). We arrived quite early to the Moorea Airport terminal.

Arriving to the Moorea Airport
There are Chickens in the Departure Hall
The Outdoor Courtyard Hold Lounge

We checked in at the counter. The Moorea airport was small but not in a charming way. It was hot and had a fair amount of people. It was another no air conditioning airport and for some strange reasons there were chickens wandering all through the airport cock-a-doodle-doing.

Checking in at Air Tahiti

Air Tahiti proceeded to soak us for additional luggage by kilo ($35 USD) as the usual sized American rollies do not fit under their seats in the cabins on the ATR72’s. It turns out that they could fit on the aisle seats only, but thanks to a support bar on the windows seat sides, it’s impossible to fit two rollies side by side under the seats. It was a bit of a sour way to start our experiences with them. They did allow an additional 5kg of allowance if you could show a PADI dive card (regardless of whether you had dive equipment or not) so our fee was dropped on presentation from 5,040 CPF to 3,900 CPF. MrsWT73, in advance of a nice time in Bora Bora, had somehow managed to pack 6 bottles of wine in her hard cased suitcase for us to enjoy while in our villa so that lessened the overall available weight allowance. The fee was presented on the back of our boarding card, including with the PADI reduction.

An Air Tahiti Cabin Bag Sizer
Air Tahiti
Economy Class (L) – single class of service
MOZ-BOB (Moorea – Bora Bora)
VT 244
June 16, 2017
Booked: ATR 72
Flown: ATR 72
Departure: 12:05 PM
Arrival: 12:50 PM

On Board Air Tahiti ATR72:

There isn’t any assigned seating on Air Tahiti so it was a mad crush at the gate, followed by a walk out to the tarmac.

Boarding Air Tahiti

The cargo was being loaded onto the plane immediately behind the cockpit. We all boarded through the rear door of the plane and it was a bit of a scramble to get those coveted window seats.

Cargo Loading Behind the Cockpit
A Unique Looking Propeller ATR72
Wandering Around to the Rear of the ATR72 for Boarding
Prominent Air Tahiti Logo Painted Across the Livery
Rear Door Boarding on the Air Tahiti ATR72 “Vakaani”

It was my first time on the French made ATR72. It was very compact on board when we settled in with the 2-2 configuration. I was happy we weren’t taking one of their 3 hour trips to Rarotonga on this equipment type.

Air Tahiti ATR 72 Economy Seats
Air Tahiti ATR72 Cabin
Some Compact Legroom

Departing Moorea Airport:

We had an eastern departure from Moorea and some photos of the beautiful Sofitel area and reef on our climb off the right hand side of the aircraft. Those are the Sofitel over water villas that you can see up the beach in these photographs and the beautiful colored lagoon that it its on.

Spotting the Sofitel Kia Ora on the Horizon
Climbing over a Beautiful Blue Lagoon
An Impressive Lagoon Break departing Moorea

The flight was a short fifty minutes from Moorea to Bora Bora. There is no real entertainment on the flight. There are no real television screens or in seat monitors. I took a look at the in flight magazine which advertised their air network size. Air Tahiti is said to cover an area the size of Western Europe. Their map had an outlay of Europe to scale over their flight paths.

The Only Entertainment on board Air Tahiti
The Spread Out French Polynesian Air Tahiti Flight Map

There was also a segment and chart on the various isolated airports that they flew through. In one area, due to weight, there were up to 28 seats that they were not able to sell due to their equipment type. I thought it was interesting that Air Tahiti pubic ally shared this information with its customers, as back in North America, this information would likely just have been built in as a restriction into the flight reservation computer and us passengers wouldn’t be the wiser.

Limited Seat Flights

Food and Beverage:

It was a smooth flight and a drink service was offered. It was a tropical fruit drink with an orange juice base. There were no other choices on offer today. There was also no food offered on board.

We had a smooth arrival and a landing at Bora Bora. Most of the plane was glued to the window as we approached with Bora Bora on the left side; we were on the wrong side being on the right hand side of the flight. As a result, we didn’t get any villa views, just a view of the old runway aprons.

A View of the Bora Bora Runway

The runway was quite large and parts of it were over grown. The Americans built this runway after the Pearl Harbor bombing. At its peak, I wondered what it was like here when they had up to 6,000 troops stationed here? The apron was likely full of planes parked on the apron at one time. Now it had signs of over growth and weeds coming up through it.

The Bora Bora Airport Apron

We disembarked the plane and headed into the Bora Bora Airport terminal building. It was a small terminal building located in the middle of the islands motu.

Walking into the Bora Bora Airport

On arrival, our checked bags were transferred out. Similar to the Maldives, there were several kiosks at the luggage claim to assist with transfers. Except here, there were only 7 desks compared to the upwards of 40 that are found in Male.

Resort Transfer Desks at Bora Bora

The balance of the passengers that weren’t being picked up by resorts were transferred over to Vaitaire via an Air Tahiti boat that is included in the cost of the ticket.

My Thoughts on Air Tahiti Domestic Service:

Air Tahiti is about the only way to get from Moorea to Bora Bora. As a result, they can pretty much charge full price for everything and offer almost nothing in return. While we missed the fine print surrounding the smaller than average dimensions for the bag size on the website, we ended up paying for it at the counter. No meals were offered and it was a pretty much basic and straight forward service. If you’re taking this route, pay close attention to your luggage size as the basic allowance is one bag at 50 lbs and nothing else!!

If you travel to French Polynesia, do you have any secrets for saving on Air Tahiti airfare ?

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