Review: Air Tahiti Nui Salon Manuhiri Business Lounge, Papeete, French Polynesia


The country of French Polynesia is a remote destination in the South Pacific. It’s primarily serviced by flag carrier Air Tahiti Nui. Unlike Fiji Airways, which has attempted to establish itself as a carrier with connecting traffic, Air Tahiti Nui seems to operate primarily on a destination model. Despite the destination model, their Air Tahiti Nui Salon Manuhiri Business Lounge wasn’t all to exotic or appealing for an upscale luxury travel destination.

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 Nui – Salon Manuhiri Business Lounge, Fa’a’ā International Airport, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.

The Fa’a’ā International Airport at Papeete, French Polynesia airport proudly announces on it’s dated website that it is not a 24 hour operation. It encourages guests to be “prepared” that they will have to go land side prior to connecting to their domestic flights. In our case, Air Tahiti Nui international check in opened only 3 hours before their flights. Their Salon Manuhiri Business Lounge generously opens only 2 hours before flights. Despite oddly timed flights that leave around midnight to the Americas, it seems that they don’t want to pay to accommodate people in their lounges, while they wait around for a midnight departure. This was indeed the case when we arrived and there was no getting around it.

We arrived to the Fa’a’ā International Airport on Air Tahiti Bora Bora – Papeete; a domestic flight after staying at Le Meridien Bora Bora. The Arun salon was the only restaurant on the public side that was open. At four hours before our flight, the airport was sewn up tight with lots of travellers just sitting or wandering the public side totally aimless.

Many Travellers Wandering the “Yet to Open” Papeete International Airport
Check In Areas that are Fully Shuttered

The flight board contained limited departures from french Polynesia. Tonights departure board also contained the rare LATAM / Lan Chile Easter Island flight with continuing service to Santiago, Chile.

Limited Departures and Arrivals to Tahiti; including the rare Easter Island, Chile flight.

We ended up taking in dinner at the Salon Restaurant until the Air Tahiti Nui check in desks opened at 8:45 PM. There were limited options, and many other travellers had the same idea.

Lining Up at the Salon Restaurant
Killing a Layover at the Salon Restaurant

Visiting the Lei Market at Aeroport de Tahiti Faaa:

With nothing but time on our hands while we killed a four hour layover, I eventually found the “lei” market in the parking lot. It’s immediately outside the front doors of the departure hall at ground level. There were dozens of women sitting there making sea shell lei’s. It was neat to see some souvenirs that were actually hand made in French Polynesia, as opposed to being imported in from China or some other cheap labor country

The Airport Coming to Life for the Evening
Fare Hei Lei Market at Fa’a’ā International Airport
Local Residents Artfully Creating Lei’s
Local Lei’s for Sale
The Local Lei Market at Papeete.

At the very least, the Lei Market was an interesting distraction and a neat thing to see next to the airport if you happen to be able to pass through.

Checking into Air Tahiti Nui Poerava Business Class:

When the time came at three hours before our departure flight, we went to check in at the easily marked Air Tahiti Nui Poerava Business Class line. It’s situated the closest to the international departure gates. We had a document check prior to getting to the podium, along with the usual security questions. We were given our US Customs and Border Protection clearance cards there, prior to being checked in at the proper Air Tahiti Nui check in desk.

Air Tahiti Nui Poerava Business Class Check In
Air Tahiti Poerava Business Class Check In
A Busy Counter for Service to Paris via Los Angeles

At check in, our bags were tagged with priority tags right to Vancouver. We were able to get our Air Tahiti Nui boarding cards to Los Angeles, and our American Airlines Boarding Cards from Los Angeles right to Vancouver. Our ticket was issued through the American Airlines AAdvantage program, and there were no ticketing issues.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Boarding Cards
Bright Yellow Priority Luggage Tags

We passed through the exit immigration stamp for Tahiti and the security check to a mostly renovated airport on the main departure level, which was on the ground floor.


Locating the Air Tahiti Nui Manuhiri Lounge:

We located the lounge, which was up a flight of stairs on the “first floor”, or the second floor for those directing themselves on a North American orientation. The sole elevator was broken, so I carried the rolling bags up the circular staircase.

The Air Tahiti Nui Manuhiri Lounge was easily located up the stairs
Air Tahiti Nui Manuhiri Lounge Reception

Accessing the Air Tahiti Nui Manahuri Lounge:

Air Tahiti Nui offers lounge access for all of it’s business class passengers departing on Air Tahiti Nui aircraft.

Air Tahiti Nui also offers lounge access to its Air Tahiti Club Tiare Gold level members, normally achieved through flying of 60,000 Tier miles with Air Tahiti Nui.

Air Tahiti Nui also offers the purchase of a day pass for the lounge. It is currently priced at 5000 CPF French Polynesia Francs ($48 USD) per traveller.

The lounge is also part of Priority Pass. Access can be granted through a Priority Pass membership or a Priority Pass membership included with some premium credit cards.

Our access today was granted through our Air Tahiti Nui Business Class ticket departing Fa’a’ā International Airport.

Inside the Air Tahiti Nui Manahuri Lounge:

The first impressions of the lounge were that of a very dated facility. There were apology signs that the lounge was under renovation. Despite this, the lounge didn’t appear to have much work being done on it. There were not a lot of places to sit and every seat was fully taken by the time our flight was to leave.

Compact and Fully Occupied Lounge Seating
Even Back Spaces Were Fully Occupied
A Few Seats Remaining at the Study Area

The lounge wasn’t directly air conditioned, but had large stand up air conditioners running at about 80% strength. It was blasting intense cool air in some areas where as other areas were quite warm by comparison.

A Dark Lounge Space – great for relaxing but terrible for working
A Slim International Flight Board

There isn’t anything resembling a shower at this lounge, which is unfortunate for those that have travelled into Papeete from the outer islands in a hot climate.

Lastly, the washrooms are outside of the lounge in an area in the public part of the terminal and were pretty filthy for an airport that is only open part time and a few hours a day.

Food and Beverage:

The food and beverage offerings were among the low points of the lounge. Unfortunately, there were a pretty sorry amount of snacks for an international departures lounge. There were some cold cut sandwiches and some Cup O Soup Noodles and that was pretty much it. It didn’t look appealing at all. I’m glad we didn’t hold out for dinner here, as we would have starved. I would recommend making sure you eat before you come to the airport as there wasn’t a lot to sustain travellers.

Some Tiny Sandwiches Served as the Main Food Offering
The Drink Section of the Lounge with an Old School Commercial Coffee Maker
The Limited Seating Near the Dining Area was Fully Packed

The highlight of the lounge was the Tahiti Coral White Wine that was from the Raigna Archipelago. Of course, we had to have an impromptu wine tasting. The Vin de Tahiti tasted a lot like un-oaked Californian Chardonnay; a big mouth feel on the front with a fruity butterscotch finish. Overall, it’s not bad for wine that comes out of a coral island in Tahiti. However, we weren’t moved enough to pick up a bottle from duty free to hand carry home.

The Lounge Featured Vin de Tahiti White Blanc de Corail and Rosé Nacarat
A Wine Bar Presentation in a Coca Cola Commercial Refrigerator
A Table of Self Service Spirits

Views from the Lounge:

At the time of our visit, there were some windows over the apron so we settled in there while we waited the hour for our flight. I should also say at this point, I was madly checking Flight Aware to see if we would end up on the old business class configuration on F-OJTN “Bora Bora”. The Air Tahiti Nui “Bora Bora” aircraft has not been improved to full flat business class and featured the old barca lounger non flat recliner style seats. I decided that I would check the entire fleet of five Air Tahiti Nui aircraft on Flight Aware to see what planes were scheduled to fly where and the like. Unfortunately, it promised to be too much to late as Flight Aware wasn’t loading the information super quickly. I had guessed that there was less likelihood that Air Tahiti would use the old aircraft on the flights from Papeete to Los Angeles with continuing service to Paris Charles to Gaulle; which was the flight we had strategically booked on. When I had booked the flight, there was reward availability on both aircraft but I ended up booking the TN8 flight that continued onwards from Los Angeles to Paris. I was a bit shocked to see that old Bora Bora aircraft sitting right there at the gate! Yikes if the lounge was bad, we could be in for a worse flight.

Air Tahiti Nui “Bora Bora” featuring the old lounger seats parked at the gate

The lounge wifi was terrible. The download speed was great but I barely couldn’t manage to load a single picture to Instagram, let alone a Facebook post over our 60 minute period in the lounge.

The Bottom Line: The Air Tahiti Nui Manihuri Business Lounge

All in all, I’d probably give this lounge a miss next time and aim for a later stay at my hotel or an off site restaurant instead of aiming to get to the airport. Truth by told, you may not have a chance flying through Fa’a’ā thanks to the late evening flight times. Unfortunately, another strike against the Tahiti Fa’a’ā Airport for the arrival experience and a a strike against the airport for the departure experience. Oh well, I guess we were in business class but otherwise it was truly bland.

If you had the opportunity to visit the Air Tahiti Nui Manihuri Business Lounge, did you find it to be a basic experience ?

2 Comments on “Review: Air Tahiti Nui Salon Manuhiri Business Lounge, Papeete, French Polynesia

  1. You didn’t actually go into the lounge; you were in a public area with what appears to be no air-conditioning, and a much worse set up than normal, and far fewer offerings than normal. Just Google search for posts about the lounge and you can see what it really looks like. I assume the main area was under renovation and you just got unlucky.


    • It was a pretty austere environment at the time of our visit.

      It was likely a temporary lounge solution at the time that we visited. It was the only option for Air Tahiti Nui Poerava Business Class travellers at the time and very much manned at the door. Likely, their warm solution has improved over time.

      Thanks for reading.


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