You can now fly directly to the South Pacific from the Pacific Northwest
The weather will soon be gray and drizzly in Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, which means it's the perfect time to escape on a warm-weather vacation. Air Tahiti Nui’s inaugural flight from Seattle to Tahiti on Wednesday morning brought with it visions of sunny weather, pristine beaches and romantic overwater bungalow resorts.
The French Polynesian flag carrier arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) airport with a water cannon salute. While the staff was cleaning, refueling and readying the plane for its return trip to Tahiti, passengers and guests enjoyed a festive celebration. The event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded by short speeches by officials from Seattle, Tahiti, the Port of Seattle and Air Tahiti Nui. After that, a thrilling Tahitian dance by a Polynesian performance group Nonosina Polynesia made it clear to the entire terminal that this was a special occasion.
Air Tahiti Nui will fly one of its four 787-9 Dreamliners, which the airline calls its “Tahitian Dreamliners,” twice weekly between SEA and Faaa International Airport (PPT) — which sits a few miles from Papeete on the island of Tahiti.
Related: A review of Air Tahiti Nui in premium economy
Flight TN51 will leave Seattle each Wednesday and Sunday at 12:40 p.m. and arrive in Tahiti at 7:10 p.m. Flight TN52 from Tahiti will depart for Seattle each Tuesday and Saturday at 10 p.m. and land at 10:25 a.m. the next day. All times are local. Scheduled travel time is nine hours and 35 minutes from Seattle to Papeete, and nine hours and 25 minutes from Papeete to Seattle.
During the gate-side ceremony, Lance Lyttle — the managing director of aviation for the Port of Seattle — noted that Seattle is Air Tahiti Nui’s second U.S. gateway after Los Angeles. It's also the airline’s fifth destination worldwide. “I know I speak for many Seattleites when I say I look forward to visiting some of the world’s most mythical destinations, such as Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea,” Lyttle said. He also noted that in addition to bringing a new service and a new direct route to the airport, the Air Tahiti Nui flight has a positive economic impact: “It brings lots of jobs to the region and to the city.”
Related: What it's like traveling to Tahiti right now
With Air Tahiti Nui’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner parked just outside the window, airline CEO Michel Monvoisin said he was honored to “bring this beautiful bird back to its hometown” and to be in Seattle to celebrate the inauguration of the Seattle-to-Tahiti route.
“It's a chance for North American travelers to discover the beauty of the ... islands of Tahiti, which serve as the background to the many wonders to discover, landscapes to explore and memories to create,” Monvoisin said.
Mathieu Béchonnet, president and managing director of Air Tahiti Nui, said the airline has been offering flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti and onward to Paris for many years. The airline had been searching for another gateway in North America.
He said Seattle not only offers the same time zone as Los Angeles, but it also has “a level of wealth compatible with (this) kind of a high-end destination.”
While Hawaii has been the traditional go-to island destination for Seattleites, Béchonnet says Tahiti is an entirely different experience. "The ... islands make it really a place where you will disconnect. I am not saying you can’t disconnect in Hawaii, but in Tahiti, in French Polynesia, you will feel yourself immersed in a paradise," he said.
The Tahitian Dreamliners and Air Tahiti Nui’s Alaska Airlines partnership
Air Tahiti Nui’s 787-9 Dreamliners have three cabins: Moana economy (232 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration), premium economy (32 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration) and business class (30 seats in a 2-2-2 arrangement). In each cabin, seats are upholstered in ocean blues, with brightly colored pillows and blankets adding to the tropical feel throughout.
To help set the Tahitian tone, passengers receive a tiare flower (a Tahitian gardenia) at boarding. That flower can also be seen on the tail of each of the airline’s Dreamliners.
The airline’s hard-to-miss livery includes three shades of blue inspired by the ocean, the lagoon and the skies over Tahiti; it also features a series of tattoo patterns representing a manta ray, an albatross, ocean waves, a fishhook and a Tiki eye.
Air Tahiti Nui and Alaska Airlines have a codeshare partnership, and the two airlines’ frequent flyer programs allow passengers to earn and redeem miles on all flights operated through the codeshare. Alaska Airlines’ customers can earn or use their Mileage Plan miles when traveling with Air Tahiti Nui. Similarly, Air Tahiti Nui’s customers are now able to use their Club Tiare miles in Alaska Airlines’ network.
Related: Which Bora Bora resort is right for you?
In addition to the Seattle-to-Tahiti flight, Air Tahiti Nui flies to Tahiti from Los Angeles. That direct route is also served by Air France and, starting in December 2022, Delta Air Lines, which will begin offering thrice-weekly flights.
If you are interested in booking this flight, there is widespread miles redemption availability... even in business class using Aadvantage or Alaska miles.