As I sit here in my LA apartment freezing (okay…it’s unusually cold and in the 40s right now. There were even snow flurries in Malibu!), I am thinking about our amazing honeymoon to French Polynesia. We spent 9 days enjoying the time together in absolute paradise. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know we travel A LOT and this has been by far our favorite destination. We opted for Mo’orea as it has one of the best beaches, coral reefs/marine life, and not quite as touristy as some of the other islands. I’ll be writing up a whole post on our experiences at our resort, but first….here is my review of Air Tahiti Nui!!
I have never flown Air Tahiti Nui nor had I ever used a travel agent. But there is a first time for everything! My travel agent (One from tahiti.com) indicated that I required a GLUTEN FREE MEAL immediately upon booking my ticket. He sent me confirmation of the special meal request and sure enough, when I logged into my air account I found that gluten free meal was listed right below my name. Off to a great start!
However, as you know, I like to contact the airlines quite a few times to follow up. I called a month out, 1 week out, and 2 days before. Each time, I asked “Is there a special meal associated with my ticket?” and their answer was “yes, gluten free.” I always ask in this way so that they actually have to check and not just say “yes” if I ask whether gluten free is on my ticket. Sneaky, sneaky, me! As a side note…unlike most airlines, Air Tahiti Nui does not have a 24/7 customer service number. So be sure to call during normal business hours!
I went to check in online for my flight the day before our trip. I was super happy when “gluten free meal” was still listed under my name! and I was even happier when the ticket I printed out said gluten free meal. GLUTEN FREE MEAL WAS RIGHT ON MY TICKET!! (Note: upon checking in at airport, the printed ticket I was given by the employee did not say gluten free meal, only the print at home ticket).
When I arrived at LAX, I also checked on my meal status at the checkin counter, the gate, and immediately upon boarding the aircraft. Regardless, I had come prepared with loads of snacks (crackers, bread, bagels, cookies, chocolate courtesy of my husband). If you have celiac, it is essential to always travel with snacks. Meals, regardless of airline, are sometimes misplaced, given to the wrong person, “lost,” or not entire safe. You can always have major delays (my longest was nearly 12 hours!), cancellations (try flying in the north east during the winter), diversions (happened to me on a business trip a few years back when I was in grad school!), and changed flight planes (read: our London trip a month ago!)–boy, do I have terrible travel luck!
With the acknowledgment of my gluten free meal by multiple individuals, I was excited as I boarded the flight. Okay so this isn’t about the food but I LOVED their blankets and travel kit including an eye mask, ear plugs, headphones, and socks. This was economy (AKA Moana) class and I felt pampered. Way to go, Air Tahiti Nui! The plane was clean and we were given flowers to wear—if you are allergic to flowers, like me, be ready for the plane to be filled with pollen & the whole island to be a giant pollen hive. Luckily, I took tons of allergy meds and was prepared! Still I ended up with a sinus infection due to allergies midway through the trip. I was a bit in denial about my pollen allergy and wore such pretty flower leis…..no regrets.
And now for the food..the part you have all been waiting for…
For dinner, I was served first. I was given chicken with potatoes, carrots, and broccoli as my main entree. There wasn’t any sauce, which made me happy and I was given a rather large portion of meat, which is pretty rare on an airline! I was also given a bowl of fruit and the dreaded rice cake wrapped in cling wrap (I didn’t eat this). There was a salad–I couldn’t figure out the dressing but there was chicken and asparagus and tomato. Each item came labeled with a white sticker that said “GFML” on it so that made me feel more comfortable.
Then came time for the snack! I was picturing the dreaded rice cake (which did actually reappear) and a gluten free bar of some sort. I would be lying if I said that snacks on planes are usually wonderful. But they were with Air Tahiti Nui! I was basically given a whole second meal!!!!!!! My meal was better than my husband’s smaller less appetizing snack. I think he was a bit jealous actually. He currently says “It was pretty forgettable.” Mine was a rather large traditional quinoa salad with veggies galore and feta cheese—after arriving in Mo’orea I found out that this quinoa salad is super popular on the island so I loved being able to try it before even getting to Tahiti. I loved it SO much that I ordered it every night at dinner as an appetizer…. As for this airline snack (really, second meal), I also had a cup of fruit and a sealed fruit cup–double fruit! Can’t complain!
After a wonderful honeymoon, we flew back to LAX from PPT on Air Tahiti Nui. For our return trip, which was a redeye, we were served dinner and breakfast. This meal was prepared differently. Instead of each item being labeled gluten free, the tray was labeled gluten free and the entree had “GFML” on it. I was given “special” bread wrapped in tin foil. I appreciated the bread effort and the ingredient list, but unless I know how it is made (dedicated facility?) or if it is pre-sealed, I will not eat it. So I left the bread. I also received a bowl of fruit and a bowl of veggie salad. I was also given pre-sealed apple sauce. For my entree I received grilled chicken with veggies and rice. Again, no sauce, which made me super happy!
Breakfast consisted of an mushroom omelet with veggies and a hash brown. There was also cottage cheese, half of a rice cake, and a bowl of fruit. Similar to my other meals, I was given the same amount of food, if not more, than the regular meals. I was happy!
My only critiques….I preferred the labeling system of the LAX to PPT flight better than the return and do wish that there was an ingredient list for the entrees (granted, very few airlines consistently do that). Also, can we swap the dreaded rice cake for a packaged gluten free bread? This is to all airlines!! (except for the few that did give me real & safe bread!)
Would I fly Air Tahiti Nui again? YES! Even ignoring my solid gluten free experience, the aircraft was clean and we were treated really well (those travel kits were awesome!). Overall, I was really happy with my gluten free dining experience on Air Tahiti Nui. The fact that I got large portions of delicious food makes me so happy. I didn’t feel sad looking over at my husband’s meal….my gluten free meal was even better!!
**Please note that this review solely reflects my own honest opinion. I was neither paid nor compensated for my visit here. Also, kitchen protocols and menus can change at any time. Make sure to speak to the staff at any restaurant before eating to make sure that they can accommodate your dietary restriction.**