How To Use Miles On Flights To Tahiti

Tahiti is one of the most aspirational destinations out there, and also one of the toughest to get to on miles. Getting to French Polynesia is difficult because there are so few flights in general, which means award travel to Tahiti and Bora Bora is correspondingly limited.

For flights to Tahiti from North America, you basically have two options, both of which leave from Los Angeles. Given how many questions I receive about how to get to Tahiti on miles, I thought it might be helpful to go over the various mileage options.

Le-Meridien-Tahiti
The Le Meridien Tahiti is a Category 5 SPG property, and is on sale for Cyber Monday

Air France

Air France operates a 777-200 between Los Angeles and Papeete with 3x-4x weekly service. Business class is a 2-3-2 configuration with angled-flat seats.

In terms of award space:

  • It’s common to see 7+ economy seats when booking in advance
  • Air France will sometimes release unsold business class seats in the days prior to departure
  • Otherwise business class award space has been trending towards “very poor” as of late

How to find Air France award space to Tahiti

Expert Flyer is a great tool for finding Air France award space that can also be booked by Delta. As a rule of thumb, both “O” coded business class space and “X” coded economy space can be redeemed with SkyMiles. You’ll want to double-check with Delta, but this is probably the fastest way to check space across a range of dates.

The one caution with Expert Flyer is that occasionally the system will return results on the codeshare flights with Air Tahiti Nui. The booking codes are all different here, so it can be very confusing and frustrating.

The true Air France flights are operated by a 777 and have flight numbers of 76 and 77, so you can disregard the others.

Flights-to-Tahiti-7

Delta.com is a more usable option for finding mileage seats to Tahiti now that they’ve fixed the SkyMiles calendar. Make sure you’re searching from LAX to PPT, as the search engine isn’t very robust in terms of connections.

Alaskaair.com is a great free place to search for award space on Air France. I would also focus on the long-haul segment from Los Angeles to Papeete, and then add the other flights in once you’ve found the transpacific flight.

The FlyingBlue website will also display award space. If you’re redeeming through a partner airline you’ll want to search for “classic” level flights, though keep in mind that Delta doesn’t have access to all Classic space.

Redeem miles to Tahiti on Air France

Air France is a SkyTeam member airline, so you can redeem miles from any SkyTeam partner. Air France also partners with Alaska Mileage Plan and JAL Mileage Bank, which gives you a few options.

Airline ProgramMileage Required in Business ClassTransfer Partners
Alaska Mileage Plan60,000 one wayStarwood Preferred Guest
Alitalia Millemiglia90,000 round tripAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Air France/KLM Flying Blue75,000 one wayAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
Citi Thank You (selected)
Delta SkyMiles160,000 round tripAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest
JAL Mileage Bank65,000 round tripStarwood Preferred Guest
Korean Air SkyPass90,000 round tripChase Ultimate Rewards

In terms of the best value, there are a few things to consider about each program.

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska will allow you to add connecting flights on Alaska metal. They tend to have fantastic award availability, and allow stopovers even on one way tickets. This wouldn’t be my favorite use of Alaska miles, but there is certainly some value to be had here. Alaska doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for travel on Air France.

Alitalia Milemigglia

Booking awards through Alitalia is complicated, but they have a great award chart for flights to Tahiti, provided you’re exclusively traveling on Air France. If you include segments on Delta the price jumps dramatically, and given how terrible domestic availability is with Delta it’s probably not worth the price premium. Alitalia also imposes fuel surcharges for travel on Air France.

Air France/KLM FlyingBlue

Air France offers enhanced availability for FlyingBlue members, though it’s still not great. Flex awards are a terrible value, but if you’re trying to coordinate a honeymoon in Tahiti and have a ton of Citi ThankYou points this might be an acceptable option. There’s also potential value in redeeming for Premium Economy, which we’ll get into below. Air France imposes fuel surcharges for travel on their own flights.

Delta SkyMiles

As opposed to the other programs on this list, Delta will allow you to combine an unlimited number of partners on an award ticket. So you can have flights on Delta, Alaska, Air France, and even Air Tahiti Nui. Domestic availability on Delta-operated flights is horrible, but if you’re booking in the next few weeks Delta does still allow a stopover on awards. You won’t pay any fuel surcharges for awards originating in the US, which is a nice perk.

JAL Mileage Bank 

Japan Airlines has a distance based award chart, and one of the more interesting partnerships they have is with Air France (given that Japan Airlines is in oneworld and Air France is in SkyTeam).

Los Angeles to Tahiti is just over 4,000 miles one-way, so roundtrip you’re looking at 8,000+ miles. If you look at Japan Airlines’ award chart, that makes the roundtrip cost of an award on Air France 40,000 miles in economy or 65,000 miles in business class.

JAL-Award-Chart

That’s by far the lowest mileage cost of any program to Tahiti.

JAL imposes fuel surcharges for travel on Air France.

Korean Air SkyPass 

Korean Air partners with Air France, and they charge 90,000 SkyPass miles for a roundtrip business class award between the US and Tahiti. Assuming you can find award space on Air France, that’s one of the better values out there.

Korean-Award-Tahiti

It’s worth noting, however, that Korean imposes fuel surcharges for travel on Air France.

Air France Premium Economy

Given how lousy business class availability can be, Air France’s premium economy product might be worth considering for flights to Tahiti. The seats are a bit wider than economy, and in a 2-4-2 configuration. You also get about six more inches of leg room.

Availability through FlyingBlue is comparatively decent, with a one-way classic flight award pricing at 60,000 plus about $200 in taxes and fees.

Flights-to-Tahiti-5

That’s not a great redemption, comparatively speaking, but given FlyingBlue is a transfer partner of several flexible points currencies, it might be worthwhile for a Tahiti honeymoon or something if you couldn’t find business class award space.

Air Tahiti Nui

The other carrier with nonstop award space from the US to French Polynesia is Air Tahiti Nui, which operates an A340-300 between Los Angeles and Papeete with daily and sometimes twice daily service. Business class is also angled-flat, and in a 2-2-2 configuration.

In terms of award space:

  • Economy space seems to be somewhat binary. Either I’ll see 4+ economy seats, or zero.
  • Air Tahiti Nui typically releases two business class award seats around when the schedule opens. I’ve never seen more than two per flight.
  • Inventory doesn’t seem to be “actively” managed, and I typically don’t see much last-minute award space.

How to find Air Tahiti Nui award space to Tahiti

None of their partner airlines display Air Tahiti Nui award space online, so using ExpertFlyer is probably your best bet. You’ll want to select “I” for business class or “W” for economy.

Flights-to-Tahiti-2

The space on ExpertFlyer seems to match what partner programs have access to, though it can be tough for phone agents to find the flights in their systems.

Redeem miles to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui

Airline ProgramMileage Required in Business ClassTransfer Partners
American AAdvantage62,500 one wayStarwood Preferred Guest
Delta SkyMiles160,000 round tripAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Starwood Preferred Guest

American AAdvantage

American will allow you to add domestic segments on Alaska, American, or US Airways, and domestic space tends to be better than what Delta offers. You won’t pay fuel surcharges on these awards, and given you can hold an award for several days while you transfer points from SPG, this is one of my favorite options.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta has been the perennial favorite for awards to Tahiti, given that SkyMiles is the only program that partners with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui. As Delta shifts to offering one-way awards in 2015 this is less of a priority, but it’s still nice that SkyMiles can be redeemed on both airlines to Tahiti.

The caveat here is that it’s really hard to book Air Tahiti Nui through Delta. Nine of ten agents don’t know the airline exists, much less that they’re a SkyMiles partner. Also, while Delta doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for travel originating in the US on Air France, they do impose fuel surcharges for travel on Air Tahiti Nui.

Bottom line

Awards to Tahiti are unique. Redeeming miles to French Polynesia is challenging not because the routes or rules are complex, but rather because there is such limited capacity.

Similarly, many of the programs that we traditionally consider to be the “best value” don’t do you much good if you want to use miles to Tahiti. There’s not a realistic way to redeem United miles to Tahiti, for example, particularly not in a premium cabin, due to the lack of Star Alliance service to the islands.

Has anyone redeemed miles to Tahiti? Which program did you use?

Comments

  1. Thanks Lucky,
    I believe there is another option to fly Air New Zealand through Auckland. This might give Star Alliance members a chance to use miles as well.

  2. So my wife and I just got back from our honeymoon to Bora Bora and we flew Air Tahiti Nui with AA miles. I called exactly 365 days out from the flight date to secure the two business class seats. We had a conveniently long 13 month engagement, so I was able to get seats on Air Tahiti Nui, Air New Zealand (we spent a second week in New Zealand) and Qantas business class back! The TN seats weren’t loaded until about 1am CT time, so I had to call back a few times before an agent could grab them. They only release two seats in business per flight, so if you are going over a busy period (we went the week before Thanksgiving), you may be out of luck if you can’t plan your trip 12 months out.

    It’s important to note that not all TN planes, including the LAX-PPT route, are operated with the new business class. As of November 2014, still on three of the five planes have been converted. And, our flight attendant confirmed that at least once a week an old, recliner style business class plane is used on the LAX route. Unfortunately for us, that’s exactly what we had. It was certainly a step-up from coach, but given the variable risk I likely would have opted instead to get seats on the Air France flight had that worked for our schedule. Also, be careful of arrival times and connecting flights to islands like Bora Bora. On Sundays, all the shops at PPT are closed and the airport is not air conditioned, so it can be a miserable place to spend a 2-3 hour layover!

  3. 6,250,000 AA miles for one-way business award on Air Tahiti Nui? Wow !!! Does that come with benefits on the side??? 😛

  4. 125,000 AA miles each for 2 passengers round trip PHL to LAX (USair) LAX to PPT (Air Tahiti Nui) all in first/ biz class

  5. I booked 2 flights 330 days out using AA miles on Air Tahiti Nui(TN) by checking expertflyer first and calling an AA agent to lock in the award. 62.5k one way in Domestic first on USAir and business from LAX to PPT. Went smoothly. 10% back using Citi AA Plat, so for 2 tickets 115k one way + $80 in booking/fees there & 115k + $179 return.
    The kicker is the $500 RT per ticket to Bora Bora on Air Tahiti that can not be booked on points.

  6. I booked 2 flights 330 days out using AA miles on Air Tahiti Nui(TN) by checking expertflyer first and calling an AA agent to lock in the award. 62.5k one way in Domestic first on USAir and business from LAX to PPT on Air Tahiti Nui. Went smoothly. 10% back using Citi AA Plat, so for 2 tickets 115k one way + $80 in booking/fees there & 115k + $179 return.
    The kicker is the $500 RT per ticket to Bora Bora on Air Tahiti that can not be booked on points.

  7. Good post. Interesting as this is also on my bucket list like many folks. I wonder where I would stay when there as I’ve never researched it. It seems like hotels/resorts would be expensive there.

  8. Since this is a pretty straightforward LAX-PPT flight we are talking about, you should list the fuel surcharges in the charts as well. Are they the same in both directions?

    Also, how long is the flight and which is the best mileage program/carrier in economy?

  9. I’ve been posting for a while about the “Stealth Devaluation” AA is doing with their FF Program. But like Gilbert, even I was shocked to see 6,250,000 miles for a one way Business Class Award ! 🙂

  10. Also, there’s sporadic service from LAN (from IPC, Easter Island) – bookable with Avios.
    And Air New Zaeland flies there from AKL if you want to connect in Middle Earth.

  11. Didn’t you write an article on this subject last May? Just saying.. 😛 (and I remember, because I discovered the JAL AF redemption)

  12. @ Lucky: I am new here so please bear with me. I am just curious and wondering on why do you encourage or explain in detail on how to get to Tahiti by Air France and not JAL, since I see in the chart that the mileage redemption for roundtrip in JAL is much more less than if we redeem miles on Air France (65k vs 150k roundtrip).
    Can you please also post a guide on how to find award availability and redeem it on JAL (since it’s “by far the lowest mileage cost of any program to Tahiti”), as you did with Air France and Air Tahiti Nui on this primer? Thanks a lot.

  13. As others have said, Hawaiian is an option too. And I beleive Hawaiian permits free stopovers in Honolulu for all transpacific flights

  14. The RT from Tahiti to Bora Bora can be booked using Chase UR points via the UR site. You can also book flights to a couple of the other islands such as Moorea, although Moorea is just a short, inexpensive ferry ride from Tahiti.

    I will be traveling to Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora in June. First, I will be making a ten day stay in Hawaii, so I am flying Hawaian from Kauai to Honolulu to Tahiti, using AA miles (FC from HNL to PPT.) Then flying Air Tahiti to Moorea and then to Bora Bora, returning to Tahiti using Chase UR points. The return home trip is booked with AA miles in FC. Return from Tahiti to Honolulu on Hawaian, Honolulu to Portland on Alaska and Portland to Charlotte on US Air. I would much, much prefer to fly Air France FC from Tahiti to LAX but I have been checking thru Delta and Alaska and have not found anything yet. My return date, leaving Tahiti is June 27th (but I could easily stay another day or two) so if anyone has any suggestions, I would appreciate the tip.

  15. Have really no preference to travel blogs. Mommy points points guy points n martinis. But look at urs most now as u dont inudate me with sale blogs. I know u need to make money so ill use your links. Most.. Not all..others dont write a piece unless it has 30 click here to apply links. Appreciate the mix of running a blog to make money with actually providing ur readers with insight. Used to love pts guy but now every blog has 10 this credit card is great links. Keep up the mixture of sales n solid artivles. Appreciate real insight

  16. Not sure if you can go on Air NZ metal anymore Akl- PPT they don’t fly to Ppt they code share with Air Tahiti Nui. The only Air NZ metal into PPT is the 1-2 flights weekly from Rarratonga. If you book your accommodation through Air Tahit ( this is the domestic one) they are very competitive and the airfares are then a lot cheaper. They have great deals for locals, which means you have to visit their office in PPT. Land are about to intro duce a 787 on this route though this is a long route to get there, Air Calin via Nouméa would be as quick. Remember no one ever said, heaven would be cheap, especially if you are going to Boring Boring.

  17. @ Geoffrey — Sorry for any confusion, but I do mention Japan Airlines and the redemption value to Tahiti. Let me know if I can answer anything specifically.

  18. @Lucky, has Chase UR confirmed that Korean will come back as a transfer partner? The secure message I received from Chase last week after inquiring about it was “At this time, the redemption option to transfer rewards to Korean Airlines is not available. We are currently unable to confirm if or when this redemption option will return.”
    I hope it does come back as a transfer partner but Chase is being quite evasive on the whole issue.

    I’ll be going to Tahiti in September 2015. I used my AA miles to fly AA/TN from JFK. Can’t wait!!! 🙂

    @Duncan, Air NZ metal still flies to PPT but only a few times a week. I even heard that they will use one of their 787s to go there someday, perhaps in 2016. I also heard LAN will be flying its 787-9s on its SCL-AKL-SYD route.

  19. Had no issues snagging 2 in biz for August on Air Tahiti Nui redeeming AA miles. I booked them a month ago and had numerous days to pick from. 62.5k miles per person with AUS-LAX in first and LAX-PPT in business. I just hope the planes are all configured in the next 6-9 months.

    FWIW, I have been incredibly lucky with the devaluation in AA miles lately when booking awards. I have burned close to 1M miles in the last 6 months with flights to BKK (via HKG) for 55k each way in business. I”m guessing luck will run out one day soon…

  20. Lucky–

    Is booking through Flying Blue the only way to book Premium Economy? There’s 0 availability on Air Tahiti Nui and AF for business class in January when I’m trying to take my wife…so need to get the next best thing.

    150k Flying Blue miles and 60k delta, 70k Chase UR… just trying to assess options!

    Cheers!

  21. Lucky,

    I read some old posts on flyertalk mentioning that you can upgrade coach tickets to business class for a copay of $600 to $900 assuming availability and that you arrive at the airport 3 to 4 hours before departure. Do you know anything about this?

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