Is There No Good Way To Get To Tahiti On Miles Anymore?

As much as I suck at relaxing, I do love traveling to relaxing destinations. Having a beautiful place from which to work is my definition of relaxing, so I’d like to think I appreciate an overwater villa in the Maldives as much as the next person.

Relaxing

While I’ve been to the Maldives a couple of times, I’ve never made it to Tahiti (or more specifically, Bora Bora). That’s unfortunate, given that it’s actually much closer to the US, and only about an eight hour flight from LA.

LAXPPT

Starwood recently announced their annual 35% off sale for resort points redemptions, and one property in particular caught my eye — the St. Regis Bora Bora. The hotel is available for 39,000 Starpoints per night, and with a fifth night free it would cost an average of 31,200 Starpoints per night.

Starwood-Promos

That’s still a lot of Starpoints, but it seems like a great motivator to finally check out Bora Bora, given how stunning it looks in pictures.

St-Regis-Bora-Bora-1

But how do you get to Tahiti on miles?

In late 2014 I wrote a guide on how to redeem miles to get to Tahiti. The two airlines flying nonstop between the mainland US and Tahiti are Air Tahiti Nui and Air France.

In theory there are several ways to redeem points on them, though there’s a catch:

  • At the moment I don’t see any date with two Air France saver level business class award seats between Los Angeles and Tahiti, so it doesn’t really matter how many airline partners they have, because there’s no practical way to find award seats on them
  • Air Tahiti Nui still has a fair number of business class award seats, though a roundtrip business class ticket costs either 160,000 American AAdvantage miles or 160,000 Delta SkyMiles; that’s a painful number of miles to pay for an angled business class product on an eight hour flight

Air-Tahiti-Nui-A340

Best I can tell, Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t have any other airline partners that allow redemptions between Los Angeles and Tahiti, though someone correct me if I’m wrong.

How about going through Hawaii?

Hawaiian Airlines has a once weekly flight between Honolulu and Tahiti, and in theory it has a fair amount of business class award availability.

Tahiti-Miles

I could book the ticket between Honolulu and Tahiti for 50,000 Virgin America Elevate points, which I could transfer over from Starwood (it would require 40,000 Starpoints). Then I’d just have to book a separate ticket from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Virgin_Ticket

Or I guess I could book directly through HawaiianMiles, and the whole ticket from Los Angeles to Tahiti would cost 175,000 miles… which is more than the direct flight on Air Tahiti Nui would cost.

So that seems like a dumb solution and detour, especially just to avoid eight hours in economy.

Does it make sense just to book a revenue economy ticket?

For the most part I don’t fly economy internationally because I don’t have to. Thanks to my overall miles & points situation, it’s something I can avoid. That’s not to say I wouldn’t fly economy if it were the most practical way to get to a destination, though.

So I looked at revenue tickets, and they’re not especially cheap. They’re all $1,200+ per person roundtrip, which seems rather high for a ~4,000 mile flight.

Tahiti-Airfare

Not that I’m unwilling to pay that, but rather at that point I go back to saying “well, maybe I should just bite the bullet and redeem miles for Air Tahiti Nui business class.”

Or should I go even more indirectly?

Air Tahiti Nui also flies between Tokyo and Tahiti, a flight which is about 50% longer than the flight between Los Angeles and Tahiti. However, it only costs half as much roundtrip — 80,000 miles in business class, rather than 160,000 miles. Best of all, award availability is pretty wide open on this flight.

Should I book cheap paid fares to Tokyo, upgrade them with systemwide upgrades, and then book that award out of Tokyo?

LAX-PPT

See how irrational this hobby can make us? 😉

Bottom line

It’s sort of funny the impact that my miles & points obsession has on my logic. I’ve been to Bali and the Maldives several times, even though they’re significantly further than Tahiti.

However, I can’t say I mind getting to Bali…

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class

And I also can’t say I mind getting to the Maldives…

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 46

Heck, it’s even part of the fun.

The business class prices for redemptions to Tahiti seem too high, at least for travel on Air Tahiti Nui, which has an angled product for the fairly short flight. At the same time, unfortunately Air France doesn’t have any business class availability for two, which eliminates a lot of decent redemption options.

But when I value my redemptions on a cent per mile basis, I get stuck, and go back to leaning towards just redeeming American miles for business class.

Anyone else considering going to Tahiti, and if so, what’s your strategy for getting there? Is there some great option I’m missing?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Lucky, when I went to Tahiti this past June, we booked economy tickets using BOA points ( I assume you could pay as well). At the check-in counters in LAX and PPT, they allowed us to pay $300 per person one way to upgrade from Economy to Business (skipping over PE). It was great deal and the catering out of Tahiti was amazing!

  2. I believe it’s technically possible to redeem KE miles on Hawaiian to Tahiti — would be 150k for the round-trip in First — availability is still a problem though.

  3. If you’re considering the long way via TYO, what about using 55K Alaska miles to fly on Fiji Airways in business from the US to NAN. Then use 37,5K AF miles to fly on Aircalin in business (or 15K for coach) NAN-WLS-NOU-PPT. Think of it as the South Pacific Island Hopper. 😉 FJ has angled flat seats in biz but they look relatively new. And SB has both angled flat and recliner seats in biz.

    Plus one way you’d have an overnight in NOU where you could try out the Le Meridien or the Hilton. When else will you get a chance to review Aircalin biz, Fiji Airways biz, AND visit New Caledonia?! 😉

  4. Flying LAX-NAN-WLS-NOU-PPT with a couple long connections is far from the quickest or most comfortable way to PPT but it would be the most scenic by far!

  5. Why not make it more adventurous …US-SCL-IPC-PPT route? you might not save miles but get to see plenty

    other option can be use alaska miles to AU/NZ and then use united miles to PPT…both alaska and united stopover can be make it further interesting

    and don’t miss moorea..personally I liked Moorea better than bora bora

  6. If revenue prices are so high, and the flight is so short, would it be worth using miles for an economy ticket?

  7. AS techoin said, I think Lan flies to PPT with a connection in IPC.

    It would be a really a new and exciting route, specially if you could do a stopover in IPC.

  8. Other people have said this as well but you could try to fly LATAM via IPC which would make for a fantasic review

  9. I went to Easter Island this summer (IPC) and transited through Tahiti (PPT). Had a two day layover there and stayed at the InterContinental.
    My routing was circular – YYC-LAX-PPT-IPC-SCL-YYZ-YYC.
    But surely you could use points LAX-SCL-IPC-PPT and return. And if Easter Island peaks your interest, make a stop there (sorry – no chain hotels… I stayed at Hotel Puku Vai; very nice). LATAM flies the B787 Dreamliner on the SCL-IPC-PPT route: SCL-IPC is once per day but SCL-IPC-PPT is once weekly. Try to spend at least four days on Easter Island; two days on tours, one to relax and see the town, and one incase it is rainy and you need to postpone your tour). Don’t forget the shows at night.

  10. I’m thrilled that we were able to get LAX-PPT round trip business class on Air Tahiti Nui using AA miles (62,500 per person one way) before the AA devaluation. But the new level of 80,000 per person one way isn’t THAT much more. Yes, Air Tahiti Nui has angle flat seats (at least until they take delivery of the new 787s that allegedly will get true lay flat seats in 2019), but it is only 8 hours between LAX-PPT. We had a daytime flight out in the newer angle flat seats, and had an overnight flight back on the older angle flat recliner seats. It was fine flying daytime, and I surprisingly was able to sleep pretty well on the return overnight flight with a nice sleeping pill (I prefer temazepam 15-30 mg pills). The planes, food, and service are just fine, and aren’t that great…but I always prefer the shortest flight possible.

    Unless you plan to await the arrival of flat bed seats on the new 787s, which may or may not come in 2019 as expected, suck it up and use the AA or DL miles for the LAX-PPT route. If you can get the AF flight, I’d recommend it from what others have shared…but it’s supposed to be much harder to find as an award.

    We stayed at the StR Bora Bora and loved it. But now that we’ve been, we can’t say we are dying to return. It is beautiful…but it’s just a beautiful beach/water resort in the end. We’ve seen it now…and look forward to other destinations.

  11. I’m in the midst of trying to put together a trip to PPT. I agree with the SCL-IPC-PPT route that fly on Mondays. 25K Avios each way in economy with 7 seats available most weeks. Of coarse, the week next July…The one I waited for the schedule to open for, shows no award space. If anyone has any insight on LAN releasing space I would surely appreciate it. Thanks

  12. Everyone seems to love Bora Bora; however, Samoa is, IMO, the true star of the South Pacific. Fantastic beaches and rain forests with only a smattering of visitors! Resorts are small and simple but more than adequate. I stayed at Coconuts Beach Resort; a horridly hokey name for a really good and enjoyable place. Getting to Samoa is not easy; we took NZ on its SFO – AKL – APW routing. Polynesian Airlines (do they still exist?) use to have a nonstop out of HNL, though.

  13. Prices are high- for redemption and economy class tickets- because there’s limited competition and healthy demand. People will pay for it because they want to go there and for most it’s a once in a lifetime trip and they will pay whatever it costs because it’s about the destination. Product means nothing at all.

  14. Lucky, Air France is also flying their old 777-200 on this route: ‘angle flat’ J class’ AND middle seats….AND it’s a redeye in either direction. NO THANKS! (miss the days when AF offered F on this route and award space was plentiful).

    Also, the Hawaiian option isn’t so great. It takes much longer via HNL and Hawaiian offers only ‘recliner’ type seats and overnight flights (will be different story when they get their new lie flat hard product).

    If it were me, I would pick Air Tahiti Nui’s daytime flights in both directions between LAX and PPT. 8 hours in coach or angle flat business is totally ‘doable’ when it isn’t an overnight flight.

  15. Been to FP 3 times.
    Paid cash every time. Know why?
    Because it’s worth it.
    And economy on Tahiti Nui is actually semi-enjoyable. The Hinano flows freely 🙂

  16. I think I’m the only one who will say this but, you should go SFO/JFK/YVR-ICN-NRT-PPT-IPC-SCL-LAX in addition to going to Bora Bora you could also fly KE F and LAN J (which are both on your schedule)

  17. I 2nd the SCL-(IPC)-PPT suggestion, there was even a thread on FT for this route

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/premium-fare-deals/1711662-la-scl-ipc-return-j-457-ai-7-82-cpm.html

    You could also fly with Qatar from Europe to AKL (current biz sale discussed on FT) and catch an onwards flight with NZ ontheir new 787’s, which are scheduled on the AKL-PPT route now

    http://www.routesonline.com/news/38/airlineroute/267988/19jul16-air-new-zealand-nw16-dreamliner-pacific-islands-operation/

    Alternatively, go and do BKK-MEL with TG on their new A350, which they just took delivery of and will put on that route. MEL-AKL-PPT on NZ 787 all the way or do EK J/F on MEL-AKL, then NZ 787 on AKL-PPT.

  18. We flew LAX-PPT in J before the de-val and were “Lucky”enough to be upgraded to F for the return which was a significant improvement over the J seat.

  19. ROFL
    “Should I book cheap paid fares to Tokyo, upgrade them with systemwide upgrades, and then book that award out of Tokyo?”

  20. I cashed in 160k DL sky miles before they got rid of stopovers. So I booked a JFK-LAX-PPT(stop)-AKL; SYD-LAX-SEA-EWR.

    The fuel surcharges made it a bit expensive, but I’m glad I burned through the DL miles back then before they made negative changes.

    The J seats on the TN flights are okay, the IFE is horrible, the entire interface is awful.

  21. I gotta say I love the idea of going through New Caledonia and Auckland – you could even pray for equipment failure halfway through forcing you to land in your final destination anyway 🙂 and then go back through Auckland and Santiago de Chile. It looks like there may be a stopover in Easter Island on that flight too.

    I mean, the REALLY cool thing about your job is you have the time to do that Rube Goldberg of an itinerany. I mean, I’d love to enjoy that trip vicariously.

  22. “They’re all $1,200+ per person roundtrip, which seems rather high for a ~4,000 mile flight.”

    That is what Delta charges for a round trip MSP-OMA-MSP. That is 282 miles one way.

  23. Lucky, Air New Zealand fly from LAX direct to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands (RAR), then just pay for an Air Tahiti ATR flight for the short hop from Rarotonga to PPT. On the return though I think Air New Zealand route you RAR-AKL-LAX.

  24. Lucky, you are an expert on awards, how is possible you can’t find award space on Air Tahiti (TN)?, do you have ExpertFlyer?.
    I went to Tahiti in January 2015 and I did my homework, you need to look 300~330 days in advance if you want to go in high season, then on my return I took the weekly flight from PPT to IPC (Easter Island), spend 3 and half days there (it was so special), then IPC-SCL (daily) and back to the US (under the old oneworld award chart). For LAN you must check 331 days in advance, if you wait a day, then they will remove those seats for OW partners (but not for LANPASS users).

    I see 2 Business seats available almost on each day for the whole month of June 2017 (I didn’t check other days), keep in mind that TN use “I” as Business amd not C (make sure the agent knows that), use EF for this.

    The airfare from PPT to BOB is $400~500, but for $600~700 you can get a multi-island pass. Also, AFAIK, you will not get an OWB using points in the St. Regis, just a Garden Villa, and the next upgrade will be a Beach Villa, for the OWB you will have to add some extra $$$.

  25. About eight years ago we went to Tahiti and then Easter Island. I’m sure the mileage rates have changed since then but we broke up the FF flights SFO-PPT PPT-IPC and IPC-SFO. What was clever about this routing was that one alliance counted IPC and PPT as the same region while another (I think AA) classified IPC as South America. Thus we entered IPC as South Pacific and left it as South America.

  26. All travel to to PPT was easier when it was a technical stop. At various times, QF, TE, CO, UA, PA, and, UT all serviced PPT.

    Of course, the change go aircraft that could overfly PF is what led to the creation of TN.

  27. Ben,
    it is good to see some posts now that are a bit more in line what a lot of travelers encounter when trying to use miles. I have to find 3 award seats and I am not too flexible with my time because we need to work around son’s school and both of our work schedules.
    Add more posts that can be helpful for the large rest of us that have less flexibility and need more then 1 seat. Looking at a lot of routes I can find 1 seat but it is harder to find more. Recently we did buy 2 C tickets and only had our son using miles.
    Curious to see what you will decide. For 8 hours day time flight 1200 US$ is not that bad to go to a location like Bora Bora. The calculations with all the devaluations are slowly changing and you had plenty of recent posts where you did buy tickets yourself.

  28. Not much to add other than to compliment the other posters on very helpful posts! I hadn’t been that bothered about going to Tahiti but am intrigued now!

  29. I was able to get 2 coach tickets to hawaii for 12.5 miles using airfrance miles. From there i was able to use virgin america points 11k to be exact for each ticket. all together 23.5 miles from mia to ppt i think is a great deal. But from ppt i notice there is a sweet spot to asia 1 and asia 2. American only charges 40k to either of those regions and 50K for first which i think is the best redemption in the program

  30. Been to Bira Bora at the St. Regis a little over 5years ago. It was an awesome vacation. We used the Amex Plat international companion ticket yo got business class on Air France. Spring for it and use your points for the St. Regis. A wonderful trip.

  31. I applaud the suggestions that you go via Easter Island. Flew there on LAN three years ago–using BA miles–and was enchanted by the terrain, remarkable history and warm hearted people. To fly on from Rapa Nui to Tahiti–what could be better?

  32. I regularly fly to PPT for work. (Tough life, I know.) Air Tahiti Nui is the only decent option for getting there. Air France business class (old seats, with three in the center) is much worse than Air Tahiti Nui, particularly as Air France stopped using 777s with a first class cabin. Hawaiian flies planes with domestic first-class seats, so you’ll be flying 5 hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco plus 5 hours on Hawaiian in very upright seats. (Hawaiian is upgrading its A330s with lie-flat seats, but it’s not clear if they will fly that configuration to Tahiti or use 767s, as they do for Pago Pago.) Air Tahiti Nui’s in-flight entertainment, while not great, is far superior to that of Hawaiian. (If you’re a French speaker or like documentaries, you’ll have a lot more options.) The Air New Zealand flights to Rarotonga also use an upright, domestic first-class-style seat. Horrible flight experience.

    Bora Bora is beautiful but overrated. The St. Regis is not a great hotel — poor service, bungalows crowded too close to each other, and bad food. The Four Seasons has better service and food and much more comfortable rooms. Moorea (10-minute flight or 1-hour ferry from Tahiti) is prettier. It’s hard to beat the Sofitel overwater bungalows there.

    If you really want to go all-out, go to Tetiaroa to stay at the Brando. Tetiaroa is a pristine atoll 45 minutes by charter from Tahiti. Marlon Brando’s family still owns the island and built a resort that rivals the Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives.

  33. It’s eight hours in Y or two days in shitty J. Just pay cash and realize that it’s not much longer than JFK-LHR.

  34. Hey Lucky – We spent about a month in the islands, and I can’t recommend French Polynesia enough. It’s the rare destination that outshines its travel pictures and reviews. You just can’t believe how beautiful it is even when you are seeing it in person, especially the Society Islands (Bora Bora, Taha’a, etc.), which are unreal.

    But I really can’t recommend the St. Regis Bora Bora at all. I believe the review was titled, “St. Regis – Patron Saint of Poor Service.” It was our last stop and meant to be the highlight of our trip, but due to the resort personnel’s mean-spiritedness and outright dishonesty we left after just 2 nights – and it’s not like you can just walk out the door and over to another resort from these resort island motus. You really have to work at it. And it’s not that that was the only attempt – while planning a return I thought I’d give the property another go, since I also like Starwood properties generally, so I reached out to the GM about our experience. The replies I got back just reinforced our initial impressions of the property and its management.

    So French Polynesia – definitely yes. St. Regis, absolutely not.

  35. Have flown Air Tahiti Nui twice both ways. I am truly not fussy, and have been accused of eating stuff that would gag a maggot. Never again. Food was inedible, seats very uncomfortable, service from the ground and onboard staff was poor. Lines are slow at PPT, literally standing in line for 2 hours at 105F temperature humidity index. It completely soured our view as to whether we would endure the trip again. LAX-PPT is just “the wrong duration,” as Lucky has described flights before. ATN takes advantage of the fact that it has no real competition. We have amazing destinations a lot closer, and priced reasonably (Mexico). Nope, we actually do love flying for the sake of flying and trying different hard and soft products, and ATN has been one of our worst experiences.

  36. One thing I just learned from calling Air Tahiti Nui…if you book with Air Tahiti Nui directly you have a chance to pay for an upgrade to business class if space is available on day of flight. If you buy through American like I did you are out of luck for the upgrade.

  37. Lucky – my wife and I flew LAX-PPT last year in economy on a redeye using AA miles. While it wasn’t the most comfortable flight, the economy cabin wasn’t full, so it was better than I had expected. I checked ou the business class when walking through and wasn’t impressed. Bora Bora is amazing, definitely go there. But I would also recommend getting the Air Tahiti (not Nui) island hopper pass. Easiest way to get between a bunch of islands. And go more off the beaten path. We went to Moorea, Rangiroa, and Tikehau in addition to Bora Bora and Tahiti and I couldn’t recommend Rangiroa and Tikehau more. Accomodations are not 5 star, but the remoteness of the islands and the friendliness of the people totally makes it worth it. Once in a lifetime experience for sure. And check out Motu Ninamu in Tikehau. Owner is amazingly friendly and takes the guests out on day trips on his boat. Definitely the highlight of the trip.

  38. We flew to PPT in Feb 2015 on AF in business using Alaska Mileage Plan miles. Wanting to go back, we have been searching for business class award space for the last several months including making several calls to the AS award desk. Unlike 2014, when we booked the tickets, business class award space just seems to have vanished although there is coach availability for just about every flight.

  39. If you’re going that far, Tetiaroa (The Brando) is a must. It’s simply amazing. Almost as amazing as Bora and Moorea.

  40. Booked an all first/business award trip for my son and his new bride to Bora Bora. It was during last month’s peak August wedding season, so I needed to be creative and bring them via SYD-AKL as all LAX-PPT business was sold on their dates. Some flights on TN didn’t even have two coach seats together. So CMH-LAX FC on a DL AMEX companion free. I had them on DL One to SYD except that was the day of the DL meltdown so I was able to grab two Virgin Austraila business seats for same day travel with 80K DL miles. When I was finally able to call DL they were able to refund original miles. After 3 days in SYD at the Four Seasons using AX FHR, departed SYD for AKL on LANTAM 787 business. A short 23 hour stopover at the Auckland Hilton and then TN angle flat to PPT using AA 30K award (27K after CC refund) for the entrie SYD-AKL-PPT route. Air Tahiti RT to BOB with a week at the IC. Used Chase Ink points for paid PPT-HNL-LAX on HA angle flat business with a free two day stopover in HNL. Then the returned LAX-CMH on DL.

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