Redeeming American Miles On Air Tahiti Nui

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While redeeming American AAdvantage isn’t as lucrative as it used to be (both in terms of redemption rates and in terms of partners, given the number of partners they’ve lost lately), there are still some great redemption opportunities. For example, one of the unique partners that American has is Air Tahiti Nui, allowing you to earn and redeem miles for travel on them. Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t have that many airline partners, so this is one of the few ways to redeem miles on them.

A bit over a year ago I flew Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Paris. This flight was operated by one of their A340s, and the experience was alright.


Air Tahiti Nui’s A340 business class

The good news is that the airline will soon be refreshing their fleet, and replacing their A340s with 787s, which will feature a new business class. The first 787 will join Air Tahiti Nui’s fleet in November 2018. I’ve never been to Tahiti before, so this seems like a good opportunity to review their new 787 and visit Tahiti.


B/E Aerospace Diamond seats (the style of seat Air Tahiti Nui will have on 787s)

Anyway, if you’re looking to redeem American miles on Air Tahiti Nui, there’s an update to this process as of a few months ago that may stump people, which is the main purpose of this post.

Searching Air Tahiti Nui award space

Unfortunately Air Tahiti Nui award space doesn’t show up on American’s website, so you need to book by phone. Given how tough Air Tahiti Nui award space is to come by, I recommend searching availability on your own first. The best place to do so is through ExpertFlyer, which is a subscription service. They let you easily search economy and business class award space for a week at a time.

Where Air Tahiti Nui flies, and how many miles it costs

Here are the routes that Air Tahiti Nui serves, along with how many American AAdvantage miles a one-way ticket will cost you (economy/business):

  • Papeete to Auckland (15,000/30,000)
  • Papeete to Los Angeles (40,000/80,000)
  • Papeete to Tokyo Narita (30,000/40,000)
  • Los Angeles to Paris (30,000/57,500)

I’d note that while Los Angeles to Tahiti is obviously the most practical route for those based in the US who want to travel to Tahiti, the Tokyo to Tahiti flight is a much better value on miles. The route is significantly further, and only costs half as many miles in business class. So if you want to combine a vacation to Japan and a vacation to Tahiti, that could be a good value.

Not only that, but award availability to/from Tokyo is way better than award availability to/from Los Angeles.

Calling American to redeem miles on Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui uses the following fare “codes” for award tickets:

  • Business class awards — “F”
  • Economy class awards — “U”

Aside from the hilariousness of “FU,” these are generally confusing codes for an American AAdvantage agent:

  • “F” is usually the code for paid first class
  • “U” is usually the code for business class awards on oneworld

These codes have only recently been updated, because up until last year Air Tahiti Nui business class awards used the “I” code,” and Air Tahiti Nui economy awards used the “W” code.

As a consumer none of this should matter, though it looks like American hasn’t fully updated their systems yet so that agents can easily book these. Let me explain in the form of an example. Last night while booking my ticket I had a really competent Executive Platinum agent (not being sarcastic, she was awesome, which is nowadays the exception rather than the norm):

Me: “I was hoping to book two Air Tahiti Nui business class awards from Los Angeles to Tahiti on ______. I think the seats should be available.”
Agent: “That’s strange, the fare class isn’t even coming up for me for their business class.”
Me: “Out of curiosity, what fare class are you searching?”
Agent: “I’m looking at ‘I.'”
Me: “I was told that the fare class for Air Tahiti Nui business class awards was recently changed to ‘F,’ which seems weird for an award fare bucket, but…”
Agent: “I see two ‘F’ seats, let me see if I can snag those. Bear with me, they’re coming back unconfirmed, I’m not sure why. Let me try this in a different system. If that doesn’t work I’ll talk to my support desk.”

She was clearly trying hard, while many other agents might say “nope, it can’t be booked.” After being on hold for a couple of minutes she returned.

Agent: “I got those two seats confirmed for you.”
Me: “Great, thanks so much. Just so I know for the future, was there some issue with Air Tahiti Nui seats confirming, or what exactly happened?”
Agent: “Yeah, they use a different system. Usually when we book awards we put in the award code first, but that doesn’t work with Air Tahiti Nui. Instead I just put in the word ‘AAdvantage’ rather than the code, which is what was needed to get this to work. It’s just a new system that’s different.”

Bottom line

I can’t wait to try out Air Tahiti Nui’s new 787 business class, and finally visit Tahiti. I’m still finalizing the rest of the trip, though I’ll be flying another airline in the other direction. I’ll let you guys guess what airline that is. šŸ˜‰

If you want to redeem miles on Air Tahiti Nui I suggest doing the research yourself before calling, because space out of Los Angeles is limited. The real sweet spot is redeeming between Tokyo and Tahiti, which is a nearly 6,000 mile flight, and only costs 40,000 miles in business class. That route gets the new 787 as of February 2019.

Need more American AAdvantage miles?

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Comments

  1. From what I read about Polynesia (I am going there in about 3 weeks), you should definitely book something on Maupiti if you don’t find anything on Bora-Bora.

    Since I’m guessing you are going to try and snag some sweet overwater bungallows šŸ˜‰

    Huahine, Raiatea and Fakkarava are also great place to go to apparently. Have fun !

  2. Slightly off topic, but there are reports on German blog (https://reisetopia.de/topbonus-insolvenzverfahren/) that topbonus officially went into insolvency. Everyone who still got miles seems to be able to make a claim until 24th of April. There is also a number of 0,36 cent per mile. As you’re a German native speaker, you might be able to understand the post better. I think a post of yours (in English) would be helpful for many!

  3. I have been fying this route for the last three years. AMERICAN WILL LET YOU ROUTE THROUGH AKL-SYD-NRT so you can take this 40k a little further. If you are emerald you get to use the qantas lounge in Sydney. I was able to route through asia on cathay but due to the limitation of 4 segments that is not longer possible. Great article as always ben

  4. An excellent example of how frustrating booking partner awards with AAdvantage can be. Some agents are willing to try things to get it booked and some will simply declare there is no space and nothing they can do. If wait times (at least for non-exp) were more reasonable, it might be less annoying to have to keep calling back, hoping for a competent agent.

  5. Dear anon
    That i have not done yet. But i doubt it as you will be crossing regions at that point. But since PPT is part of the pacific region you could route through sydney or auckland in one award going to the U.S. I am flying in May PPT-AKL on air tahiti nui AKL-SYD on qantas …. this one is amazing as i will be using the emirates lounge in aukland because of my business class seat. Than will countinue on Qantas 747 SYD -HND and enjoy my 3 hrs connection at sydney first class lounge. My final leg will be into GMP on Japan airlines . All these flights are on business class and this is by a longshot the best redemption on the AA award chart.
    PD you can even include eastern island as that is part of the pacific region on the advantage award . Yes you could go from chile all the way to seoul on a business class award for 40k miles. I will be posting all this on my instagram account in case you want to check it out

  6. Went to French Polynesia using AAdvantage miles for flights – Biz on way in, Eco on way back – they never opened up on the way back – and points to stay in Bora Bora, I was very lucky and got 4 nights on the IC Thalasso.

    We also stayed one night in Tahiti (nothing really special), 3 nights in Rangiroa and 3 nights in Fakarava. If you don’t scuba Fakarava will be tough, Rangiroa on the other hands is just amazing, we actually liked more there than Bora Bora.

    In any case, it is a very special place! Looking forward to reading about your trip!

  7. Great article Ben,

    I have a currently 3 award tickets booked with AA miles 22.5K one way LAX to Paris but stop in Philadelphia (economy). I keep calling AA to check on Air Tahiti Nui direct flights but always the same answer (not available). This is for Dec. 14th, 2018.
    I tried to check it myself with the link you provided (ExpertFlyer) but could not find the right “window” . How do I get to the availability checking myself?
    Next time I call AA should I question them grading the right booking class which should be U for economy if I am not mistaken.
    Thanks for your help.

  8. @ Kathrin — You need to log-in and then click on “Awards & Upgrades” and then search Air Tahiti Nui. I just checked for your dates, and unfortunately there are no economy award seats on that flight. When you do call, it can’t hurt to ask them if they’re searching the right fare class.

  9. We just returned from the Society Islands and Rapa Nui. We had no problem booking LAX-PPT on Air Tahiti Nui calling AA. The J product desperately needs an update on that route. I was surprised to see an Air Tahiti Nui plane parked at IPC for at least 2 days while we were there. My guess is that it must have been a charter. Our PPT-IPC flight on LATAM was a steal using Avios, although we were in coach as there was no availability in J for this (once a week), flight. We used 12K Avios pp, for a flight that was pricing at ~$900 OW on LATAM, when I booked with BA.

  10. I just did this exact trip recently. I booked when the calendar first opened up, so 300+ days in advance (forget the specifics). 80k AA got me PPT > LAX. Availability was ample. I even checked a few times over the months leading up to the trip as I was thinking about shifting the return 1 day earlier. Service and food were ok. I just did the flight this past Feb so I had the old planes, hopefully their newer planes will be better but not sure it will improve the service or food. I mean they were not awful, but nothing outstanding. Just comfortable which was fine.

    My only suggestion, Tahiti isn’t that great. We enjoyed Bora Bora much more. Speaking with other people, they all seem to enjoy the outer islands way more than Tahiti. 24-36 hours in Tahiti is more than plenty. We did 2 tours to see the town of downtown Pape’ete and also the West Coast of the island. Nice people and all, just not a ton to see and do. And if you want the views and best blue waters, you are better off on the other Islands.

  11. “An excellent example of how frustrating booking partner awards with AAdvantage can be. Some agents are willing to try things to get it booked and some will simply declare there is no space and nothing they can do.”

    I experienced this last week when trying to book NOU-SYD-JNB on QF given that AA.com always wants this to be two separate tickets, maybe due to origin in New Caledonia. Got a really helpful phone agent who found good availability and of course waived the fee for booking by phone since it couldn’t be completed online. Looking forward to the “loneliest flight in the world” with views of Antarctica.

  12. Hi, so this is actually how I got into this game. I read a blog, mentioned it to my husband, he said it was impossible. I said “CHALLENGE ACCPETED!!!!” I did this dream trip all on points and miles. You aren’t really telling the whole picture. You really need to book la to ppt the day the calendar opens on that 300+ day. It actually comes out at about 6am. I stayed up all night and called every hour! Also, they only release 4 award seats per flight. So the early bird gets the worm, a year in advance. We went Christmas week 2015. It was a dream come true. I’ll never forget my #HutLife! (Inside joke with my husband, haha). Needless to say, I proved to him it was possible and to join me in this game.

  13. Don’t forget about the one Air Tahiti Nui plane (out of 5) that has Barca loungers in business (non lie flat).

    It’s not usually used but still exists.

  14. @puntomillas are you sure you got it in one award? because TN is an AA partner and you are not suppose to mix it with OW partners.

    @Ben, I was able to find flight at T330 days out a couple of years ago but only the AKL-PPT, then PPT-IPC-SCL etc which was part of another award (old AA OW Explorer award).

  15. I can’t wait to see (and read review) where you are staying in Bora-Bora. Usually it’s between Four Seasons and St Regis, and I myself cannot decide which one to go with.

  16. Flew Air Tahiti Nui to Paris from LAX two years ago – this was before American changed their peak/off-peak dates. I booked for 40,000 miles round trip and received 10% miles back so it was only 36,000 round trip.

    The flight was uneventful – the food was awful but the wine was great. Looking to make the journey for summer 2019.

  17. @ federico. I have flown multiple times on TN and (QF , LA and Cathay and JL) on the same itinerary. Before they were able to let me put up to 8 segments but last year they updated the OW rules and now they are only allowing up to 4 segments. Still I was able to confirm IPC-PPT-AKL-HKG-PEK for 40K miles. The harder segment to get is the Latam one as they are really stingy on the IPC-PPT leg for some reason. The trick is to book both IPC-PPT and AKL-SYD on latam and than once it gets ticketed change the routing. This step seems to make OW LIAISONS ok for the approval of the routing. Sometimes the system will break the award due to exceeding the amount of miles but i usually would ask for someone in the rate desk to fix it for me and gets done

  18. Hi Lucky,

    You have mentioned

    ā€œLos Angeles to Paris (30,000/57,500)ā€

    Under the section

    ā€œWhere Air Tahiti Nui flies, and how many miles it costsā€

    Isnā€™t the award LAX violate the rule ā€œa transfer in a third regionā€ ? US to Europe (vi third region South Pacific). In fact, I think the maximum permitted miles (mpm) exceeds as well. While mpm is a rule loosely controlled but the third region rule is somehow quite stringent.

    Otherwise per above comments of creative IPC-Asia 1 rule one could transit in exotic places like MLE, but since only Asia 2 allowed as a third region to transit, awards transferring in MLE wonā€™t be valid.

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