The first thing you need to deal with is that flights into PPT, the international airport of Tahiti, French Polynesia are very limited. Coming from Australia, our only options were through Auckland. People coming from North America can connect through LAX and Honolulu and people coming from Europe could connect through Paris.
Air New Zealand is the only Star Alliance airline serving Tahtiti. You can get an idea of availability on United’s site. I couldn’t find anything until Feb 2015 and economy class only.
For the last year, NZ has not been releasing any seats at all between Brisbane and Auckland so even if I could have snagged a couple of rare AKL-PPT seats I would have had to pay extra to get us to Auckland. I didn’t like that option! Air New Zealand used to be more generous with award seats, in 2011 I redeemed business class to Rarotonga but these awards are a thing of the past.
ONE WORLD ALLIANCE
LAN is the only OneWorld member flying to Tahiti so unlikely to be of use to people reading this blog, especially since AA no longer offers RTW mileage awards.
Air France is the only Skyteam member that serves Tahiti. From Paris, one way awards start at 40,000 miles economy and fuel surcharge varies.
From the USA, rock bottom ex-LAX seems to be 30,000 miles with 146 EUR fuel surcharge.
The real challenge is trying to get connecting flights on Delta to LAX to hook up with your AIr France flight to Tahiti. I tried a few random dates in late 2014 and mid 2015 using flexible dates and couldn’t find anything to use as a screenshot example.
AIR TAHITI NUI
Air Tahiti Nui serves Auckland and LAX and is a partner of both American AAdvantage and Delta’s Skymiles. For Americans, you will face the same problem trying to get low-level award space on Delta from your home airport to LAX and Delta charges a fuel surcharge. AAdvantage has better availability for domestic USA awards to LAX.
For Aussies, you will fly on Qantas from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to Auckland, then transfer to Air Tahiti Nui. Award space was pretty good as long as you avoid holidays. You can see Qantas award space easily using AA’s tool.
Sometimes Air Tahiti Nui availability can be searched using the Flightstats tool.
If the systems are hooking up, you can see the fare buckets still available. This is what it will look like using the more easily searched AKL-BNE route. Ecomony seats are W class, business seats are I class. More information and photos of the cabins can be found on Flyertalk. Business seats are not lie-flat and it’s only a 4.5 hour flight so in most cases economy will be sufficient.
One last option is Hawaiian Airlines. If you are a member of their program, you can redeem online at these award levels.
Otherwise, Hawaiian Airlines partners with many other frequent flyer programs such as United Airlines, American Airlines, US Airways, Alaskan Airlines, ANA, Korean and Virgin Australia so you may be able to use their miles to construct an award Mainland USA – HNL-PPT.
In summary, getting to Tahiti using miles is one of the most challenging awards you will ever book so you do need to plan well in advance and research your airlines and award levels. I found the easiest option for availability to be on American’s AAdvantage program but as usual, your miles may vary!