This post will be about getting to French Polynesia–Tahiti, Bora Bora, and more–with Hawaiian Miles, United MileagePlus Miles, US Airways Dividend Miles, and American Express Membership Rewards. Tahiti is an award I get asked to book frequently through my Award Booking Service, and I wanted to share some free tips.
French Polynesia is a French-speaking “overseas country” controlled by France. It is south of Hawaii and east of Australia. The main tourist spots are Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Mo’orea. People go to French Polynesia for the absolutely stunning beach-and-island landscape.
French Polynesia has only one international airport, F’a’a’a Airport serving Pape’ete, Tahiti, airport code PPT. Other islands have airports with flights within the islands, but to get to French Polynesia, you must fly to Tahiti. Here’s a complete list of flights to and from PPT, according to wikipedia:
Some readers may have Hawaiian Miles from applying for two Hawaiian Airlines credit cards at the same time to get 70k miles. See Best Current Credit Card Offers.
Hawaiian Airlines’ chart has some sweet spots–like 100k roundtrip from the US to the UK in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with no surcharges–but in general the chart isn’t great.
I have two specific gripes about Hawaiian’s award chart:
- They charge 20k miles each way from the continental US to Hawaii. That’s standard, but that’s a bad deal from the west coast where you can fly to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios. Hawaiian is expanding its route network, but for the moment it only flies to the western US and New York (JFK).
- To get from the continental US to Asia or the Pacific on Hawaiian will cost the price of US-Hawaii plus Hawaii-Asia/Pacific. This method of pricing makes awards for mainlanders to Asia/Pacific on Hawaiian way more Hawaiian Miles than American miles, which can also be used for Hawaiian flights.
Here’s the relevant part of Hawaiian’s award chart to Tahiti.
We’re only interested in the super saver prices. They’re a bit high at 47.5k/87.5k each way in economy/business. That compares to 37.5k/62.5k AA miles or 50k/75k SkyMiles (assuming roundtrip.)
Hawaiian operates a six-hour flight to Tahiti once a week from Honolulu on a two-cabin 767.
First class is a recliner seat with 42″ of pitch. For perspective, that 4″ more leg room than domestic first class. I would not pay the premium to fly first class over economy class on this flight.
Hawaiian Flight 481 flies HNL-PPT 4:35 PM – 10:30 PM on Saturdays
Hawaiian Flight 482 flies PPT-HNL 12:30 AM – 6:15 AM on Sundays
This flight can be booked with Hawaiian Miles on hawaiianair.com. See Free First Class Next Month: Using Hawaiianair.com to Make Award Bookings for information on how to make Hawaiian award bookings.
Searching for two award seats–I’ve only ever booked two for Tahiti–I found no business class availability on the Hawaiian flight, but economy class space about 2/3 of available Saturdays.
If you do book with Hawaiian miles, here is a tip to save 2,500 miles per person per direction. If you have the Hawaiian Miles credit card, you are offered 17,500 mile oneways to Hawaii, a 2,500 mile discount.
You aren’t offered a discount on award to Tahiti. If you search for your home airport to Tahiti, it will price at 47,500 miles.
Getting both credit cards will give you 70k miles. You can transfer instantly from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 rate. If you have a Hawaiian credit or debit card, others can transfer miles to you for free, using the Share Miles feature I’ve discussed.
You can get a free stopover in Hawaii both directions by nature of the fact that Hawaiian adds up the price of an award to Hawaii and an award to Tahiti to get the final price of an award from the mainland to Tahiti.
United and US Airways Miles
Getting from the US to Tahiti with Star Alliance miles would be my very last choice. The only Star Alliance flights to Tahiti are the twice-weekly Air New Zealand offerings from Auckland. Flying Los Angeles-Auckland-Tahiti is about 5,000 extra miles compared to the direct route available with American or Delta miles.
That said, it is possible. Los Angeles to Auckland has almost no award space on Air New Zealand. Honolulu to Auckland is slightly better. Here’s is one award routing I found if you’re a glutton for punishment.
That’s 20 hours of flying and 34 hours of travel.
If you’re already in New Zealand, then US and United miles can be great to fly to Tahiti. Air New Zealand flies to Tahiti on Mondays and Fridays. The flights from Tahiti are Sundays and Fridays. I see great economy availability, and no business availability.
For just Auckland to Tahiti, United charges 35k miles roundtrip in economy and US Airways charges 25k miles. To book with United, search and book on united.com. To book with US Airways, search on united.com and book by calling 800-622-1015.
From the US to Tahiti, United wants 35k/60k each way in economy/business. US Airways charges 80k/110k roundtrip. Those prices are great as long as you don’t mind taking the long way to Tahiti.
American Express Membership Rewards
Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Delta SkyMiles, Air France Flying Blue points, and Hawaiian Miles. I’ve already discussed Getting to Tahiti with Delta SkyMiles and Hawaiian Miles (above.)
I don’t think Flying Blue adds much to the options. With Flying Blue miles, you can book the same Air France flights that you can book with Delta miles. But Flying Blue redemptions come with nasty surcharges, while Delta awards for the same Air France flights don’t have surcharges.
My strategy with AMEX points, then, would be to look at the Delta options–Air Tahiti Nui and Air France–and the Hawaiian option–its weekly flight. I would weigh the miles needed, the surcharges if the Air Tahiti Nui flight looked promising, the flight times, and the comfort of each option, and I would transfer to the best combination of those factors.
If that sounds like a lot of work, just contact my Award Booking Service.
Getting to Bora Bora, Moorea, and other islands
Air Tahiti–not Air Tahiti Nui, the AA and Delta partner–runs regular flights to other islands that you can purchase with cash. Or you can take a ferry to some islands.
American miles are your best option to French Polynesia, with Delta miles your second best bet. The best of the rest are Hawaiian Miles. Because Membership Rewards transfer to Hawaiian and Delta, AMEX points are another solid way to get to Tahiti.
United and US Airways miles are pretty worthless to get from the USA to Tahiti, but you can get from New Zealand to Tahiti in economy class.