It seems that experflyer.com is not accurately displaying Air Tahiti Nui award space that Delta agents can book. Multiple Delta representatives confirmed with me over the phone that four seats in Business Class are available on seven different Air Tahiti Nui flights, all of which show zero award seats in Business Class available on expertflyer.com.

What Air Tahiti Nui Is and Why it Matters

Air Tahiti Nui, headquartered in Papeete, Tahiti, is one of seven airlines that flies into Fa’a’ā International Airport in Tahiti. Only two of those airlines have flights to the mainland United States–Air France and Air Tahiti Nui–and they only fly to Los Angeles.

Tahiti is the gateway to French Polynesia, as it’s the only place you can fly to with miles in the whole string of South Pacific islands. Want to go to Mo’orea or Bora Bora with miles? You’ll have to go to Tahiti first and then pay for a flight (or redeem Arrival miles) onward.

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Air Tahiti Nui not a member of any of the three major alliances, but it is a non-alliance partner of Delta and American Airlines.

What Expertflyer.com Is and Why it Matters

The only way to search for Air Tahiti Nui award space online is via expertflyer.com, which is a paid service–$100 per year, $10 per month, or free for a five day trial. It can be used for a variety of purposes, one of which is to search for some airlines award space that doesn’t show up elsewhere on the internet. Read more about how I use it in Free First Class Next Month: Using expertflyer.com.  

From patterns I’ve seen (and see now) on expertflyer.com flying Air Tahiti Nui from the US to Tahiti, if you can book 11 months out from your desired travel dates than you’ll have a good amount of options, with a maximum of two seats in Business Class and seven seats in Economy. Wait any longer and space deteriorates as the departure date approaches. 

Wait…Expertflyer.com and Air Tahiti Nui’s Actual Award Space Don’t Match?

A client of the MileValue Award Booking Service recently told me that she had found two seats in Business Class from Los Angeles to Tahiti in October bookable with her Delta miles. I searched the dates on expertflyer.com expecting to find the two seats in Business Class, but was surprised when nothing turned up. So I called Delta (800-3232323) to see if an agent could find the award space that expertflyer.com wasn’t displaying, and they indeed found the two seats in Business Class I was looking for.

I searched for award space on a number of flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti (and Tahiti to Los Angeles) on expertflyer.com to test if this was a recurring theme, planning to call Delta to cross reference.

What Expertflyer.com Says

Dates that I searched range from May 2016 to March 2017:

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 6.57.00 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.39.53 PM

Much like what I’ve seen in the past, there’s a good selection 11 months out and then nothing, except a smattering of Economy seats…

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.40.39 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.40.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.41.11 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.41.33 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.42.30 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.42.47 PM

What Delta Says

When I called Delta, three separate representatives all told me the same thing. Each of those flights from the screenshots above have four seats available in Business Class that I could book with Delta miles. Expertflyer.com shows zero seats available in Business class except for the first roundtrip example, which shows only two Business Class award seats. I was also told there are some extra Economy seats on some of the flights that expertflyer.com shows having none.

Cool! So How Can I Book a Delta award to Tahiti?

I did not actually end up booking any of this award space, so I can’t 100% confirm it is possible.

Either way, the message is clear. If you’re trying to book a flight with Delta miles to Tahiti, don’t write off the possibility just because expertflyer.com doesn’t show space. Take the following steps instead:

  1. Sign up for a paid membership or free five day trial at expertflyer.com
  2. Search for the days you would like to travel to Tahiti
  3. Note the flight numbers expertflyer.com shows, even if the dates you want to travel show zero seats available in your preferred cabin
  4. Call Delta at 800-3232323, and feed the agent your desired dates, cabin and flight numbers

I only needed to feed the Delta agents the flight numbers and dates I looked up on expertflyer.com– no other special directions were necessary. They all found the space easily. Hopefully the representatives you talk to can as well.

Cost of Delta Awards to Tahiti

Unfortunately you have to pay fuel surcharges when redeeming Delta miles on Air Tahiti Nui flights.

  • One roundtrip in Economy from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti: 90,000 Delta miles + $422.36
  • One roundtrip in Business Class from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti: 190,000 Delta miles + $532.36
  • Delta miles cannot be used to book partners’ First Class

Awards from other parts of the United States will cost the same number of miles if you find Delta or Alaska Airlines Saver award space to/from Los Angeles.

An Economy ticket purchased with cash has taxes, fees and fuel surcharges that break down to look like this (taken from ITA matrix):

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A Business Class ticket purchased with cash has taxes, fees and fuel surcharges that break down to look like this (also taken from ITA matrix):

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 8.59.56 PM

The sums of those fees (including the YQ amount, aka fuel surcharges) are both very similar to what a Delta representative quoted for me, so from that we can conclude that fuel surcharges are included when redeeming Delta miles on Air Tahiti Nui flights.

Can I Redeem American Airlines Miles Instead then?

American Airlines does not collect fuel surcharges on awards flying partner Air Tahiti Nui. It is a truism of miles that airlines release Saver award space equally to all partners, so theoretically it could also be the case that there is award space bookable with American Airlines miles that is not showing up on expertflyer.com.

Unfortunately in this case the truism is not true. I called American Airlines (800-882-8880) and asked a representative about all of the dates from the screenshots above– that according to Delta had four seats in Business Class available– and they couldn’t find any of the same space. In fact, there was even less space available to book with American Airlines miles than what expertflyer.com reports.

Bottom Line

There appears to be award space on Air Tahiti Nui from the United States to Tahiti that is not showing up in expertflyer.com’s award search results. The award space is at least bookable with Delta miles (with hefty fuel surcharges), and potentially American Airlines miles as well (fuel surcharge free).

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