American AAdvantage miles are some of the easiest mileage currencies to accrue. On the other hand, redeeming them can be challenging at times. One of the places that may be pretty challenging to use AA miles for if you don’t know how is to get to one of the most beautiful places on Earth — the honeymoon and bucket list mecca of Bora Bora.
You’ve seen them. The lavish resorts featuring elaborate overwater bungalows that are set on top of crystal clear water in a sheer tropical paradise. Many of these properties are located in Bora Bora or Moorea — both Islands in the Society Islands of French Polynesia, along with Tahiti. In order to get to these island paradises, one must first fly into Papeete (PPT) — the only international airport in Tahiti.
Getting to Papeete from North America is pretty straightforward when using American miles. There are exactly two options: Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui — both partners with American, and both are great partners that allow you to fly to Tahiti with American miles.
Both would cost the exact same cost in mileage from the contiguous 48 United States:
- 37,500 each way for economy
- 62,500 each way for business class
- Though it shows up in the award chart, First Class is not available for this award since neither Hawaiian nor Air Tahiti Nui offers a first class
When one searches for award space on American’s website, this is the only option that may show up. If there is award space, American will route you to Papeete via Honolulu. The Honolulu – Papeete flight will be operated by Hawaiian Airlines. There will likely be a variety of options to get from the U.S. mainland to Honolulu — either on American / US Airways, Air Alaska or Hawaiian.
1. Search for an award with miles on the American Airlines website.
For purposes of this exercise, I’ll search for a one-way flight between New York-JFK and Papeete (PPT) on an arbitrary date in February.
2. Choose an award type and a date
In order to get an award priced at the base level, you’ll need an award that says “MileSAAver”. In this case, there are MileSAAver awards available in both economy and business class for the week that I searched. To search more than just a week, you can click on “Show Full Calendar” for award availability for an entire month.
For purposes of this exercise, we’re going to price out a business class award. After all, it’s a long flight.
3. Select Your Flight
Once you click on your preferred date with award availability, there will be a listing of flights that have award space. For the date I selected: February 19, there are a ton of different award combinations. Some route through San Francisco / Los Angeles / Dallas / Phoenix AND Honolulu en route to Papeete.
But the most convenient option here is a nonstop from JFK to Honolulu and then continuing on to Papeete — we will select that option. An added bonus to this option is that one would get almost a full 24 hour stopover in Honolulu — perfect for a trip to the beach! Of course, one could just as easily select one of the other options if you didn’t want a long layover / stopover.
4. Verify mileage and purchase the flight
As the award chart showed, this award is 62,500 miles for a one-way in business class, plus minimal taxes.
And that’s it!
Air Tahiti Nui
Another more direct route to Papeete is on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles. Air Tahiti Nui operates a daily flight or two, every day from LAX to the Tahitian capital. Award space on this route is generally quite good. The process for booking flights on Air Tahiti Nui is nowhere nearly as straightforward as it is on Hawaiian Airlines with American miles.
This is because award availability on Air Tahiti Nui is not shown on the American website.
1. Search for Award Availability by Calling or via ExpertFlyer.com
The first step is searching for availability. In this post, I’ll detail how to check for space on your one, but one can have an agent with American search for space for you if you want. This can be done by calling American Airlines reservations at 1-800-433-7300.
However, I prefer proactively checking for award availability using Expert Flyer. Expert Flyer is a subscription based website that allows one to check award space, upgrade space and all sorts of other cool stuff.
2. Perform an Award & Upgrade Availability Search
- Select Awards & Upgrades from the left-hand column
- Air Tahiti Nui flies to Papeete from LAX on the mainland – and only LAX, so we will look at that
- Select “Business – Award (I)” for business class award space and/or “Coach – Award (W)” for coach award space
3. View the available Award Space
Here, it shows that there is only one seat available in business class (1) and seven seats in coach (W).
When booking 11 months or so out, there is generally pretty good availability — typically about two business seats and seven economy seats. As time progresses, availability decreases, so it’s best to book as early as possible. This particular example was in February, so it’s about nine months out.
Write down the flight information of the flight that has availability
4. Piece Together Your Award
There’s a good chance that you’re not going to be originating in Los Angeles, so you’ll of course need to get there to meet the Air Tahiti Nui flight to Papeete.
Once you’ve identified availability on your preferred flight, write that flight number down too.
5. Call American to Book the Award
With your flight information in hand, call American reservations to book the flights — it’s a pretty simple process that can be achieved in a five or ten minute phone call. The total cost should equate to the same 62,500 miles plus a minimal tax.
And that’s it! You’ve done the hard part — you’ve booked a flight to Tahiti on American miles!
Getting from Papeete to Bora Bora
Of course once you get to Papeete, one needs to get from there to the islands of Bora Bora. Flying is the only real way to get to Bora Bora. And Air Tahiti has the monopoly on this route (not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui). You can easily book on their website (www.airtahiti.com), but you can’t do this segments with miles — you’ll need to pay cold, hard cash for this short flight!
It’s quite the process to get to paradise, but American AAdvantage miles can make the journey there affordable. The good availability for both methods above also make a trip to Tahiti attainable!
The methods above can be used for any award search using American miles, too!