How to REALLY get to Tahiti in Business Class using airline miles

borabora

A friend asked me recently how she could book 2 first class flights to Tahiti from the US and which credit cards to sign up for.  I sent her a link to Travel is Free’s post, which blew her mind.  I don’t blame her since it blew my mind too, and I consider myself pretty advanced.  After some more research, I found a pretty good post here – http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/12/05/use-miles-flights-tahiti/.  The problem with those posts is that they aren’t realistic ways of how to really get 2 people to Tahiti in business class.  So I thought I’d write about how to REALLY get there for 2 people.

First Step – Book a year out!

I know most people don’t usually book flights a year ahead of time, but for this, you will have to if you want 2 business class seats.  You might get lucky and find 2 seats earlier than that, but it’s rare.  The reason is that Air Tahiti Nui only releases 2 business class award seats per flight, and since single guys don’t fly to Tahiti, expect all seats to be taken up by couples.  For your reference, I booked my late November flights in early February (10 months out).  So, clear your calendar if you want to get their in business class.  I haven’t looked at coach class, but I believe there’s more award seats, so if you don’t get business class, at least you’ll get there in coach.  Also, you’ll need time to generate the miles to get you there (more on that later.)

First Option – Get to Hawaii (Don’t do this)

Hawaiian Air flies from Honolulu to Tahiti apparently once a week.  I searched for 2 people in October (7 months out) and availability for 2 people weren’t bad.  However, who’s going to fly to Hawaii and then Tahiti?  It would be like stopping at a strip mall before heading to the bigger nicer indoor shopping mall.  Plus, like I said, there’s only ONE flight per week, so there goes any flexibility.

Second Option – Air France (not a chance)

Some blogs will say book Air France from LAX to Tahiti.  Well, I looked for availability using the Alaska Air web site for a year out and saw NO AVAILABILITY at all in business class.  Since most airlines release award space closer to departure, I looked at tomorrow’s availability and saw ONE seat in business class.  Well, unless you want to end your marriage by putting your spouse in coach, this isn’t an option.  There was no availability for 2 people for the next 2 weeks either.   So forget this option.

Third and Best Option – Air Tahiti Nui using American Airlines miles

So the best way and really, the only way to get to Tahiti using miles is using American Airlines miles flying on Air Tahiti Nui out of Los Angeles.  It costs 62,500 miles per person in business class ONE-WAY and 37,500 miles in coach, so 125K total if you want to fly both ways in business or 105K if you want to fly back in coach, which is what we did.  I didn’t have enough miles at the time to fly us back in business.  I don’t regret that move because I’m usually more excited on the trip TO my destination and hardly remember any flights back home.  The flight back wasn’t horrible, but I did vow to never fly more than 5 hours in coach ever again after that flight.  I know I just contradicted myself there, but just know it’s not the worst thing in the world to fly back from vacation in coach.

How to check availability

I don’t have Expertflyer access, and there’s no free and easy way to check award inventory online.  Do what I did and go old school.  Call American Airlines and tell them you want to book 2 award seats in business class on Air Tahiti from LAX to PPT around the dates you want.  There’s only 1 or 2 flights every day, depending on the time of year you are going.  Have a pen and paper handy and write down what dates they tell you are available.  While you have them on the line, have them check return flight availability too.  Then jot down those return dates.  If you don’t live in LAX, don’t worry about that for now.  Once you have written down the flights and availability from LAX-PPT, now you go out to AA.com and search award availability from your home city to LAX.  Because you are booking this thing 10 months out, you should have no problem finding availability, especially in coach.  You should be able to book your domestic flight in FIRST CLASS too, so don’t just look at coach availability.  Just remember that you have to look at the cheapest mile option (MilesAAver, NOT AAnytime).   You’ll also want to look at your return flight from LAX to your home city.  You’ll also want to leave at least a 2 hour connection in LAX due to customs and immigration.

Booking and Holding the Award (assuming you have the miles already)

Now that you know what date and flights you want from LAX-PPT and from your city to LAX, call back American Airlines and tell them you want book the flight.  Give them the dates and flight numbers.  They’ll ask you if you want to “ticket” the itinerary.  If everything is fine, then go ahead and ticket the flight.  If not, they will actually hold the itinerary for you for 5 days.  Also, ask them what the fees are and what each fee is.  They may try to charge you a phone ticketing fee.  Tell them they stopped charging this in February, and since you can’t book Air Tahiti Nui online, the phone ticketing charge should be WAIVED.  And that’s how you ticket your trip.  Now, if you ever need to change dates later, you can do so for free, assuming there is award space on the new dates.  Cancelling the ticket will cost you money however.

How to get 210,000 to 250,000 American Airlines miles

Now that you know how many miles you need, let’s go apply for some credit cards to get you there.

Go to aa.com/citi and you’ll see 3 cards:

  • Citi AA Platinum Select.  50,000 miles if you spend $3K in 3 months.  $95 annual fee waived first year
  • 2 weeks later, apply for the Business version of the card.  Same 50K for $3K in 3 months.  $95 annual fee waived first year.  Don’t have a real business?  Do you sell stuff on Ebay or Craigslist?  Etsy perhaps?  Apply with your SSN as a ‘sole proprietorship’
  • Skip the Executive card and it’s $450 fee.

Of course now you’ll need to get your significant other involved to do the same thing.  If both of you apply for both cards, you each should have 106K miles in your AA account, which is enough to get you there in Business and back in coach.  If you spend a little more and get up to 125K, you can get back in Business as well.  We’ll talk about where to stay in the next edition.