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Flying to Tahiti with Delta SkyMiles

[Update Delta has changed their redemption rates to Tahiti and they no longer allow stopovers]

I burned 160k Delta Sky Miles to redeem for an open jaw business class ticket to Auckland, New Zealand returning from Sydney Australia with a stop over in Papeete en route to Auckland. I stopped over in Papeete because I wanted to check out Bora Bora and Moorea where I would be using hotel points for my stay.

Being based in the Northeast, I was originating from New York and needed to find availability from NYC to LAX to connect with the Air Tahiti Nui flight to PPT. The challenging part about redeeming Delta miles is finding the saver availability on Delta flights. Partner airlines are always available at the saver level so the challenge is making everything line up.

I managed to find saver level economy seats from JFK to LAX. Redeeming for Business Elite seats are tough to come by so I had to settle for economy on the domestic portion.

The return from Sydney to Australia on Virgin Australia connected with Alaska Airlines from LAX to Newark via Seattle. This was again in economy as finding first class on the Seattle to Newark is a little difficult to come by.

All together the itinerary looks like this on the map:

Flying to Tahiti with Delta SkyMiles

Flight routing

The total taxes/fees came to about $408.xx USD. Delta imposes fuel surcharges when there is an Air Tahiti Nui flight on the itinerary. Despite the high out of pocket cost, I was still getting a good value from the Delta Sky Miles because these seats have a market value of several thousand dollars.

Delta imposes a telephone booking fee when you have phone an agent. I was able to get the telephone fee waived by arguing that the Air Tahiti Nui flights can’t be booked online and the only way to book it is through a phone agent so it’s unfair to charge a telephone fee.

Air France also partners with Delta and one can redeem Sky Miles for flights on Air France without the fuel surcharges. The downside is that the flights are not operated daily and the availability is difficult to come by in business class. On the other hand, if you want economy, the availability is generally there.

Redeeming American Airlines Aadvantage miles on Air Tahiti Nui is another option for flying to Papeete from LAX, which would cost less in the way of taxes/fees, but their routing rules are different and wouldn’t allow to include Auckland without incurring additional miles.

PLANNING

I wasn’t aiming for any particular dates, I just wanted to make this itinerary work so I was very flexible with my travel dates. The limiting factor was the availability of the Papeete to Auckland flights in business class since it only flies three times a week and further limits my choices. I certainly didn’t want to spend too much time in Bora Bora or Moorea as those are expensive places and I have only a limited amount of hotel points to redeem. I settled with a stop over of 9 nights in Papeete where I mixed my time in Bora Bora, Moorea, and the main island of Tahiti.

The end of the outbound flight segments leaves in in Auckland and the inbound flights originate from Sydney. With an open jaw itinerary, I’m responsible for my own travel cost between Auckland and Sydney. I redeemed United Miles for this, which I’ll detail in another post.

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

The seats are angled lie-flat and are not the most comfortable seats relative to other business class seats. Given the limited redemption options and the availability made by the airlines, it’s probably the most comfortable way to fly to Papeete.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class

I was seated in a window seat for my flight to Auckland. My seatmate was asleep the entire time apart from the meal service. The times I needed to get up, I had to hurdle his legs. I much prefer the herringbone configured business class seats for this reason.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class

THE LOUNGE IN PAPEETE

I made my way to the lounge located airside on the upper level. Most of the seating area in the airport is open air, but the lounge is air-conditioned. There’s only a hand full of international flights at any given time so the lounge has sufficient space to accommodate all those who have access.   The food offering in the lounge has your basic soft drinks and some alcohol. There are some snacks if you want anything the lounge has to offer.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Lounge

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Lounge

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Lounge

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Lounge

THE MEAL SERVICE AND IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

The flight departed at 8:50am and I was a little surprised that they were serving breakfast once we were airborne. The appetizer was variety of mixed fruit and yogurt.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Meal

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Meal

I opted for the omelet option for the main, which is the same thing I had on the Air Tahiti Nui flight to Papeete.

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Meal

Air Tahiti Nui Business Class Meal

The entertainment system has a variety of movies and TV shows like most international flights. The controls are touch screen, but given that one doesn’t want to reach from a reclined position, there’s a remote that has a mouse-like pointer in the shape of a human hand that’s controlled from the remote. It takes a little time to get used to, but certainly better than reaching to touch the screen to make a selection.

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