Which Miles to Redeem on United’s New Direct Flight to Tahiti

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United recently announced that they will commence service between San Francisco and Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) as of October 30, 2018. This is great news as it theoretically means more award space to a destination infamously hard to book an award to. At the moment, the only direct flights between the continental United States and Tahiti are on Air Tahiti Nui and Air France, both of which depart from Los Angeles. There’s also a Hawaiian flight between Honolulu and Papeete.

United's new route which begins October 30, 2018.
United’s new route which begins October 30, 2018.

The direct flight will depart San Francisco at 2:45 PM (UA115) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and arrives to Papeete at 9:25PM, which is an 8 hour and 40 minutes flight. The opposite direction departs Papeete at 11:45 PM (UA114) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and arrives to San Francisco at 10:50 am (+1 day), which is roughly an 8 hour flight.

The Plane

The route will be served by Boeing 787-8.

There are 36 Business Class seats, all of which feature fully flat beds. That’s more than can be said for Air Tahiti Nui’s Business Class seat which has 160 degrees of recline. 

United Award Price

United considers Tahiti to be in Oceania, so (at the Saver Level) it costs…

  • 35,000 United miles one way in economy
  • 70,000 United miles one way in Business

Good Prices Redeeming Partner Miles

That same Saver level space (the cheapest award space available on united.com, which is also labeled Saver) is bookable with partner miles, like…

…Avianca, which is a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points as well as SPG Points.

  • 40,000 Lifemiles one way in economy (and no fuel surcharges)
  • 80,000 Lifemiles one way in Business (and no fuel surcharges)

…Aeroplan, which is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards as well as SPG Points.

  • 80,000 Aeroplan miles one way in Business (and no fuel surcharges)

…ANA , which is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards as well as SPG Points. However, when redeeming ANA miles, you must book roundtrips and not one-ways.

  • 75,000 ANA miles roundtrip in economy (and no fuel surcharges)
  • 120,000 ANA miles roundtrip in Business (and no fuel surcharges–far and away the best deal in Business Class, if you can manage to book roundtrip)

The problem is–and it’s a big problem– there is no Saver level award space right now to be spoken of. At least on the direct SFO to PPT and PPT to SFO route. There is Saver level space connecting in New Zealand, but that adds many more hours to the trip. 

Award chart sweet spots are useless if you can’t actually find the lowest level award space. Fingers crossed the calendar will open up closer to the launch of the route.

Is your dream vacation to fly to Tahiti in a premium cabin? If (let’s say when… positive thinking) Saver level United award space opens up, you’ll be best off collecting Membership Rewards or SPG Points to get the job done. Here’s another pressing reason the SPG (and Marriott cards, as Marriott points transfer 3:1 to SPG) should have your attention right now.

There's a good chance all of the current Marriott and SPG credit cards will disappear at some point in 2018.
There’s a good chance all of the current Marriott and SPG credit cards will disappear at some point in 2018.

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Actual Best Option to Tahiti as of Now

American Airlines miles are still the best way to get to Tahiti from the continental United States, flying on partner Air Tahiti Nui (which is separate from Air Tahiti), as there isn’t any Saver level United award space right now. American considers Tahiti to be a part of the South Pacific, so it charges:

  • 40,000 miles each way in economy
  • 80,000 miles each way in Business Class
  • there is no way to use American Airlines miles to fly Air Tahiti Nui First Class

You’ll need to fly through Los Angeles to get to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui with American Airlines miles, but you can add a SAAVer level connection to anywhere American or Alaska flies in the US and maintain the same mileage price tag.

Getting to Your Final Destination

The mainland of Tahiti is not most people’s end goal.

But here’s the thing: you can only book awards to Tahiti. To get anywhere else in French Polynesia, you need to book a paid flight  to Mo’orea or Bora Bora, most people’s end goals.

Bora Bora, Photo by Thomas Wasserberg
Bora Bora, Photo by Thomas Wasserberg

Air Tahiti–not Air Tahiti Nui, the AA partner–runs regular flights to other islands (including Bora Bora and Mo’orea) that you can purchase with cash or redeem Arrival miles on. Or you can take a ferry to some islands.

Bottom Line

United begins a new direct route between San Francisco and Papeete, Tahiti at the end of October 2018. Flights will run three times weekly in each direction. United’s award prices to the island are pretty good. If Saver level award space ever opens up and you have the appopriate points, however, booking roundtrip with ANA miles is your cheapest option.

We’ll keep you updated if award space opens on this new route. Let’s hope so! We need more options to French Polynesia.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. What about my favorite United partner, Singapore Air? Assuming that Saver rates will open at some point would not Kris Flyer miles be cheaper than United?

    • Sadly Singapore’s rates are really high to the Southwest Pacific region 🙁 60k one way economy, 117k one way Business

  2. Interesting info, thanks. I am a bit unclear about your conclusion that using various partner miles represents a better value than using United miles. I do get your point in the case of ANA (AND finding r/t awards space). Would appreciate clarification. TIA.

  3. Good post I hope more airlines would fly there .I met a couple who landed PPT then took the ferry to Moorea but if u look @ the Flt times u will need a hotel both ways @ PPT ..I’ve been looking @ PPT and Fiji in Oct I think Fiji will be the better deal then hit SYD .
    CHEERs

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