Shirley Garcowski asks,
Trying to figure out how to get from Cleveland OH to Moorea and Bora Bora using United (or Star Alliance) miles. Can you help? Thanks
Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I spent part of my honeymoon there a decade ago, at Bora Bora Nui when it was still part of Starwood and before SPG had a redemption category 7.
Moorea is special as well, especially for the snorkling. And especially when there’s a mistake rate there too.
The problem with getting there using United miles is that no Star Alliance airline flies between the US and French Polynesia. Years ago Air New Zealand used to, but now the only way to get to Moorea or Bora Bora from the US using United miles is to first fly to New Zealand (one of the toughest awards in its own right) and then connect to Air New Zealand’s twice a week service Auckland – Papeete.
Award tickets will only get you to Papeete, Tahiti. From there you’ll need to buy a domestic flight (or in the case of Moorea, your choice of a flight or ferry) on Air Tahiti. Note that Air Tahiti (“VT”) is the domestic carrier, and not related to Air Tahiti Nui (“TN”) which is the international airline. “Nui” means large.
There is no Air Tahiti frequent flyer partner. That means if you want to redeem points for the domestic flights (expect to pay $400 – $500 roundtrip for Papeete – Bora Bora) you’ll need to use credit card points which redeem as cash for airfare. Fortunately when I was shopping these fares there was a currency conversion issue on Travelocity pricing everything originating in Tahiti at 90% off…
Ultimately the challenge in getting to French Polynesia, the reason it’s one of the very toughest awards, is because there are simply very limited flights there. From the US there’s only:
- Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles daily
- Air France from Los Angeles four times a week
- Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu on Saturdays
Air France flies Los Angeles – Papeete four times a week. Economy awards for two passengers are pretty available using Air France KLM Flying Blue miles.
Business class awards on Air France are much harder to come by. And even getting the available Air France award seats using Delta miles can be tough.
You’ve already seen what Air France says is available using miles. Delta only shows a very small subset of that to their own members.
Similarly you’re limited using Alaska miles.
Of course with Air France’s Flying Blue miles (such as transferred in from American Express or Citibank) you’ll pay fuel surcharges on these awards.
Award availability on Hawaiian is generally good in economy, but it means a stop in Honolulu and of course the flight is only once a week.
Air Tahiti Nui’s award availability is best booked far in advance. It’s searchable using Expertflyer.
French Polynesia is a fantastic place to visit. It’s incredibly gorgeous. Note, though:
- Tahiti itself isn’t what you think of as French Polynesia, most people want to get off of the main island as quickly as possible.
- Once you do — and unlike the Maldives — you’re generally not trapped on an island with just the resort if you spend your time on Moorea or Bora Bora (although there’s not a ton to do, for instance, in the main Bora Bora town of Vaitape). Farther afield islands will be… more remote, with less going on off-resort.
- I loved it, though there’s a reason folks who prefer more active vacations adopt the pejorative “Boring Boring.”
- Everything there is expensive, I found it more expensive than the Maldives overall because not only is it a remote island but it’s French. Service wasn’t as good as in the Maldives either.