You can already redeem American miles for Air Tahiti Nui award travel, and used to be able to earn American miles flying Air Tahiti Nui but that option was eliminated in 2009. Now, flying American’s codeshare, you’ll have the opportunity to earn both redeemable and elite qualifying miles on travel from the US to French Polynesia. Nice!
Currently the only way to earn miles flying from the US to French Polynesia – other than crediting Air Tahiti Nui flights to Club Tiare – is to fly Air France Los Angeles – Papeete (3 times weekly service) or Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu – Papeete (Saturday service). For most, paid travel to French Polynesia was simply a miles opportunity wasted.
I was fortunate enough to redeem American miles to fly Air Tahiti Nui Los Angeles – Papeete (stop) – Auckland, connecting to Qantas to Sydney. Then open jaw, return Melbourne – Los Angeles on Qantas all in first class. That was back when you could do a stopover on American AAdvantage partner awards (other than at the North American gateway city), and US – French Polynesia was the same price as US – Australia with a stopover in French Polynesia. So why not?
Unfortunately American hasn’t been able to access Air Tahiti Nui first class award seats for several years, and while Delta is also an Air Tahiti Nui partner they cannot either — meaning those award seats, like business class upgrades, have been available only to Air Tahiti Nui’s own members. This move is unlikely to change that.
The codesharing announcement looks to be a sign that Air Tahiti Nui is inching closer to American, there have been rumors they want to join oneworld.
I am disappointed that the codeshare didn’t extend to Air Tahiti Nui’s Los Angeles – Paris flight and I wonder whether there are tea leaves for the Air Tahiti Nui – Delta relationship. Currently Delta miles are best for French Polynesia award travel as they partner with both Air Tahiti Nui and Air France for Los Angeles – Papeete. If they were to lose the Air Tahiti Nui relationship at some point in the future the value of their miles would drop markedly for aspirational travel, as currently French Polynesia represents one of the toughest awards to get in a premium cabin.