Tahiti is one of the toughest frequent flyer awards, largely because there’s just not a lot of air service there.
From the mainland U.S. the only two options are Air Tahiti Nui (which offers daily service) and Air France (which offers thrice-weekly service). Hawaiian Airlines also serves Papeete from Honolulu once a week on Saturdays.
It turns out that the best miles for getting to Tahiti are Delta’s, because they partner with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui. American miles can be used for Air Tahiti Nui.
Folks wanting to use United or US Airways miles will wind up having to fly all the way to Auckland (not an easy award to get in its own right!) and then from there to Papeete using Air New Zealand’s twice a week service.
I was fortunate enough to travel to Tahiti flying Air Tahiti Nui first class using AAdvantage miles. That was back when you could do a stopover on partner awards, and since Tahiti was a more expensive destination than Australia I actually included an Australia side-trip for no additional miles (returning to the U.S. in Qantas first class).
For several years it hasn’t been possible to redeem AAdvantage miles for Air Tahiti Nui first class, and of course Delta does not permit redemption for first class of any kind (business is the top cabin offered).
There’s been rumors that Air Tahiti Nui would be getting rid of first class, and now it’s official.
Air Tahiti Nui was said to offer first class as a paean to its government leaders so that they could fly French Polynesia’s own carrier rather than Air France on trips to Paris (via Los Angeles). It offered a lie flat product that was quite narrow, with one row of six seats. Service was good and food even better.
Air Tahiti Nui is replacing all the seats in their 5 Airbus A340 aircraft. Business class will be jettisoning the old recliner style seats for… angled lie flat seats. Sadly the cabin redo will not feature a fully flat business class. But it will increase the number of business class seats on the aircraft from 24 to 32 — meaning a total increase of 20% in the number of business class seats flown each week because the mainland US and Tahiti — so hopefully that’ll translate into more award seats!
I love this description of the business class…
Based on the popular Sogerma “angled lie flat cocoon seat”, the new Business Class will provide more personal room and space, with a 60 inch seat pitch, while continuing to provide a two by two by two configuration, offering passengers a choice of only window and aisle seating.
I’m not sure with whom angled lie flat seats are popular? And of course the modern standard is business class seats that all have aisle access. But this is an improvement of course. And it’s competitive with other offerings to Tahiti which one supposes is the relevant factor here. People don’t chose to go to Tahiti or not because of the type of business class seat, but once they decide to go premium passengers may choose their carrier based on the product offered.
Interestingly they claim to be “reducing 3,700 kilos of weight per flight” through lighter economy seats which they brag are “comfort focused” and are
[R]etaining the popular two – four – two seating configuration. ATN economy class seats have always been wider than the airline industry average and will continue to be so with an 18 inch width and an average 32 inch pitch.
Again, I’m not sure with whom four seats in the middle are popular, and to a certain extent the ‘generate’ 18 inch width simply means they’re flying Airbus rather than Boeing aircraft.
Los Angeles and Paris (which continues on from Los Angeles) will get the new seats first, beginning in mid-April. And the product really does seem appropriate for Los Angeles – Papeete, which is equivalent in length to Miami – Sao Paolo where I find angled seats adequate. Los Angeles – Paris and Tokyo – Papeete are certainly longer…