Saturday, March 03, 2007

Getting a cheap (er) airfare to Tahiti

Air Tahiti Nui plane

I haven't seen a great airfare to Papeete (PPT) from Los Angeles (LAX) in a while. With the loss of Air New Zealand from that route in a months time I suspect that deals will be harder to find. I can share with you what has worked in the past for me.

Sign up for Air Tahiti Nui's email specials. It used to be the way to get the first news of special reduced fares to Tahiti, usually restricted to just a few flights.

Recently, ATN has been posting specials on their Web site over two weeks before the customers who have taken the time to register have received notification. I would be making at least a weekly visit to the ATN Web site to see if there is anything good posted there.

Last year I got a better fare on Expedia than the same flight directly from Air Tahiti Nui. (Just tried a comparison for departure on 4/19, return 5/2, after taxes and surcharges Expedia was $971 total and ATN was $1192.)

I tried Orbitz and they showed a fare of $972.

Travelocity amazed me as offering the lowest fare for those dates at $951.40.

I've been signed up for Air France's email specials for several years. However, they have never notified me of any special fares to French Polynesia (however, if you want to go to Paris ....).

Once a couple of years ago, when I was bored, I started inputing random dates into the Air France online booking service. I found a great fare (in the $400's RT) available for certain depatures in April and May. I was never able to find where the fare was published but it was available for purchase on the Air France site. The fare I got for roughly the same dates as above was $1,108. Note that Air France displays the fares in one way segments, the fare is not $504.

While I've gotten great U.S. hotel deals bidding on Priceline I have not used them for international air. You can purchase airline tickets, without bidding, from them also. For the dates mentioned above they were also cheaper than ATN coming in at $1013. I suggest reading up on bidding strategies at Bidding for Travel.

I also tried various "Cheap" airfares sites but none of them were cheaper than Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity.

If I was planning for an upcoming trip and had flexibility with dates I would wait for an Air Tahiti Nui special. The specials aren't restricted to off-season, I've used them at the peak of high-season in August and early Septmember. I've purchased them over a month before depature.

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