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February 25, 2004 -- Our spring is the low season in Tahiti, when you get warm temperatures and occasional rain. But low season means low fares, and right now we're seeing some great fares to the South Pacific from Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti Nui.

We'll start by saying that you're more likely to find a great deal to Tahiti in a package than as an independent traveler. For instance, Tahiti Vacations has an unbeatable five-night package to Moorea, near Tahiti, for $699/person plus tax, double occupancy, for departures through the end of March. You can find that online at www.tahitivacations.net/packages/AF2360A.cfm. You can also go with Go-Today, which just got into the South Pacific market. Go to www.gotoday.com/gt_za.asp#FB00 to check out three separate air and hotel combos to either Papeete or Moorea or a mix of two. These deals start from $799 out of the west coast for a six-night stay.

But if you doggedly insist on being an independent traveler, we can hook you up with some fares. The most startling one, which may have disappeared by the time you read this, is Air Tahiti Nui's $340 roundtrip special for flights departing Los Angeles for Tahiti March 4 and 9 and returning March 8 and 15. (Online at www.airtahitinui-usa.com/atnspecial/atnspecial.asp?id=141&partner_code=&special_type=3.) Even if this special is sold out, we wanted to let you know that Air Tahiti Nui does this kind of thing all the time, and we expect them to keep doing it through March and April. If you're interested in a short break to Tahiti and can do it at the last minute, bookmark Air Tahiti Nui's deals page (www.airtahitinui-usa.com/atnspecial/atspecialslist.asp) and check it daily.

If that seems too stressful, turn to Air New Zealand instead. Their current Tahiti special offers a $610 plus tax roundtrip fare from LA from now through May and during the fall; the fare during the summer is a mere $645 plus tax. Flights depart Los Angeles and Tahiti Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and plenty of seats seem to be available at these fares. Air New Zealand's fares are the lowest we could find, but note that they're only available on Air New Zealand's Web site -- they won't show up on travel agency sites like Expedia or Travelocity.

Booking an independent airfare with Air New Zealand may be a better choice than a package if you're an independent traveler getting socked with big single surcharges by the package-tour companies. If you're interested, go to www.airnz.com and click on "Los Angeles to Pacific Islands".

For our full guide to Tahiti and nearby islands, see www.frommers.com/destinations/frenchpolynesia.

Have you flown Air Tahiti Nui or Air New Zealand? How was your flight? We'd love to hear from you on our Air Travel Message Boards.