What Miles or Points Are The Best for Business Class Award Tickets to Hawaii?

by on August 25, 2013 · 18 comments

in American, Avios, British Airways, Hawaii, Sunday Reader Questions, United

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TPG Reader Leslie asks:

“I would like to travel over to Hawaii to see a friend from high school. I would really like to do it in first or business class since I have a  6-year-old child. What cards can I use to rack up miles and points that will be beneficial to this trip?

I am new to a lot of this, so I am confused as to which points are more beneficial and can be transferred to airline partners. I do not have a spouse, so my father is willing to help open up cards so I can get enough miles for both my son and I.”

I love Kauai and definitely want to go back so your question has gotten the wheels turning thinking about my next trip! The two programs you want to focus on are United and American.

United charges 80,000 miles round trip in business class to go to Hawaii, has low fees and usually has pretty good availability. American also has a lot of flights to Hawaii and they only charge 70,000 miles for business class. American is also partners with Alaska Airlines, which also flies to various destinations in Hawaii from all over the West Coast, so depending on where you live, that sync up could provide better coverage and availability for you.

British Airways

British Airways partners well with American or Alaska.

If you live in Los Angeles, you may want to consider accruing British Airways Avios. British Airways teams is partners with both American and Alaska as well, but because BA’s award mileage requirements are distance-based (meaning the longer your award flight, the more miles you need) BA will only charge you 25,000 Avios for a roundtrip coach ticket and 50,000 for a roundtrip award ticket in business. That’s one of the sweet spots in BA’s award chart and where it will charge you fewer miles than any of the US-based airlines. If you were to sign up for the current offer on the British Airways Visa, you would earn 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 in 3 months with the $95 annual fee waived the first year – enough for one of your roundtrip business class tickets.

The problem with British Airways is that on a two-cabin plane they may charge first class pricing, which would be 75,000 Avios roundtrip from LA.  hat price will increase quite a bit if you live on the East Coast (again thanks to BA’s distance-based award formula).

United MileagePlus

The United MileagePlus Explorer card.

Without knowing where you live exactly, I think your best bet would be to go with United. They have the most lucrative co-branded credit cards right now and if you’re an elite member you could score a 60,000-mile targeted sign-up bonus right there. Not only that, but United is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards have sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card gives 40,000 points after $3,000 spent in 3 months, all of which can instantly be transferred to your United MileagePlus account. I have a boatload of rewards points which I rack up through shopping portals, buying vanilla reloads and paying all of my bills so I think that’s a strategy that will work pretty well.

To see what works best for you go to and check the mileage requirements for where you live and check availability to see if anything matches up with the dates that you would like to go to Hawaii. As with most airlines, availability depends on the seasonality so if you have to go over a school vacation your options are going to be much more limited. Once again it really depends where you live, but if you have American miles and would prefer to use them there are a credit cards out there giving 50,000 miles for a sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in 3 months like the Citi Platinum Select/ AAdvantage World MasterCard.

The Starwood Amex is a popular card because it has over 30 airline partners.

The Starwood Amex is a popular card because it has over 30 airline partners.

Another route to take is to get the Starwood American Express that is offering 30,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months until September 3, 2013. Those 30,000 Starpoints would transfer to 35,000 American miles thanks to the 5,000-point bonus you get when transferring in increments of 20,000 points. If you can get your SPG points up to 40,000 you could then transfer them and get 50,000 American miles.

Off to paradise

Kauai is one of my favorite destinations so I really hope you make it there.

Those are the different angles I would consider taking. Play around with each program and see what the best availability is from your city. United and American both allow one way awards so you can book you and your son one way awards on United and then if the availability is better on Alaska or American coming home, you can book your return one one of those airlines. This way you are able to use a mixture of British Airways Avios and American miles.

Hawaii is an amazing place so I hope you can work it out and find a way for you and your son to get there. If you have any further questions feel free to comment below or tweet me @thepointsguy.

For more information to help plan your trip, check out these related posts:

British Airways, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines Award Availability on
Hotel Review: St. Regis Princeville on Kauai
Travel Tuesday Top 10 Hotels to Stretch Your Points in Hawaii
Destination of the Week: The Big Island
Destination of the Week: Oahu
Destination of the Week: Maui
Destination of the Week: Kauai

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • tassojunior

    The Hawaiian nonstops from NYC shouldn’t be overlooked, especially as the BofA cards are churnable. They have a nice experience even though their biz class isn’t too special.

  • freqflyer

    the miles to Hawaii would be triple that of a coach award as AA only has first class (not business) on that route. Make it expensive unless I am missing something.

  • Gregory7710

    … and Hawaiian Airlines also a good option, and Amex transfer partner. We fly to HI a few times a year, and always choose Hawaiian. Hawaiian only flies 767 or A330 across, versus 757 on others.

  • Lawgrad2011

    AA is 37.5k each way, not 35K. Also, don’t forget that Hawaii is a great “free one way” for stopovers on european/asian/south american itineraries on AA if you live at one of its hubs.

  • DavidLAX

    BA charges 37.5K avios to fly AA’s first/business from LAX.

  • LV

    Until a couple of weeks ago when HA became no longer available at’s award booking, you could do flights from the mainland to HNL on HA using AA miles (including direct JFK-HNL) for 37.5k each way. I’m actually at HNL right now on this trip and am doing JFK-HNL; HNL-ICN with a 3 day layover in HNL for 50k total in biz class.

    HA is a nice experience though the seats are pretty basic and don’t recline very much.

  • philbert

    @LV, What do you mean that HA awards are not available on I can see them.

  • Jetstream007

    This option is certainly not for all, but still interesting imo: you might add-on Hawai on an award trip from Europe: instead of flying EU-US continent, you book EU-Hawai and have a ‘stopover’ where it works best for you and there’s a valid routing for that airline.(and of course stopovers should be allowed).Two years ago I flew AMS-LAX (s.o.)-HNL (KL and DL). The trick is that the ‘extra’ leg at the time only was an extra 10K (FB) miles. Could do the same on the way back. Of course one should be flying a lot for this to work, but could get you a low miles BC award trip to/from Hawai….don’t know on what airlines this would work today, but there should be a couple around. Anyway, just a heads-up…

  • SFOPhD

    Very few people discuss Singapore Airlines as a good redemption for business class to Hawaii. 60k RT on a Star Alliance carrier. One of the nest values out there!

  • Sam

    This article talks about if you were purchasing tickets outright to hawaii. What if you were to buy economy and wanted to use miles to upgrade, let’s say from NYC->HNL. What’s best options?

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  • Lesli

    Thank you for the post! We live in NY so it seems that United is the best choice since they go non-stop. I like to eliminate stop-overs with my son. It just makes things easier!

  • vortix

    Are they a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards?

  • SFOPhD

    AmEx MR at 1:1.

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  • ameliasarah

    AirTicketSaver online flight booking service helps travelers book first class and business class with miles and points.

  • Frank

    Booking business/first class flights to Hawaii from the eats coast using AmAir miles varies greatly. I just booked these flights for our next year’s vacation. If you want to use 75K miles per each way, you can book a 1-stop flight from the east coast to Hawaii. You can book each way for as little as 37.5K miles (if available), but that could be a 4-leg flight from the east coast to Hawaii. Even if the AmAir website shows a 3-leg flight, for the lower award level, it can be changed prior to departure by AmAir to include more stops (this happened to us this year). BTW, I would have preferred to use my USAir miles, but the USAir awards website required 90K miles each way for our tickets from the east coast to Hawaii – for a whopping 360K miles r/t for award travel for 2 persons!

  • No more avios!

    Avios points are VERY difficult to use from any point on the west coast to Europe, ie: Italy, France etc. New York to London is do-able but getting to New York isn’t easy and London and beyond is impossible! Booking 11 months out, as suggested, doesn’t help. I think Avios pts are worthless! Any helpful hints?

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