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TPG reader Ruben tweeted me @thepointsguy to ask:
“What is the cheapest way to fly First Class from Los Angeles to Hawaii through – or with a transfer from – Chase Ultimate Rewards points?”
Ruben tweeted me this week and asked what the best way to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points ,such as those earned with the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus, to travel first class to Hawaii from Los Angeles is. I am going to broaden the question a little bit because Hawaii is a top destination especially as we get into winter, and there are a lot of ways to use your UR points to get there.
There are five main airline partners of Ultimate Rewards: United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean Air and Virgin Atlantic.
United currently charges 40,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, 80,000 Business Class, and 100,000 for First Class.
Starting February 1, 2014, however, that Economy award will jump to 45,000 miles. This is still a decent option since United has good availability and I actually flew an award ticket last year from Maui to San Francisco to New York. The Hawaii routes tend to be flown by the old 757’s, it’s not the nicest quality plane, but sometimes they do run international planes to Hawaii. However, United has low fees and good availability so that is a decent option.
One option you may not be considering is Korean Airlines, but they are SkyTeam too so you could fly Delta…if Delta ever released any low level availability…and the great thing is that Korean only charges 30,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, and 60,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class, beating most US airline award chart redemption levels.
Korean also teams up with Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines, both of which also have tons of routes to the islands from the Mainland, so you have a lot of options.
The only annoying thing is that Korean Airlines doesn’t make it easy to book partner awards online. In fact, they don’t make booking any awards easy – but if you have the patience, it can save you a lot of UR points!
Southwest is another airline partner but they don’t fly to Hawaii so don’t look there, although you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Rapid Rewards for a cheap positioning flight on Southwest to get to your point of departure if you need to book an award from a city where you’re not based.
British Airways is another good option as well. It is part of Oneworld, which includes American and also Alaska, but they have a distance-based award chart, so for people in LA, it is great as that is only 25,000 miles from the West Coast to Hawaii on nonstop flights. If you go Business Class it will be 75,000 miles, though, since it will be classed as a First Class unless its a three-class plane, so just watch out for that.
Another option is Virgin Atlantic, as they team up with Hawaiian Airlines as well. They will charge you 40,000 miles for Economy and 80,000 miles for Business Class. It’s a bit arduous since you have to call in to book and the airline has some pretty draconian award rules, so this can be a bit of a slog and I would probably avoid going this route.
Another option is to just buy the ticket using Chase Ultimate Rewards through their travel portal using their pay with points feature. Chase will let you redeem points at a rate of 1.25 cents apiece, which can be a good deal if airfares are low enough that you’re using fewer points than you would if you were trying to redeem an award through an airline – and you also earn miles and elite credit for the flights you buy using pay with points since it’s just like purchasing airline tickets rather than booking awards.
However, looking at flights roundtrip from LAX-Maui now through the end of the year, airfares are as high as $1,700 in economy, which would cost you 137,000 points or more, so I would probably hold off on this option till airfares go back down. Granted, you do earn miles on those trips, but for the huge difference, books an awards saving for 60,000 points through Korean, then I think you should look at that as well.
The bottom line is Chase points are extremely valuable because they give you a lot of options for where to transfer your points and then what partners of partners you can book awards on – giving you a ton of flexibility to work with if you take the time to explore your options. Good luck getting to Hawaii!
For more information on Chase and booking flights with Ultimate Rewards points, see these posts:
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner
Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 Points Sign Up Bonus + 5,000 Points With Authorized User
The Ultimate Guide To Ultimate Rewards Airline Transfers
Chase Ultimate Rewards Adds Virgin Atlantic As New Airline Transfer Partner
Upgrading On Korean Air Using Ultimate Rewards Points