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Hainan Airlines is a fairly new carrier to the US market — the airline operates Dreamliner flights from several US cities to a few destinations in China, including a brand new route from Los Angeles to Changsha (which we recently reviewed). Paid business-class fares can actually be quite reasonable, but as of today there’s another booking option to consider: Alaska Airlines.
Award space is now bookable via Alaska’s website. Award flights between the US to Asia are priced at just 30,000 miles each way in economy and 50,000 miles each way in business. You can also redeem miles for intra-China flights (excluding flights to/from Hong Kong). A one-way flight between two airports in China will run you 15,000 miles in economy, 22,500 miles in business or 27,500 miles in first class.
Unfortunately, Alaska is passing on rather significant fuel surcharges. For a flight between the US and Asia without any onward connection with Hainan, the cash co-pay appears to be at least $200 for a one-way flight, including taxes and fees. With an onward connection to Southeast Asia after the transpacific leg, for example, Alaska seems to impose an additional $100 or so in fuel surcharges.
Alaska does allow one free stopover in each direction, which you can take advantage of to spend a few days in Hainan’s Beijing hub. You can only combine partner awards with Alaska flights, so you’re somewhat limited by the routes Hainan offers in the US, which are: Boston to Beijing and Shanghai, Chicago to Beijing; Los Angeles to Changsha; San Jose to Beijing; and Seattle to Beijing and Shanghai. Alaska connections at the beginning or end of a trip would really only be useful in Los Angeles, San Jose and Seattle.
Should You Redeem for Hainan?
Given the hefty surcharges, you may be better off booking American and Cathay Pacific business awards for 50,000 miles, since there’s a less significant cash copay. You can also book Emirates business class for 75,000 miles via Dubai, with only about $40 in taxes, so that may be worth considering as well (depending on your preferred routing).
But these redemptions can still be valuable if you’re traveling to Changsha or destinations in Southeast Asia when other options are sold out. Either way, Hainan is certainly a welcome addition to one of the most beloved loyalty programs out there.
Have you flown Hainan Airlines?