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When it comes to redeeming miles for vacation, for many people, Hawaii is a dream destination. Perhaps that’s why flights to Hawaii are also some of the hardest award tickets to redeem.
When booking an award to Hawaii, or any other popular vacation destination, it helps to have points in one or more of the main flexible point transfer programs — American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest — because you can use those points for travel on a variety of airlines, or to top up your frequent flyer program of choice.
To maximize your transfer options, it’s important to know which partners offer the best deals on award flights to Hawaii as well as for inter-island service.
Special Considerations for Booking Awards to Hawaii
It used to be that most flights to Hawaii from the mainland arrived in Honolulu, and travelers to any other island were expected to change planes there and board a short “island hopper” flight. Today, most of the larger islands (Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and of course Oahu) can be reached by nonstop service from the mainland. Nevertheless, it’s sometimes easier to piece together a trip arriving on one island and transferring to another. You can do this by booking an award on an airline that has a codeshare with the only remaining inter-island operator, Hawaiian, or by booking a separate award between islands.
As hard as it often is to find award space to Hawaii, it can actually be very easy to find award seats on flights within the islands once you’re there. In fact, it’s rare that I find inter-island flights without the award seats I request, and even when that is the case, there’s usually another flight with availability within hours.
In most frequent flyer program award charts, Hawaii is in its own zone, with a unique number of miles required to book tickets there. So the mileage needed to book an award on a particular flight can vary greatly depending on which program you use. However, there’s one notable exception: the Korean Air SkyPass program.
Another factor to consider is that travelers from the West Coast and Alaska are within 3,000 miles of the islands, or about half as far as travelers from the East Coast. Thus, travelers closer to Hawaii can take advantage of distance-based frequent flyer programs like British Airways Executive Club.
Know before you go.
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