The best ways to get to Hawaii using points and miles
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest redemption information. It was originally published on September 22, 2019.
It’s Hawaii Week at TPG! The Hawaiian Islands have so much to offer travelers, from the sprawling city of Honolulu to quiet black-sand beaches to restaurants serving inventive island cuisine. And it’s possible to pull off a visit to the islands using miles and points. It just takes a little savvy planning and we’ll show you how. Visit TPG’s Hawaii destination hub for links to more stories about getting to the islands, staying on the islands and what to do while you’re there.
From Waikiki Beach to the Road to Hana, Hawaii truly has something for everyone. While each of the Hawaiian islands has its own unique flair, all have pristine beaches, stunning natural beauty and the promise of a relaxing holiday that doesn’t require a passport or international travel.
Planning a trip to The Aloha State? More airlines than ever are flying to the Hawaiian islands from the continental U.S. And more airlines = more redemption opportunities, so in this article, we’ll show you the four best ways to get to Hawaii from the mainland U.S. using miles and points. While we’ve focused on finding flights to Honolulu (HNL), pricing is the same to all Hawaiian islands unless otherwise noted.
Let’s get started!
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Earlier in 2019, Southwest debuted its new routes to Hawaii — and the company continues to add more routes and flights. That’s jaw-dropping news for anyone with a Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to take a friend or family member with you every single time you fly Southwest for just the price of taxes and fees. That’s practically BOGO flights to Hawaii.
Southwest Rapid Rewards is different from any other program on this list in that their award prices are directly tied to the cash price of a ticket. According to TPG’s valuations, you’ll generally receive 1.5 cents per Southwest point toward flights, so if you find a $600 round-trip flight to Honolulu, you can expect to pay around 40,000 Southwest points for the flight. However, Southwest has frequent sales, making both the cash price and the award price much lower.
Below are a couple of example prices. Here, a round-trip flight from Chicago (MDW) to Honolulu costs 34,738 points, or ~$520 cash.
And here’s a round-trip flight from Oakland (OAK) to Maui (OGG) costing 17,934 points, or $266 in cash.
Remember, these above prices are actually for two people if you have the Southwest Companion Pass (except the $11.20 in taxes and fees would be doubled).
Earning Southwest points
Southwest points are easy to come by. There are currently five Southwest credit cards that come with big welcome bonuses. Three are personal cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
These cards come with a welcome bonus of up to 75,000 points; 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months account is open. Plus,earn an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 6 months account is open.
And two are small-business cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card – 70,000 Southwest points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card – 70,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account
On an extremely related note, you’ll receive the Southwest Companion Pass when you earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year. You can bring a friend or family member for free every time you fly Southwest through December 2020.
Further reading: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass
You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest instantly at a 1:1 ratio when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Note that points transferred to Southwest don’t count toward the 125,000 Southwest points you need to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
Here is one of the great finds of the year. Turkish Airlines miles, a seemingly drab airline currency to collect, has an amazing deal when it comes to Hawaii.
Turkish Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, which allows you to book United Airlines award flights with Turkish miles. Here are its award prices from anywhere in the lower 48 to Hawaii:
- 15,000 miles round-trip in economy
- 25,000 miles round-trip in business class (United Airlines first class)
Those are stunning rates. And with them come a couple of minor drawbacks.
First, you cannot book these rates online. You’ll have to either call Turkish Airlines at 800-874-8875, or send them an email (which may develop into a sizable thread). You can research available seats on the United Airlines website. Only saver-level award seats can be reserved with Turkish miles, and it can be quite difficult to find saver-level first-class seats.
Further reading: Booking United first class to Hawaii with Turkish Miles & Smiles
Earning Turkish Airlines miles
Another drawback is that Turkish Airlines miles don’t grow on trees. There’s only one real way to earn them efficiently, and that’s by earning bonuses and putting your everyday spend on cards that earn Citi ThankYou Rewards points. You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Turkish Airlines at a 1:1 ratio, but note that it can take up to two days for the transfer to go through.
Turkish Airlines allows you to hold award seats for up to 48 hours. It’s wise to call Turkish Airlines before you transfer your ThankYou points, just to make sure the Turkish Airlines agent can confirm the seats you want are actually available. Then ask for a hold and immediately transfer your ThankYou points. If they don’t deposit into your Turkish Airlines account soon enough, call the airline again and quickly scoop them back up.
British Airways Avios
British Airways Avios have been long known to provide excellent value for domestic award tickets on American Airlines. Thankfully, flights to Hawaii are no exception. American flies to Hawaii from many of its U.S. hubs, including Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Phoenix (PHX). Though there have been issues with online award bookings in the past, it appears that these have been resolved.
In addition, British Airways also partners with Alaska Airlines, giving you additional options for reaching Hawaii. After its integration with Virgin America, the Seattle-based carrier flies to the Hawaiian islands from multiple West Coast gateways, including Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA). The only downside to these options is that awards on Alaska using British Airways Avios must be booked over the phone.
Between the airlines, you can fly to nearly every Hawaiian island using British Airways Avios starting at just 13,000 Avios each way (plus taxes and fees) in economy. But there’s one important consideration to keep in mind: thanks to British Airways’ distance-based award chart, flights from the Midwest or East Coast will cost more than nonstop flights western gateways. As a result, using Avios is typically the best option when departing from Arizona, California, Oregon or Washington.
Here’s a sampling of how much round-trip tickets cost from various departure cities:
West Coast: Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL), nonstop
- Economy: 26,000 Avios
- First Class: 77,500 Avios
Midwest: Chicago (ORD) to Honolulu (HNL), connecting
- Economy: 48,000 Avios
- First Class: 121,500 Avios
East Coast: New York (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL), connecting
- Economy: 52,000 Avios
- First Class: 155,000 Avios
Another thing you should know is that every time you make a connection, British Airways effectively books you multiple tickets based on their award chart. For example, you can book a nonstop flight from Phoenix to Honolulu for 26,000 Avios round-trip. But if you choose a flight that connects through Los Angeles, you’ll essentially pay for two tickets:
- Phoenix to Los Angeles: 15,000 Avios round-trip
- Los Angeles to Honolulu: 26,000 Avios round-trip
The cheapest flight is usually (though not always) the itinerary with the fewest connections.
Earning British Airways Avios
If you’re looking to book an award flight to Hawaii through British Airways, Avios are quite easy to earn. You can open the British Airways Visa Signature Card and receive 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, and an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year. That’s up to 100,000 bonus Avios. If you’re departing from the West Coast and earn this entire welcome bonus, you’d be able to book four round-trip flights to Hawaii from this haul of Avios alone.
Further reading: The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards
Alaska Mileage Plan
Instead of using Avios for flights to Hawaii, you could book the exact same airlines (Alaska and American) directly through Alaska Airlines‘ Mileage Plan program. The big benefit here is that Alaska’s award chart is region — rather than distance-based, so a connecting flight from the U.S. to Hawaii won’t set you back additional miles. This is especially useful for flights originating on the East Coast or Midwest or for flights from smaller western gateways that “force” a connection in a larger hub.
Here’s how much it costs to fly round-trip from the lower 48 to the Hawaiian islands using Alaska miles. Note that economy flights are more expensive on American Airlines than Alaska Airlines, so pick your flights wisely.
Continental U.S. to Hawaii (Alaska Airlines):
- Economy: 30,000 miles
- First: 80,000 miles
Continental U.S. to Hawaii (American Airlines):
- Economy: 45,000 miles
- First: 80,000 miles
Regardless of which airline you take to get there, these flights are bookable on Alaska’s website. Prices on American Airlines are good, but not the cheapest option. You can likely book a comparable price with another airline using rewards that are much easier to earn than Alaska Airlines miles.
Earning Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles
That’s right, it can be hard to earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. The program doesn’t partner with any of the three major transferable point programs, though you could transfer Marriott points to your Alaska account. You could also open the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, which comes with 40,000 bonus miles, plus a Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
Finally, one of the best ways to boost your Alaska account balance is by leveraging the program’s frequent buy-miles promotions. In some cases, this has allowed members to purchase miles for a little as 1.97 cents apiece. However, this tends to only make sense when redeeming Alaska Airlines miles for international premium-class redemptions, so unless you’re looking at a super-pricey economy ticket, I wouldn’t recommend it to get to Hawaii.
Korean Air SkyPass
Korean Air offers one of the cheapest award prices to Hawaii through its SKYPASS program, though you’ll need to find award availability on its SkyTeam partner Delta in order to book. Korean Air prices all awards originating in the U.S. as the same award, and the pricing is comparable to a standard domestic route on many legacy airlines’ award charts. Here’s how many miles you’d need for a round-trip award ticket to Hawaii through Korean:
Continental U.S. to Hawaii:
- Economy: 25,000 miles
- First Class: 45,000 miles
Earning Korean Airlines SkyPASS Miles
Korean Air SKYPASS was a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner until August 2018. Nowadays, Korean Air miles are a lot harder to earn. You have two options for earning Korean Airlines miles without flying: using the SKYPASS Visa Signature® Card from US Bank or by transferring in Marriott points. The SKYPASS Visa Signature® Card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 SKYPASS miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Based in a Star Alliance hub? Consider using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles for your next jaunt to Hawaii. Singapore Airlines partner Untied Airlines operates nonstop flights to Honolulu (HNL) and other island destinations from many of its hubs, including Chicago (ORD), Newark (EWR), Denver (DEN), San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX).
Singapore Airlines also partners with Alaska Airlines and provides exceptionally cheap fares on these flights. The Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program has a separate award chart for Alaska redemptions and in some cases is even cheaper than awards through British Airways. Unfortunately, this is only valid from certain gateways; just about every state east of the Mississippi River isn’t eligible for these award tickets. In addition, booking first class will command a very high premium compared to economy.
Here’s how much round-trip tickets to Hawaii cost using Krisflyer miles:
Booking United Airlines flights with KrisFlyer
Continental U.S. to Hawaii (United Airlines):
- Economy: 35,000 miles
- First Class: 69,000 miles
Booking Alaska Airlines flights with Krisflyer
West Coast to Hawaii (Alaska Airlines):
- Economy: 24,000 miles
- First Class: 89,000 miles
Rocky Mountain states* to Hawaii (Alaska Airlines):
- Economy: 23,000 miles
- First Class: 84,000 miles
Midwest to Hawaii (Alaska Airlines):
- Economy: 25,000 miles
- First Class: 93,000 miles
* See the award chart for details on which states fall into which zone
Earning Singapore Krisflyer miles
One of the best parts about these great deals with Singapore Airlines miles is that they are perhaps the easiest to earn in all of miles and points. Singapore Krisflyer is a transfer partner of all five flexible points programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Citi ThankYou Rewards
- Capital One Miles
This makes it effortless to top up your balance. Singapore Airlines doesn’t have a U.S. cobranded credit card, so you must transfer in points from elsewhere.
Further reading: A guide to earning transferable points
American Airlines AAdvantage
As covered above, American Airlines is partnered with Alaska Airlines. Because of this, you can redeem American Airlines miles for award flights to Hawaii on both American and Alaska. Economy prices are fair, but it’s certainly not the cheapest way to get to the Polynesian paradise, especially in business class or first class. Here’s what you’ll pay:
- 45,000 miles in economy
- 80,000 miles in first class
American Airlines sells discounted award seats to Hawaii during their “off-peak” dates. Discounted prices are 40,000 miles round-trip. Here are the dates:
- To Hawaii: December 29 – March 12, August 11 – November 18, November 24 – December 10
- From Hawaii: January 7 – March 19, August 18 – November 27, December 3 – December 25
The bright spot of using American Airlines miles for your flight is that you’ll have more access to American’s award seats than you will if booking through a partner like British Airways.
Earning American Airlines miles
To earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles directly, you can open any of the handful of cobranded American Airlines credit cards like theCitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, which comes with 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. With just one welcome bonus, you’d have way more than enough miles for a free round-trip to Hawaii.
You can also transfer Marriott points to American Airlines at a 3:1 ratio. You’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus for transfers in increments of 60,000 Marriott Rewards points. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 American Airlines miles.
Note that Marriott points can take up to two days to transfer.
United Airlines MileagePlus
- Economy: 45,000 miles
- First class: 80,000 miles
United Airlines awards are a cinch to find thanks to their user-friendly website, and there are typically plenty of available award seats.
Also if you’re a United Airlines credit card holder, or if you’ve got United Airlines elite status, you’ll have access to a larger inventory of award seats than those who don’t. This has helped many of us at TPG score a free ticket when seats were sold out to others.
Earning United Airlines miles
There are a number of credit cards that’ll help you earn United Airlines MileagePlus miles in a hurry, like:
- United℠ Explorer Card — 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
You can also instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United at a ratio of 1:1. That makes United miles one of the easiest currencies to earn.
Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, so it can be hard to accurately price their awards to Hawaii. You’ll have to search specific dates to see the price. On the lowest level, Delta economy awards start at 45,000 miles round-trip from the continental U.S. to Hawaii, but they can often be much higher. However, Delta Airlines occasionally runs award sales for just 33,000 miles round-trip, so run a search before booking your next trip out west.
Earning Delta SkyMiles
You can open Delta credit cards and earn their welcome bonuses to earn miles quickly. For example, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express comes with 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms Apply.
You can also instantly transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Delta at a 1:1 ratio, making Delta miles some of the easiest to earn.
There are many ways to redeem your hard-earned points and miles to get to the Hawaiian islands from the continental U.S., and many offer a comparatively low price point. Korean Airlines SKYPASS is one of the most economical options, but limited earning opportunities coupled with unreliable Delta award inventory makes it difficult or impractical for most travelers.
For West Coast travelers, booking nonstop Alaska or American flights using British Airways Avios can be a phenomenal value, while many readers may want to consider using Singapore KrisFlyer miles to book United-operated flights.
One thing’s for sure: you have plenty of options at your disposal, and the competition may soon heat up even further. Southwest began flights to Hawaii earlier this year, opening up yet another way to fly to the Aloha State. Here’s hoping you’ll be able to utilize one of these options for your next vacation!
Additional reporting by Joseph Hostetler
Featured photo by okimo/Getty Images
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