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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Hawaiian Airlines is not a member of one of the major alliances and has a relatively small route network when compared to US legacy carriers. As a result, when we talk about the best ways to fly to Hawaii on points and miles, it’s easy to overlook the carrier. However, there are many different ways for you to book award tickets on Hawaiian-operated flights. In addition to an extensive list of inter-island flights, the carrier also flies nonstop to a number of West Coast destinations as well as New York-JFK and seasonally to Boston (BOS).
Today we’ll take a look at the best ways to redeem points and miles for flights on Hawaiian Airlines.
Redeem Hawaiian Airlines Miles
The first option is to redeem miles directly through Hawaiian Airlines’ HawaiianMiles loyalty program. Although it operates independently of the three major airline alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld and Skyteam), there are still two great options for boosting your balance of miles with Hawaiian. The first is American Express Membership Rewards, which offers a 1:1 transfer ratio. You can earn Membership Rewards points easily by taking advantage of the welcome bonus on a new Amex card like The Business Platinum® Card from American Express which is currently offering a two-tiered welcome bonus. New applicants will earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 in the first three months, and another 25,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 in the first three months. TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, making the full 75,000-point bonus worth $1,500.
You could also transfer points from Marriott Rewards. As with most of Marriott’s whopping 45 airline transfer partners, points transfer to Hawaiian Airlines at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred (up to 180,000 points a day). Whether you opt for the entry-level Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or the premium Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, you’ll be able to earn the same welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Hawaiian Airlines offers a number of different published economy award rates (as opposed to some airlines that opt for unpredictable variable pricing schemes). At 20,000 miles each way for economy awards from North America to/from Hawaii, these can represent a great deal.
You can expect demand for these awards to get fairly competitive during peak travel season and over the holidays, but outside of those days, I found Coach SuperSaver space to be readily available. For a random week in February/March, every single day had SuperSaver availability between Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu (HNL), with most dates having more than one nonstop flight available at that price.
The pricing for first class is where things start to fall apart, as the 80,000 miles you see here is the cheapest it’s going to get. While you might want a lie-flat bed on a long flight from the east coast to Hawaii, the product isn’t all that premium and certainly not worth more miles than an entire round-trip award to Europe or Asia.
In addition to operating long-haul flights to the Aloha State, Hawaiian also operates on dozens of inter-island routes. With prices starting at 7,500 miles each way in economy, these may seem like a great value, but note that cash prices for these short hops are also very low. You might struggle to get even 1 cent per point of value with these redemptions.
Like the carrier’s longer flights, availability is incredibly generous, even if you’re traveling with the whole family. For this entire week in February/March, every day has multiple flights with 4+ SuperSaver economy award seats between Honolulu and Kauai (LIH). Because these are all domestic flights within the US, you shouldn’t have to pay more than the normal $5.60 in taxes, keeping your free flights as close to free as possible.
Another great use of Hawaiian Airlines miles involves flights to Tahiti (PPT). Hawaiian Airlines operates a 1x weekly nonstop flight from Honolulu (every Saturday), and SuperSaver award space is very plentiful at 27,500 miles each way. French Polynesia is otherwise tricky to get to on points and miles, but breaking up your trip with a stop in Honolulu might just be the way to go.
You can extend this trick to Australia and New Zealand, two other challenging destinations to get to on points and miles. If you fly from North America through Hawaii, awards will cost 60,000 miles each way in economy. That’s certainly on the pricey side, but you might consider that a fair trade for an easier time finding award space. Flights from the US to Japan and Seoul are priced the same way.
As noted above, Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t belong to any of the three major alliances, but it does have partnership with several carriers that allow you to book Hawaiian-operated flights to get to the islands. Here’s an overview of some of the best, including the easiest ways to boost your account balances in each program:
One lucrative option is through Korean Air’s SKYPASS program. While these miles are much harder to earn these days (ever since Chase dropped Korean Air as a transfer partner), Korean Air does offer a lucrative round-trip award chart for flights on Hawaiian Airlines, though you’re limited to round-trip awards whenever you redeem SKYPASS miles for Hawaiian trips. Inter-island flights only cost 10,000 miles round-trip in economy, while flights to the continental US can be booked for 30,000 miles in round-trip economy or just 60,000 miles in round-trip first class.
Earning SKYPASS miles: Since Chase points no longer transfer to Korean, your only way to leverage transferable point currencies is to transfer Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio (with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer).
You can also redeem miles through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program. The carrier displays award charts for all of its partners in terms of round-trip pricing, so you can see that inter-island flights cost 15,000 miles. However, unlike Korean, you can redeem Flying Club miles for one-way travel at half of the rates below, putting the flights in line with what Hawaiian would charge:
Virgin Atlantic splits flights to the US into East Coast vs. West Coast pricing, and while you should avoid the obvious up-charge for JFK and Boston flights, there is one piece of good news here. If you’re looking to fly in first class from the West Coast to Hawaii it will only cost you 80,000 miles round-trip through Virgin Atlantic, as opposed to 80,000 miles each way with Hawaiian Airlines.
Earning Flying Club miles: Virgin Atlantic miles are among the easiest to earn, as the carrier partners with Amex, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Rewards. We’ve even seen transfer bonuses from both Amex and Citi in the past, so your award rates could be discounted even further by transferring during these promotions.
While JetBlue uses a revenue-based award chart for flights on its own metal, it has a fixed pricing scheme for flights on Hawaiian Airlines. Here’s the one-way economy award chart:
And the one-way business class award chart:
Inter-island flights from 6,000 points each way in economy can be a great deal when paid prices are high, and flights to the US aren’t bad either, but again the premium cabin pricing is much too high for the product you’ll actually receive.
One interesting note is that all the international destinations Hawaiian Airlines serves are lumped into one category, which should allow you to book one-way awards from the US to the South Pacific for only 50,000 miles in economy with plentiful award space. While most people don’t think of Hawaii as the ideal place to stop in route to Australia, at these prices, it just might be.
Earning JetBlue points: JetBlue offers 1:1 transfers from both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, and while it also partners with American Express Membership Rewards, your transfer ratio there is just 1.25:1, so it’s not a great value proposition. Finally, the program is a Marriott Rewards transfer partner but offers a terrible 6:1 transfer ratio, so you should never use this option.
Book Inter-Island Flights With US Legacy Carriers
Even though the actual flights between Hawaii’s various islands are operated almost exclusively by Hawaiian Airlines, the US legacy carriers (American, United and Delta) want a piece of the action. They also know that their customers want the ability to redeem miles for these flights, so they’ve all partnered with Hawaiian Airlines. Below are the one-way economy award costs for Hawaiian Airlines’ inter-island flights booked through the loyalty programs of the legacy carriers:
- United: 7,000 miles
- American Airlines: 7,500 miles
- Delta: 7,500 miles
American will also let you redeem 15,000 miles for a first class ticket, but since these flights are typically under an hour, it’s probably not worth the premium.
It’s also worth noting that US-based carriers aren’t the only ones to partner with Hawaiian Airlines like this. If you’re ever on an inter-island flight, pay attention to the seemingly endless list of codeshare flight numbers the gate agents have to announce. In my experience, reading that list takes almost as long as boarding the tiny Boeing 717s that operate most of these flights.
However, you’ll definitely want to check the paid prices of these tickets before you look to redeem miles. At these rates, a $59 or $69 one-way flight will get you less than 1 cent of value per mile, well below TPG’s valuations for all three currencies.
Even though Hawaiian Airlines isn’t always the cheapest way to redeem for flights to Hawaii, it’s a must if you plan on traveling between the islands. Whether you book directly with HawaiianMiles or through a partner program, it’s worth doing a quick cost comparison to make sure you’re paying the least amount of miles possible, especially since so many of the above partner programs partner with the major transferable point currencies. Even if you aren’t traveling to Hawaii, you should still keep Hawaiian Airlines on your radar for flights to the South Pacific and Tahiti. Low award rates from the mainland US and generous economy availability give you plenty of reason to stop overlooking this option for your vacation to the Aloha State.
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