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Is it time to say “Aloha!” to Hawaiian Airlines when it comes to points and miles?
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 namesake carrier itself.
It’s a shame, because there are many different ways to book award tickets on Hawaiian-operated flights. In addition to an extensive list of interisland flights, the carrier also flies nonstop to a number of West Coast destinations, as well as New York-JFK, Boston (BOS) and beyond to places beyond such as Tahiti and Australia.
Today we’ll take a look at the best ways to redeem points and miles for flights on Hawaiian Airlines.
Earning Hawaiian Airlines Miles
The first way to make the most out of Hawaiian 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 three great options for boosting your balance of miles with Hawaiian Airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard: Earn a 60,000-mile bonus for a limited time.
First, you can earn Hawaiian Airlines miles directly by flying Hawaiian or utilizing their partners. Hawaiian Airlines still awards miles based on how far you fly, not just how much you pay. Right now, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard has an increased bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days, worth $540 based on TPG’s valuations.
With this card, you earn 3x miles on Hawaiian Airlines purchases, a free checked bag and a $100 companion discount on your account anniversary. As you’ll soon see, that’s sometimes more than enough miles for a one-way ticket to Hawaii in a lie-flat seat. Plus, those with a Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard can have miles transferred into their account from other Hawaiian members at no fee.
Another option is to transfer miles to Hawaiian from the American Express Membership Rewards program, which offers a 1:1 transfer ratio and periodic transfer bonuses. You can earn Membership Rewards points easily by taking advantage of the welcome bonus on cards such as the Business Platinum® Card from American Express, which is currently offering a two-tiered welcome bonus. New applicants 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 to Hawaiian from Marriott Bonvoy. 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 Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the premium Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you earn the same welcome bonus of 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Redeeming Hawaiian Airlines Miles
Hawaiian Airlines recently joined the ranks of airlines using dynamic award pricing in place of a fixed chart. The rates aren’t nearly as bad as some airlines that follow this approach, though, and Hawaiian is one of the only carriers to publish a range of what you can expect to see with its dynamic pricing.
You can expect peak travel dates to drive up the prices pretty significantly, but outside of that, I found cheaper economy awards to be readily available on many routes. For a random week in February, every single day had availability between Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu (HNL) at the lowest economy rate of 20,000 miles each way, with most dates having more than one nonstop flight available at that price.
The pricing for first class is where things start to get more varied, with more dates pricing at the top of the range at 80,000 miles each way. Still, it’s possible to score this flight for only 40,000 miles, especially from the West Coast. TPG editor Summer Hull even wrote a great guide to help make sure you get a lie-flat seat starting at 40k miles each way.
One of the odd quirks about dynamic pricing is that first class might be cheaper than economy on some days. The most expensive economy awards from the West Coast to Hawaii cost 95,000 miles each way, while business class topped out at 80,000.
In addition to operating long-haul flights to the Aloha State, Hawaiian also operates on dozens of interisland 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 sometimes very low. You might struggle to get even 1 cent per point of value with these redemptions on off-peak days. If you decide to redeem points on one of these routes, you’d often come out ahead using a pay-with-points bonus like you’ll find on the Amex Business Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example.
Like the carrier’s longer flights, availability is often incredibly generous, even if you’re traveling with the whole family. For this entire week in February and March, every day has multiple flights with at least four economy award seats at the lowest possible price between Honolulu (HNL) 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 award 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 economy award space is decently plentiful at 27,500 miles each way when starting in Honolulu. Lie-flat first class seats from Honolulu can sometimes be found for 47,500 miles each.
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. Award prices starting from the mainland are higher, with economy starting at 47,500 in economy.
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 (with an overnight in Honolulu), these awards start at 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 and a stopover in Honolulu on the way. Flights from the US to Japan and Seoul are priced similarly.
Redeem Partner Miles to Fly Hawaiian
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 rewarding 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. Interisland 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 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 interisland flights cost 15,000 miles. However, unlike Korean, you can redeem Flying Club miles for one-way travel at half the rates below, putting the flights in line with what Hawaiian would charge.
Virgin Atlantic splits flights to the US into East Coast and West Coast pricing, and you you should definitely avoid the charge for JFK and Boston flights if you can.
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 Bonvoy. 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:
Interisland 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 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 en 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 transfer partner but offers a terrible 6:1 transfer ratio, so you should never use this option.
Book Interisland Flights With US Legacy Carriers
Even though many of the actual flights between Hawaii’s various islands are often operated by Hawaiian Airlines, the US legacy carriers (American, United and Delta) want a piece of the action and allow their customers to redeem miles for these flights. The one-way economy award for Hawaiian Airlines’ interisland flights booked through United’s loyalty program costs 7,000 miles. For AA and Delta, it’s 7,500 miles.
American lets 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. If you’re ever on an interisland 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 smaller Boeing 717s that operate most of these flights.
You’ll definitely want to check the paid prices of these tickets before you 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 fewest 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.
Know before you go.
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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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