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How to upgrade your seat on Hawaiian Airlines

August 28 2022
6 min read
Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330
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A vacation to Hawaii can be the ultimate dream trip. Whether you choose Maui, Kauai or Waikiki, the beaches and mountains that await have the ability to take your breath away.

The remote location of Hawaii means you'll have a long flight to get to paradise regardless of where you start your journey. Hawaiian Airlines has been flying from Hawaii to destinations worldwide for over 80 years and offers a variety of ways to get to Hawaii with a bit more comfort.

Hawaiian Airlines has true lie-flat seats on some routes and offers seats with extra legroom in its economy class cabin. Hawaiian also offers a product similar to domestic U.S. first class on some intra-Hawaii flights.

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As you can see, there are many upgraded seating options on Hawaiian Airlines flights. Here's what you need to know about getting an upgrade when flying Hawaiian Airlines.

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Snag a free Hawaiian upgrade with elite status

Hawaiian Airlines plane in Hawaii. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

If you hold elite status in the HawaiianMiles program, you may find yourself on the Hawaiian upgrade list. Pualani Gold and Platinum members have limited access to free upgrades to extra comfort, business-class and first-class seats.

For "neighbor island" flights or intra-island Hawaii flights, Pualani Gold and Platinum members get free upgrades to extra comfort seats (Hawaiian's premium economy product on its Airbus A330, A321neo and Boeing 717 aircraft) 24 hours before departure.

Pualani Platinum members also get free upgrades to first-class seats 24 hours before check in, while Pualani Gold members can purchase an upgrade for a 50% discount if available 24 hours before departure.

Hawaiian treats flights to the rest of North America and other international destinations differently. Pualani Gold and Platinum members get access to extra comfort seating at boarding. Pualani Platinum members earn certificates redeemable for upgrades to first and business class.

Each certificate is valid for an upgrade to first or business class on Hawaiian-operated flights of 3,500 miles or less. Still, members can redeem multiple certificates for flights longer than 3,500 miles.

Pualani Platinum members earn two certificates when they qualify for Platinum status each year, six additional certificates if they fly 75,000 miles in a calendar year and an additional certificate for every 10,000 miles flown beyond 75,000 in a year.

Related: How to change or cancel a Hawaiian Airlines flight

Pay for a Hawaiian upgrade

WALLACE COTTON/THE POINTS GUY

Hawaiian Airlines employs a "Bid Up" system where eligible travelers can bid to upgrade to first or business class on a Hawaiian Airlines flight. Passengers traveling in main cabin basic — Hawaiian's version of basic economy — are ineligible for the Bid Up system.

Eligible passengers can enter their confirmation number into the Bid Up page on Hawaiian's website to make a bid. You can enter a different bid for each segment, but you'll need to bid for all passengers on your itinerary. If you're comfortable splitting up your party and only upgrading some travelers on your itinerary, you'll need separate reservations. Hawaiian Airlines will notify you between 48 and 24 hours before departure if you've been cleared off the Hawaiian upgrade list to a first or business class seat.

Meanwhile, if you want to secure an upgrade to extra comfort or preferred seats, you can pay to reserve these seats. The cost will be between $5 and $49 for "neighbor island" flights and between $9 and $399 for other flights.

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® doesn't offer any discounts or benefits related to Hawaiian upgrades. But you can still utilize many other credit card travel credits to cover upgrade fees.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit, and The Platinum Card® from American Express offers an airline fee credit up to $200 per calendar year in statement credits (although you'd need to enroll and select Hawaiian Airlines as your airline of choice before making your purchase).

The information for the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Hawaiian Airlines baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

Redeem miles for a Hawaiian upgrade

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

HawaiianMiles members can also redeem miles for first or business class upgrades based on availability.

For "neighbor island" Hawaiian flights, the range of miles required to upgrade to first class is between 7,500 and 15,000. Meanwhile, the cost to upgrade Hawaiian flights to North America or other international destinations will range between 25,000 and 90,000 miles depending on the destination.

Pualani Platinum and Gold members, as well as HawaiianMiles credit card holders, may see discounted upgrade offers for certain flights in their accounts. Unfortunately, you can't redeem miles to upgrade to Hawaiian's preferred or extra comfort seats.

Related: Best ways to redeem points and miles on Hawaiian Airlines​

Bottom line

There are several ways to score an upgrade to Hawaiian first class. Intra-island flights are shorter, so upgrading may not be worth the price (in cash or miles). However, upgrading on longer flights may provide excellent value.

If you're a Hawaii resident or travel there frequently, elite status in the HawaiianMiles program may score you some free upgrades to Hawaiian first class or business class. And Hawaiian is one of the few airlines flying to and from the mainland U.S. that employs a bidding system for upgrades.

Featured photo by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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