Booking Lie-Flat Seats to Hawaii — Reader Success Story

Apr 5, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, who saved massively on award flights by looking at partner options:

I used to pay for everything with cash or a debit card, until I came across a TPG article three years ago that made me realize how much I was wasting by doing that. I was intrigued by Ultimate Rewards, so I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Plus [no longer available for new applicants], along with the Chase Sapphire Reserve when it launched. I ended up with three Chase cards, and I use them for most of my spending to maximize point accrual.

Most of my travel is on Delta, so I was frustrated at first because Delta is not an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. However, I learned I could book flights through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at 1.5 cents per point because of my Reserve card, which ended up being just as good as (if not better than) Delta’s own award values. Plus, I could still accrue SkyMiles while essentially flying on award tickets. It wasn’t until I really got more into award travel that I realized I had even more (and sometimes better) options, such as booking Delta flights through partners like Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic.

I am getting married this summer, and figured what better way to use the points I’ve accrued than for the honeymoon? My fiancé wants to go to Hawaii, so I started looking for options to go for two weeks in July. All the major US Carriers wanted at least 160,000 miles per person for round-trip premium awards from our hometown of Savannah, Georgia (SAV), so I began searching partner options, including Virgin Atlantic. I was shocked at what I found on Flying Club: 8-10 days in July with multiple seats in Delta One on the nonstop DTW-HNL route for 75,000 miles and $11.20 per person. Delta wanted 200,000 miles each for the same flights.

I called Virgin Atlantic to confirm the availability, and then signed up for Flying Club since I wasn’t already a member. The next day, I transferred 150,000 points instantaneously from Chase to my Flying Club account and purchased the two tickets. The cash price was $2,141 on Delta, so I figured I got a redemption value of over 2.8 cents per point. I could have booked SAV-HNL round-trip on one itinerary through Flying Club, but that added 45,000 miles per ticket. Instead, I’ll book the SAV-DTW legs through Ultimate Rewards for 18,000 points each round-trip.

Booking our hotels is the next step, but thanks to your advice on how to book Delta awards via Virgin Atlantic, I now have more points to use than I would have otherwise.

Long-haul, premium award space can be hard to find, and the search gets more complicated when you add a connection, since it forces you to line up availability on consecutive flights. Connections can also inflate the cost of awards on carriers that charge for each segment individually, like Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. One solution to both problems is to do what Michael did and book your connection separately as a positioning flight. By splitting his itinerary into two tickets, he was able to take advantage of Delta One availability to Hawaii without paying Virgin Atlantic’s exorbitant price for flights between Savannah and Detroit.

Positioning flights can help even if you already live in a major city with nonstop service to your destination, since they allow you to expand your search base to other airports nearby (or not so nearby). When you find premium, long-haul availability that suits your needs, you can jump on it immediately thanks to 24-hour cancellation policies, and then search for a reasonably-priced positioning flight having already locked in the longer segment. This strategy works whether you book the positioning flight with cash or rewards. The one caveat is that splitting your trip into separate itineraries leaves you more vulnerable to delays, so make sure you leave plenty of time to make your connections.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Michael a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.