Redeeming Miles To Hawaii In First Class

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Yesterday I wrote about how to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for first class flights to Hawaii on Virgin America. There were some follow up questions about the relative values of redeeming miles to Hawaii in general, so I figured I’d go through some of the options.

Besides, Hawaii is a decent enough place to daydream about on a Wednesday, and I’m sure I’m not the only one ready for some time on a beach.

Hawaii-surfboard

For the most part, when we talk about “first class” to Hawaii we are talking about standard domestic recliner-style seats, with maybe a plumeria thrown on the tray table to add some Aloha spirit. There are a few routes with nicer aircraft, but Hawaii is a decidedly leisure market, and there just isn’t demand for better products.

Using miles for first class flights to Hawaii

To begin, it probably makes sense to look at the current options for flying to Hawaii in first class, along with some of the mileage prices at the saver level. I’m not going to list every possible option, just the more common mileage programs, or those with the best rates.

Air Canada (Rouge)

  • 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles one-way
  • 35,000 Miles & More miles one-way
  • 37,500 Avianca LifeMiles one-way
  • 40,000 Aeroplan miles one-way
  • 40,000 United miles one-way

Alaska Airlines

  • 60,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles round-trip
  • 37,500 American AAdvantage miles one-way
  • 40,000 Alaska MileagePlan miles one-way
  • 40,000 Delta SkyMiles one-way
  • 50,000 British Airways Avios one-way on nonstops from the West Coast

American Airlines

  • 37,500 American AAdvantage miles one-way
  • 47,500 Alaska MileagePlan Miles one-way
  • 50,000 British Airways Avios one-way on nonstops from the West Coast

Delta Air Lines*

  • 45,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles round-trip
  • 60,000 Alitalia Millemiglia miles round-trip
  • 80,000 Alaska MileagePlan Miles round-trip
  • “Some” Delta SkyMiles depending on your origin city

* These rates for partner programs are all dependent upon finding low-level award space on Delta. In other words, it’s probably not happening. So don’t transfer miles to these programs with the intention of redeeming for domestic awards on Delta unless you’ve verified space.

Hawaiian Airlines

  • 25,000 – 40,000 Virgin America Elevate points one-way
  • 40,000 Hawaiian miles one-way
  • 60,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles round-trip
  • 80,000 Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub miles round trip

United Airlines

  • 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles one-way
  • 35,000 Miles & More miles one-way
  • 37,500 Avianca LifeMiles one-way
  • 40,000 Aeroplan miles one-way
  • 40,000 United miles one-way

Virgin America

  • 75,000 – 150,000 Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub miles round trip
  • 90,000 Hawaiian miles roundtrip
  • 79,000 – 137,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles one-way

If you want to check out economy rates, or see what other airlines would charge, you can find the full award charts here.

There are some killer deals here! Obviously it won’t make sense to use KrisFlyer miles for Virgin America, but Singapore offers the best rates for travel on United; flights on Alaska are less costly using Korean or American miles than through the Alaska program directly, and so forth.

In general, I tend to think the best approach for redeeming miles to Hawaii is to look for space over your dates, and then figure out which miles you want to use. Space can be at a premium over school holidays, and some airlines are particularly stingy with award space lately.

People often get excited about the award rates to Hawaii using Korean Air miles, for example, and then are frustrated by the lack of space on Delta. That’s not to say you shouldn’t focus on the best deals, but be prepared to be flexible in how you book things. Spending an extra 15k Korean miles for a roundtrip on Alaska or Hawaiian is still a good deal overall.

So while it’s good to have these target numbers in mind, if you can keep your points flexible you’ll have many more options when it’s time to book your trip. You’ll also want to consider how you value each mileage currency to determine whether the best deal on paper is the best deal for you.

Earning miles for Hawaii

With the exception of Avianca LifeMiles (which can be purchased during promotions), all of the above programs are transfer partners of at least one of the main flexible points currencies. This means you can earn points in one of the below programs, then move points to an airline as needed:

American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Partners

AeroMexico Club PremierBritish Airways Executive ClubFrontier EarlyReturnsVirgin America EleVAte
Air Canada AeroplanCathay Pacific Asia MilesHawaiian Airlines HawaiianMilesVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
AirFrance/KLM Flying BlueDelta SkyMilesIberia Plus
Alitalia MilleMigliaEl Al MatmidJetBlue TrueBlue
ANA Mileage ClubEtihad GuestSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners

Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards ClubSingapore KrisFlyerWorld Of Hyatt
Air France KLM Flying BlueKorean Air SkyPassSouthwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
British Airways Executive ClubMarriott RewardsUnited MileagePlus
Iberia PlusRitz-Carlton RewardsVirgin Atlantic Flying Club

Starwood Preferred Guest Transfer Partners

AeroMexico Club PremierANA Mileage ClubEmirates SkywardsQatar Airways Privileges Club
Air Canada AeroplanAmerican Airlines AAdvantageEtihad Airways GuestSaudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan
airberlin Top BonusAsiana Airlines Asiana ClubGol SmilesSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Air China CompanionBritish Airways Executive ClubHawaiian Airlines HawaiianMilesThai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
Air France/KLM FlyingBlueCathay Pacific Asia MilesJapan Airlines (JAL) Mileage BankUnited Mileage Plus
Air New Zealand Air PointsChina Eastern Airlines Eastern ClubKorean Air SkypassVirgin Atlantic Flying Club
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanChina Southern Airlines' Sky Pearl ClubLAN Airlines LANPASS KmsVirgin Australia Velocity
Alitalia MilleMigliaDelta Air Lines SkyMilesLufthansa Miles & More

Premier Citi ThankYou Transfer Partners

Air France/KLM | Flying BlueGaruda Indonesia | Frequent FlyerQantas | Frequent FlyerTurkish Airways | Miles & Smiles
Cathay Pacific | Asia MilesJet Airways | JetPrivilegeQatar Airways | Privilege ClubVirgin Atlantic | Flying Club
EVA Air | Infinity MileageLandsJetBlue | TrueBlueSingapore Airlines | KrisFlyerHilton | HHonors
Etihad | Etihad GuestMalaysia Airlines | EnrichThai Airways | Royal Orchid Plus

It is worth noting that while American Express and Chase transfers are rather quick (and instant in many cases), SPG and Citi transfers can take some time, depending on the program you’re transferring to.

As a reminder, here are the best cards for accruing points in each currency:

Flexible CurrencyEarn Miles With
American Express Membership RewardsPremier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
American Express EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
Starwood Preferred GuestStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express
Chase Ultimate RewardsChase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
Citi ThankYouCiti Prestige® Card
Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Should you use miles for first class to Hawaii?

This section might defeat the purpose of the entire post, but for many of us, the answer is “meh.”

Unlike some destinations where revenue tickets would be outrageously expensive, and miles are clearly the better value, paid tickets to Hawaii can be pretty reasonable if you aren’t traveling over peak dates. Beyond that, if you have elite status with any airline, these routes tend to make for easy upgrades. Even purchasing an upgrade prior to departure can make sense — Alaska routinely offers upgrades at check-in, and Virgin America likely will on this route as well.

So in those cases, you might be better off purchasing your flight through the Citi ThankYou portal for 1.6 cents towards the cost of an American/US Airways ticket, or 1.33 cents towards the cost of a flight on another airline.

Personally, I won’t be using miles to fly to Hawaii. Having elite status with American (and being married to someone who has elite status with Alaska), I might use ThankYou points to purchase a ticket that can be upgraded, but that’s the extent of it. I have other (different, but not necessarily better) aspirations for my miles.

However, any number of these options might still make sense for you!

Bottom line

While there are only a handful of carriers offering first class to Hawaii, there are myriad ways to redeem miles for those seats. These airlines have partners outside their main alliances as well, which leads to some really interesting redemption opportunities.

Make sure to check space prior to moving any points around, however, as award availability can be quite limited.

Has anyone redeemed miles to Hawaii? Which program did you book through?

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Comments

  1. I was just researching this yesterday! Perfect timing. My conclusion was that AAdvantage miles seem to be a pretty poor value to Hawaii. The cash for a ticket wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Thanks for the insight!

  2. I think it depends where you’re departing the mainland. For anywhere mid-continent or east, I think it’s worth it.

    DFW-HNL is about 1000 miles closer than DFW-LHR
    ORD-HNL is only 300 miles closer than ORD-LHR

    And both of those flights are overnight so if I can get even an angle-flat, it’s worth it to me. Plus, as some of us grow older (and wider) it’s just not comfortable to sit in those narrow seats with no legroom for 7-9 hours.

    And for me, if I’m going to Hawaii it’s one of my big vacations for the year, one that I save my miles for so I’m definitely going to use them!

  3. i redeemed AA miles to Hawaii in first because 4 economy seats weren’t available on the dates I was able to travel. It wasn’t EVA Air biz class but it got us there.

  4. I would agree with Lea, value is a function of departure location. My wife and I are booked roundtrip CMH to KOA in mid-May at the first class saver level on AA at 67.5K miles each net (that is after the 10% rebate we receive from having the Citi AAdvantage cards). This was a better value than pricing first from here, or trying to stage to the left coast or right coast to secure some bargain fare in those markets. Also we were aiming for direct to KOA without the necessity to route through HLN. If we were aiming for HLN, I might look at some other proposition.

  5. Great article – thanks Tiffany! I love how you always lay out all the options for all airlines in your posts 🙂

  6. It’s not true when you say all the products are recliners with a little aloha. The only way to fly to Hawaii is 60k Singapore on united with fully flat bed on the 767 from eWR.

  7. Great article. I’d love a follow up about which carriers have the best first class products to Hawaii.

  8. @ Izzy — I noted that there are a few routes with nicer planes. The problem is that availability at the saver level is nearly non-existent on those routes, unfortunately.

  9. Admittedly I have not looked into this in a while, but my recollection was that using Avios on AA or Alaska from the West Coast was 12,500 one-way making it one of, if not the best, economy points value to Hawaii. Has this gone up? I see you are showing 50,000 Avios one-way.

  10. If you choose your flights carefully, you can find internationally configured 767’s to HNL on Delta. LAX, ATL, and JFK I think. Don’t know about the rest. My friend is there now and she had the standard lie-flat 767 configuration which was great for getting to Hawaii.

  11. I think most people who redeem miles to Hawaii are leisure travelers who’ve had a credit card with an airline for years for whatever reason but who don’t actually know what they’re doing. Not all, but MOST. I can tell you I know people who would see how many AA miles it takes and just say “cool.” Then again, someone just told me that it takes at least $20k to go to Europe “the right way,” so there are plenty of people out there who just don’t know how this stuff works.*

    *And yes, I’m picturing Bernice from the Esurance ad.

  12. Why isn’t Asiana’s award chart mentioned? 55,000 miles roundtrip in business to Hawaii is the cheapest Star Alliance option as far as I’m aware.

  13. Non peak time YVR-HNL with stopover at LAX only costs &1000 USD, only marginally more expensive than coach

  14. I live in Denver, so I used 60,000 krisflyer miles to book two one-ways direct from HNL. However, my trip just got postponed. Hopefully the availability is there when I begin to search again.

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