Now that United has announced new routes to Hawaii, the tropical paradise is on my mind again. Alaska, AA, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, and United Airlines all have flights from the mainland US to Hawaii, but you can often save points by booking these flights with foreign airline programs. For example, on my last trip to Hawaii, I used 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta first class round-trip from Detroit. Nick, meanwhile, been known to take advantage of the Turkish Airlines sweetspot to fly economy to Hawaii on United Airlines for only 7,500 Turkish miles one-way.
Of course, with the Pandemic currently in full swing, this isn’t a great time to fly to Hawaii. But, I’d argue that this is a great time to plan your trip for next year. Remember that all flights booked this year, including basic economy, can be changed for free if booked through one of the aforementioned US-based airlines (see our chart of airline change fee rules). So, book now, and change later (if necessary).
You’ll see below, that many of the best options for booking with miles require using a foreign carrier’s miles. Unfortunately, when you book a domestic airline’s flight with a foreign airline’s miles, change fees are dictated by the foreign airline’s mileage program, not by the domestic airline. That was a long way of saying that the elimination of change fees by US domestic carriers won’t necessarily help you. Luckily, with some foreign programs, like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, you’ll only lose the TSA fees ($5.60 per one-way) if you have to cancel and rebook.
Awards to Hawaii can be difficult to find, especially during peak season. For this reason, I’ve included a few tricks for booking cheaper paid flights. If you want to use airline miles, though, it’s great to have transferable points. Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs. This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others. If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:
- Amex Membership Rewards Complete Guide
- Capital One “Rewards miles” Complete Guide
- Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide
- Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide
- Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide
Cheaper Paid Flights
Alaska Airlines Companion Fare
This is one of my favorite tricks for getting cheap flights to Hawaii. As long as Alaska Airlines flights are available and as long as you travel in pairs, this option can save a bundle.
How to get it: Alaska Airlines credit card holders get one discount code each year. Qualifying cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature consumer card (US), the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card (US), as well as the World Elite and Platinum Plus MasterCard (Canada).
Flight requirement: Round-trip paid published coach airfare on Alaska Airlines
Companion benefit: Pay “from $121” ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your Alaska Airlines flight itinerary).
For more details, see: Alaska Airlines Companion Fare Complete Guide
Southwest Companion Pass
If you have earned a Southwest Companion Pass, you can fly two people for the price of one! This is true whether you pay cash or points for your flight. See: Complete guide to the Southwest Companion Pass.
Hawaiian Airlines Companion Discount
Honestly, I’m not sure that this will save you any money at all since it requires purchasing a full fare coach ticket, but I included it for completeness…
How to get it: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard and Hawaiian Airlines Business MasterCard cardholders get a one-time 50% off companion ticket. Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard cardholders additionally get a $100 off companion ticket each account anniversary.
Flight requirement: Purchase published round-trip full fare coach. Tickets must be purchased with your Hawaiian Airlines credit card.
Companion benefit: 50% off fare (before taxes and fees); or $100 off with the $100 off companion ticket.
Bundled air + hotel vacation packages sometimes offer far better flight prices than those available directly from the airlines unbundled. If you don’t need the hotel portion, you may be able to book the cheapest hotel option for just one night (and throw it away) even if you plan to stay at the destination far longer. Alternatively you may be able to bundle a car rental instead of a hotel. As an example, I’ve saved tons of money in the past booking Delta Vacation flights + car rentals to Hawaii. In fact, each time I did this, the price with the car rental was significantly less than the cost to buy airfare alone.
Best Mile Deals
Fly United using Turkish Miles & Smiles
Turkish offers the best deal to Hawaii, bar none. 7.5K one-way in economy or 12.5K one-way in business class is insane.
- The short story: Turkish offers the same pricing on flights to Hawaii as for other domestic US awards, making them an unbelievable value for flights to Hawaii.
- Miles required: 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 12,500 miles each way in business class (can include connections for the same price)
- How to find awards: Search for available award space at United.com. Important: make sure that the results indicate that the award is a "saver award", otherwise it won't be bookable.
- How to book awards: While it's theoretically possible to book online (details here), you'll likely have much better luck via phone. Even then, it may take several calls to get an agent who can see that the award space is available. Details for booking via phone can be found here. See also: Turkish still a mixed bag, but patience helps.
- Key warnings: Turkish appears to have a max connect time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary, so itineraries with a longer connection would require 2 awards. Also, for an unknown reason, Turkish agents often can't see award space that other partner airlines can see. You may have to call several times to get an award booked. Keep in mind that transfers to Turkish are not instant; it will take 1-2 days for the miles to show up in your Turkish Miles & Smiles account. As a result, we highly recommend calling to put an award on hold before you transfer points to Turkish miles.
Fly Alaska Airlines or United using Singapore KrisFlyer miles
Singapore offers excellent award prices to fly Alaska Airlines economy class to Hawaii.
- The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer charges fewer miles for domestic flights to Hawaii than United does for the same flights. Additionally, they have a great chart for Alaska Airlines for those originating in parts of the US other than the East Coast.
- Miles required: For United flights: 17,500 miles each way in economy or 34,500 in business (as compared to 22.5K / 40K through United). For Alaska Airlines flights: award prices range from 11.5K to 12.5K one-way in economy class.
- How to find awards: Search for available United Airlines space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com (See: Book United flights online with Singapore miles– but note that business class prices have increased since that post was written). For Alaska Airlines award space, search at AA.com
- How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Alaska awards must be booked over the phone.
- Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that United.com and AA.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check availability at SingaporeAir.com or with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
Fly AA or Alaska Airlines using British Airways Avios
Avios are great for the shortest distance AA and/or Alaska Airlines non-stop economy flights to Hawaii.
- The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so flights from the West Coast of the USA on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines can be a great value with Avios.
- Miles required: 13K miles each way plus $5.60 for economy-class segments between west coast cities and Hawaii.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights.
- How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
- Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.
Fly Delta using Air France miles
Air France is one of the cheapest options for booking Delta flights to Hawaii. Unfortunately, Delta’s partner award space is extremely hard to find, especially for first class awards.
- The short story: Air France charges far fewer miles than Delta for Delta flights to Hawaii, but finding award availability can be a huge challenge.
- Miles required: 17.5K one-way in economy, or 30K one-way in business class for Delta flights from the US mainland to Hawaii.
- How to find awards: Use the Virgin Atlantic 5 week award search to find availability (see this post for details). Next, confirm your findings at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
- How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone when the website returns errors.
- Key warnings: Air France's website is buggy and will often return errors when trying to complete a booking. If that happens, try calling.
Fly Delta using Virgin Atlantic miles
While Air France is usually cheaper, Virgin Atlantic sometimes sees award space that other Delta partners cannot see.
- The short story: Virgin Atlantic often offers Delta flights to Hawaii for many fewer miles than Delta would charge for the same itineraries. This can be a particularly good value for Delta’s life-flat routes to Hawaii.
- Miles required: 20,000 miles each way in economy class or 37,500 miles each way in business class (for non-stop flights)
- How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
- How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com. See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
- Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.
Fly Southwest using Southwest points
Southwest doesn’t have any relevant partners, but their own points are useful especially since they’re fully refundable. Additionally, if you have earned a Southwest Companion Pass, you can fly two people for the price of one! See: Complete guide to the Southwest Companion Pass.
- The short story: Southwest points are typically only worth about 1.5c towards the cost of a flight, but award bookings are totally flexible since they can be changed or canceled with no fee up until shortly before departure.
- Miles required: Varies by route but can be less than other options when cash prices are low.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at Southwest.com
- How to book awards: Book online at Southwest.com
- Key warnings: Keep in mind that if you pay for Early Bird Check In and then later cancel or change your flight, you will lose the benefit without a refund.
How to get the miles
The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:
|Rewards Program||Amex Transfer Ratio||Chase Transfer Ratio||Citi Transfer Ratio||Marriott Transfer Ratio||Capital One Transfer Ratio|
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|60K to 25K||1000 to 750|
|Avios||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||6000 to 3000*|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|60K to 25K||1000 to 500|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1 to 1||60K to 25K|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||1 to 1|
|60K to 25K|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|60K to 25K|