In case you haven’t noticed, we’re kind of obsessed with Hawaii. Although plane tickets can be pricey and award ticket availability can be a challenge, I’ve learned the best ways to book Hawaii on points and miles and now I’m going to share.
Here’s the interesting thing: most options on this list involve flying on one of the 3 major US carriers-United, Delta, and American Airlines- but none of these options involve actually booking through these carriers. My favorite credit cards are cards that earn transferable points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. You will see that having either of these points will give you several options for flights to Hawaii. I will go over which airline partners work best.
This is current as of September 2018. Note that Korean Air is no longer a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Booking Hawaii on points with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards partners
I made a table for quick reference, but keep reading because I will explain how all of this works.
|British Airways Avios||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue||Etihad Guest|
|Book these flights from the continental US to Hawaii||American Airlines and Alaska Airlines||United and Alaska Airlines||Delta||American Airlines|
|Cost in economy||12,500 each way (from the west coast)||17,500 each way on United; 12,000-12,500 each way on Alaska Airlines (from select cities only)||As low as 17,500 each way||17,500 or 22,500 each way|
|Cost in business/first||37,500 each way (from the west coast)||30,000 each way on United; Alaska is LOL. Not even worth considering for biz/first||Uncertain as I could not find availability and there is no chart||37,500 each way|
|Transfer from||Chase UR and Amex MR||Chase UR and Amex MR||Chase UR and Amex MR||Amex MR|
|Can I put an award ticket on hold?||No||Yes||Yes||No official policy, but I have been allowed to.|
If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards, these are the best partners to book plane tickets to Hawaii:
If you have SPG Starpoints, you can also use these 4 partners. When SPG and Marriott are combined in August 2018, you can continue to use these partners. But I will not be collecting those points anymore due to a devaluation of the SPG card. For that reason, I am going to focus mainly on using Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points.
You can use all four options listed below to book tickets from the continental US to Hawaii if you have American Express Membership Rewards points.
You will need to register for a frequent flyer account if you do not already have one to search for availability with some of these programs. It’s free. No credit card required.
If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points you can use these partners to book plane tickets to Hawaii:
These partners have the lowest redemption costs:
Keep in mind that Southwest is going to be flying to Hawaii beginning in 2019. Southwest is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards! When their Hawaii schedule is released, I’ll update this post to add those routes.
Best Ways to Book Flights to Hawaii on Miles and Points
Remember, never transfer Ultimate Rewards to Amex Membership Rewards before confirming availability for your dates. Transfers are permanent. I will explain how to search for availability in each section.
1. British Airways Avios to book American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights
Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards
Since BA has a distance-based award chart, tickets to Hawaii from the US west coast are a great value. British Airways partners with Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. One-way tickets are allowed. British Airways does not allow holds on award tickets, but if you’re transferring from MR or UR, you should have the points immediately.
British Airways charges 12,500 Avios each way or 25,000 round-trip for flights to Hawaii in economy on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines from these cities:
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Bellingham, WA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Oakland, CA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Portland, OR
- Sacramento, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Seattle, WA
To compare, flights booked with American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles cost 35,000-45,000 miles roundtrip from the continental US to Hawaii.
If you live on the east coast, it could be worth booking a “positioning” flight to the west coast to take advantage of this British Airways sweet spot. I will do a separate post on positioning flights but here is a quick example.
- You live on the east coast and have 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points and want to book 2 tickets to Hawaii.
- You find “sAAver” availability on a roundtrip flight from LAX to Honolulu on American Airlines. This would be 25,000 British Airways Avios per person or 50,000 total.
- You find a cheap flight from your east coast city to LAX on Southwest. Since you still have 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer them to Southwest Rapid Rewards and book those tickets on points. Although, I would consider paying cash for the positioning flights and saving those extra Ultimate Rewards points to book hotels instead.
How to book American Airlines flights with British Airways Avios
How to book Alaska airlines flights with British Airways Avios
British Airways does not show Alaska Airlines on their website. The easiest way to search for availability is on AA.com. American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are non-alliance partners. Any award space that is bookable by partners of Alaska Airlines will show up on aa.com. Once you find the Alaska flights you want on aa.com, write down the dates and flight numbers. You will need to call British Airways to book.
2. Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles to book United or Alaska Airlines
Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards
Singapore Airlines and United are both in the Star Alliance, so you can book United flights with Singapore Airlines miles.
For a flight from the continental US to Hawaii operated by United, Singapore Airlines charges 35,000 miles roundtrip, whereas United charges 45,000 for the exact same flight. Although you can transfer Ultimate Rewards to United to book, you save points by booking the exact same flight with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program. One way tickets are allowed and the cost is 17,500 miles.
The official policy is that they do not hold award tickets, but I have personal experience of putting tickets on hold by calling Singapore Airlines. The tickets were held for 2 days. But UR and MR transfers are usually immediate, so this probably is not necessary.
How to book United flights with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles
You can search using Singapore’s website, but I think it is easier to check availability for United flights by using United’s own website.
- Make sure you are logged out of your United Mileage Plus account when searching because United sometimes makes more saver space available to its own members that may not be available to partners.
- Once you find an award at the saver level, you should be able to book on the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer website.
Alaska Airlines is a non-alliance partner of Singapore Airlines. Instead of the Star Alliance award chart, Singapore has a separate award chart for redemptions on flights operated by Alaska Airlines.
Depending on your departure city, the cost is only 12,000-12,500 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles each way. At first glance, this award chart seems great. Zone 3 (Texas) to Zone 5 (Hawaii) prices at 12,500 miles. But the catch is that this works like British Airways in that you’re charged per segment. If direct flights from DFW to Hawaii were available on Alaska Airlines, that would be great! But the reality is that from DFW, you’re looking at 2 or 3 segments each way.
If you live in a city with direct flights to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines, this is one of the cheapest redemption options available! These cities include Los Angelos, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and San Diego. If you do not live in a city with direct flights, it could be worth booking a positioning flight to an airport that does have direct Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii.
How to book Alaska Airlines Flights with Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles
You will have to call Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book award flights operated by Alaska Airlines.
Singapore Airlines does not show Alaska Airlines award availability on their website. The easiest way to search for availability is on AA.com. Any award space that is bookable by Singapore Airlines and other partners of Alaska Airlines will show up on aa.com. Remember, you are looking for Alaska Airlines flights. If the flight is operated by American Airlines, you cannot use Singapore Airlines to book. I know that is confusing.
Once you find the Alaska Airlines flights you want on aa.com, write down the dates and flight numbers. Then you will need to call Krisflyer to book.
3. KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue for Delta flights
Note that Alaska Airlines used to be a KLM/AirFrance non-alliance partner, but that ended earlier in 2018.
Transfer from Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards
Since AirFrance/KLM are SkyTeam alliance partners with Delta, you can use FlyingBlue miles to book Delta flights. Although there is one more partner that has a lower cost (see number 4 on this list) for booking Delta flights, using FlyingBlue is my favorite way to get to Hawaii.
- First of all, KLM’s online booking process is easy, and it is easy to search for availability.
- Second, economy availability on Delta tends to be pretty good especially when booked in advance. I booked 7 tickets for our entire family for a Hawaii vacation.
Delta no longer publishes an award chart, so it’s hard to say what their normal prices are. It’s not always easy to predict what their saver price is, because they seem to change from day to day. Just from my experience, it seems like the lowest cost for a roundtrip ticket from the US to Hawaii is between 45,00-60,000 Skymiles. But this doesn’t even matter. What matters is KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue’s cost.
Like Delta, AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue does not publish an award chart, but the lowest cost between the US and Hawaii seems to be 17,500 each way. That is going to be less than what Delta charges. The amount of miles charged by KLM does not seem to change if you have multiple segments. In other words, the price from DFW-KOA, which has a connection, is the same as the cost from LAX-KOA, which is a nonstop flight.
How to use Airfrance/KLM FlyingBlue miles to book Delta flights
In many cases, I suggest going to the airline operating the flight to search for availability. But since Delta has no award chart, searching Delta.com is not very helpful. The best way to determine Delta partner availability is to just use the partner program to search. In other words, use FlyingBlue.
Log into your FlyingBlue account, plug in your departure, destination, and dates, and search. If flights are available, the flight options and amount of miles will show.
You can transfer the amount of Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards and then book. Or to be extra safe, you can call FlyingBlue, have them put the flights on hold, then transfers.
4. Etihad Guest miles for American Airlines flights
Transfer from Amex MR
Etihad is not in an airline alliance. But there are several non-alliance partners. One of these partners is American Airlines. You can use Etihad Guest miles to book American Airlines flights to Hawaii.
The cost is the same or better than if you were to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Etihad is ideal for those on the east coast and/or in cities that do not have direct AA flights to Hawaii. Etihad’s program does not charge extra for extra segments. On the other hand, British Airways, another AA partner, requires you to redeem Avios (miles) for each segment of the flight. Click here for more info about the advantages of using Etihad.
For economy, the cost is 17,500 or 22,500 miles each way depending on dates. Off peak dates change every year, but this year, the dates are January 12 – March 8, August 22, and December 15.
For first class, the cost is 37,500 miles each way. To compare, the AAdvantage cost is 40,000 miles each way.
How to book American Airlines flights with Etihad miles
Etihad’s website does not have the capability to book American Airlines award tickets at this time. You will have to call to book. The process is relatively painless as agents are well-trained. I’ve never had to wait on hold for very long, either.
The best way to find availability is on AA.com. Remember, you are looking for milesAAver seats. Once you find the flights you want, you can call to complete the booking.
A few notes:
- If you live in a city with nonstop Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii, British Airways or Singapore Airlines are likely going to have your lowest redemption costs.
- If you live on the west coast with nonstop American Airlines flights to Hawaii, British Airways is probably going to be your best bet.
- For those who live on the east coat or in a city requiring a connection, KLM/AirFrance to book Delta, Etihad to book American Airlines, or Singapore to book United is probably going to be the best value for a Hawaii ticket.
You can get at least 1 roundtrip ticket to Hawaii with just 1 sign-up bonus!
The current offer for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards. The sign-up bonus pays for at least one ticket! Plus the annual fee is waived the first year!
Be sure to read the getting started page before applying for any credit card!
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 Months
- Annual Fee: $95, but waived the first year
- Bonus Categories: 2 points per dollar on travel and dining
Other cards that earn Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- Minimum spend for bonus: $4,000 in 3 months
- Annual Fee: $450
- Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on travel and dining
- Notable benefits: $300 travel credit per calendar year, $100 reimbursement for TSA or Global Entry enrollment, airport lounge access
Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card
- Bonus:80,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- Minimum spend for bonus: $5,000 in 3 Months
- Annual Fee: $95
- Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Bonus: 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points
- Minimum spend for bonus: $5,000 in 3 months
- Annual Fee: $550
- Bonus Categories: 5 points per dollar on flights booked direct through airlines, 5 points per dollar on travel booked through amextravel.com
- Notable benefits: $200 airline incidental reimbursement per calendar year (click here for more info), $200 total in Uber credits annually, $100 reimbursement for TSA precheck or Global Entry enrollment, airport lounge access, 100$ total in statement credit for purchases at Saks Fifth avenue annually
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
- Bonus:25,000 Membership Rewards points
- Minimum spend for bonus: $2,000 in 3 months
- Annual Fee: $195, waived for the first year
- Bonus Categories: 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines, 2 points per dollar at US restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.
- Notable benefits: $100 annual airline incidental credit