US airline frequent flyer programs charge about 45,000 miles roundtrip in economy for a saver award and 75,000 or 80,000 miles in first class. That’s actually really expensive, compared to paid ticket prices much of the time (not least of which because when Hawaii tickets are at their most expensive, saver awards are tough to get). And these US airlines charge the same number of miles from the West Coast as the East Coast.
Fortunately, we can do better — even for flying American and United.
Looking at travel from the US West Coast you’ve got British Airways distance-based awards which clock in at 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy for non-stop flights on American or Alaska Airlines.
Here are my four favorite Hawaii approaches that allow East Coast travel:
- Alaska Airlines has a $99+tax companion ticket that comes with the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa. It’s good for any Alaska Airlines flights, and offers last seat availability in economy. So one paid ticket, the second one a little over $100. It used to be an even better deal when these certificates were valid for first class. I’d buy one first class ticket Washington DC – Seattle – Hawaii and back, the second one cost me just over $100, earned bonus miles, and could be refundable.
- Korean Air’s US-Hawaii awards cost 30,000 miles roundtrip in coach and 60,000 miles in first class on Alaska Airlines. They allow a stopover on the award as well.
- Singapore Airlines’ US – Hawaii cost 35,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 60,000 miles roundtrip up front (in ‘business class’ — United classifies their domestic first class as business class for award purposes, for experts out there that means United’s domestic first class awards book into “I class”.)
- Korean Air’s US-Hawaii awards cost 30,000 miles roundtrip in coach and 60,000 miles in first class on Hawaiian. However, unlike with Korean Air awards for travel on Alaska, these awards do not include connecting flights, which are charged at extra mileage. So New York JFK – Honolulu – Maui – Honolulu – New York JFK would be 40,000 miles roundtrip in coach (since Honolulu – Maui is 10,000 miles roundtrip in coach and the pricing is additive).
- Before you spend miles – especially for economy award tickets – keep your eye on The Flight Deal. A few times a year we see Hawaii prices even from the US East Coast drop to $550 roundtrip or less. At those prices it makes sense to save your miles even when using these cheap redemption options.
Singapore Airlines miles are available by transferring from Chase, Starwood, American Express and Citibank. Singapore miles expire after three years, so only transfer what you know you’ll redeem. Korean Air miles are available by transferring from Chase and Starwood.