Category Archives: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines 35,000 Bonus Miles Means Free Roundtrip to Hawaii

The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard comes with 35,000 bonus Hawaiian Miles after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days. That’s enough bonus miles for a roundtrip on Hawaiian Airlines from the mainland to anywhere in Hawaii.

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The six main reasons I love this offer:

  1. Hawaiian Airlines has amazing award availability from the western United States to all the major Hawaiian islands.
  2. Cardholders receive a discount on Hawaiian Airlines awards, so instead of paying 20k miles each way between the mainland and Hawaii, cardholders pay only 17,500 miles each way. That means the sign up bonus is enough for a free roundtrip to Hawaii.
  3. Cardholders can receive miles freely from other Hawaiian Miles accounts, so combining miles is easy.
  4. One way awards are bookable for half the price of roundtrips, which adds tons of flexibility and chances for island hopping.
  5. Hawaiian Airlines is my favorite airline to fly between the mainland and Hawaii in economy.
  6. You get a free checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines flights purchased with the Hawaiian Airlines card. That’s $50 off if you want to fly to Hawaii with your golf clubs.

The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard is a new product just released this month by Barclaycard. Even if you had a Hawaiian Airlines card from Bank of America or Bank of Hawaii, this is a new card. If you’ve canceled those cards, this one should be available to you with full bonus.

Why is Hawaiian my favorite carrier between the mainland and Hawaii? How good is Hawaiian’s award space? How would I maximize a Hawaiian Airlines award to my home state? How does the free Share Miles program?

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Combining Hawaii and Australia onto One Award is Easy with Great Award Space in 2014

There is:

  • widely available
  • underpriced
  • economy award space
  • for two passengers
  • for all of 2014
  • to Australia
  • with the opportunity to stop in Hawaii for a few days in either direction.

If you have 75,000 American Airlines miles and about $100, you can fly a roundtrip award from the United States to Australia on almost any day you want this year. Stop in Honolulu, stop in Los Angeles, or stop in each place one direction to make the trip even more interesting!

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How can you book this incredible award space online? What are your stopover options?

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One Million United Mile Sweepstakes, Virgin Atlantic Miles for Referrals, Membership Rewards to Hawaiian Miles Transfer Bonus, and 100k Hawaiian Miles Sweepstakes from Points Hound

Wyndham is giving away one million United miles as four 250k mile prizes. Sign up is easy.

You can earn 1k to 10k Virgin Atlantic miles for referring people to the program. This is especially valuable since 13k Virgin Atlantic miles is enough for a one way flight from New York to London.

Membership Rewards is offering a 20% bonus on transfers to Hawaiian miles through June 27.

Points Hound has a 100k Hawaiian Miles giveaway running through June 21.

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ITA Matrix: How to Search for Cheap Airfare with Flexibility

I always use the ITA Software Matrix. It’s one of the most useful tools to search for available flights and low fares. First, go to matrix.itasoftware.com.

Type in your home airport and destination airport. You can use airport codes like JFK (New York-JFK) or even city codes like NYC (which includes JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark.)

For this example, let’s look at JFK to Honolulu. ITA Matrix is awesome, so you can type in all kinds of commands like which airline you want to fly. In the example below, I wrote HA into the boxes, which means only return Hawaiian Airlines results. I did that because Hawaiian has a direct flight from JFK to Honolulu. If you leave that blank, all airlines will be returned.

I also prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares, so use that section of the form by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked it to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of January.

After you click “Search” you will be taken to a calendar displaying the lowest fare departing each day. You can ignore fares in light blue (though $447 is still a great price). You are targeting the $435 days in bold orange.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up the lowest prices departing on that date and returning 3-8 days later. Once you have found a comfortable length of time, click to display the flight.

Remember that the ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book directly through this site. Write down the dates and flight numbers that work for you, and book directly through Hawaiianairlines.com.

I use ITA Matrix because a quick one-minute search can show me a month at a time on a specific airline or all airlines. Then I can go the airline’s site, select seats, and purchase easily.

Save your money. Buy the cheapest flights you find on ITA Matrix with credit card points you got for free for opening a card and meeting its minimum spending requirement.

The best one is the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Earn 3 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for dining at restaurants and entertainment
  • Earn 2 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for airfare and hotels
  • Earn 1 ThankYou Point per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card



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Hawaiian Airlines Exciting New Route to Taipei, Taiwan

According to this thread on FlyerTalk, Hawaiian Airlines will be adding an interesting new route to their network in July of 2013. Hawaiian will add nonstop service between Honolulu and Taipei, Taiwan three times weekly. They will be flying this route with their 294 seat A330-200 aircraft.

Scott actually just wrote a mini review of Hawaiian’s A330 product in economy.  You can read it in this post, 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia. The economy seat looks really solid with personal TVs and decent food offerings. First class, though, doesn’t appear much better than domestic first class. Hawaiian’s first class product on all flights that leave Hawaii is a recliner with 42″ of pitch. That means only 4″ more leg room than most domestic first class.

As Scott detailed in his post, Getting to Tahiti with Hawaiian, United, and US Airways Miles and Membership Rewards, there are two big issues with spending Hawaiian miles for an award ticket. First, they charge 20k miles each way from the continental US to Hawaii. That’s what other carriers are charging, but if you live on the west coast, you can actually get to Hawaii for 12,500 British Airways Avios oneway.

In Scott’s very recent post, 20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, he discovered that you can actually use Virgin America Elevate points to fly Hawaiian airlines from the continental US to Hawaii for far fewer miles than what Hawaiian charges their own frequent flyer members.

The other big issue is that to get from the continental US to Asia or the Pacific on Hawaiian will cost the price of US-Hawaii plus Hawaii-Asia/Pacific. This method of pricing makes awards for mainlanders to Asia/Pacific on Hawaiian way more Hawaiian Miles than American miles, which can also be used for Hawaiian flights.

For example, a Hawaiian award from the continental US to Japan would be 60k miles oneway–20k from the mainland to Hawaii and 40k from Hawaii to Japan. That same exact award could be as few as 50,000 AAdvantage miles roundtrip if you fly during off peak times! For a great step-by-step on booking Hawaiian awards with AAdvantage miles, especially for beginners, make sure to check out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Award Searches on AA.com.

Hawaiian’s complete award chart can be found here, but I posted Hawaiian’s chart from the US-Philippines below. This is most likely the chart that will be used when the Taipei route officially opens up. 60k for awards originating in the continental US and 105k for first class award tickets. As I mentioned above, the first class seats aren’t that much of an upgrade over normal domestic first class seats. They aren’t angle-flat and they certainly don’t convert to lie-flat seats. I would save the miles in this case. The upgrade just isn’t worth the additional cost in miles.

Each Way Price

Can I include a stopover in Hawaii with either an American or a Hawaiian award?

Yes to both! Because Hawaiian prices the two legs of the award individually, you can build a stopover of whatever length you want into your award. If you are using American miles to book an award on Hawaiian, you get a stopover in each direction at the international gateway city. In this case, it would be Honolulu if departing from Los Angeles. For more information, be sure to check out Scott’s post How to Book Free Stopovers Online: American Airlines. You should probably also brush up with The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

If getting to Taiwan from the US is the only goal, other carriers offer better options. United Airlines, for example charges 32,500 miles for a oneway ticket. That same itinerary would be 60,000 miles with Hawaiian. Check out the dummy booking I was able to pull up on United’s website below.

Even though an award ticket using Hawaiian miles will probably be a bad deal, there are no nonstop flights offered from Hawaii to Taiwan: most carriers include a stop in Seoul or Tokyo. Hawaii’s new service could add a creative way to break up your long journey from the US to Taipei. You can break up the trip with a stopover in Hawaii before continuing on the 5,000+ mile journey to Taiwan.

How do I get Hawaiian miles?

Hawaiian Airlines is a Membership Rewards transfer partner at a 1:1 ratio. If you have Starpoints (through Starwood Preferred Guest), you can transfer in increments of 20,000 and receive 5,000 bonus miles, a nifty 25% bonus. It’s important to note the delay when transferring Starpoints. It can sometimes take 1-2 weeks for the Hawaiian miles to post to your account, meaning the award you really want might not necessarily be there when the transfer is finally complete.

To really turbocharge your Hawaiian miles balance, there are two credit card signup bonuses you can take advantage of. Both Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii offer cards with a 35k bonus: 20k is awarded after first purchase, and you earn 15k more after spending $1,000 in the first four months of card membership.

FlyerTalkers have discovered that you can get both cards. The Bank of Hawaii card can be found here and the Bank of America version here. For our complete breakdown of the signup bonuses and the other benefits that come with the card, check out the Best Credit Card Offers by Absolute Value.

What other international cities does Hawaiian fly from Honolulu? This could be a great double vacation opportunity.

Check out the chart below to see which cities Hawaiian serves from their main hub at Honolulu International Airport.

The other route I am watching with great interest in the coming Honolulu to Auckland route.

Recap

Hawaii ‘s recently announced expansion to Taiwan is an interesting development for Asian travelers. You could theoretically include a long stopover in Hawaii before continuing on directly to Taipei–no other airline offers that option.

Redeeming Hawaiian miles for this award, though, this probably won’t make sense for those in the continental US. Hawaiian’s award chart combines regions to create a more expensive award ticket. You are far better off spending United or US Airways miles if you want to get to Taiwan from the US. If you truly want to fly on Hawaiian, though, you will spend far less using AAdvantage miles to book your award ticket.

20k Points Roundtrip to Hawaii, 45k Roundtrip to Asia, 55k Roundtrip to Australia

Reader @bitachu gave me an incredible tip the other day–at trivia night in Honolulu of all places–check out Virgin America’s award chart for flights on Hawaiian Airlines.

Basically the chart is incredible and presents huge opportunity for mainlanders and Hawaiians alike whether they want to go to Hawaii or beyond.

Instead of just listing the chart, they have you type in your departure and arrival cities and spit out the number of Elevate points you need to book the award.

Nonetheless, I think I’ve figured out the underlying chart. Basically, it’s a chart-plus-segment mechanism. Every segment adds to the cost of the award in much the same way British Airways Avios awards work. But instead of being distance based, it is region based.

Here’s what I’ve worked out:

Virgin America’s chart for redemptions on Hawaiian Airlines

Each cell shows the oneway/roundtrip award price in Virgin America Elevate points for a direct flight from the region listed along the top to/from Hawaii. Example: JFK to Honolulu is 20k/35k oneway/roundtrip in economy class. JFK-HNL is 45k/80k in first class for a oneway/roundtrip.

As you can see, the oneway price is 50-60% of the roundtrip price for all regions and for both economy and first class redemptions.

Each connection adds to the price. Example: interisland flights cost 3k each as you can see on the chart. That means that JFK to Maui would be 23k/41k oneway/roundtrip in economy class because you have to route JFK to Honolulu, Honolulu to Maui (20k/35k + 3k/6k).

All Hawaiian Airlines flights–except interisland flights–fly through either Oahu (HNL) or Maui (OGG). Here are wikipedia’s lists of Hawaiian’s flights to/from those airports, so you can figure out if you can take advantage of the direct-flight prices listed above.

Hawaiian’s flights to/from OGG

Hawaiian’s flights to/from HNL

I define the regions like so:

  • Hawaii: Honolulu, Kahului, Lihue, Kona, Hilo
  • Western US: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle
  • JFK: New York
  • Japan/Korea: Fukuoka, Osaka, Sapporo, Seoul, Tokyo
  • Aus/Phillipines: Brisbane, Sydney, Manila
  • South Pacific: Pago Pago, Pape’ete

This chart is incredible

In my post The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii, I noted that British Airways Avios can get you to Hawaii for only 25k Avios roundtrip on American and Alaska flights from the west coast. This chart gets you to Hawaii from more places in the western US for 20k points roundtrip.

The cheapest way to take an interisland flight was 5k United miles. It is now 3k Virgin America points.

The cheapest way to get from the US to Australia was 75k American miles roundtrip. It is now 65k Elevate points, and you can stop one or both ways in Hawaii.

Asia is now insanely cheap for Hawaiians at 35k roundtrip, down from 50k United miles.

Of course, at MileValue, we aren’t fooled by the headline number since all miles and points have different values. Virgin America’s loyalty program is basically a fixed-value program when redeeming for Virgin America flights. The Points Guy finds that you get about 1.6 – 2.3 cents per point from such redemptions depending on the exact flight and route.

Let’s assume a 2 cent value for Virgin points. All the deals I mentioned above are still better deals than the next best deal, using mile valuations from the Mile Value Leaderboard.

Other Notes about the Chart

If your award would require an interisland flight, only the economy price is listed online. Virgin America seems unable to book Hawaiian Airlines first class on domestic flights (though I believe that first class exists on the flights.)

I assume that you could actually fly the long segment in first and add on the interisland flight in economy class for the sum of the price of those two flights. I haven’t booked any Virgin America/Hawaiian awards, though, so I can’t say for sure.

Generally, booking first class awards on the Virgin American/Hawaiian chart is probably not worth it. Hawaiian’s first class product on all flights that leave Hawaii is a recliner with 42″ of pitch. That means 4″ more leg room than most domestic first class. I would not pay more than double the economy class price for that type of seat.

By contrast, economy class on Hawaiian is awesome. As they proudly announce, Hawaiian is the only domestic carrier to provide free meals (!) with a free glass of wine (!!). I just flew Hawaiian from Los Angeles to Honolulu last week; the pasta and cake were quite tasty, and the price was right.

cheesy pasta, chocolate cake, salad, and a glass of wine

The A330s offer an individual screen with movies and TV for purchase. And the crew has more Aloha spirit than your average economy crew. For these reasons, I would look to redeem Elevate points for Hawaiian economy awards not Hawaiian first.

On all redemptions, the out-of-pocket cost will be only government taxes, which are estimated relatively accurately on Virgin’s site.

How to Get Virgin America Points

There are three main ways to get Virgin America points to take advantage of its favorable chart for Hawaiian redemptions.

Like all airlines, you can earn points by flying butt-in-seat miles. Virgin points are earned at a rate of 5 per $ on your base fare. They are not earned the way that legacy-carrier miles are earned–based on the distance of your paid flights’ routings.

Butt-in-seat is probably only viable for people who live near LAX and SFO–Virgin’s hubs.

The easiest way for most people is probably the Virgin America Visa Signature card from Barclay’s.

The card comes with 20k Elevate points on first purchase. That’s enough points for a roundtrip direct flight from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, or Seattle to Hawaii.

Or if you live in Hawaii, it’s enough for a roundtrip to Tahiti or Samoa or almost seven interisland flights.

The card comes with a very low $49 annual fee, which is more than offset by the $150 annual companion ticket discount code. And unlike a lot of companion ticket discounts, this one is actually easy to use. It is valid on any roundtrip published airfare, purchased 14 days in advance as long as the cardholder is on the itinerary.

Finally, the card is issued by Barclay’s, which is great, since you can get it in addition to other offers from the other banks with more rewards cards. And it has no minimum spend to get the points, which is great if your spending is being spread thin by the ever-growing minimum spends on most cards.

I should also mention that 20k is the highest bonus I’ve ever seen on this card–the application page notes it is double the usual bonus–so I am not expecting a bigger bonus any time soon.

Application Link: 20k Virgin America Visa Signature Card

The last option to get Elevate points is through a transfer from Membership Rewards. AMEX points transfer at a 2:1 rate, meaning 2,000 Membership Rewards gets 1,000 Virgin America points.

 That means that if you are transferring in Membership Rewards, you basically need to double the prices in the award chart. That takes the deals from a great deal to a bad deal in most cases.

In November, there was a 50% transfer bonus to from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, which made the transfer rate 4:3. At that rate, you only need to increase the award-chart prices by 33%, which leaves some good deals.

Virgin America is not a transfer partner of SPG.

How to Book

Most Virgin America reps have probably never booked a Hawaiian award, so you should do your own research first. You can search Hawaiian’s award space on aa.com.

I would recommend using this technique because AA has an easy-to-use award calendar and because the space AA can book should exactly match the space Virgin America can book.

You can even search only Hawaiian flights by unchecking the boxes for other airlines on the search results.

I would not recommend using hawaiianair.com to search because sometimes the space available to Hawaiian Miles members does not match the space available to partners.

When you’ve found the space, call 877.FLY.VIRGIN (877.359.8474) to book.

Recap

Virgin America has an incredible award chart for its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines. Economy class to/from Hawaii starts at 20k points roundtrip from the western US. Oneway awards cost 50-60% of roundtrip awards.

People with Virgin America miles have a new cheapest way to get to Hawaii in a fantastic economy class product. If you don’t have any miles, consider the Virgin America credit card or a Membership Rewards transfer.

New York to Honolulu Direct for $435

Update from Scott: I’m finding $382 all in roundtrip now too:

According to this thread in the ever popular Mileage Run forum on FlyerTalk, Hawaiian Airlines is running a fare sale from New York  to Honolulu. Hawaiian Airlines operates a direct flight from JFK to Honolulu, and we are seeing fares for as low as $435 for this direct flight.

There appears to be only one stretch of days in early December and great availability in January and February.

What’s the best way to hunt for eligible dates?

I always use the ITA Software Matrix. It’s one of the most useful tools to search for available flights and low fares. First, go to matrix.itasoftware.com.

Type in “JFK” as your home airport and “HNL” as your destination. Then click “Advanced Routing Codes” right below this box. Enter “HA” in both routing boxes. This ensures that only Hawaiian Airlines flights will be displayed. It will give you a better overall sense of which dates the low fare direct flight is available.

I also prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares, so use that section of the form by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked it to search for 3-8 night itineraries leaving in the month of January.

After you click “Search” you will be taken to a calendar displaying the lowest fare departing each day. You can ignore fares in light blue (though $447 is still a great price). You are targeting the $435 days in bold orange.

Clicking on a particular date will bring up the lowest prices departing on that date and returning 3-8 days later. Once you have found a comfortable length of time, click to display the flight.

Remember that the ITA Matrix is only for finding airfares. You don’t have the ability to book directly through this site. Write down the dates and flight numbers that work for you, and book directly through Hawaiianairlines.com.

I don’t live in New York, why is this of value to me?

Flights to Hawaii from the East Coast rarely fall below $600, and I’ve never seen Hawaiian market this flight for lower than $480. They are clearly trying to fill planes during the traditional offpeak travel months in Hawaii.

If you live on the East Coast, there are numerous low cost ways to get to New York, but Hawaii tends to be much more expensive. If your home airport is less than 1,151 miles from New York, British Airways Avios can open up quite a few doors for you.

As Scott wrote in his post, How Much Are Avios Worth? The Value of British Airways Avios, short haul domestic tickets on American Airlines can be booked extremely inexpensively using Avios. Flights under 650 miles cost 4,500 Avios. Flights 651-1151 miles cost 7,500 Avios.

I was able to piece together a great 9,000 Avios itinerary to reach New York. Trust me, I’m very tempted to book a quick January vacation to Hawaii! For more reading on how to put together flights using Avios, check out Scott’s post, Free First Class Next Month: Using BA.com for oneworld Awards.

Just keep in mind that if you are booking separate tickets to New York and then to Honolulu, you should leave ample space for weather or mechanical delays. Hawaiian’s JFK-Honolulu flight leaves at 9:00 a.m. each morning. It might make sense to fly up the night before and spend the night at an airport hotel just to be safe.

Does it make sense to purchase this fare as a mileage run?

Unfortunately not. Unless they are intra-island or international flights, American Airlines and Delta, both Hawaiian partners, don’t even allow you to credit Hawaiian operated flights to their frequent flyer programs. At approximately 4.4 cents per mile, a trip like this makes much more sense as a pure vacation anyway.

I think I would rather save the cash. Are there any good award ticket options to Hawaii right now?

Actually, yes. As I mentioned earlier, the first third of the year is typically considered offseason for travel to Hawaii. American Airlines actually offers MileSAAver Offpeak awards to Hawaii from January 12-March 8. Roundtrip economy awards are only 35,000 miles, 5,000 miles less than the other three legacy carriers.

Doing a brief search in January, I found spotty availability from New York to Honolulu for two passengers in economy.

However, travel from Hawaii back to New York showed award space galore!

Keep in mind that American allows you to book oneway awards for half the cost of a roundtrip ticket. You could actually piece together an itinerary with the outbound leg on Hawaiian and the return leg using American miles.

Recap

Low fares to Hawaii from the West Coast happen pretty frequently. In fact, Scott wrote about a recent sale here. Those of us on the East Coast are much less fortunate. When Hawaiian advertises a sale, especially a direct flight from New York, for under $500, you should take notice. This is clearly a play to fill seats during the typical slow January/February travel months, but if you have the flexibility, you should definitely take advantage.

If the cash outlay is still too much, consider piecing together a oneway award using American Airlines miles. There is good offpeak availability from Honolulu to New York.

Also, don’t dismiss this fare sale because you don’t live in the New York area. Everyone on the East Coast should take note of these deeply discounted itineraries. There are plenty of easy ways to get up to New York and join in the party. If an early year vacation is on your radar, these prices seem like a good excuse to hit up Hawaii.

Hawaiian’s Virgin Atlantic Chart Devalued

Four months ago I broke the news that you could redeem Hawaiian Miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without fuel surcharges, thus saving thousands of dollars. See Redeem for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class without Surcharges.

You still can, but the party may be over. The old chart was a solid value and simple to figure out.

The new chart, hat tip to Gary, is much worse.

I don’t have any information on what North America East and West are. But this is a huge devaluation since the west coast to London went from 100k to 160k.

Not many people had 100k Hawaiian Miles anyway, so this was mainly a play on transferring Membership Rewards. To that end, the only way I see this deal becoming viable again is through a Membership Rewards transfer bonus to Hawaiian Miles, which I don’t think has ever happened.

How to Get 8X on Credit Card Spend

Orphaned points can be the bane of your miles collecting, or they can be a way to get an incredible multiple on future spending. The basic reasoning is that orphaned miles are worthless, but they might be close to something worthwhile.

Here’s an example. I currently have 7,640 Virgin Atlantic miles. Those miles might go orphaned. But I still have my Virgin Atlantic credit card for the next few months that earns me one mile per dollar. If I spend $2,360 on it, I’ll have 10,000 miles, which is the minimum amount I can transfer to Hilton points, as I explained in Transferring Virgin Atlantic Miles to Hilton HHonors Points.

Virgin Atlantic miles transfer at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton points, so I would get 20k Hilton points for my 10k miles. That means that $2,360 would earn me 20k Hilton points. That’s more than 8 Hilton points per dollar!

Will I do this?

It’s not at the top of my list. I value Hilton points at about 0.4 cents each, so that would be 3.2 cents worth of points per dollar. That’s better than non-bonused spend generally.

But I would clear sign up bonuses first, since those often rebate 15% or more of the value of the spending.

I would hit category bonuses before going after my 8x Hilton points. I would rather have 2 Ultimate Rewards for using my Sapphire Preferred for travel or dining that 8 Hilton points for the same purchases. And this is far from the most lucrative category bonus.

How can you identity good opportunities like this?

Take a look at your mileage balances. Look for programs where you rarely earn or use the miles and points. If the balance is below a useful balance, identify the lowest useful balance you could attain. Figure out the value of attaining that balance, and what you’d have to spend to get there.

Some useful small balances that your orphan balances might be near:

Hawaiian Miles- 5,000 can be transferred to 10k Hilton points, 7,500 can get a oneway interisland award

Virgin Atlantic- 10,000 can be transferred to 20k Hilton points

Ultimate Rewards- 1,000 can be transferred to tons of airline and hotel programs, notably United, Hyatt, or Southwest

Membership Rewards- 1,000 can be transferred to tons of airline and hotel programs, notably Avios and Delta

Priority Club- 5,000 can book a PointBreaks hotel and set you up to buy more points for 0.7 cents each

Southwest- Very few points are needed for very cheap oneway awards. Here’s one from Vegas to Los Angeles for 3,060 points

United- Oneway interisland awards on Hawaiian Airlines go for 5,000 miles

If you’re very close to any of these thresholds, putting a little extra spending on a credit card or finding a mini-points promo can be a way to get an incredible multiple on a little spend. It might be a much better deal than just orphaning the miles and points.

Recap

Orphaned points are worthless. If you’re close to a threshold where the points have some value, you may be able to get an incredible number of points for a little bit of spend.

I gave a personal example, where I could get 8x Hilton points on $2,360 of spending on my Virgin Atlantic credit card. I also listed some low-points price redemptions for some programs where you might have some miles that would otherwise be orphaned.

Getting to Tahiti with Hawaiian, United, and US Airways Miles and Membership Rewards

See my previous posts on Getting to Tahiti with American and Delta Miles.

This post will be about getting to French Polynesia–Tahiti, Bora Bora, and more–with Hawaiian Miles, United MileagePlus Miles, US Airways Dividend Miles, and American Express Membership Rewards. Tahiti is an award I get asked to book frequently through my Award Booking Service, and I wanted to share some free tips.

French Polynesia is a French-speaking “overseas country” controlled by France. It is south of Hawaii and east of Australia. The main tourist spots are Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Mo’orea. People go to French Polynesia for the absolutely stunning beach-and-island landscape. File:Bora-Bora.png

French Polynesia has only one international airport, F’a’a’a Airport serving Pape’ete, Tahiti, airport code PPT. Other islands have airports with flights within the islands, but to get to French Polynesia, you must fly to Tahiti. Here’s a complete list of flights to and from PPT, according to wikipedia:

I’ve highlighted the best options for most of my readers, and I’ll go through the easiest ways to get to Tahiti with the types of miles you are likely to have.

Hawaiian Miles

Some readers may have Hawaiian Miles from applying for two Hawaiian Airlines credit cards at the same time to get 70k miles. See Best Current Credit Card Offers.

Hawaiian Airlines’ chart has some sweet spots–like 100k roundtrip from the US to the UK in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with no surcharges–but in general the chart isn’t great.

I have two specific gripes about Hawaiian’s award chart:

  1. They charge 20k miles each way from the continental US to Hawaii. That’s standard, but that’s a bad deal from the west coast where you can fly to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios. Hawaiian is expanding its route network, but for the moment it only flies to the western US and New York (JFK).
  2. To get from the continental US to Asia or the Pacific on Hawaiian will cost the price of US-Hawaii plus Hawaii-Asia/Pacific. This method of pricing makes awards for mainlanders to Asia/Pacific on Hawaiian way more Hawaiian Miles than American miles, which can also be used for Hawaiian flights.

 

Here’s the relevant part of Hawaiian’s award chart to Tahiti.

We’re only interested in the super saver prices. They’re a bit high at 47.5k/87.5k each way in economy/business. That compares to 37.5k/62.5k AA miles or 50k/75k SkyMiles (assuming roundtrip.)

Hawaiian operates a six-hour flight to Tahiti once a week from Honolulu on a two-cabin 767.

First class is a recliner seat with 42″ of pitch. For perspective, that 4″ more leg room than domestic first class. I would not pay the premium to fly first class over economy class on this flight.

Hawaiian Flight 481 flies HNL-PPT 4:35 PM – 10:30 PM on Saturdays

Hawaiian Flight 482 flies PPT-HNL 12:30 AM – 6:15 AM on Sundays

This flight can be booked with Hawaiian Miles on hawaiianair.com. See Free First Class Next Month: Using Hawaiianair.com to Make Award Bookings for information on how to make Hawaiian award bookings.

Searching for two award seats–I’ve only ever booked two for Tahiti–I found no business class availability on the Hawaiian flight, but economy class space about 2/3 of available Saturdays.

If you do book with Hawaiian miles, here is a tip to save 2,500 miles per person per direction. If you have the Hawaiian Miles credit card, you are offered 17,500 mile oneways to Hawaii, a 2,500 mile discount.

You aren’t offered a discount on award to Tahiti. If you search for your home airport to Tahiti, it will price at 47,500 miles.

If, instead, you search your airport to Honolulu and Honolulu to Pape’ete and book the flights separately as two awards, your price will be 45,000 miles each way.

Getting Hawaiian Miles

Getting both credit cards will give you 70k miles. You can transfer instantly from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 rate. If you have a Hawaiian credit or debit card, others can transfer miles to you for free, using the Share Miles feature I’ve discussed.

Free Stopovers

You can get a free stopover in Hawaii both directions by nature of the fact that Hawaiian adds up the price of an award to Hawaii and an award to Tahiti to get the final price of an award from the mainland to Tahiti.

United and US Airways Miles

Getting from the US to Tahiti with Star Alliance miles would be my very last choice. The only Star Alliance flights to Tahiti are the twice-weekly Air New Zealand offerings from Auckland. Flying Los Angeles-Auckland-Tahiti is about 5,000 extra miles compared to the direct route available with American or Delta miles.

That said, it is possible. Los Angeles to Auckland has almost no award space on Air New Zealand. Honolulu to Auckland is slightly better. Here’s is one award routing I found if you’re a glutton for punishment.

That’s 20 hours of flying and 34 hours of travel.

If you’re already in New Zealand, then US and United miles can be great to fly to Tahiti. Air New Zealand flies to Tahiti on Mondays and Fridays. The flights from Tahiti are Sundays and Fridays. I see great economy availability, and no business availability.

For just Auckland to Tahiti, United charges 35k miles roundtrip in economy and US Airways charges 25k miles. To book with United, search and book on united.com. To book with US Airways, search on united.com and book by calling 800-622-1015.

From the US to Tahiti, United wants 35k/60k each way in economy/business. US Airways charges 80k/110k roundtrip. Those prices are great as long as you don’t mind taking the long way to Tahiti.

American Express Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Delta SkyMiles, Air France Flying Blue points, and Hawaiian Miles. I’ve already discussed Getting to Tahiti with Delta SkyMiles and Hawaiian Miles (above.)

I don’t think Flying Blue adds much to the options. With Flying Blue miles, you can book the same Air France flights that you can book with Delta miles. But Flying Blue redemptions come with nasty surcharges, while Delta awards for the same Air France flights don’t have surcharges.

My strategy with AMEX points, then, would be to look at the Delta options–Air Tahiti Nui and Air France–and the Hawaiian option–its weekly flight. I would weigh the miles needed, the surcharges if the Air Tahiti Nui flight looked promising, the flight times, and the comfort of each option, and I would transfer to the best combination of those factors.

If that sounds like a lot of work, just contact my Award Booking Service.

Getting to Bora Bora, Moorea, and other islands

Air Tahiti–not Air Tahiti Nui, the AA and Delta partner–runs regular flights to other islands that you can purchase with cash. Or you can take a ferry to some islands.

Recap

American miles are your best option to French Polynesia, with Delta miles your second best bet. The best of the rest are Hawaiian Miles. Because Membership Rewards transfer to Hawaiian and Delta, AMEX points are another solid way to get to Tahiti.

United and US Airways miles are pretty worthless to get from the USA to Tahiti, but you can get from New Zealand to Tahiti in economy class.

Getting to Tahiti with American Airlines Miles

Look for a post tomorrow on getting to French Polynesia with Delta miles, Hawaiian miles, and AMEX Membership Rewards.

This post will be about getting to French Polynesia–Tahiti, Bora Bora, and more–with frequent flier miles. This is an award I get asked to book frequently through my Award Booking Service, and I wanted to share some free tips.

French Polynesia is a French-speaking “overseas country” controlled by France. It is south of Hawaii and east of Australia. The main tourist spots are Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Mo’orea. People go to French Polynesia for the absolutely stunning beach-and-island landscape. I’ve never been, but the pictures make me jealous.

File:Bora-Bora.png

French Polynesia has only one international airport, F’a'a’a Airport serving Pape’ete, Tahiti, airport code PPT. Other islands have airports with flights within the islands, but to get to French Polynesia, you must fly to Tahiti. Here’s a complete list of flights to and from PPT, according to wikipedia:

I’ve highlighted the best options for most of my readers, and I’ll go through the easiest ways to get to Tahiti with the types of miles you are likely to have.

American Airlines Miles

American Airlines miles are the best way to get to Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia from the United States. American considers Tahiti to be a part of the South Pacific, so it charges 37.5k/62.5k/72.5k miles each way for economy/business/first class though there is no way to use American miles to get to Tahiti in three-cabin first class. American doesn’t charge surcharges on either of its two partners that fly to Tahiti–Air Tahiti Nui and Hawaiian.

Air Tahiti Nui

One way to get to Tahiti with American miles is on non-oneworld partner Air Tahiti Nui, French Polynesia’s international carrier. For getting to French Polynesia, Air Tahiti Nui’s only route of interest to us is Los Angeles to Tahiti. Air Tahiti Nui also flies to/from Tokyo, but you can’t route to the South Pacific via Asia on one AA award. See The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

You can search for Air Tahiti Nui space for free by calling American at 800-882-8880. I do my research before calling on Expert Flyer. See Free First Class Next Month: Using expertflyer.com.

On Expert Flyer, search for LAX-PPT and PPT-LAX, using aa.com to search for your domestic segments. The fare classes to check are I and W for business and economy. If you check A, you can see first class space. Unfortunately Air Tahiti Nui doesn’t release first class space to AA, or AA blocks the space, so adding class A to the search is not necessary.

Your results will be returned in the normal way that Expert Flyer returns them.

This result means that TN 1 has one award seat in coach and none in business. TN 7, departing half an hour later, has one business class seat.

The pattern I see is that when the award calendar opens up 330 days out, most flights have 1/2/4 seats or 1/1/6 seats in first/business/economy on Expert Flyer. Those are picked over, and not replaced. I have never seen more two business class seats, or seven economy class seats on a flight.

When booking 11 months in advance, you can pretty much have any flight you want. The more time you wait, the more space deteriorates. By a few months out, there will be some seats left on some flights, but most business class will have been taken, never to reappear again.

So far I’ve been talking about LAX-PPT, but I see the exact same patterns of availability PPT-LAX.

Two months out: no business class space left

Air Tahiti Nui operates afternoon flights and redeyes from LAX to Tahiti. Returns to the US are all redeyes. All flights are operated by Airbus A340s configured with standard economy seats, recliner business seats, and angled lie flat seats in first class.

I haven’t flown the product, but frankly it doesn’t impress me. I would pay the extra 10k mile premium for first class over business class because I hardly consider a recliner seat to be a premium experience–unfortunately first class is not available to AAdvantage members. I would not pay the 25k premium per direction for a recliner business seat over a recliner economy seat. I value AA miles too highly.

Getting to Los Angeles

To get to Tahiti with AA miles you have to route through Los Angeles. Luckily it’s not tough to get to LAX with AA miles. I find AA to have incredible domestic availability, and you can also use Alaska domestic award space. Both AA and Alaska space are searchable on aa.com. Here are a list of direct AA and Alaska flights to/from LAX, though you don’t need to route to LAX on a direct flight:

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian operates a six-hour flight to Tahiti once a week from Honolulu on a two-cabin 767.

“First class,” which AA will price at the business class price of 62.5k miles each way, is a recliner seat with 42″ of pitch. For perspective, that 4″ more leg room than domestic first class. I would not pay the premium to fly business class over economy class on this flight.

Hawaiian Flight 481 flies HNL-PPT 4:35 PM – 10:30 PM on Saturdays

Hawaiian Flight 482 flies PPT-HNL 12:30 AM – 6:15 AM on Sundays

This flight can be booked with AA miles on aa.com.

Searching for two award seats–I’ve only ever booked two for Tahiti–I found no business class availability on the Hawaiian flight, but economy class space about 2/3 of available Saturdays.

Getting to Hawaii

American, Alaska, and Hawaiian all have great space to Hawaii. They are also all bookable with AA miles and on aa.com.

Free Stopovers in Honolulu or Los Angeles

You can get a free stopover each direction on international AA awards at your international gateway city. In this case, that would be Honolulu if flying Hawaiian and Los Angeles if flying Air Tahiti Nui. Los Angeles and Honolulu are certainly attractive cities for a few days. See How to Book Free Stopovers Online: American Airlines for more information on the topic. It should be a snap.

Keep in mind that you can mix-and-match carriers and cabins. For instance you could fly to Tahiti on Hawaiian in economy with a free stopover in Honolulu. You could return on Air Tahiti Nui in business class with a free stopover in LA. This would cost 100k AA miles total, 37.5k + 62.5k.

What about AA’s “published fare” rule?

Expert readers know that for an AA award to be valid, there must be a published fare from your origin to your destination on the overwater carrier. There is no analogous rule when using other types of miles.

I have had trouble with this rule when routing to Tahiti. A business class roundtrip from Raleigh, North Carolina (RDU) to Tahiti was priced at 175k miles by the AA computer. The explanation was that there was no published fare from RDU-PPT on Air Tahiti Nui. This is not true. I count three.

A supervisor, confronted with this fact, told me that these fares require flying US Airways or Delta on the domestic legs. I don’t believe that to be true, but either way, I’ve never heard or read that as a disqualifier for a paid fare. My email to American on this subject has gone unanswered since I sent it weeks ago.

The bottom line is that we had to buy a cash ticket for a domestic positioning flight.

Taxes and Fees

American doesn’t charge surcharges on Air Tahiti Nui or Hawaiian flights. A recent San Diego to Tahiti roundtrip award I booked in Air Tahiti Nui business class had $57 in taxes per person and a $25 phone-ticketing fee per person for $82 total.

Honolulu to Tahiti on Hawaiian in economy class would incur $53 in taxes with no ticketing fee if booked online.

Getting to Bora Bora, Moorea, and other islands

Air Tahiti–not Air Tahiti Nui, the AA partner–runs regular flights to other islands that you can purchase with cash. Or you can take a ferry to some islands.

Recap

American Airlines miles are the best currency to get to French Polynesia. AA partners, Air Tahiti Nui (Los Angeles) and Hawaiian (Honolulu), both fly to Tahiti, where easy connections to the other islands are possible.

American Airlines doesn’t charge surcharges on either partner, so total cash outlay should be under $100 per person to get to Tahiti. Stopovers are possible in Los Angeles or Honolulu, and free oneways are possible if you live in one of those cities.

This post was edited to reflect a comment by Gary Leff that AA miles can’t be used for Air Tahiti Nui first. I have confirmed that with American.

West Coast to Hawaii for under $300 Roundtrip All In

Delta is selling Alaska Airlines direct flights from San Diego to Maui roundtrip for $297. And American, United, and Delta are all getting in on the sub-$370 party from Los Angeles to Hawaii roundtrip.

There have recently been a ton of great deals to Hawaii. I’m not sure the cause of the sales–tourism to Hawaii is way up this year–but I’ve taken advantage and been trying to get everyone else to take advantage. A reader–Tom–passed along the following link to an advertised American Airlines sale.

The west coast deals stand out as fantastic:

Just double the listed price for the roundtrip total. For instance San Diego to Honolulu for $318 roundtrip all in. American’s sale page lists the terms and conditions.

Basically you have to book by 10/21, fly Mondays through Thursdays by 12/25, book at least seven days prior to departure, and stay three to sixty nights.

This is all great, but when you see a deal like this, your first thought should be, who’s matching?

Airlines copy each other’s fares constantly. If AA is charging these prices, it’s a good bet that Delta, United, and US Airways are charging the same amount. And if you prefer to rack up miles in one of those programs, you’ll have to check. In a situation like this, I find the ITA Matrix to be the most useful tool to check for the available dates and airlines.

First go to matrix.itasoftware.com. Google, ITA’s owner, seems to want to hide the Matrix, so go directly to its URL. Type in the your home airport and preferred Hawaiian airport:

Lihue, Kauai (LIH)

Honolulu, Oahu (HNL)

Kahului, Maui (OGG)

Kona, Big Island (KOA)

Hilo, Big Island (ITO).

I prefer to search certain length trips one month at a time for the lowest fares, so use that section of the form by selecting “See calendar of lowest fares.” I’ve asked it to search 7-10 night itineraries leaving between 10/21 and 11/21.

Clicking Search brings up the calendar below. The price on a date is the cheapest price for a 7-10 night itinerary starting that day going from San Diego to Kahului.

$297, $308, and $318 roundtrips are widely available! The same is true from November 22 – December 21:

If you click on a date, you’ll get your outbound options. The price next to them is their price assuming you choose the cheapest possible return. It looks like Delta is selling the cheapest fares, and that the flights are on Alaska metal.

After selecting the cheapest outbound and return, we see the total price is $296.40. Delta is selling nonstop flights operated by Alaska.

There is one more step. ITA is not a ticket seller. To buy this ticket, go to the website of the marketing carrier–Delta. On Delta.com, type in the airports and dates, and you should easily be able to reconstruct the itinerary:

What I learned from playing around on ITA Matrix is that the American fares are sometimes the cheapest, though sometimes not. In many markets all the carriers are at the same price point, while in others, there is a clear cheapest.

Here are a few examples:

LAX-Honolulu for $367 widely available on United, American, and Delta

Las Vegas-Honolulu for $427 on US Airways

San Francisco to Kona, Lihue, or Kahului for $429 or Honolulu for $389

Reno to Honolulu for $398 (Friday to Sunday available)

I’m sure there are tons of other great fares–just check the ITA Matrix the same way I outlined above.

Isn’t 25k Avios a better deal?

On my list of The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii, I mentioned that any west-coast city with direct flights on American or Alaska to Hawaii costs only 25k Avios roundtrip. I think these cash fares are a better deal than 25k Avios.

To figure out whether to purchase a ticket or book an award, I recommend using the MileValue Mile Value Calculator.

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To use the calculator, put in the data for your putative award–for instance, from San Diego to Maui with Avios. Working through the four spaces, the value of the award is $297 since that’s the cost of the cash ticket. In Value, always put the lesser of the cash ticket price and your subjective value.

The Taxes and Fees ($) on the Avios award would be $36. Avios awards to Hawaii have $11 in taxes, and Alaska flights are not bookable on ba.com. Calling in will incur a $25 phone fee.

Miles Used on the award are 25,000. Miles Foregone are how many you would earn on a paid ticket. The Great Circle Mapper says a roundtrip is 5,082 miles.

Plugging those numbers in the calculator, we find out that using 25k Avios to fly San Diego to Maui would mean getting 0.87 cents value per Avios. That’s atrocious value. I value Avios at 1.7 cents each.

If the calculator says the value you’d get from award is lower than your value for the type of mile you’d use, book with cash. See Just Book with Cash.

All of the examples of cheap flights I gave would be better purchased with cash than as awards if your value for miles is anywhere close to mine.

Are these fares mileage run worthy?

No, they are all 6+ CPM. They are not mileage run worthy, but they are Hawaiian vacation worthy.

In the Delta-marketed, Alaska-operated example from San Diego, which miles would I earn?

You could choose to credit to Delta or Alaska. If you can’t decide, see Choosing Where to Credit Miles Earned from Flying.

Recap

West coast to Hawaii fares are heavily discounted–some are even below $300 roundtrip. Use the ITA Matrix to search for great deals from your home airport.

Compare the cash deals to award tickets by using the Mile Value Calculator. If the awards would give too low of a cents-per-mile bang for your buck, then just book with cash.

I expect most west coast cities to Hawaii to be better deals with cash than miles currently. That doesn’t mean that miles can’t be used well to Hawaii. East coast and regional airports to Hawaii often give a good cents per mile on redemptions.

How to Get to Australia and New Zealand with American Airlines Miles Part 1

Australia and New Zealand are a tough place to get to with miles, especially if you want to go from mid-December through March, which encompasses Christmas, New Year’s, and the Southern Hemisphere’s summer.

Having booked several trips to Australia and New Zealand for myself, family, and others through my Award Booking Service, I’ll share some tips on getting there with American Airlines miles.

Basics

American Airlines allows oneway bookings at half the price of roundtrip awards. From North America to the South Pacific–which is the AA award region that includes Australia and New Zealand–awards cost 37.5k/62.5k/72.5k AA miles each way in economy/business/first class.

American has a slightly below-market price to Australia. United charges 40k/67.5k/80k each way. Delta charges 100k/150k roundtrip in economy and business, and SkyMiles can’t even be redeemed for three-cabin first class.

US Airways has the cheapest price in premium cabins at 80k/110k/140k in economy/business/first roundtrip, but oneway awards aren’t allowed at half price with US Airways miles.

American does not fly to Australia, but several of its partners do including Qantas, the national airline of Australia, which has flights to Honolulu, Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York (tag leg of flight to Los Angeles).

Key partners Qantas and Hawaiian Airlines are searchable on AA.com, making booking some of the routings to Australia a snap.

Qantas: The Gold Standard

If you want the best itinerary with AA miles from the US to Australia–in terms of duration, stops, and airline product–you want to book an award on Qantas.

Qantas has the following Australia <-> USA routes:

Sydney <-> New York-JFK (one stop at LAX)

Sydney <-> Los Angeles

Sydney <-> Dallas

Sydney <-> Honolulu

Melbourne <-> Los Angeles

Brisbane <-> Los Angeles

Some Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles flights are served by a brand new Qantas A380. See this Qantas A380 marketing page if you want to daydream about the experience. The plane features First Class suites, Business Class fully flat beds, and miles of economy class seats.

Sydney <-> Honoloulu is on a 767-300. The plane is only fitted with economy and business classes, and business class passengers get recliner seats.

Jetstar–a Qantas subsidiary–also serves this route with an A330-200. Its business class is the equivalent of domestic first class–pretty rough for a ten-hour flight. AA miles can be used on the Qantas and Jetstar flights from HNL-SYD-HNL.

The other USA <-> Australia flights are served by 747-400s, which have been refurbished to feature the same fully flat business class beds of the A380 with first class removed. My reading of Qantas’s site is that all 747s serving the USA have now been refurbished in this manner.

To search for Qantas space, I recommend using AA.com, since it now displays Qantas space.

AA displays a week-long calendar that you can make month-long by clicking Show Full Calendar. Then, to ensure you are only getting Qantas results, change the drop-down menu to Non-stop only. Choose the desired cabin from the color coded Award Legend, but don’t expect a First Class option. I don’t see any First Class available in the next 11 months between LAX and Sydney for instance.

Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles or Dallas, I recommend finding the transpacific flights on Qantas first, and noting what days have availability. That way when you add a search from your home airport, you’ll know what days are routing you on Qantas and which must be routing you through Hawaii without having to click each date.

In my experience, Qantas releases its business class seats 350 days out to be picked over by its members and BA members. Then AA gets access to the space 330 days out. If you want premium-cabin space on Qantas, that is the time to book. Space gets much worse over time. I don’t see any LAX-SYD space less than nine months out at the moment for instance.

See this Anatomy of an Award post for my saga trying to book a Qantas First Class seat on an A380 with a free oneway tacked on.

Hawaiian: Hawaii and Australia on one Trip

American Airlines awards allow a stopover at the North American International Gateway City–the last airport from which you leave North America or the first at which you arrive in North America. See The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards for more information.

That means if you route to Australia via Honolulu, you can get a free stopover in Hawaii for as long as you’d like. Or you can get a free stopover in Honolulu if you return via Hawaii.

The other great news is that routing through Hawaii is pretty easy because American has good availability to Hawaii on its own flights and on the flights of its partners–Hawaiian and Alaska. And Hawaiian has fantastic availability from Honolulu onto Sydney.

Plus in the last few weeks, Hawaiian has announced two new services to Oceania:

Honolulu <-> Brisbane, starting 11/27/12 (three times weekly)

Honolulu <-> Auckland, starting 3/13/13 (three times weekly)

I don’t see award space for these new flights yet, but I expect space to be excellent once it’s loaded onto the calendar.

There is one major drawback to flying on Hawaiian to Oceania. Hawaiian’s premium cabin–called First Class, costing business class’s 62.5k miles each way–features recliner seats with 40″ of pitch. That’s basically a domestic first class seat with two extra inches of leg room. For a ten hour flight, many people will find that uncomfortable, and it’s quite inferior to the flat beds that can be had on Qantas’s mainland USA <-> Australia flights.

Qantas’s flight from Honolulu to Sydney features quite a bit more leg room but also has recliners in business class.

If you’re willing to trade an inferior business-class product–or you’re booking an economy award–for a chance to stopover in Hawaii, there are options with AA miles.

See this Anatomy of an Award post for an example of a free stopover in Hawaii en route to Australia. My brother lives in Hawaii, so his was a free oneway, but if you imagine him living in Las Vegas, his stopover in Hawaii would be a perfect example for this section.

Continue to the second half

Free First Class Next Month: Award Searches on AA.com

Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from March 2013 can be found here.

This is the twenty-fourth post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

This post presents the basics of using aa.com for award bookings. It is not a comprehensive guide to booking American Airlines awards. The rules of AA awards can be found throughout this blog.

When to use aa.com

Use aa.com when you are searching for award space on flights operated by American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, or British Airways regardless of what type of miles you are redeeming.

Reread that sentence. If you want to fly on a plane that is painted with the AA, Alaska, Hawaiian, Qantas, or BA logo, use aa.com to search for your space whether you’re redeeming AAdvantage miles, Avios, Hawaiian Miles, Delta miles, or some other mileage currency.

The reason I recommend starting on aa.com to get on one of those airlines is that aa.com has an easy to use search tool with easy to visualize and manipulate results.

Starting on the home page, type in your departure and arrival cities. Put in your dates, number of travelers, and click the box for Redeem AAdvantage Miles.

I’ve typed in Los Angeles to Honolulu from 5/1 to 5/8. After clicking Find Flights, the following screen comes up:

Along the top, color coded, are the possible redemption classes and rates; mine range from 22.5k per direction for Economy MileSAAver to 47.5k per direction for First MileSAAver.

The calendar below shows the lowest mileage cost per day. You can broaden the calendar from one week to one month by clicking Show Full Calendar. You can see availability for a different class of service by clicking on it above the calendar.

When you select the date and class you want, you are taken to the screen where you choose itineraries.

On this screen, you can select an itinerary. If you don’t see one you like, you can toggle the dates or the cabin.

If there are more options than you want, you can remove whole airlines or airports from the results by unchecking their boxes on the left.

On the itinerary screen, itineraries are ordered by shortest duration. If you click the “+ Flight Details” button, you can see the class and aircraft for each leg. You can use this information on seatguru, or you can click View Available Seats to see the seatmap.

After you’ve picked your itinerary, you can continue to book the award. The payment screen looks like this:

If you are using another carrier’s miles, say Hawaiian’s, now would be the time to go to their site, and search for the same flights you just found and book.

(If you are using Avios, you should have unchecked the Hawaiian Airlines box on the results screen since BA doesn’t partner with Hawaiian. They do partner with Alaska, but you have to call to book.)

The reason to start on AA’s site if you want AA flights but want to use Hawaiian or BA miles is that AA has a more convenient, easier-to-use calendar that makes finding the perfect itinerary easy.

Again these are just the basics of using aa.com to find award space on AA, Alaska, Hawaiian, Qantas, and BA flights. For more complex itineraries, you’ll need to learn more, perhaps from my Anatomy of an Award series, or you can hire a professional award booker like me.

Anatomy of an Award: Hilton AXON Award for Four Nights at the Sydney Hilton

This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.

Yesterday, I talked about transferring 10,000 Hawaiian Miles to 20,000 Hilton points. I don’t generally recommend transferring Hawaiian Miles to Hilton points; I made this transfer with a specific redemption in mind: four nights at the Sydney Hilton in January.

My brother and I are starting our Australia adventure in Sydney, so we wanted to have a nice hotel lined up to acclimate to Australia. I had 135,000 Hilton points sitting in my account after getting 90,000 from a Virgin Atlantic miles transfer that I wanted to use.

This is where Hilton’s alphabet soup comes into play. Beyond one night redemptions, Hilton has AXON and GLON redemptions. For a full breakdown of these discounted awards, read this article by thepointsguy. The basic things to know are:

  • AXON- discounted award rate for American Express cardholders for stays of exactly 4 nights or multiples of 4 nights on category 5, 6, and 7 hotels, must be booked by calling 800-920-5649
  • GLON- discounted award rate for all Hilton elites on stays of 4 nights or longer on category 3-7 hotels, the four night discount is 15%, the five night discount is 20%, and the six or more nights discount is 25%, these awards can be booked online if you’re signed into your Hilton account and you have status, they appear automatically

 

There’s actually a flowchart in thepointsguy’s article showing every contingency. Normally for stays of four nights, AXON awards are better than GLON awards.

This is especially true at a category 7 hotel like the Sydney Hilton where a four night AXON stay is 145k points and a GLON stay is 170k points. One reward night at a category 7 hotel is 50k points, so the GLON award is 15% off and the AXON award is 27.5% off (and cheaper than just booking three nights at the regular rate.)

Having checked out the Sydney Hilton online and seeing that it met our needs and had a great location, I called up to book my AXON award. 800-920-5649 is the number of the Diamond Desk, which handles AXON redemptions.

After giving my dates and the hotel I wanted, the agent quoted me the 145k points price and asked for an American Express card. Remember AXON rates are for American Express cardholders.

AXON, GLON, and normal one-night awards are capacity controlled. But I had already checked hilton.com and seen there was availability on the nights we wanted.

I booked the award, and I was told I have until 3 PM on the day of check in to cancel and get my points back.

How you can get access to both AXON and GLON rates

Get the Hilton HHonors American Express. That linked offer gives 50,000 Hilton points after $750 in purchases within 3 months. As an American Express cardholder, you’d get access to AXON rates. The card also instantly confers Hilton silver status, which means you can get access to GLON rates as an elite cardholder.

Of course, 50,000 points are worth maybe $200, so it’s not a great card to get.

A better way to access these rates might be to hold a different American Express card to get AXON rates and go to this page to get free Gold Status and access to GLON rates. That page is targeted to Visa Infinite cardholders.

The way they verify that you have one is by having you type in a card number. Commenters on several sites offer up card numbers that work. Be your own ethicist here.

Here is some info about the booking:

Four nights at the Sydney Hilton in January: $850 ($201 AUD per night)

Our subjective value of the hotel: $600, my brother likes hotels more than I do, and I summed our valuations of $50 and $100 per night respectively

Hilton points needed: 145,000

Total taxes and fees: $0

Miles foregone by not purchasing itinerary: 18,275

Cents per point as booked: 0.37–would have been 0.52 cpp at retail value of $850–according to the milevalue calculator. (I plugged 600; 0; 145000; 18275 into the calculator. Do you see why?)

Most importantly, I’m happy with the booking. Hilton points are worth very little. I value them at 0.4 cents each, and this redemption is in line with that. If you value hotel stays at retail value, then you will value Hilton points more highly. This stay will let my brother and me acclimate to Australia in the comfort of a nice hotel instead of on someone’s couch. And I can use the $425 I saved by not paying for half the room to buy some tickets to the Australian Open quarterfinals!