Few things sound more appealing than a relaxing vacation after how high the anxiety levels have been during the past year. For those looking for a domestic trip, Hawaii might be a logical choice even though safety measures are still in place to travel there.

To avoid a 10-day quarantine upon arrival, visitors need to present a proper negative COVID-19 test. With that, you can head straight to the beach on most islands.

While planning a trip, though, you’ll notice that all major domestic carriers fly from the mainland to Hawaii. If your choice fell on Hawaiian Airlines, I’m about to teach you how to use a partner program to book your Hawaiian-operated flights.

Why Hawaiian Airlines?

Hawaiian Airlines is the biggest airline in Hawaii, but it isn’t part of any alliance. The airline partners with a number of carriers, though, and we’ll get into that below.

Hawaiian Airlines connect the Aloha State with the following mainland U.S. cities: Austin, Texas (begins April 21, 2021); Boston; Las Vegas; Long Beach, California; Los Angeles; New York; Oakland, California; Ontario, California; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; San Diego; San Francisco; San Jose, California; and Seattle.

The carrier operates nonstop flights with lie-flat seats in first class to/from most of these cities. So, if you’re looking to arrive well-rested, flying with Hawaiian Airlines might look appealing to you.

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles

Hawaiian Airlines has its own loyalty program, HawaiianMiles, which partners with American Express Membership Rewards. Points transfer instantly at a ratio of 1:1. Keep in mind that because Hawaiian Airlines is a U.S. carrier, you have to pay excise tax on point transfers of $0.0006 per point (capped at $99 per transfer).

Related: Anatomy of an Award: My First (Hopefully) Post-COVID Trip to Hawaii

However, if you don’t earn Membership Rewards, you still have options booking these flights with a partner program. Let’s take a look at programs to consider.

Which Airlines Partner with Hawaiian Airlines

American Airlines partners with Hawaiian Airlines, but the partnership is limited. AAdvantage members aren’t able to book Hawaiian-operated award flights between the Continental U.S. and Hawaii. Only inter-island flights as well as flights between Hawaii and Asia or South Pacific are bookable with AAdvantage miles.

A similar agreement applies to United MileagePlus members who can redeem their miles on flights to the neighbor islands only.

What about Delta SkyMiles? Weren’t they partners one time? Yeahhh, that ended in 2013. However, flights within the state of Hawaii still can be booked with SkyMiles.

Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank members can redeem their miles on eligible codeshare flights, and Korean Airlines SKYPASS members can redeem their miles for tickets on all Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights. However, both of these programs’ currency are a bit difficult to obtain as neither partners with a transferable points program.

So, that leaves Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and JetBlue TrueBlue as the only viable options for booking Hawaiian Airlines award flights without using the HawaiianMiles loyalty program.

Besides American Express points, which also transfer to HawaiianMiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points. Both of these currencies transfer at a ratio of 1:1.

As for JetBlue TrueBlue points, in addition to American Express Membership Rewards (250:200), you can obtain them by transferring Capital One Venture Miles (2:1.5), Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1) and Citi ThankYou Points (1:1).

How to Find Hawaiian Airlines Availability on Partner Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines releases only certain fare codes to partners, and the ones that are bookable with either Virgin Atlantic Flying Club or JetBlue TrueBlue are:

  • D – in business class
  • T – in economy class

If you’re using ExpertFlyer to locate dates with availability, you have to make sure you enter these additional codes in the provided fields. Interestingly enough, ExpertFlyer doesn’t display inventory for economy awards with Hawaiian, so you have to call Virgin Atlantic or JetBlue to locate those (more on that below).

Related: How to Use ExpertFlyer to Find Award Space

As you can see, ExpertFlyer has a box for First Flex Award/Upgrade (fare code P) and a few empty boxes for fare classes to be entered manually. What you want to do here is enter D if you’re looking for partner awards in first class (lie-flat seats).

When search results pop up, you want to see availability with the D fare code. In the example below, the route from Orlando (MCO) to Honolulu (HNL) has seven available seats available to HawaiianMiles members and two seats available to partner program members. These two are the seats a partner airline will be able to book for you.

These are also the same seats that are available to HawaiianMiles program members at a lower redemption rate. We typically refer to it as a Saver fare. As you can see, you can book this first-class seat for as few as 40,000 HawaiianMiles miles per direction.

Hawaiian prices its awards at multiple redemption levels. When low-level fares are gone, the exact same seats up front sell for 130,000 miles. That’s quite an increase!

Ideally, you want to book these awards at their lowest level, and searching for class D on ExpertFlyer is how you find them. Unless you get extremely lucky, availability is pretty scattered, so you have to be pretty flexible to make it work.

Booking Hawaiian Airlines with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Booking your Hawaiian Airlines award flights through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club isn’t a bad way to redeem these miles.

You can book a round-trip or a one-way award if you prefer. Here’s how many miles you need to redeem for a round-trip award to Hawaii originating in the following regions. One-way bookings cost half of a round-trip award rate in miles.

When you compare it to the Hawaiian Airlines own chart, the redemption rate ends up being the same for travelers located on the West Coast. Unfortunately, those on the East Coast have to redeem a bit more miles per each round-trip.

To book these flights, you have to call Virgin Atlantic at 1-800-862-8621. Unfortunately, the phone lines aren’t 24/7; opening hours are 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. U.K. time. If the phones are busy or you’re trying to contact an agent after these hours, you can text 97634 to ask for help.

When you reach an agent, make sure to have all your travelers’ names and dates of birth ready to go. Virgin Atlantic agents often have to request availability from a partner to even check if it even exists.

However (pay attention, this is important), if you don’t want to go through the whole process for nothing, I’ve had luck with providing them with correct fare codes that we already talked about above, and they would look up availability that way.

Note that if you ask a customer service representative to search for a P code, it’ll show up in the agent’s search tool, but it’s not a fare they can book using Flying Club miles.

Booking Hawaiian Airlines with JetBlue TrueBlue

To be able to book a Hawaiian flight using JetBlue TrueBlue points, the same fare codes must be available for a partner booking. As is the case with Virgin Atlantic, these awards aren’t bookable online, which means you have to call 1-800-538-2583 to locate award inventory.

Here are one-way redemption rates for economy class:

And here are one-way redemption rates for business (first) class:

As you can see, the redemption rates aren’t life-changing, especially for those located on the East Coast, but it’s another option available to you. One-way and round-trip awards on Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights are permitted.

Award inventory seems to match what ExpertFlyer is showing as available, so if you have access to the service, it’s a great tool to use to save yourself some time. If you don’t pay for a subscription or don’t have the time calling airlines to find dates that work, it might be worth it to hire an award booking service to help you.

Consider using MileValue’s Award Booking Service for your award trip.

Final Thoughts

So, before you decide to use your Virgin Atlantic miles or JetBlue points to book a Hawaiian Airlines flight, remember that just because you see available seats on the Hawaiian Airlines website, they might not be available to partner programs.

If you’re cross-checking partner award availability with ExpertFlyer, you have to know which booking code to search. Otherwise, you’re going to wind up wasting hours, if not days, frustrated on the phone, wondering why an agent can’t locate the seats you want when they’re “right there.” Been there, done that.

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