Warning: I’m only 90% confident in the information in this post. It took several calls and a few hours on the phone talking to incompetent agents to get this information, so I’ll provide it without triple-checking. I invite commenters to check my work.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is an incredible business class product by all indications. (See info about the onboard suite, Clubhouses, Lucky’s trip report, and Lucky’s Revival Lounge report.) It’s got the largest bed in the industry, an onboard bar, and first class service at the airport and in the air.
So why am I not flying it? Fuel surcharges. As I detailed last month, I transferred all my Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points at a 1:2 ratio because Virgin Atlantic’s fuel surcharges on awards make award redemptions horrible values for me. Here’s its award chart:
As you can see, you can’t step into the Upper Class without paying at least $1,105 on top of the miles outlay. So I was intrigued to see this ad in Hawaiian Airlines’ inflight magazine as I flew into Honolulu last week.
For Upper Class from the mainland US to the UK is 100k Hawaiian Miles roundtrip. To anywhere else, it’s 140k Hawaiian Miles roundtrip. But the real information I wanted–what would the cash outlay be–was not listed. That required a call (or four) to 877-HA-MILES.
The answers I’ve gotten after some long hold times are LAX to Heathrow roundtrip is 100,000 Hawaiian Miles and $288 in Upper Class. JFK to Heathrow roundtrip is 100,000 Hawaiian Miles and $278 in Upper Class.
That’s $800 less per person if you use Hawaiian Miles to book a Virgin Atlantic trip than if you use Virgin Atlantic’s miles.
Let me give some tips for booking with Hawaiian Miles, then I’ll share some easy ways to beef up your Hawaiian account.
Tips for booking
- After you call 877-HA-MILES and say “Book a new flight,” you will be transferred to someone who cannot help you. Say as soon as possible, “I want to use my Hawaiian miles to book a flight on Virgin Atlantic.” She will transfer you to someone who can book that.
- The Hawaiian Miles desk is open 8 AM – 4:30 PM Hawaiian time. This is 2 PM – 10:30 PM EDT and 1 PM – 9:30 PM EST.
- “Hang up; call again” is your best friend. Some (most?) of the agents are completely incompetent. And each call netted me wildly different award availability.
Tips for amassing tons of Hawaiian Miles
- Start by getting both Hawaiian Airlines credit cards–offered by Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii–on the same day. Each has a 35k sign up bonus after $1k in spending in 4 months. Here’s the FlyerTalk master thread on the cards.
- Have someone transfer you their Hawaiian Miles for free. Hawaiian Airlines credit or debit card holders can receive miles free. I gave step-by-step instructions on the Share Miles feature in this post.
- Transfer SPG Starpoints to Hawaiian Miles. The ratio is 1:1, but for every 20,000 SPG points, you get a bonus 5,000 Hawaiian Miles, so 20,000 SPG —> 25,000 Hawaiian.
- Hawaiian Airlines has the only portal I know of that partners with Amazon.com, so you can get 1 extra miles per dollar on Amazon.com purchases. Not amazing, but better than a poke in the eye.
Will I be booking a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seat?
Not any time soon. This is an amazing deal to get into the seats for only 100k miles and under $300. But I have 224 Hawaiian Miles in my account, and I have a moratorium on any new trip bookings.