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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.

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