Best ways to fly to Hawaii from the US mainland

Here's why you want to fly to Hawaii

View of Hanalei in Kauai, Hawaii as seen from a roadside stand named Nourish Hanalei

I’ve just returned from a fantastic vacation in Kauai, and I miss it already.  With Hawaii on my mind, I decided to put together a guide to the best ways to get to Hawaii.  Alaska, AA, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, and United Airlines all have flights from the mainland US to Hawaii, but you can often save points by booking these flights with foreign airline programs.  For example, I used 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta first class round-trip.  Nick also flew to Hawaii last week using only 7,500 Turkish miles to fly United economy one-way.

Awards to Hawaii can be difficult to find, especially during peak season.  For this reason, I’ve included a few tricks for booking cheaper paid flights.  If you want to use airline miles, though, it’s great to have transferable points.  Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs.  This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others.  If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:

Cheaper Paid Flights

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

This is my favorite trick for getting cheap flights to Hawaii.  As long as Alaska Airlines flights are available and as long as you travel in pairs, this option can save a bundle.

How to get it: Alaska Airlines credit card holders get one discount code each year. Qualifying cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature consumer card (US), the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card (US), as well as the World Elite and Platinum Plus MasterCard (Canada).

Flight requirement: Round-trip paid published coach airfare on Alaska Airlines

Companion benefit: Pay “from $121” ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your Alaska Airlines flight itinerary).

More details can be found here.

Southwest Companion Pass

If you have earned a Southwest Companion Pass, you can fly two people for the price of one!  This is true whether you pay cash or points for your flight. See: Complete guide to the Southwest Companion Pass.

Hawaiian Airlines Companion Discount

Honestly, I’m not sure that this will save you any money at all since it requires purchasing a full fare coach ticket, but I included it for completeness…

How to get it: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard and Hawaiian Airlines Business MasterCard cardholders get a one-time 50% off companion ticket. Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard cardholders additionally get a $100 off companion ticket each account anniversary.

Flight requirement: Purchase published round-trip full fare coach. Tickets must be purchased with your Hawaiian Airlines credit card.

Companion benefit: 50% off fare (before taxes and fees); or $100 off with the $100 off companion ticket.

More details can be found here.

Vacation Packages

Bundled air + hotel vacation packages sometimes offer far better flight prices than those available directly from the airlines unbundled.  If you don’t need the hotel portion, you may be able to book the cheapest hotel option for just one night (and throw it away) even if you plan to stay at the destination far longer. Alternatively you may be able to bundle a car rental instead of a hotel.  As an example, I’ve saved tons of money in the past booking Delta Vacation flights + car rentals to Hawaii.  In fact, each time I did this, the price with the car rental was significantly less than the cost to buy airfare alone.

Best Mile Deals

Fly United using Turkish Miles & Smiles

Turkish offers the best deal to Hawaii, bar none.  7.5K one-way in economy or 12.5K one-way in business class is insane.

  • The short story: Turkish offers the same pricing on flights to Hawaii as for other domestic US awards, making them an unbelievable value for flights to Hawaii.
  • Miles required: 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 12,500 miles each way in business class (can include connections for the same price)
  • How to find awards: Search for available award space at United.com.  Important: make sure that the results indicate that the award is a "saver award", otherwise it won't be bookable.
  • How to book awards: While it's theoretically possible to book online (details here), you'll likely have much better luck via phone.  Even then, it may take several calls to get an agent who can see that the award space is available.  Details for booking via phone can be found here.  See also:  Turkish still a mixed bag, but patience helps.
  • Key warnings: Turkish appears to have a max connect time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary, so itineraries with a longer connection would require 2 awards. Also, for an unknown reason, Turkish agents often can't see award space that other partner airlines can see.  You may have to call several times to get an award booked.  Keep in mind that transfers to Turkish are not instant; it will take 1-2 days for the miles to show up in your Turkish Miles & Smiles account.  As a result, we highly recommend calling to put an award on hold before you transfer points to Turkish miles.

Fly Alaska Airlines or United using Singapore KrisFlyer miles

Singapore offers excellent award prices to fly Alaska Airlines economy class to Hawaii.

  • The short story: Singapore KrisFlyer charges fewer miles for domestic flights to Hawaii than United does for the same flights. Additionally, they have a great chart for Alaska Airlines for those originating in parts of the US other than the East Coast.
  • Miles required: For United flights: 17,500 miles each way in economy or 34,500 in business (as compared to 22.5K / 40K through United). On Alaska Airlines, from 11.5K one-way in economy class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available United Airlines space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com (See: Book United flights online with Singapore miles– but note that business class prices have increased since that post was written). For Alaska Airlines award space, search at AA.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Alaska awards must be booked over the phone.
  • Key warnings: Singapore allows a maximum connection time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary and will not allow a stopover on a one-way domestic award. Be aware that United.com and AA.com will show availability for flights with longer/overnight connections that are not available with Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so be sure to double check availability at SingaporeAir.com or with a phone agent before booking. Also note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.

Fly AA or Alaska Airlines using British Airways Avios

Avios are great for the shortest distance AA and/or Alaska Airlines non-stop economy flights to Hawaii.

  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so flights from the West Coast of the USA on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines can be a great value with Avios.
  • Miles required: 12.5K miles each way plus $5.60 for economy-class segments between west coast cities and Hawaii.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.

Fly Delta using Air France miles

Air France is one of the cheapest options for booking Delta flights to Hawaii.  Unfortunately, Delta’s partner award space is extremely hard to find, especially for first class awards.

  • The short story: Air France charges far fewer miles than Delta for Delta flights to Hawaii, but finding award availability can be a huge challenge.
  • Miles required: 17.5K one-way in economy, or 30K one-way in business class for Delta flights from the US mainland to Hawaii.
  • How to find awards: Use the Virgin Atlantic 5 week award search to find availability (see this post for details). Next, confirm your findings at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone when the website returns errors.
  • Key warnings: Air France's website is buggy and will often return errors when trying to complete a booking. If that happens, try calling.

Fly Delta using Virgin Atlantic miles

While Air France is usually cheaper, Virgin Atlantic sometimes sees award space that other Delta partners cannot see.

  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic often offers Delta flights to Hawaii for many fewer miles than Delta would charge for the same itineraries. This can be a particularly good value for Delta’s life-flat routes to Hawaii.
  • Miles required: 20,000 miles each way in economy class or 37,500 miles each way in business class (for non-stop flights)
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: How to book Delta flights with Virgin Atlantic miles.
  • Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so they are not a good choice for connecting itineraries.

Fly Southwest using Southwest points

Southwest doesn’t have any relevant partners, but their own points are useful especially since they’re fully refundable.  Additionally, if you have earned a Southwest Companion Pass, you can fly two people for the price of one!  See: Complete guide to the Southwest Companion Pass.

  • The short story: Southwest points are typically only worth about 1.5c towards the cost of a flight, but award bookings are totally flexible since they can be changed or canceled with no fee up until shortly before departure.
  • Miles required: Varies by route but can be less than other options when cash prices are low.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Southwest.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at Southwest.com
  • Key warnings: Keep in mind that if you pay for Early Bird Check In and then later cancel or change your flight, you will lose the benefit without a refund.

How to get the miles

The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer Ratio
Air France KLM Flying Blue1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Avios1 to 11 to 160K to 25K
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K1000 to 500
Southwest Rapid Rewards1 to 160K to 25K
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles1 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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AlexL
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AlexL

Southwest companion pass?

Robert
Guest
Robert

No kidding! Just booked a points round trip for under 50k points from middle US, can’t beat a RT for 25k miles! And if I’d been flexible by a day or two it would have saved me another 15k total points.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Does anyone know the policy if you book the Miles and Smiles deal to Hawaii (on United), but then have to change your dates?

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Check no. 6 under “Turkish still a mixed bag, but patience helps” posted by nick

Greg
Guest
Greg

Just read it, thanks!

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Glad I can help. ^_^

Justin
Guest
Justin

Favorite hotel(s) on the islands?

Nick Reyes
Editor

As Greg notes, the GH Kauai is hands-down my favorite. If traveling with a family, I also like the Hilton Waikoloa Village on The Big Island. It’s in a kind of isolated spot, but you need a car rental on the Big Island anyway. I think it was originally a Disney resort or something, so they have a train that runs you around the resort (think like a monorail, not like a golf cart pulling some cars) and dolphins and stuff like that. Breakfast for Diamond members is skimpy though: they just give you a $20 credit per day, which won’t cover the buffet. You could get like a pastry and coffee at the cafe or something. Still, I liked it well enough.

I haven’t found a hotel I’d recommend in Honolulu yet. I stayed at the Hyatt Place this week. Great value on points, but I’d try the Centric next time for 3K/nt more. The HP is a good option if you don’t really care much about the hotel — which, if you’re going to Hawaii, isn’t an unfair perspective.

Robert
Guest
Robert

I love the GH Kauai…now if it could be dropped on Maui I’d have the perfect vacation. As such I’ll stick with Maui, food is much funner there.

Tammie
Guest
Tammie

How about flying Delta using Air France miles?

Eric
Guest
Eric

Great article! How did you use 75,000 VX miles round-trip in first to LIH? It seems almost impossible to avoid connecting (and thus drastically increasing the mileage cost) to get to LIH unless you begin on the west coast, unless I’m missing something?

bob
Guest
bob

there’s korean air delta

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

PSA: 9.1.19 Alaska CP while have no option for travel delay, luggage lost, delay, etc such as you get booking with CSR and other cards.

While the AS CP can provide good bang for the buck. It could cost you more than you save if your delayed or miss an award night In Hawaii (and get Bonvoyed and charged cash price) from the cancelled, delayed, missed connection or you have to pay out of pocket for Uber/food/hotel for the night.

– With the upcoming changes 9.1.19 that CP and main fare will have to be booked 100% with BofA AS Visa card (which has absolutely no travel insurance, delay, lost bags, etc)

We learn this by accident, Wife used the Companion pass earlier this month, when I didn’t double check the dates needed to start booking with Alaska card (I used BofA AS instead of CSR).

Family was flying red-eye to ATL from SEA, but they sat on the runway for 70 minutes, and had to run to make the red-eye. Wife texted me while waiting on Runway, and I started checking flights that night to be proactive as you can loose the better part of the day flying to East coast.

Seems new Contract of carriage stipulates that delays as a result of ATC are at the expense of the traveler. If I was traveling on a shoestring budget like we did in the early years of marriage and with small children, I can’t not see getting a hotel for the night even if vouchers were not provided (granted its always YMMV and often upto the Gate agent). But this could easily exceed what you saved. This is a BofA thing much like the CP for F going bye-bye.

Look at the UA flight that was delayed 18 hours JFK/LAX on 8.22.19 and no vouchers were given out and people were sleeping in the terminal. So a card with travel insurance can easily cover the cost of the AF.

Eric
Guest
Eric

One other option I wanted to mention: American sometimes releases lie flat space from DFW on connecting itineraries (only) to HNL and seasonally to OGG and KOA when the latter two are on 772s.

The only way to really book these is with 62.5k American airlines miles because of married segment logic (will never be open starting from DFW), but this is the only lie flat option to get from the Mainland to OGG or KOA and seems to me to be the most available lie flat option to HNL as compared to Hawaiian, Delta, or United. Not as glamorous as some of the deals listed here and can’t book with partner miles but imo a great option to get to/from Hawaii.

nBs
Guest
nBs

Why search on AA.com for Alaska fares if booking via KrisFlyer?

nBs
Guest
nBs

Why do you search on aa.com – instead of Alaska – if looking for Alaska fares to book via krisflyer?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Greg
Remind the bloggers that 9/1 unlimited 4th nite free ends on the Prestige card .I booked my Paris trip in an hour but prices are a lot higher then 2 years ago .
CHEERs

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[…] considering a transfer to Delta SkyMiles here. As Greg noted in this morning’s post on the Best ways to get to Hawaii from the US mainland, airline vacation packages can sometimes be cheaper than booking the flight alone — meaning […]

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Byron
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Byron

Lots of luck trying to find a UA super saver business class fare to Hawaii and using the Turkish Airline deal. I looked from several cities to most landing spots in Hawaii, and there would be one super saver business class flight out about 3 weeks from departure. That is hardly good for any long term planning. Lots of economy with the hopes of upgrading closer to departure possibly.

Let me know if you see something different.