Guide to Booking Delta Flights to Hawaii for 25,000 Korean Miles Roundtrip, 45k in First

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Updated heavily 1/13/17 since you can now book these awards online.

It is cheaper to book the exact same Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean miles than with Delta miles.

  • Delta charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii or 50,000 in flat bed Delta One
  • Korean charges 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class or Delta One between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 Delta miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 50,000 Korean miles. Instead of paying 160,000 Delta miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 90,000 Korean miles–even theoretically for flat beds!

To reiterate, these are the exact same flights with vastly different prices depending on which miles you use.

Plus Korean awards to Hawaii can include a free stopover on the way! Delta awards do no permit stopovers.

Korean has access to all the same Level 1 award space Delta releases to people with Delta miles, but no other Delta award space.

What’s the catch? For Korean bookings to Hawaii, there are two:

  1. You can only book Korean awards for yourself or immediate family members, with proof of relationships.
  2. Korean awards are the same price roundtrip or one way, so you have to book roundtrip (although an open jaw and stopover is allowed.) Delta awards can be booked one way (and then you can return home with another type of miles.)

However there are a number of benefits to booking Korean awards to Hawaii:

  1. Korean awards cost fewer miles than Delta awards
  2. Korean awards have no change or cancellation fees if your plans change
  3. Korean awards of Delta flights to Hawaii do not have fuel surcharges, so both types of awards will just have identical taxes of $11 roundtrip
  4. Korean offers a stopover on roundtrip awards to Hawaii; Delta doesn’t
  5. Korean miles are easy to get

Getting Korean Miles

Korean miles are a partner of two of the four major transferable points program:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1
  2. SPG Starpoints, 1:1 with a bonus. Every 20,000 Starpoints transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus, so the ideal transfers are in exact increments of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 Korean miles.

Right now, the two best cards to get Korean miles are the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred because both earn Ultimate Rewards that transfer 1:1 to Korean miles.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

The Ink Business Preferred is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel; shipping; internet, cable, and phone services; and search engine or social network advertising
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

Starpoints also transfer to Korean miles, and you can get a ton of Starpoints right now from SPG personal and business cards and the Marriott personal card, since Marriott points transfer 3:1 to SPG points at this stage of their merger.

Searching for Award Space, Transferring Miles, and Booking the Awards

You can now search and book Delta (and other SkyTeam) awards on koreanair.com. However I think it’s a little bit easier to search delta.com for Level 1 award space and only then to search koreanair.com for that space that you already know exists.

Searching Delta.com

On the home page of delta.com run an award search from your home airport to Oahu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH), or the Big Island (KOA). I prefer one way searches because I think they display the results more clearly.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.14.11 PM

At the top of the search results, select “Delta Only” to avoid Alaska Airlines flights showing up in the results (they can booked with Korean miles, but at a higher price) and change the calendar to “5 Weeks” if you are extra flexible.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 5.55.00 PM

Here are the results for this fall from Los Angeles to Maui for two passengers. We are looking for Delta Level 1 award space, the only space that partners like Korean can book. Days that say 22,500 have Level 1 award space that we can book with Korean miles. Other days do not.
Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.15.39 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.15.45 PM

Similarly, here is Kauai to Los Angeles for two passengers. Again, I see surprisingly good economy award space this fall.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.16.04 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.16.09 PM First Class award space is not nearly as good. Here you’re looking for award space that costs 40,000 miles, the Level 1 price between the mainland and Hawaii in First Class.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.16.59 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.17.03 PM Once you find the award space you want that prices at the Level 1 price, note the date, cabin, and flight number. For instance, here is an economy trip with Level 1 award space from Minneapolis to Maui, returning from Kauai to Minneapolis.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.20.15 PM

Flat Beds

Delta flies flat beds from Atlanta to Honolulu, but award space is terrible on the route. These flights would still be 45,000 Korean miles roundtrip even though they are 50,000 Delta miles one way at the Level 1 price. Let us know in the comments if you find any award space on these routes.

Booking Process on KoreanAir.com

On koreanair.com, scroll down to the flight search. Select “International” and “Redeem Miles.”

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-11-53-18-am

You will be required to sign into your Korean SkyPass account. Sign up for a free one here.

Search is completely intuitive. The only problem is that if you search a date without award space, you get an error message instead of a calendar showing when there is award space.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-10-53-06-am

That shouldn’t happen to you, though, since you start your searches on delta.com and only go to koreanair.com to search and book award space you already know exists.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-10-50-23-am

After selecting the flights, click the “Calculate” button.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-11-11-08-am

The award space prices–as expected–at 25,000 Korean miles roundtrip + $11.20 in taxes.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-10-50-23-am

Enter your credit card details and purchase.

The One Big Problem Searching on Koreanair.com

The one insanity when using Korean miles is that you can only redeem them for yourself, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren, parents-in-law, and children-in-law, and you have to provide proof of the relationship, which means scanning and emailing a marriage certificate or birth certificate. (Most miles programs allow you to redeem miles for anyone.)

Until you add a family member to your approved list, you can only search for and book award space for one person. Once you add a family member, he should show up on the search screen, allowing you to search for more than one seat.
screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-10-54-03-am

Get Creative (Routing Rules)

Here are the routing rules when redeeming Korean miles to fly SkyTeam partners, like Delta:

  • Roundtrip and one way awards are the same price, so book roundtrip awards
  • You get one stopover per roundtrip award in addition to the destination
  • You can have three segments maximum in each direction
  • You get one open jaw, at the destination only

You can get a stopover on the mainland an open jaw in Hawaii, so you can book something like:

  • Your home airport to Los Angeles
  • Hang out in LA for a few days (or weeks or months)
  • Los Angeles to one Hawaiian island
  • Another Hawaiian island to your home airport

That leaves just a single interisland flight to be booked separately (or several interisland flights depending on how many islands you want to see.)

I searched multi-city on koreanair.com, adding a stopover one direction in Los Angeles.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-10-57-12-amAs expected–the award prices at 25,000 Korean miles + $11.20. Delta would charge 57,500 miles + $16.80 for the same itinerary.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-10-58-43-am

Transferring Miles

Transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Korean are instant, so search on delta.com to find award space, make the transfer, and then book on koreanair.com.

SPG transfers take approximately five days. Initiate these transfers after searching delta.com and calling Korean at 800-438-5000 to put the award on hold. (Korean award holds are of essentially limitless duration.)

Picking Seats

To pick your seats and confirm that your reservation was ticketed correctly, call Delta.

Bottom Line

Use Korean miles instead of Delta miles to book economy and First Class awards to Hawaii on Delta flights. You’ll pay fewer miles, lower fees, and be able to book the exact same seats. Plus Korean awards allow a stopover en route an open jaw at the destination.

Ultimate Rewards and Starpoints transfer to Korean miles.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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85 COMMENTS

  1. Scott-
    You’re, once again, a genius. Too bad Delta’s SrVP of SkyPesos probably reads your blog entries daily…Wonder how long until they figure this out and “fix” it?!

    • They require birth certificates for kids and marriage certificates for spouses. You’ll also need to eventually provide information like your driver’s license or passport as well. I booked one of these awards a couple months ago, and the worst part is waiting for Korean to call you back (you call them and then they will have someone who can book awards call you back. Usually within 24 hours).

      • Thanks for the info. This part is crazy and terrible, but it is worth the effort for awards like this one. Good thing awards on Korean flights can be booked online.

    • As the post says, you need Level 1 space, which is 22,500 one way in economy, 40,000 one way in First (and in case of a miracle 50,000 one way in flat bed Business from Atlanta to Honolulu.) That’s the only Delta space that Korean can book.

  2. I’ve been a “collector” of miles and have yet to book an award trip. I have a vacation coming up and do believe you just provided me with the tools to make it happen! So many thanks to you and your website!

  3. Thanks for a great post. I am looking on Delta right now. With Delta Only checked, there are some 22,500 options, but most / all of them have an AS coded flight as one (or all) of the legs (not DL for Delta). Do all (or at least one) of the legs need to be DL in order to get the cheap award price on Korean?

  4. Who cares – availability is shit, and Korean is a huge hassle. If you’re departing west coast, as in your example, just use avios FTW. Otherwise, just use Singapore miles.

    • I was able to book 5 award tickets using this method, so I wouldn’t complain about availability too much. I was booking almost 330 days in advance though. My advice is to look for the availability as far out as you can and if you see it, get a hold of Korean. They will put the reservation on hold before you even have the miles in your account. You then can transfer in the miles and get all the paperwork done over the next couple of weeks. The hold is good for a long time.

  5. Hi Scott,
    I have an opportunity to purchase some SPG points at about .02 per. Would it still be wise to transfer them to Koran Air to book flights to Hawaii?
    Thanks for your help!

  6. Scott, since Delta doesn’t post Award Chart anymore, I am looking at next March. I see a date for 65,000 FC OW to OGG. Coming back, I see FC OW at 82,500. Can you tell me or tell me where to look to see how many Korean Airmiles I would need to book those seats? Thanks

    Met you at Chicago 2 years ago. Love your website!!

    • As this post explains, those are unbookable with Korean miles. “First Class award space is not nearly as good. Level 1 space is 40,000 [or 50,000 flat beds only Delta] miles each way per person, so that’s what you need to find.”

      • Guess I need to reread post since Kevin chimed in after me about getting First Class tickets to Hawaii like I want. Thanks

  7. Hey Scott,

    Thanks for writing this post! I just booked 2 First Class tickets to Hawaii using this strategy. $5155 tickets for only $33 is hard to beat. I was shocked to find availability for Summer 2016 within 60 days of departure. Thanks again!

    FYI to everyone: You can only transfer points from UR to Skypass once every 24 hours.

  8. I just tried a routing from Savannah to Seattle to Hawaii, then Hawaii 2nd airport. Dates were a week before Christmas, then to Hawaii on Christmas Day and then Hawaii to Savannah on New Years day. I picked Christmas and New Year days as those typically have been slow airport days. Cheapest routing would cost me 820,000 DL miles. We must be talking about a unicorn if we can do this with a stopover (SEA), then different airports in Hawaii, and back to SAV. I don’t see how that could be 90,000 Korean miles.

    • I don’t think you understand this post at all. I’d suggest re-reading it in its entirety. Pay special attention to which Delta flights Korean miles can book and when that award space is available (hint: not over the few weeks of most schools’ Christmas breaks.) Good luck! 🙂

  9. Are the creative routing options (stopovers, open jaw) the main advantage of booking this way instead of using Avios?

    • I would say the main advantage is that sometimes Delta has award space and AA doesn’t, so there are some times when you can only use Korean miles and not Avios to Hawaii. This deal also works from anywhere in USA, while Avios are only cheap from the west coast.

  10. Hi Scott: Thanks for the post. Unfortunately, traveling from NYC airports I see no FC 40K availability through April 2017. Do you know if DL considers a saver fare of 65.5K a Level 1 fare from the East Coast? If not, I’ll just keep on checking to see if something changes in the future. Thanks. Tio.

  11. If you want to fly from New Orleans to San Francisco then to Honolulu with return from Honolulu to New Orleans, what is the best way to search for saver availability. Would I need to search each route individually for the 22,500 option?

    • I’m not sure whether your question is referring to redeeming 22,500 Delta miles for a one way award between the mainland and Hawaii, or redeeming 45,000 Korean miles for a roundtrip between the mainland and Hawaii, could you please clarify?

      • I am looking to book thru Korean from
        New Orleans to Honolulu roundtrip with a stop in San Francisco on the way there for 25,000 points (on a Delta flight). However, my question is what is the mile value I am looking for on Deltas website that I know will qualify for Korea’s award.

        Thanks!

        • I see. Yes, you will need to search the New Orleans to San Francisco flight separately. It should price at 12,500 Delta miles in order for it to be Level 1 award space, which is the kind that you can book with Korean miles.

          Just keep in mind that Delta doesn’t fly direct from New Orleans to San Francisco, so you’ll have to fly two legs with a connection to get there. And the maximum amount of segments you can have each direction on a Korean award is three segments.

          For the San Francisco to Honolulu flight (as well as the Honolulu to New Orleans flight), days that say 22,500 have Level 1 award space (the kind that you can book with Korean miles).

  12. I’m more curious how you find deals like this? How does one find how much a partner airline flight would cost in a different partner airlines mileage currency? Do you just call and ask to figure it out? I more ask because it seems like calling and asking so many airlines would become tedious. But I guess that’s what you need to do for the sweet deals?

  13. Hi, if I see the results for 22,500 one way, is it definite that Skypass has access to those seats? I ask as I’m seeing a lot of availability for east coast (NYC to DCA) to HNL/OGG/LIH in Nov but when Skypass called me back, they could only see it limited to 1-2 of those dates.

    • I’m having the same problem. In fact, call back told me he could not see a single LAX-OGG from December 2016 onwards. Whereas DL and every other partner show of course hundreds. What gives?

  14. KE tells me there is not a single LAX-OGG award flight available on DL beginning Dec 2016 onwards. Not one. Of course there are plenty all over all other partners.

  15. Scott, I looked from now until as far as Delta’s schedule will go into 2017 for any Bus. or 1st class flights from both Atlanta and Savannah. I saw one occasion of 147,500 miles and mostly 165,000 Delta miles for RT fares. Does Korean only honor the 147,500 miles or the 165K?

    Since Korean would allow one stopover, would that stopover have to be where Delta is planned to stop on this route, such as LAX.

  16. Hey Scott,

    Is there a solid first class option from LAX to OGG? I’m assuming the Delta First is an archaic recliner seat with crusty metal foot rest and there’s no meal…just free booze and snacks? Any other options to get a quality first class experience on this route?

    Thanks for your help!

  17. I’ve been looking for award space from the east coast to hawaii and see some availability for next year. I was wondering how you plan the stopover…is there a specific award space (mile amount) that I need to look for to know which flights I can take from my stopover location to hawaii. For example, I want to fly from the PHL to KOA with a stopover in LAX. I see the flight from PHL to KOA and that flight does stop in LAX but how do I know which flight to take from LAX to KOA. Thanks!

    • 12,500 in economy on delta.com for the intra-continental US space and 22,500 for space to Hawaii. Or in Business, 25,000 and 40,000.

  18. Hi. Can I do the following: LIH-JFK-stopover for five months-JFK-CUN-JFK ?
    Technically, LIH (or HNL) are in the same SkyPass region as CUN and JFK.
    Can departure airport (LIH) be different from final arrival airport (JFK)?

  19. Just one minor comment about taxes/fees: KE charged me $5.60 per segment. So on an itinerary that included connecting flights and not stopovers (e.g., east coast to west coast flying through ATL, DTW, etc.), the roundtrip tax was for 6 segments.

  20. Scott, please clarify the rule on the stopover. Does it have to be used enroute to your destination, or can it be used on the return, effectively giving me a free one way? I.e. LAX-OGG(destination), open jaw, HNL-LAX(stopover)-JFK(final return city)? In other words, is this really only a boon for those traveling from the East Coast and want to bake in a stopover in a west coast city before heading to hawaii?

    • I have the same exact question – can I have a stopover at the origin?!

      I did ask a Korean Air agent and he said yes, but I don’t know if it’s actually true because when I searched for flights with a stopover at my origin it kept giving me this error. I tried different city pairs.

  21. I am seeing Level 1 availability from Cleveland on Delta, but receiving error message when searching Korean. Any input would be much appreciated!

    Example:

    12/1 CLE>OGG
    12/11 OGG>CLE
    Total Cost: 45,000 (on Delta)

    Receive error when searching on Korean.

    Thanks!

  22. Hi Scott,

    There is a major issue that need to be discussed: OGG is not a destination on Koreanair.com. Does that mean you have to call in to inquire flights to this destination?

    • When award searching, are you filling in the bubble to distinguish your search as a SkyTeam award? If you don’t do that, OGG doesn’t show up as a destination. If you do, it does.

  23. Those 40K award seats are so scarce, Delta should be ashamed of even having an award level that they rarely make available and to couple that with I could not find a similar 40K return for months.

  24. Scott & Sarah, thanks for all of great info you post! Since premium award seats to HI are so hard to find more than 1 month out but less than 11 months out, are there any tricks to help find 3 premium award seats on the same flights, perhaps something similar to how you can waitlist with Singapore? Can United Plan B be used on flights between mainland US and Hawaii, or it only for international travel?

  25. It’s impossible to find Delta Lv 1 flights from the Washington DC area to Hawaii. I give up!
    Am I doing something wrong?

    • I have the same issue as Ji. Looking for Level 1 award space for First Class from MCO to LIH. Not picky on time frame – searched July-October 2017 with the lowest fare being 82,500 pts. Am I doing something wrong, or is there simply no availability? If there is no availability, is there an alternative method you could recommend?

  26. I live in Los Angeles. Could I book this as LAX to OGG, then OGG to SEATTLE (with multi-day layover) and finally SEATTLE to LAX? Or are there other options for someone who lives in Los Angeles to take advantage of the stopover provisions?

  27. When I try to search KoreanAir.com for flights, selecting ‘SkyTeam Award’ certain airports are not available.

    In my case I am trying to go from OAK or SFO to KOA. I can find these flights just fine on Delta.com but airports drop out when I select “Award Booking”.

    Will I likely be able to reserve these flights over the phone? I plan to call soon but need my wife, and her parents to confirm they can a week off work.

    Thanks!

    • Couple things to check: Make sure you are visiting Koreanair.com from a desktop computer, not your mobile phone or tablet. Second, make sure you sign in under your SkyPass account. From there you, you need to check the “Redeem Miles” box on the homepage, which then pops up the “SkyTeam Award” link to the right of the “redeem miles” box. Click on the “SkyTeam Award” link and it will take you to a more detailed booking page where all the airports will be available. Better yet, I think this link will take you there: https://www.koreanair.com/global/en/booking/booking-gate.html#bookingChange You just have to make sure to click “Award Booking” then sign in, then click SkyTeam Award. Any of these methods should work for you, and you can then search for SFO/OAK to KOA. I had no issue pulling up Delta flights from SFO to KOA. Good luck.

      And MileValue — many thanks for this post, was able to book 3 award flights for 25,000 miles each for LAX to OGG, roundtrip. There was lots of availability.

      • Thanks for the reply! I’m pretty sure the order I did the steps was equivalent, and now SFO>KOA is showing for me as well. But I still can’t get OAK to show, so I’ll try this over the phone, and if it is not available SFO is just fine.

  28. I’ve been trying to search the korean air website for the past hour using all of the steps listed in the post and also the most recent comment by Smitty. NO matter what I do: I can find the flights on the Delta website, I can find the same reward flights on the skyteam website, I cannot find anything on the Korean air website.

    Specifically looking at: ATL to HNL 11/18/2017 – 11/25/2017
    On Delta and Skyteam: ATL Depart: 10:50am :: HNL Depart: 5:30pm
    The same reward availability shows up from both sites, but I can’t find this or any availability on the korean air website at all within a month using these Airports.

    I’m signed in to skypass. Choosing international award booking. Selected skyteam Award. Am I missing something?

    I’m in the beginning stages of trying to figure out what my best options are and how to go about getting 2 people from ATL to HNL for the best rate. I was initially thinking of taking Southwest to LAX using our companion to get us closer and transferring over from there, but if Delta isn’t distance based here this sounds like a less hassle idea and one of the best posts I’ve come across. Any Help in any direction?

  29. […] The other option was to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air and book the exact same Delta flight for 25k miles per person.  (For a full explanation of how this works, check out this post by Milevalue: Guide to Booking Delta Flights to Hawaii for 25k Korean Miles Roundtrip). […]

  30. It appears the korean air website has changed and doesn’t give an option to book an international flight. Can you update this post to reflect the change? I’m planning on booking a trip to hawaii for Summer 2018 and I want to be prepared this summer when it comes time to book.

  31. Hi Scott, Thank you for your posts on travel to Hawaii. I want to go home for my HS reunion and have been trying to find a flight I can afford. With regard to the Korean Air post… is there a quick way to get the SPG flight points? I have delta points, but of course, not SPG Starpoints. I need to fly to Oahu by June 22 and from what I can tell, most of the credit cards would take a couple months to credit me the points.
    Mahalo!

  32. Hi Scott,

    I just followed your steps for a flight I’m looking at in March 2018 and I’m not seeing any 22,500 nor 40,000 flights. Only 117,500+ did Delta recently change their awards to not include HI?

    Thanks,

  33. Hello all,
    Korean has slightly updated their site, but still pretty simple. Make sure you click “Sky Team Awards” after you initially click book a flight. Then all the Delta searches come up. Prior to doing this I wasn’t finding any results, but finding plenty on Delta at the 22K Level.

  34. Hi,
    Wondering if there is any update to this article. Long time reader here.
    I’m seeing Delta upped the hell out of the cost of miles to get to Hawaii from ORD. I have significant Chase UR points and looking to book for this summer. Let me know if I can find some new info.
    Thanks.

  35. I’ve been trying for months to use this method on Korean Website and tried calling numerous times. This is outdated and does not work, I see no Delta miles from ATL to Hawaii for the points listed in this thread. Good luck and please post if anyone has luck.

  36. Hi, I am curious if the minimum tier points for delta have gone up in 2018. I am only seeing roundtrip flights from 60,000 and one way fro 30,000. I’ve done flexible date search and still nothing! Anyway just curious if there is a way to see if you are seeing the lowest points possible or not. I don’t want to contact korean unless I know that these are points in the lowest possible tier. Anyway just curious if you know. Thanks!

  37. So just to confirm, for your LAX to OGG search example, anything in blue (27,500) CAN’T be booked using Korean Air miles?

  38. The lowest fares I’m seeing from ATL (a Delta hub) to almost any HI airport through all of February and March is 30,000 PTs. If I have over 60,000 points from Chase Sapphire do you think it will still work with Korean Air?

    Do you know if you can combine points? I also have about 5,000 in Delta and some in SPG?

    Thank you!

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