Who Has the Most First Class Award Space to Honolulu?

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Update 5/15/17: I originally left out Virgin America award space from this post because we’d heard reports that First Class Virgin America award space showing up on alaskair.com was phantom. I tested to see if the award space was still phantom, and it’s not, so I have updated this post to include info on Virgin America award space to Honolulu. The rest of the airlines’ award space hasn’t been updated but their patterns remain the same. 

Finding First Class award space to Hawaii is complicated. Considering that awards to Hawaii are one of the most popular requests through our Award Booking Service or goal destinations mentioned in our Free Credit Card Consultations I though it would be useful to our readers to see the current state of premium cabin award space to Hawaii on the four main airlines that serve our island state from the mainland: American Airlines, United, Delta, and Alaska.

After highlighting award space, I will go through the cheapest miles options.

  • Who Has the Most First Class Award Space to Honolulu? (this post)
  • Who Has the Most First Class Award Space to Maui?
  • Who Has the Most First Class Award Space to Kona? (future post)
  • Maximizing Rewards on flights within the Hawaiian Islands (future post)
The Waimea Canyon on Kauai, photo by Eugenia Villar
The Waimea Canyon on Kauai, photo by Eugenia Villar

I looked at award space for every route that American Airlines, United, Delta, Alaska, and Virgin America fly to Honolulu, in both directions through the end of each calendar. Below is what I found.

American Airlines

From the mainland United States, American Airlines flies to Honolulu from three cities:

  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix

Except that doesn’t matter because there is not A SINGLE First Class SAAver level award seat available on any of those routes in either direction, through the end of the calendar. Wow.

United

From the mainland United States, United flies to Honolulu from seven cities:

  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Newark
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C. (Dulles)

Out of those routes, I found the following Saver level First Class award space available:

Los Angeles > Honolulu

Los Angeles has the most options (which isn’t saying a whole lot) and they’re all within a month of departure. That calendar is not completely accurate though–only April 15, 16, 17, 29, and May 4 actually have direct, Saver level, First Class award space.

The above calendar is for one traveler but some of the days have space for two.

Honolulu > Los Angeles

In the return direction, I saw just one First class seat available and it was within a week of departure.

San Francisco > Honolulu

April 18 has six Saver level First Class award seats open on the same flight. That’s it.

Honolulu > San Francisco

On the return, only today has a Saver level First Class seat open.

Delta

From the mainland United States, Delta flies to Honolulu from four cities year round, and three cities seasonally:

  • Atlanta
  • Los Angeles
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle
  • New York City (seasonally)
  • Portland (seasonally)
  • San Francisco (seasonally)

Out of those routes, I found the following Saver level First Class award space available:

Los Angeles > Honolulu

I saw three days with at least one Saver level First Class seat (40k), and they were on May 23, July 4 and August 29.

Honolulu > Los Angeles

May 8, June 6, July 11, August 1, 8, 22, 29, December 24, and March 5 (2018) all have at least one First Class award seat open.

Seattle > Honolulu

May 8, 23, 26, 28, 30, June 2, August 12, August 29, September 4, and March 6 (2018) all have at least one First Class Saver level award seat available.

Honolulu > Seattle

May 7, 9, 16, July 7, 31, November 13, and March 6 (2018) all have at least one First Class Saver level award seat open.

Portland > Honolulu

I saw one day open in First Class at the Saver level on this route: August 25. I didn’t see any seats in the opposite direction.

Alaska Airlines

From the mainland United States, Delta flies to Honolulu from five cities:

  • Oakland
  • Portland
  • San Diego
  • San Jose
  • Seattle

Since you can’t isolate one carrier with alaskaair.com’s search tool, I used aa.com’s award calendars to show you what’s available solely flying Alaska in case you want to redeem AAdvantage miles. Alaskair.com’s award search results include Virgin America flights, which you can’t book with American Airlines miles. I’ll get to Virgin America in a minute. American’s website doesn’t show Virgin America award space and it is possible to isolate non-stop award space.

Out of the routes Alaska flies to Honolulu, I found not one Saver level First Class award space available 🙁

Virgin America

From the mainland United States, Virgin America flies to Maui from two cities:

  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles

I originally left out Virgin America award space because we’d heard reports that First Class Virgin America award space showing up on alaskair.com was phantom. A significant amount of time has passed since we heard claims of phantom space, however, so I decided to test if the space appearing on alaskaair.com is actually bookable. I called Alaska MileagePlan and asked about the availability of all of the following flights, for one traveler in First Class…

…and all of that award space is real–actually bookable with 40k Alaska miles. I think that’s enough proof to say that the Virgin America First Class award space on alaskaair.com isn’t phantom.

So then, what about Virgin America First Class award space to Honolulu? There’s a ton of it and its supply is way steadier than any other carrier’s (pretty much monthly). It should prove very useful for those living on or near the west coast**.

You can’t isolate direct, First Class Saver level space on alaskaair.com’s award space calendar, but it is apparent that First Class space is wide open flying Virgin America First Class direct to Honolulu from what I clicked on day-by-day. For example…

  • In July of this summer, July 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, and 31 have at least one direct First Class award seat open for the 40k (Saver level) price between Los Angeles and Honolulu.
    • In the return direction (Honolulu to Los Angeles), I checked mid July through mid August, and July 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, August 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 15 have at least one direct First Class award seat open for the 40k (Saver level) price
  • Fast forward to next year and in March of 2018, March 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, and14 each have at least one direct First Class award seat open for the 40k (Saver level) price between Los Angeles and Honolulu.
    • In the return direction (Honolulu to Los Angeles) I checked all of March, and March 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, and 14  have at least one direct First Class award seat open for the 40k (Saver level) price

**Note that when redeeming Alaska miles on Virgin America flights, you can add a connection on Alaska (as long as it’s Saver level) to get you to your hometown without affecting the award price, but you can’t add an American Airlines SAAVer level segment thanks to Alaska’s rule: Only one partner + Alaska is allowed per direction on an Alaska award. Technically, Virgin America isn’t a partner since Alaska owns them now, but for the sake of this award rule they are still considered a partner.

The Cheapest Ways to Get There

Utilizing United Award Space

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 United miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 70,000 Singapore miles. Instead of paying 160,000 United miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 120,000 Singapore miles–even occasionally for flat beds!

Find complete info on the process in Guide to Booking United Flights to Hawaii with Singapore Miles.

Photo by Colin Capelle
Coast of Oahu, photo by Colin Capelle

Utilizing Delta Award Space

  • 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
  • Flying Blue charges 30,000 miles roundtrip in economy
  • Korean charges 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class or Delta One between the mainland and Hawaii (but you must book roundtrips for that price, no one ways)

That’s also 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! The biggest catch is that you have to book a roundtrip. A one-way will cost the same as a roundtrip.

Here’s our guide to booking Delta flights to Hawaii with Korean miles.

How to Earn Singapore and Korean Miles

Singapore miles are some of the easiest miles to earn because they can be transferred 1:1 from all the major transferrable point types: Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG Starpoints. Korean miles transfer 1:1 from Ultimate Rewards and SPG Starpoints.

The top cards for earning Ultimate Rewards at the moment are the:

  • Ink Business Preferred
  • Sapphire Reserve
  • Sapphire Preferred

But all of these cards are issued by Chase. If you’re locked out by the dreaded 5/24 rule, the Citi Prestige that earns ThankYou Points or the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express that earns Membership Rewards may be better options for you if you’re aiming to collect Singapore miles. If you’re over 5/24 and want Korean miles, opt for one the SPG cards from American Express or the Marriott Premier Rewards Business card. Yes, the Marriott card is issued by Chase, but the 5/24 rule is known not to apply to it, and thanks to the merger of SPG and Marriott you can transfer 3 Marriott Points to 1 SPG point. 83,000 Marriott points (how many you’ll have after meeting the minimum spending requirement) converts to over 27,000 SPG points.

To learn more specifics about these cards, check out Top 10 Travel Credit Cards list, updated twice a month.

How to Earn Alaska Miles

Bank of America issues two credit cards co-branded with Alaska Airlines, the:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card

Both come with 30k bonuses of Alaska miles. For years, people have been churning these two cards as an easy way of garnering lots of Alaska miles. The best practice for churning Alaska cards has changed recently. I recommend reading Are the Alaska Cards Still Churnable? for specifics.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

Maybe the Amex Business Platinum is Better for Premium Cabin Tickets to Hawaii

Unless you live on the west coast and take advantage of Virgin America award space, if you want more flexibility with booking, perhaps it’s wise to consider the American Express Business Platinum which gives you a 50% rebate on all Business and First Class tickets when you pay for travel (revenue tickets) through Pay with Points. Then you aren’t limited to having to find award space.

For example, earlier this week I wrote about a cheap roundtrip First Class fare between Atlanta and Honolulu on American Airlines. American Airlines was offering roundtrip First Class flights between Atlanta and Hawaii for $1,152.

To Pay with Points, you have to have enough Membership Rewards to cover a booking at 1 cent per point and book through American Express Travel inside your Amex account. Then you’ll quickly be rebated half the points back, which means you’re actually getting 2 cents of value per point. The roundtrip First Class American Airlines fare to Hawaii would cost 115,200 Membership Rewards upfront, but only 57,600 total once you factor in the rebate. You’ll also earn redeemable miles/elite credits, which you wouldn’t otherwise redeeming airline miles. It’s important to note that the 50% rebate benefit is changing to a 35% rebate for those that apply after May 31. If you apply by May 31, you’ll get the 50% rebate for one year before it changes to 35%.

If you can find cheap roundtrip premium cabin fares, then Paying with Points as a Amex Business Platinum cardholder is probably the better play.

Bottom Line

Virgin America has (by far) the most Saver level premium cabin award space between the mainland United States and Honolulu–but is really only useful if you live on or near the west coast since you can only pair an Alaska Saver level flight with the Virgin America award space. Delta’s next. United comes in a meager third. Alaska and American have NONE. Overall, premium cabin award space to Hawaii is abysmal, and I don’t mean abysmal in the boundless sense.

While Delta has more, United is more predictable, but only useful if you can book last minute since First Class space becomes available right before departure. The Delta space was a little more prevelant but randomly scattered throughout the calendar.

You’re probably better off using Google Flights Price Tracker and waiting to buy the cheapest premium cabin ticket that comes along. If you have enough Membership Rewards and an Amex Business Platinum, then Pay with Points and you’ll get a 50% rebate.


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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15 COMMENTS

  1. My wife and bagged first class seats on Hawaiian SAN – HNL and OGG – SJC for June. Had to book 7 months in advance and availability was off and on.

  2. I`m seeing some space available into Kona but much less overall Flights…..Would be great to see other options available Aloha

  3. I have followed awards availability for 3-4 months and gave up. There were no lie flat seats available for our travel time at all.
    Using Google flights I was able to find lie flat flight on AA (ATL-DFW-HNL) and back for &1572 (a big price drop from $2-$4k). Delta (the best option) never went for less than $2600.
    My fear now is that AA will change the plane from DFW to an old configuration.
    I used TYP with Prestige card and it worked out about 90k+ per ticket. Not that bad as I will try to credit miles to Alaska.
    Tough redemption if you are not extremely flexible though.

  4. For the record, Alaska is not partnered with Virgin America. Alaska bought it. That’s why you’re seeing an influx of Virgin flights.

    By 2019, Virgin America will be dust.

  5. Have been using AAdvantage award space to travel to Hawaii on AA from the East Coast for over 20 years. The recent gutting of the AAdvantage program has prompted us to now use up our award miles, and to alternatively pay for the best-priced business class seats on any airline for future trips. It’s a misnomer to consider any of these seats the equivalent of international first class seating.

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