Who Has the Most First Class Award Space to Honolulu?

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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.

There are many direct flights from the United States to other destinations in Hawaii aside from Honolulu, but the scope of this post is premium cabin space to and from the most highly trafficked airport. That is discounting a lot of award space to many Hawaiian islands I realize, so if enough of you find this information useful perhaps I will do future posts on award space to other popular islands. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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, and Alaska 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

I used aa.com instead of alaskaair.com to look for Alaska award space because when searching award space on alaskaair.com, you can’t isolate direct award space on the calendar. You also can’t isolate one airline, which would be important to do in this case since apparently a lot of Virgin America award space showing up on alaskair.com right now is phantom (Virgin America, owned by Alaska, flies to Honolulu from San Francisco and Los Angeles). 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 🙁

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
  • 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 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.

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

While Delta and United have the most award space, neither has much. 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.

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

Delta has the most Saver level premium cabin award space between the mainland United States and Honolulu at the moment. United comes in a meager second. 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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12 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.

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