Who Has the Most First Class Award Space to Kona?

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There seemed to be enough interest in my original post on premium cabin award space to Honolulu that I followed up with the next most popular destination in Hawaii: Maui, and will now cover premium cabin award space to Kona (KOA), the third busiest airport in Hawaii on the big island. The final post in this series will focus on maximizing rewards hopping between the islands.

After highlighting award space, I will go through what miles to use to get there.

I looked at award space for every route that American Airlines, United, Delta,  Alaska, and Virgin America fly to Kona, 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 Kona from three cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix
  • Dallas (seasonally)

Los Angeles > Kona

Today has one First Class SAAVer level seat open, tomorrow has three, and August 25 has two.

Kona > Los Angeles

December 20 and 21 both have one First Class SAAVer level seat open.

Phoenix > Kona

While there are none open in 2017, there are (relatively) quite a few First Class SAAver level seats available in 2018 to Kona from Phoenix. Beginning January 14, there’s at least one available nearly every Sunday through April 1, as well as a few other days scattered throughout that period.

April has nine days with one First Class seat each.

Kona > Phoenix 

There is one First Class SAAver level seat open on August 1. December 14 starts a trend of at least one seat open every Sunday, lasting through April 1.

And in April you have the most options with at least one seat open on 12 different days.

Dallas > Kona

Between Dallas and Kona nothing opens until mid February, but from February 19 and on there’s at least one First Class SAAVer level seat open on a variety of days spanning through the end of April.

Kona > Dallas

There’s a string of First Class SAAver level seat available on the return to Dallas from Kona, again spanning from mid February through the end of April.

United

From the mainland United States, United flies to Kona from three cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Denver

The United award space calendar sucks at accurately displaying award space–it shows false positives of non-stop flights–so I checked by hand the days that said there were premium cabin award space. Calendars are for one traveler but some of those days have space for more than one.

Los Angeles > Kona

The general trend with United First Class award space to Hawaii is that it becomes available roughly within a month of departure. June 8 has at least one First Class Saver level seat open on two flights). June 11, 12, 13, and July 5, 6, and 10 each have at least one seat available on one flight. Nothing is open later than July.

Kona > Los Angeles

At least one First Class Saver level seat is available on one flight for the following dates: June 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 27, and July 3, 5, 17, 18, and 19.

On June 11, at least one First Class Saver level seat is open on two flights.

Nothing is open later than July.

San Francisco > Kona

Only June 13 and 20 have any Saver level First Class availability. Each day has at least one seat open.

Kona > San Francisco

The return direction is a different story with lots of days available.

Today has two Saver level First Class seat open on two flights. June 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 21, 28, and July 6, 10, 12, and 19 have at least one seat open on one flight. Nothing is open later than July.

Denver > Kona nor Kona > Denver has any non-stop First Class Saver level seats available.

Delta

From the mainland United States, Delta flies to Kona from two cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle

Los Angeles > Kona

The calendar below is for one traveler.

Apart from what’s shown above, July 17 of this year and April 21 (2018) each have one First Class seat available at the cheapest price.

Aside from that, I didn’t see any other Saver level First Class seats on the rest of the routes.

Alaska Airlines

From the mainland United States, Alaska Airlines flies to Kona year-round from four cities…

  • Oakland
  • San Diego
  • San Jose
  • Seattle

…and three cities seasonally.

  • Anchorage
  • Portland
  • Bellingham, Washington (seasonally)

Since you can’t isolate one carrier with alaskaair.com’s search tool, I used aa.com’s award calendars to check 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.

Checking aa.com, I didn’t find any direct award space on Alaska on any of those routes in either direction. That being said, I found some discrepancies between aa.com and alaskair.com. There are some instances where aa.com isn’t displaying Saver level space flying Alaska that is available on alaskaair.com. For example, I found some First Class Saver level seats flying Alaska non-stop from Seattle to Kona on June 14, July 21, August 7, 9, 18, and 28 that show up at the 40k price (Saver level) on alaskaair.com but not at all on aa.com.

I assume those probably aren’t the only dates available, you’ll just need to check by hand on alaskair.com.

As long it’s Saver Level award space, you could add a segment flying American Airlines or Virgin America to Seattle without changing the price of the award.

Virgin America

From the mainland United States, Virgin America flies to Kona from San Francisco beginning December 14, 2017.

There’s a ton of Virgin America First Class Saver level award space available between San Francisco and Kona and its supply is way steadier than any other carrier’s. It should prove very useful for those living on or near the west coast**.

It’s harder to show Virgin America award space to Hawaii as you can’t isolate direct flights nor one carrier on alaskaair.com’s award space calendar, but it is apparent that there are lots of options flying Virgin America First Class direct to Kona from what I clicked on day-by-day.

  • For example, every day between January 3 and 31 have at least one direct First Class award seat open for the 40k (Saver level) price between San Francisco and Kona.

**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 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 Miles to Get There

Out of all the carriers investigated in this post, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Virgin America have the most premium cabin award space available at the Saver level. When award space is available at the Saver level price, that means other partners can book it.

Utilizing American Airlines, Alaska, and Virgin America Award Space

  • It costs 40k Alaska miles to fly Alaska, Virgin America, or a mix of the two to Hawaii in domestic First Class
  • It costs 40k American Airlines miles to fly Alaska to Hawaii (can’t use AAdvantage miles on Virgin America flights) in domestic First Class
  • It costs 40k American Airlines miles to fly American Airlines to Hawaii in domestic First Class
    • It costs 37,500 British Airways Avios to utilize the same American Airlines award space between Kona and Phoenix or Los Angeles
In Waikoloa
In Waikoloa, photo by Nan Palermo

How to Earn American Airlines Miles

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard is now offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard is also offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months. Sign up for both at the same time (yes, you can do that) and meet the collective $6k spending requirement in three months, and you’ll have at least 126,000 American Airlines miles.

On top of those offers, the Barlcaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles for opening and putting just one purchase on the card (you also must pay the $95 annual fee).

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.

How to Earn British Airways Avios

British Airways Avios is a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG points and Ultimate Rewards. There are tons of cards that earn SPG points and Ultimate Rewards. Read our Top 10 Travel Credit Card List to learn more.

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.

Bottom Line

American Airlines, Alaska, and Virgin America have the most Saver level premium cabin award space between the mainland United States and Kona at the moment. United has a few seats available within a month-ish of departure.

In general, the theme of crappy premium cabin award space to Hawaii continues with flights to Kona, although your chances are better getting to Kona in First Class–by far–than to Maui or Honolulu.

If you can’t utilize American/Alaska/Virgin America award space, 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 an Amex Business Platinum card (and only if you signed up by May 31). Those Amex Business Platinum cardholders can redeem Membership Rewards by Pay with Points at a value of 2 cents per point (after the 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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Sarah Page Maxwell became a miles nerd after moving her base to Buenos Aires and beginning a transient lifestyle that would be otherwise too expensive without miles and points. In addition to travel, her other passions include hot sauce, yoga, and her boston terrier Omar.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Either AA stalks you or you have a lot of influence. I didn’t find one day with SAAver level either in economy ofr business from PHX to Kona for as far as the calendar allows me to go…

  2. I go twice a year and have been searching for years and never found first class saver on any airline. It probably doesn’t help though that American doesn’t fly to my home airport, and United only seasonally.

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