As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, I get asked a lot about how people can get to Hawaii using their American Express Membership Rewards points. Amex MRs (much like Chase URs and Citi TYPs) are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile.
American Express offers many cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including their EveryDay card (which earns 20% more MRs every month you make 20 or more purchases with the card). American Express offers several other card options that earn MRs, so I highly encourage you to head over to the American Express site and check out the options.
Your MRs will transfer to 16 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:
|Airline||Alliance||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air France/KLM||SkyTeam||1:1||Same day|
|Aeromexico||SkyTeam||1:1||Up to 7 days|
|British Airways||OneWorld||1:0.8||Same day|
|Iberia||OneWorld||1:0.8||Up to 7 days|
|Cathay Pacific||OneWorld||1:1||Up to 7 days|
|Air Canada||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|ANA||Star Alliance||1:1||2-4 days|
|Singapore Airlines||Star Alliance||1:1||Up to 3 days|
|Virgin America||N/A||1:0.5||Same day|
|Virgin Atlantic||N/A||1:1||Same day|
|Jet Blue||N/A||1:0.8||Same day|
|Hawaiian Airlines||N/A||1:1||Same day|
|El Al||N/A||50:1||Same day|
As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).
Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to Hawaii on your MRs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the West Coast is going to be lower than the cost for someone traveling from the East Coast. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Honolulu (HNL).
Unfortunately, approximately a year ago Delta decided to take down its award chart. Without a published award chart, that means that it is difficult to give a number of miles that it will take to get to Hawaii. As a general ballpark, from a Delta hub airport, you can expect to see costs of approximately 50-70k in Coach, 95-165k in Delta Comfort+ and 130-165k in First/Business.
Since Alitalia is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem MilleMiglia miles for travel on Delta flights. Alitalia will levy fuel surcharges on partner award tickets, though they are not going to be as bad as the likes of British Airways. The trick to booking Alitalia awards is to have some miles in your account so they consider it active. From there you can call and place your award ticket on hold for about two (2) weeks. You can then transfer the needed miles and then call back to get the ticket booked.
Tickets will cost you 30k miles roundtrip in coach and 60k miles roundtrip in business. Alitalia does not allow one-way award tickets, so you have to book roundtrip tickets. While you must book the most direct itinerary, you are allowed one voluntary stopover.
The US phone number for Alitalia is 800.223.5730.
Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)
Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called FlyingBlue. Since FlyingBlue is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem FlyingBlue miles for travel on Delta flights. FlyingBlue can be finicky to work with, but they offer an excellent value if you can find space at 30k miles roundtrip in coach and 60k in business.
One-way award tickets are allowed at 15k in coach and 30k in business, but no stopovers are allowed. I personally find FlyingBlue slightly easier to use for award tickets than Alitalia, so if you are not concerned with the free stopover, I would recommend going with FlyingBlue over Alitalia.
Aeromexico is another SkyTeam alliance member, which means you can again redeem Club Premier miles for travel on Delta flights. Aeromexico is somewhat unique in that they use a two-tiered award chart which has a high season price and a low season price. The “high season” is considered June 1st through August 18th, December 8th through January 16th, and the Monday before Holy Week through the Sunday following Holy Week. Holy Week in Mexico is from Palm Sunday (March 20, 2016) to Holy Saturday (March 26, 2016), which means for 2016 “high season” will be March 14, 2016, through April 2, 2016. The “low season” is considered all other times during the year.
Aeromexico charges 64k miles roundtrip in coach and 128k miles roundtrip in business during the “low season” and 71k miles roundtrip in coach and 142k miles roundtrip in business during the “high season”. One-way award tickets are allowed and cost 32k miles in coach/64k miles in business during the “low season” and 35.5k miles in coach/71k miles in business during the “high season”.
There are much better deals to be had out there for Hawaii redemptions than Aeromexico so the only way I would consider this redemption would be if you have a large stash of Club Premier miles you need to burn off.
British Airways and Iberia somewhat share an award program where both have a distance based award chart, so your home airport is really going to make the biggest difference here in how much a redemption costs. Interestingly Amex and British Airways have devalued the transfer rate slightly to 1:0.8, while keeping the transfer rate to Iberia intact at 1:1. This is interesting because if you have an Iberia account that has been open for at least 90 days, you can transfer your MRs to Iberia and then transfer those to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. As both British Airways and Iberia are members of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book American Airlines flights.
From the East Coast of the US, you can expect a cost of ~19.5-30k Avios (depending on peak or non-peak travel dates) for coach and ~102-120k Avios for first/business for a one-way redemption.
From the West Coast of the US, you can find much better redemption costs of ~10-12.5k Avios (depending on peak or non-peak travel dates) for coach and ~42.5-50k Avios for first/business for a one-way redemption.
In light of the costs, unless you are based out of the West Coast, can get to the West Coast inexpensively, or have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your MRs elsewhere for a redemption to Hawaii. If you are based on the West Coast, it’s pretty hard to beat 20-25k Avios roundtrip for a flight to Hawaii!
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program uses a distance based award chart, so this is another airline that will depend on your home airport for redemption costs. Cathay Pacific is a member of the OneWorld alliance, so you can use your Asia Miles to book American Airlines flights.
From the East Coast of the US, you can expect a cost of ~90k miles roundtrip in coach, ~145k miles roundtrip in business and ~220k miles roundtrip in first.
From the West Coast of the US, you can expect a cost of ~60k miles roundtrip in coach, ~120k miles roundtrip in business and ~180k miles roundtrip in first.
One-way award tickets are allowed at the half price of the above quoted rates. Again, unless you are based out of the West Coast, can get to the West Coast inexpensively, or have a glut of Asia Miles you want to burn, you are better off transferring your MRs elsewhere for a redemption to Hawaii.
Air Canada (Aeroplan)
Air Canada is a Star Alliance member, so you can use your Aeroplan miles for redemptions on both Air Canada and United flights to Hawaii. A roundtrip redemption to Hawaii using Aeroplan miles will cost you 45k miles in coach and 80k miles in business and 110k miles in first.
Air Canada does allow one-way award tickets at 22.5k miles in coach, 40k miles in business and 55k miles in first. While I do love Aeroplan miles, there are better redemptions to be had to Hawaii with other MR transfer partners.
ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Mileage Club miles for Air Canada and/or United flights. A roundtrip redemption will cost you ~40k miles in coach, ~68k miles in business and ~120k miles in first.
ANA does not allow for one-way award tickets (there is a way around this, though I do not think it is necessarily worthwhile unless you have Mileage Club points to burn). ANA can present a good option in the event you are not able to find space through one of the less expensive transfer partners like FlyingBlue.
Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Kris Flyer miles for Air Canada and/or United flights. A roundtrip redemption will cost you 35k miles in coach, 60k miles in business and 80k miles in first.
Singapore Airlines does allow for one-way award tickets at 17.5k miles in coach, 30k miles in business and 40k miles in first. While not the cheapest of all the options, Singapore Airlines can present a good option in the event you are not able to find space through one of the less expensive transfer partners like FlyingBlue.
Virgin America uses a distance based award chart so again your home airport is going to be determinative of the redemption cost. Virgin America does partner with Hawaiian Airlines so you can redeem your Elevate points for Hawaiian Airlines flights. Virgin America also allows for one-way award tickets, but the rates are slightly more than half of the roundtrip cost.
From the East Coast of the US, you can expect a roundtrip cost of ~35k points in coach and ~80k points in first/business. For a one-way ticket, you can expect a cost of ~20k points in coach and ~45k points in first/business.
From the West Coast of the US, you can expect a roundtrip cost of ~20k points in coach and ~50k points in first/business. For a one-way ticket, you can expect a cost of ~ 12k points in coach and ~30k points in first/business.
It is important to remember that your MRs will transfer to Virgin America at a 1:0.5 ratio, so the redemption costs will actually cost you double the amount of MRs. This makes Virgin America possibly the worst MR transfer partner for Hawaii redemptions and I would highly recommend you avoid this option unless you are just looking to top off your Elevate account.
From what I can tell, Virgin Atlantic does not publish an award chart for Hawaii redemptions. Since they are not a partner in any of the airline alliances, it does not appear that it is possible to redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for an award ticket to Hawaii.
Jet Blue is unique in that they (like Southwest) tie their award prices to the cash price for their tickets. Accordingly, the redemption cost will vary greatly depending on when you are looking to travel and when you are booking. Notably, Jet Blue has a partnership with Hawaiian Airlines whereby you can redeem your TrueBlue points for award tickets on Hawaiian Airlines flights. In order to book a Hawaiian Airlines award flight using your TrueBlue points you have to call Jet Blue at 800.538.2583.
Hawaiian Airlines has a somewhat unique award chart in that they have multiple categories of award tickets. Accordingly, the redemption cost will vary depending on when you are traveling. You can expect a roundtrip award ticket to cost you 40-80k miles in coach and 80-160k miles in first/business. Hawaiian Airlines does allow for one-way award tickets which will cost you 20-40k in coach and 40-80k in first/business.
Hawaiian Airlines is not the best redemption value of the MR transfer partners, but they do offer a good alternative to the big three alliance carriers if you are unable to find space on the less expensive transfer partners like FlyingBlue.
From what I can tell, El Al does not publish an award chart for Hawaii redemptions. Since they are not a partner in any of the airlines alliances, it does not appear that it is possible to redeem El Al Matmid miles for an award ticket to Hawaii.
From what I can tell, Emirates does not publish an award chart for Hawaii redemptions. Since they are not a partner in any of the airlines alliances, it does not appear that it is possible to redeem Emirates Skywards miles for an award ticket to Hawaii.
As you can see, the MR transfer partners offer a lot of options for finding award availability to Hawaii. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your MRs for a trip to Hawaii.
Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs and URs!
What is your favorite way to redeem MRs to get to Hawaii?
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