Hawaiian Airlines offers one of the best products between the mainland and Hawaii. Although I do like Alaska Airlines, partly due to the easy upgrade process, I have to give Hawaiian credit for using widebody aircraft and serving free meals in coach. Unfortunately it’s difficult to redeem miles on Hawaiian Airlines since most mainland loyalty programs only allow redemptions on inter-island flights.
There are three main opportunities to travel on Hawaiian Airlines without actually paying for it:
- You can get one of their credit cards (although the current bonus of 50,000 miles still isn’t enough for most round-trip awards).
- You can redeem Korean Air SKYPASS miles transferred from Ultimate Rewards (although you can only book travel for registered family members).
- You can transfer miles from Starwood Preferred Guest or Amex Membership Rewards to the HawaiianMiles program.
This last option is more attractive now that American Express is running a promotion with 25% bonus miles through June 21. That means for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points you can receive 1,250 HawaiianMiles. The normal rate is just 1-to-1. (HT to The Points Guy.)
By contrast, you can always transfer Starpoints to HawaiianMiles and get 1,200 miles in return for 1,000 points, but you’ll need to transfer a block of 20,000 Starpoints at once to get that higher rate. It’s also likely that you have better ideas for using your Starpoints; frankly I think they’re more valuable than Membership Rewards points, so the Amex transfer bonus is definitely a better deal.
Hawaiian Airlines serves several West Coast destinations from Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the island of Hawaii. It also has one flight between New York (JFK) from Honolulu. (See yellow and dashed white lines on the map below.)
One-way award tickets between islands start a 7,500 HawaiianMiles, although I already said you can just as easily book these awards using United MileagePlus (6,000 miles), Delta SkyMiles (7,500 miles), and American AAdvantage (7,500 miles).
Really, I only recommend transferring Membership Rewards points if you want to book a flight from the mainland. These can be as low as 20,000 miles each way for a Super Saver award, but you will find much better availability at the Saver level for 30,000 miles. First class awards start at 40,000 miles each way. For a round-trip ticket in first class, that would mean transferring 64,000 Membership Rewards points per person.
Keep in mind that Amex charges a “excise tax offset fee” of 0.06 cents per point ($0.0006) with a maximum of $99 per transfer. But even on a transfer of 64,000 points this would be only $38.40.