Hawaiian Airlines Reward Optimization for Beginners

Take advantage of HawaiianMiles' sweet spots, like traveling between islands or flying first class to Hawaii.

Rand ShoafAugust 21, 2020
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With service from 13 U.S. cities to Hawaii, Asia and the South Pacific, Hawaiian Airlines is a popular way to travel to paradise — and its partner airlines fly to destinations all over the world.

Hawaiian’s frequent flyer program, HawaiianMiles, lets you earn travel on Hawaiian and its partners. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of the program, regardless of what travel credit card you're using.

Redeeming miles on Hawaiian Airlines flights

The number of miles required to book an award flight on Hawaiian Airlines varies by demand, with popular travel dates costing more miles than during off-peak times.

To book an award flight using miles, sign in to your HawaiianMiles account. You have to be signed in to run an award flight search.

Enter the departure city, destination and prospective travel dates. Submit the search and the results page will show price options paying in dollars, miles or a combination of both.

You’ll see different prices for the main cabin and first class. Even if your travel dates aren’t flexible but especially if they are, try searching for a few different dates. This will give you a sense of whether you’re getting a good deal.

To learn about other ways to use Hawaiian Airlines miles, read this guide.

Redeeming miles on partner airlines

HawaiianMiles can also be redeemed for flights on any of Hawaiian’s five partner airlines:

  1. Virgin Australia.

  2. Virgin Atlantic.

  3. Korean Air.

  4. JetBlue.

  5. Japan Airlines.

The number of miles required for a partner flight varies by airline and destination. Hawaiian’s website has a handy page where you can view redemption rates for all partners in one place.

To book an award flight on a partner airline, call the HawaiianMiles service center at 1-877-HA-MILES. A representative will help you search and book award flights on partner airlines.

Partner awards may only be booked as round trips, and each partner airline may have specific routing rules and cabin availability.

Know how much your miles are worth

To see if you're getting a good value for your HawaiianMiles, measure the redemption rate shown in your flight search against NerdWallet’s current valuation of HawaiianMiles, which estimates they’re worth on average 1.1 cents per mile. Divide the cash price of the flight you’re looking at by the number of miles you’d pay for the same trip to see if your award redemption is competitive with that 1.1 cents average. For example, a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu in Hawaiian’s Main Cabin that costs $500 in cash or 35,000 HawaiianMiles gets you a value of about 1.4 cents per mile — a much better deal than the average 1.1 cents per mile.

HawaiianMiles redemption sweet spots

Every airline’s frequent flyer program has sweet spots when it comes to redeeming miles. Here are a few ways to get maximum value from HawaiianMiles.

Fly between the Hawaiian Islands

Booking flights between the different Hawaiian Islands is a great way to use Hawaiian miles (and a great way to explore the different islands once you're in Hawaii).

The cost is 7,500 to 20,000 miles for a one-way economy flight. To fly first class, the cost is 15,000 to 30,000 miles for a one-way flight.

Fly to Hawaii in first class

Another excellent way to use your Hawaiian miles is to fly first class from the continental U.S. to Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines has different redemption rates based on whether you're flying from the western U.S. or the East Coast. A one-way first class award from San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix or any of seven other western cities starts at 40,000 miles and goes up to 80,000 miles. Note that at the priciest travel times, a main cabin flight could actually cost more than a first class flight — 90,000 vs. 80,000 HawaiianMiles.

From New York-JFK or Boston Logan, the only two East Coast cities Hawaiian serves, you can expect to pay from 40,000 to 130,000 miles for a nonstop one-way flight in first class.

Fly to the South Pacific

Using HawaiianMiles is an excellent way to enjoy the tropical beaches of Samoa or Tahiti. You can fly on Hawaiian Airlines to Pago Pago or Papeete starting at 27,500 miles in the main cabin or 47,500 miles in business class.

The bottom line

If you’re near one of the cities Hawaiian Airlines serves, its frequent flyer program, HawaiianMiles, is a good way to earn flights to the islands and beyond. To make the most of your miles, get to know Hawaiian’s routes and its partners, and do a little extra searching for award flights. Then, you’ll know if you’re getting a less-than-optimal redemption rate or if you hit one of the airline’s sweet spots for award redemptions.

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