Two Different Routes to Hawaii
We decided to take two days to look at award possibilities to Hawaii given the high level of interest from readers in the 50th state. Today, we’re following up with our second part in the series, where we’ll break down the possibilities of several programs for another reader.
PointsAway reader Cynthia wants to travel to Hawaii from Charlotte, NC with her son around the end of May 2014 until early June. Hawaii is near the top of her bucket list of places to visit and, having never been, she figures it’s high time to cross it off the list!
Current Program Status
Cynthia currently has about 53,000 Delta SkyMiles, 43,000 Travel Miles on the Barclaycard Arrival, 54,000 Ultimate Rewards points from Chase Ink and is working towards her sign-up bonus on a Starwood Preferred Group American Express presently.
This is an interesting case due to Cynthia’s location. Living in Charlotte, you’d think she’d be able to take advantage of US Airways, which has a hub in Charlotte. However, she doesn’t have any US Airways miles saved up, and US Air is not a transfer partner with Ultimate Rewards.
US Air’s alliance affiliation is also an area of curiosity at the moment. As part of its anticipated merger with American Airlines, US Air also began the process of switching from Star Alliance, where it has been partnered with United along with many airlines across the globe, to OneWorld, which includes American among others. However, they remain a full member of Star Alliance until the switch occurs, so using United miles for a flight at least partially operated by US Air may be a possibility.
If this isn’t enough, let’s throw Delta into the mix, given it’s the airline with which Cynthia has the most miles saved up. In theory, Delta offers the same deal as United or US Air for redemptions to Hawaii: low-level awards begin at 20,000 miles each way. However, the greatest award chart ability is availability, and this is where Delta falls well short of the mark.
It’s almost impossible to find low-level awards to Hawaii with Delta. Indeed, every single day of the month shows as medium-level on the way and for the return flight. This means a flight advertised as requiring “as few as 40,000 miles” actually requires 65,000 miles per passenger.
Not only are Delta’s redemption options unpalatable, it’s also difficult to amass the necessary number of miles for two travelers. We’d be looking at 130,000 miles at minimum, which means we’re about 80,000 miles away. Signing up for two different Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express cards won’t even make up the difference, as Cynthia would have to pay to transfer some of her miles to her son’s SkyMiles account. Since awards must be booked as roundtrip – or at least, cost the same one-way as they do roundtrip – having Cynthia spot half the trip for her son isn’t an option, either.
In my opinion, this means Delta is out. Let’s return our attention to United and US Airways.
United It Is
Even though US Air has yet to officially depart from Star Alliance, availability through United for US Air flights is quite slim already. I was surprised to see that most of the reward options offered by United fly entirely on United metal, not even relying on USAir for transit to a United hub. Happily, a good itinerary is available, and unlike for Justin’s trip in Part One, Saver level Economy tickets are available both ways! The trip begins on June 1st, returning June 8th.
At just 40,000 miles per passenger for the whole trip, this presents an outstanding value.
As Cynthia already has 54,000 Ultimate Rewards points with her Ink card, finding the rest of the necessary miles for the trip is fairly simple. If she or her son sign up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred, or if her son opens an Ink card of his own, they can easily amass the additional miles needed, given the 40,000 and 50,000 point bonuses offered by each card, respectively.
As we’ve said before, Ultimate Rewards points can be combined between both cards held by the same person and those held by members of one’s immediately family, so we’d recommend combining points and booking both tickets together to ensure nothing goes awry.
Best Intra-Hawaiian Redemptions
We mentioned the possibility of using United Miles (and therefore Ultimate Rewards) for Intra-Island travel on Hawaiian Airlines in Part One. At 5,000 miles each way, the flights appear to be a steal. But does this hold up to other options? To check, we sampled a roundtrip from Honolulu to Maui during Cynthia’s planned travel dates.
Delta SkyMiles can be used for travel on Hawaiian airlines. Once again, their award chart indicates 5,000 miles per flight is possible. Once again, we come in at the higher redemption level of 7,500 miles when searching for a specific flight. That means each roundtrip costs 15,000 SkyMiles. Given that Cynthia has a large number of SkyMiles laying around at the moment, this may be a worthwhile redemption, even if better options exist.
It’s important to check the cash price for this flight as a reality check. Booking through Hawaiian’s website at the lowest possible cash rate, we arrive at an affordable fare of $153.20 per person roundtrip.
Ultimate Rewards partners Korean Air and United both offer this exact trip for just 10,000 miles.
If Cynthia were to pay with her Barclaycard Arrival, she could receive a travel credit for the whole cost of each flight. This would take 15,320 “miles” since each Arrival mile is worth 1¢ toward any travel expense. However, she’d receive a 10% miles rebate on the redemption the next day, so really each ticket would require 13,788 miles.
Given Cynthia’s large stockpile of SkyMiles, I might be tempted to book via Delta if traveling between islands, if only because their redemption options are comparatively even poorer on other redemptions. It’s rare indeed to find any SkyMiles redemption at 15,000 miles roundtrip, and at a little more than 1¢ per mile in redemption value, it’s not the worst of options for SkyMiles.
Even so, it should be clear that possibilities abound. Hawaiian Airlines’ stature as the transport choice between the islands means they have relationships with a very large number of carriers. That versatility can be very valuable.
Where to Stay
We discussed the beautiful Grand Hyatt Maui yesterday but didn’t touch on some fine options packed in on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. As an SPG member and cardholder, Cynthia is presented with three fine options right on the waterfront:
At just 16,000 points per night and an average cash rate of $385, the Sheraton Waikiki offers a good redemption value during Cynthia’s stay.
Royal Hawaiian Waikiki
At 25,000 points per night and an average cash rate of $450, the Royal Hawaiian is a stately property on the oceanfront and a Honolulu icon.
Moana Surfrider – A Westin Property
The Surfrider comes in at 25,000 points per night and an average cash rate of $340, but also offers a Cash+Points option requiring 10,000 points and $180 per night’s stay. Although this option doesn’t strike me as a great value, the Moana Surfrider is a beautiful property with all the touches Westin is famous for, so it’s still worth consideration.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach
We failed to mention the Hyatt Regency Waikiki in Part One, but it presents a good option for Cynthia, as well. The Hyatt Regency Waikiki is listed as a Category 5 property, and not a 6 like its brethren in Maui, making it Hyatt’s second most affordable choice in Hawaii. It’s just 18,000 points per night. Points can be transferred in from Ultimate Rewards, and the Chase Hyatt Visa‘s two free nights bonus can be applied here as it can to any Hyatt property.
Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach
The Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach offers perhaps the best redemption value in Honolulu as it is listed as only a Category 3 property. The reason for this is that the hotel is located inland about two blocks away from the beach. Still, the hotel promises the shore is just a “three minute stroll” away.
At only 12,000 points per night, this is sure to be worth consideration to most value-savvy points users. Points can be transferred in from Ultimate Rewards, and the Chase Hyatt Visa‘s two free nights bonus can be applied here as it can to any Hyatt property, though we wouldn’t recommend blowing those on this comparatively affordable property.
Although we used Justin and Cynthia’s requests separately in building this two-parter, we’d definitely recommend each of them read both halves of this series. We’ve covered a lot here, considering the award chart possibilities for a multitude of carriers and in this feature spent time looking at some of the best hotel stay redemption options, as well.
To be conservative, we’re only going to count Cynthia’s airfare to and from Honolulu in calculating our total savings, but I hope you can see how expanding on this savings tremendously is possible by leveraging points for hotel stays with Hyatt or SPG, as well!
|Trip Component||Cash Price||Points + Cash||Savings|
|United : CLT -> HNL Roundtrip, 2 Adults: 06/01/2014-06/08/2014||$485.00 per passenger on Alaska||40,000 United Miles (from Ultimate Rewards) + $10.00 taxes/fees||$960.00|
|Total:||$1,734.00||80,000 United Miles (Transferred from Ultimate Rewards)||$3,210|