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Strategies for Hawaii residents- Alaska Airlines

on July 30, 2014

Let’s face it- Hawaii is an extremely popular destination.  Most travel blogs love to highlight how people can get TO “paradise” for that dream vacation using mistake fares or miles.  Inevitably, these people live near an airline hub with plenty of competition that keeps prices low, or they are redeeming miles for only 1 or 2 people.  Guess what, everyone?  Almost 1 million people live in the Hawaiian Islands, we’re limited in airports (no driving 1-2 hours to get a better fare), and we tend to travel in family groups.  Those tips don’t work for us.

So I’ll talk about traveling FROM Hawaii, and using any benefit that is available to keep costs low.  The title of this post indicates “strategies for Hawaii residents,” but really they apply to any travel originating from the Islands.  To date, I haven’t found any permanent airline/miles discounts specifically for Kama’aina (residents), though if anyone knows any I’ve love to take advantage of them!

Note: in keeping with the focus on my blog, I’ll only discuss travel options to the US mainland, South America and Europe.  There are many worthwhile destinations outside of those regions though, especially to Asia from Hawaii.

Let’s start off by discussing Alaska Airlines.  Alaska flies 25 non-stops on Alaska Airlines metal (AS) from the Hawaiian Islands: 7 from Honolulu-Oahu (HNL), 8 from Kahului-Maui (OGG), 5 from Kona-Hawaii (KOA), and 5 from Lihue-Kauai (LIH).  Here is a list of nonstop destinations by island:

  • from HNL: Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, San Jose
  • from OGG: Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, San Diego, San Jose
  • from KOA: Anchorage, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, San Jose, San Diego (beginning 3/5/2015)
  • from LIH: Oakland, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, San Jose

Of course, after landing in any of these cities you can connect to hundreds of other destinations.  On our recent east coast trip, we flew to Seattle from Honolulu, and continued to Newark (EWR) from Seattle. Note that you may have to have an overnight layover if you are making a connection due to the time zone differences and limitations in the flight schedules.  We did an overnight layover in SEA on the way to EWR, but had both flights in one day on the way back to HNL.

Alaska has some spiffy new planes and seats, and most of our recent flights did indeed have the USB/115v power ports at each seat.  Their onboard food is OK, though I prefer to bring my own snacks from home, or get a Caesar sandwich from Great American Bagel Bakery at SEA to eat on the plane, yum.

Alaska’s frequent flyer program is called Mileage Plan.  This airline is a bit unique in that it is not part of any alliances such as oneworld or Star Alliance.  You can, however, redeem Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles in other programs, including American Airlines, AeroMexico, Air France, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Fiji Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, Pen Air, Qantas, and Ravn Alaska.  You can also book on Cathay Pacific and LAN, though those awards are not bookable online- you have to call in.  So there are many options to redeem if you have Alaska miles!  Obviously, many more nonstops from the islands open up when taking these partner airlines into account- too many to list.  It can get overwhelming.

First, let’s figure out how many miles you need to get from Hawaii to the mainland and back, on AS metal:

Award Type One Way Round Trip
Money and Miles – 50% Discount up to $100 10,000 10,000
Money and Miles – 50% Discount up to $200 20,000 20,000
Coach 20,000 / 30,000 40,000 / 60,000
Refundable Coach 40,000 80,000
First 40,000 80,000
Refundable First 80,000 160,000

And here’s how many you need for American Airlines, which allows one-way award redemptions: UPDATE: for clarity, even though the chart below only states, “North America to Hawaii,” the mileage required is the same from Hawaii to North America as well.

Class of Service Region One-Way
Award Level
Round-Trip
Award Level
Coach North America to Hawaii 22,500 45,000
Business/First North America to Hawaii 47,500 95,000

And finally, here’s how many you need for Delta Air Lines, which DOES allow one-way award redemptions, but charges the same # of miles as though they were round-trip redemptions when all the flights are on Delta: UPDATE: if one of the flights in your itinerary is on AS metal, the mileage required could be lower.

Class of Service Region One-Way/Round-Trip
Award Level
Coach Lower 48 U.S., Alaska, or Canada to Hawaii
for tickets issued through May 5, 2014
40,000
Coach Lower 48 U.S., Alaska, or Canada to Hawaii
for tickets issued on or after May 6, 2014
45,000
First/Business Lower 48 U.S., Alaska, or Canada to Hawaii 80,000

So, you’re seeing what I’m seeing, right? For a family of four to get to the mainland, you need at least 80,000 miles if you are using the Money and Miles option, or 160,000 if just using miles!  It seems completely out of range for most folks.  Unless you travel for work and are able to keep the oodles of miles you earn (not me), you need another strategy.

A while back, I stumbled across information about the Companion Fare benefit for Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cardholders.  It’s an annual benefit in the form of a discount code.  Cardholders receive a code in their Mileage Plan accounts entitling them to pay just $99 plus applicable taxes for another passenger on the same reservation.  Caveats: Trips must be round-trip, in coach/economy, all on AS metal, cannot be combined with any other discount codes (including Customer Service credits) and the Companion must have the same itinerary as the cardholder.  So, my husband and I both applied and were approved for the cards.  Here’s how it worked for us as cardholders, using the children as our Companions:

  1. We researched and made a note of the itinerary we wanted, including flight #s and times.  Let’s say the base fare for 1 adult was $1000, plus $100 in taxes, for a total of $1100.
  2. I went online and purchased tickets for just me and my daughter, and applied the discount code.  I would pay the $1000 for my base fare, the $100 in taxes for my ticket, $99 for my daughter’s base fare, and $100 for my daughter’s taxes.  Total: $1299.
  3. My husband went online and purchased tickets for himself and my son (same flight #s and times), again applying the discount code. Total for them: the same $1299.
  4. Once we had our tickets confirmed, I linked our reservations together so we would be bumped/moved or whatever as a group in case of delays or cancellations.
  5. Our total airfare cost in the example above would be $2598 instead of $4400, a savings of $1802 🙂  The cards have an annual fee of $75, so taking those into account, we saved $1652.  This more than makes up for the annual fee!
  6. Here’s my favorite part: these are considered regular tickets for the purposes of mileage-earning.  They are not “awards,” so they earned us about 10k miles each, getting us that much closer to our next flights.  I credited the flights to American Airlines, since we’ll be using AAdvantage miles to fly back from Ecuador later this year.

Note: I do not receive any type of compensation from talking about airlines or credit cards. Do not get credit cards for any kind of benefit unless you are committed to paying off the balance in full every month- paying interest cancels out any kind of rewards you get.  I love this thread on FlyerTalk outlining the best offers for many airline and travel-related cards.

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3 responses to “Strategies for Hawaii residents- Alaska Airlines

  1. […] from butt-in-seat travel to the mainland, adding at least 10K to our American balances using the Companion Fare on Alaska Airlines.  My husband had a research trip to Spain that would earn him almost 20K United […]

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  2. […] friends in general, and a great deal on the tickets if you move quickly!  I’m updating the Travel Strategies- Alaska Airlines post to reflect the new route […]

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  3. […] a super value despite the annual fee because of the Companion Fare, now if only they would drop the checked baggage fee?  Also, I was kind of a pest about it to the CC company, and reminded them that it was a benefit […]

    Like

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