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Strategies for Hawaii residents: Delta Airlines

on December 5, 2014

First, some time-sensitive news:

Delta Air Lines is beginning their seasonal nonstop HNL-JFK service on Dec. 18th, and it will run daily through Jan 11th, excluding Dec 24 and Dec 25.  The HNL-JFK flight leaves at 5:15pm and arrives at JFK the next morning at 8:00am.  It’s total of 9hrs and 45min.  The flight back from JFK departs at 8:45am and lands in HNL at 3:43pm.  This flight goes on FOREVER at 11hrs and 58min.  Apparently the difference in flight time has to do with tail/head winds.  I prefer not to know too many details about actual flight operations, as I will torture myself with scenarios of 1 million things going wrong during the flight.  I like this basic explanation:

flight magic

OK, onto the rest of the Delta details.  Delta flies the following nonstops on Delta metal from Hawaii to the mainland:

  • from HNL: Los Angeles, CA (LAX), San Francisco, CA (SFO), Seattle, WA (SEA), Salt Lake City, UT (SLC), and Atlanta, GA (ATL).  New York, NY (JFK) is a seasonal nonstop running through Jan 11, 2015.
  • from OGG: Los Angeles, CA (LAX), Seattle, WA (SEA).
  • from KOA: Los Angeles, CA (LAX), Seattle, WA (SEA) SEA-KOA will be once daily beginning December 19, 2015.
  • from LIH: Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

Delts is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, which has plenty of other big names: KoreanAir, Air France, Alitalia, KLM, AeroMexico, China Airlines, and several more.  In addition, you can use Delta SkyMiles to book on the alliance-less Alaska Airlines.  Let’s take a look at what award booking will cost…they have a whole page dedicated to Travel from Hawaii:

From Hawaii Economy Class
Miles shown are each way based on round-trip purchase.
Level 1 (Formerly Saver)  Level 2 Level 3 (Formerly Standard) Level 4 Level 5 (Formerly Peak) 
To Continental US, Alaska, Canada  22,500 27,500 32,500 37,500 45,000
Within Hawaii 7,500
To Caribbean 25,000 30,000 37,500 42,500 50,000
To Mexico 25,000 30,000 37,500 42,500 50,000
To Central America 25,000 30,000 37,500 42,500 50,000
To Northern South America 30,000 37,500 47,500 55,000 65,000
To Southern South America 40,000 50,000 62,500 75,000 85,000
To Europe 40,000 50,000 62,500 75,000 85,000

Note: Northern South America includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.  Southern South America includes Argentina,  Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Delta’s frequent flyer program is called SkyMiles.  Since Delta doesn’t routinely fly any routes to the NYC area, I pretty much ignore it.  I think I have about 5k miles in their program from some pre-merger Northwest flights, and haven’t flown Delta since 2004.  Additionally, I knew that you couldn’t book one-way flights with SkyMiles, and even round-trip flights are really tough to get with miles due to availability issues, and that makes me stabby.  I like flexibility in my miles programs, since it’s so hard to accumulate enough for 4 round-trips in just one program.

But, some things are about to change re: Delta.  First, the # of miles you earn will not be based on the distance of the flight, but on the price of the ticket you purchased.*  They also have a new award chart beginning Jan 1, 2015, and one of the changes is the ability to book one-ways with miles, or book flights with a combination of Miles + Cash.  They also claim that the award availability will improve, but of course, that remains to be seen.  For what’s worth, every single flight search I attempted results in a Level 5 mileage amount– and these were flights during off peak times.  45k SkyMiles one-way HNL-Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) on 1/28? 45k SkyMiles one-way HNL-SLC on 2/3?  65k Skymiles one-way HNL-SAN on 4/15?  They’re nuts- that last one is on Wednesday and includes a useless layover at LAX!  You can literally take a non-stop flight HNL-SAN flight on Alaska Airlines on the same exact day for less than half the miles.

You can even stop and eat dinner in Seattle if you choose one of the layover options.

You can even stop and eat dinner in Seattle if you choose one of the layover options.

I’ll hold my full judgment until 2015, but so far, so NO GOOD on Delta’s Level 1 award availability.

*Just a small portion of the fine print on the new revenue-based mileage program: For Delta-marketed (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code) or Delta-ticketed (featuring a ticket number beginning with “006”) flights, SkyMiles members will earn miles based on ticket price, at the rate of 5 miles per U.S. Dollar (USD) spent. Ticket price eligible for mileage accrual includes base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges, but excludes government-imposed taxes and fees. Members with earned Medallion status will earn an additional Medallion mileage bonus per USD spent based on their status at the time of travel. Silver Medallion members will earn 2 additional miles per USD (for a total of 7 miles per USD). Gold Medallion members will earn 3 additional miles per USD (for a total of 8 miles per USD). Platinum Medallion members will earn 4 additional miles per USD (for a total of 9 miles per USD). Diamond Medallion members will earn 6 additional miles per USD (for a total of 11 miles per USD).

Since I have very few SkyMiles, my next experience with Delta will probably be on the cash booking side.  If you are closer to a flight award with them, here are some ways to boost your miles balance.

  1. get one of the several American Express co-branded credit cards.
  2. use their shopping portal
  3. use their dining program
  4. use some of these partners…do you need Ohio Natural Gas service? Lucky you, you get to earn SkyMiles, too.
  5. in general, most hotel rewards program will let you earn miles as well as hotel points, depending on how you set your earning preferences.  Delta has this Crossover Rewards program with SPG.

I couldn’t find any other discounts for Delta that were useful for kama’aina.  Does anyone know of any?  Who flies on Delta a lot from Hawaii?  I’d love to hear from someone with recent experience.  I have heard no good stories!  I’d call this post kind of a downer.







One response to “Strategies for Hawaii residents: Delta Airlines

  1. […] went ahead and added the flight to my Delta information page.  Happy […]


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