Your Guide to Flying Between the Hawaiian Islands
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When flying to Hawaii from the East Coast (or anywhere not the West Coast), you’ll most likely need to connect in Honolulu (HNL) – unless you’re connecting somewhere in California. After connecting onto your final destination in HNL, you may wish to visit more than one island.
Inter-island flights are short, but can be expensive and overpriced. Most routes are direct, but some require a connecting (in HNL or Maui).
Let’s take a look at some of the best uses for inter-island flights with miles and the various options available.
There are four air carriers in the State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian islands, however, only two have partnerships with airlines from the mainland that allow you to redeem your miles on their flights:
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Island Air
Here is a convenient map of the routes operated by Hawaiian Airlines (the largest carrier in the Hawaiian islands):
Here’s what Island Air’s route map looks like:
You can redeem the following miles on Hawaiian Airlines flights:
- United MileagePlus
- American AAdvantage
- Delta Skymiles
- Virgin America Velocity miles
- Korean SkyPass
- ANA MileageClub
And, you can redeem United MileagePlus miles on Island Air as well.
Here are the various costs for one-way travel between the islands:
|Program||Miles Required||Transfers From||Comments|
|Virgin America Velocity||3,000||Citi ThankYou, American Express, SPG||Call to book|
|Korean SkyPass||10,000||Chase||Roundtrip only|
|United MileagePlus||6,000||Chase, Starwood||Redemptions on Island Air or Hawaiian Airlines|
|Delta Skymiles||7,500||SPG, American Express|
|AAdvantage||7,500||SPG||Segments priced separately|
|ANA Mileage Club||10,000||American Express|
|HawaiianMiles||7,500, 10,000, 15,000||American Express||Hawaiian Airline Barclaycard holders receive discounted award prices|
Many airlines have partnerships that allow members to redeem miles on Hawaiian Airline flights. However, these partnerships only allow you to redeem miles on inter-island flights.
A few years ago, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines had a partnership where you could redeem AAdvantage miles on flights from the mainland to Hawaii (New York – Honolulu, for example). That partnership has ended.
Prices are coach only as it would be silly to waste extra miles to fly for 25 minutes in business.
The only option here which is roundtrip is when redeeming Korean Skypass miles. Korean Skypass redemptions requires all travel to be roundtrip. However, I would argue that if you’re visiting two islands on your trip to Hawaii, you’re probably arriving into one and departing out another, defeating the purpose of an inter-island roundtrip flight.
Virgin American Velocity Miles
Though Virgin America represents the cheapest option, I’d caution from using Vigrin America miles on Hawaiian Air.
Virgin and Alaska have merged and you can transfer your Virgin America miles to Alaska Airlines for much better value on other, more expensive flights.
You can search Hawaiian Airlines flight award by creating an account (for free) and then calling Virgin America Velocity program at 877-359-8474 to book the award. For more information check out Virgin’s dedicated Hawaiian Airlines redemption page cikoywc.
United MileagePlus, American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles
Delta and American are at the higher end (and skip American because of the multi-segment pricing; see below) and United is right in the middle at 6,000 one-way.
However, I value United miles at a pretty high value and would want to save them – due to Chase making it really difficult to earn the sign-up on the United and Ultimate Rewards cards.
American AAdvantage miles and Delta Skymiles are relatively easy to earn, so if you need to burn some points those don’t represent a bad option.
While using HawaiianMiles is at the higher end of point requirements, you’ll notice that there is some variability. The 10,000 and 15,000 points per flight option represents the non-saver space. (See: The Difference Between Saver & Standard Award Space). This space isn’t bookable via partners and sometimes might be more desirable times.
And here’s what this looks like on United (or Delta, or American):
HA 306 is the flight with saver availability.
HawaiianMiles is a transfer partner of American Express (1000:1000).
Hawaiian Airlines has two co-brand cards with Barclaycard. The typical sign-up bonus is 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in three months. The annual fee is $89. There is also a business version.
However, the bonus does go up to 50,000 (for the same spending requirement) several times a year. The card also unlocks discounted award tickets, valid on Hawaiian metal only.
Multi-segment flights (for now)
As you can tell from the route map, most of the islands are pretty well connected only requiring one flight from Maui to Kauai, for example.
A common example that requires connecting, which Hawaiian is going to be relaunching this spring is Kona, The Big Island (KOA) to Lihue, Kauai (LIH). Currently you need to connect via Honolulu or Maui.
On most partners it will be one redemption:
But on good ole’ American Airlines, it will be two!
So for any multi-segmented flights, do NOT use American miles.
There’s large variability in cash prices on inter-island Hawaiian flights. It depends on the route and most often, the time of year you’re traveling.
Here’s that multi-segment flight, Kona to Kauai, which is a bit pricier (and would be double if roundtrip).
The one thing to keep in mind is that you will have to pay bag fees on these flights and because Hawaii is a leisure destination, I always take bags (as do many of my clients). It is $25 for each passengers first checked bag.
Points, cash? Roundtrip, one-way?
You know the drill! You decide!
In my experience, I’ve always found that using miles for inter-island flights has been cheaper, but I do always browse cash prices to see if I can save miles. As for which currency I use, I’m partial to Delta Skymiles – as I have many – or HawaiianMiles as American Express Membership rewards are easy to earn, too.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.