Free Flights to Hawaii
You can get 2 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii from the West Coast with 1 credit card signup. If you and your spouse each did 1 credit card signup, that would be enough for a family of 4 to fly roundtrip to Hawaii from the west coast. I’ll use this as a specific example to illustrate one way to get great value using airline miles.
Only 25k (25,000) Miles Roundtrip to Hawaii
British Airways calculates the number of miles (they call them Avios) needed to redeem a free flight based on distance, whereas most other airline programs calculate based on region. In many cases this is not a good thing, but for those of us who live on the West Coast, this is a great value for Hawaii because the cost is only 25k miles which is much less than one other airlines charge (the going rate is around 40k). If you’re not on the West Coast you can still get to Hawaii, but it will cost more miles.
British Airways partners with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, meaning Avios can be used to get to Hawaii on either airline. Update: now that American Airlines and US Airways are merging, you can also use US Airways flights, such as from Phoenix.
Here are the options on American:
American Airlines routes to Hawaii.
- KOA (Kona) to LAX (Los Angeles), OAK (Oakland), or SJC (San Jose)
- OGG (Maui) to LAX (Los Angeles), OAK (Oakland), SJC (San Jose), SMF (Sacramento), or SEA (Seattle)
- HNL (Honolulu) to LAX (Los Angeles), OAK (Oakland), or SJC (San Jose)
- LIH (Lihue / Kauai) to LAX (Los Angeles), OAK (Oakland), or SJC (San Jose)
Here are your options on Alaska Airlines:
- KOA (Kona) to ANC (Anchorage), OAK (Oakland), PDX (Portland), SJC (San Jose), or SEA (Seattle)
- OGG (Maui) to ANC (Anchorage), BLI (Bellingham), OAK (Oakland), PDX (Portland), SMF (Sacrament), SAN (San Diego), SJC (San Jose), or SEA (Seattle)
- HNL (Honolulu) to ANC (Anchorage), BLI (Bellingham), OAK (Oakland), PDX (Portland), SAN (San Diego), SJC (San Jose), or SEA (Seattle)
- LIH (Lihue / Kauai) to OAK (Oakland), PDX (Portland), SAN (San Diego), SJC (San Jose), or SEA (Seattle)
How to Get the Miles
If you don’t spend much each month, the best option is the Chase British Airways card which currently gives 50,000 Avios (points/miles) after spending $2,000 within 3 months of opening the credit card. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and you can cancel at the end of the year to avoid this fee. Note: If you’re wary of signing up for a credit card, read my introduction in which I discuss the issues related to signing up for credit cards. Before signing up for the card, get a free British Airways Executive Club account here and note your account number, since you’ll use that in your credit card application.
Another option is the Chase Ink Plus which gives 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months of opening the credit card. These ultimate reward points can then be transferred to British Airways. There is no annual fee, but some may find it hard to spend that much on a card within 3 months. However, there are many creative ways to meet these spending requirements.
Note that the Chase Ultimate Reward points are more flexible than Avios since they can be transferred elsewhere (like United Airlines, Southwest, Hyatt hotels, and others) instead if you decided not to use them via British Airways. If you can do either credit card, do the Chase card.
How to Book the Flights
The first step is to find award availability (seats that are available to book with miles) on either American Airlines or Alaska Airlines. Use this link to search on American Airlines’s site. American Airlines partners with Alaska Airlines, so they will show results for both airlines. They will also show US Airways flights since they are merging. Note that you can only book tickets that show up in the low level availability which American calls MileSAAver. Also note that you only want to look at results that are on American, Alaska, or US Airways (not other airlines that may show up). Don’t worry about the number of miles that it shows for the cost of the award. You won’t actually book the flights through American or Alaska. The booking will be done through British Airways since that’s where you have the miles. British Airways which charges a different amount of miles (25k roundtrip in our case). But British Airways can only book you into flights that show availability at the lowest mile level.
Important: the key to finding flights is being flexible in terms of dates/times, but also in terms of routes. For example, if you’re going from the LA Area but can’t find the flights you want, consider checking flights from San Diego also. This would be less convenient, but might still be worth it if you can’t find anything else.
Once you’ve found flights that match your schedule, make a note of what dates and flight numbers you want. If you’re going to use American Airline miles, you can book the flights online via British Airway’s website. Here’s a good tutorial on how to book flights on BA.com. If the flights you found are on Alaska Airlines, you’ll have to call British Airways (800 452 1201) because they don’t show Alaska Airlines flights via their online booking system.
Having trouble finding flights?
American Airlines seems to open up more award space / seats a couple weeks before departure or even a couple days before departure. I realize most people can’t make plans last minute, but one thing to keep in mind is that changes to bookings made with British Airways Avios are essentially free (you just lose the taxes) up to 24 hours before departure, so you can often change to better flights later. Read this post for more on that.
Mile Value has an excellent article covering the cheapest ways to get to Hawaii with miles even if you’re not on the west coast. Also check out this article. Or feel free to ask questions in the comments.
Also, this is an excellent article on how to use British Airways Avios in general.