Hawaiian Airlines is a traditional US carrier that flies between the Hawaiian islands and between Hawaii and the Western United States as well as New York's JFK airport, and from Hawaii to Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Tahiti, Japan, Korea and China.
They have a co-branded credit card with an $89 annual fee and 35,000-mile signup bonus. The card doesn't have much value unless you fly a lot on Hawaiian metal, but if that's the case you get access to discounted flight awards and no blackout dates for award tickets. The card also gives 5,000 bonus miles each anniversary if you spend $10,000 on the card, but the card doesn't earn bonus points in any interesting categories of spend so that's unlikely to be the best place to direct your unbonused spend.
All of this raises the obvious question, "why are we talking about HawaiianMiles?" Good question! The reason we're talking about HawaiianMiles is, first, that they are historically very easy to earn. Long after Amazon.com, for example, was removed from airline and hotel shopping portals it remained on the HawaiianMiles marketplace, allowing you to earn HawaiianMiles for all your Amazon.com purchases. For heavy users of Amazon.com, that might mean tens of thousands of HawaiianMiles per year.
The second reason to look at HawaiianMiles is their travel partners. While you might not be interested in flying on Hawaiian metal between North America and Hawaii or the Pacific rim, you might be more interested in flying on their partner airlines. Since they have a fairly eclectic mix of revenue-based, distance-based, and zone-based travel partners, I had the idea of comparing HawaiianMiles redemptions on each partner with redemptions of that partner's own rewards currency.
Let's take a look!
All Nippon Airways
ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so their points are relatively easy to earn for folks with American Express cards that earn flexible Membership Rewards points.
Unfortunately, HawaiianMiles can't be redeemed for ANA flights between North America and Japan. Instead, there are two kinds of awards you can book: roundtrips between Hawaii and Haneda, in economy or business class; and roundtrips between Haneda and domestic Japanese destinations, in economy only.
There's no other way to say it: ANA's award chart for flights on their own metal is nuts. Here's Scott Mackenzie doing his best to explain it. However, we're just focused on the conversion rate between HawaiianMiles and ANA Mileage Club miles, which isn't too hard.
- Roundtrip domestic ANA flights up to 600 miles cost between 10,000 and 15,000 ANA miles depending on season, and 18,000 HawaiianMiles year-round, for a conversion rate of between 1.2 and 1.8 HawaiianMiles per ANA Mileage Club mile;
- Roundtrip domestic ANA flights over 600 miles cost between 12,000 and 23,000 ANA miles depending on distance and season. However, there are no eligible cities farther than 2,000 miles from Haneda airport so the equivalent ANA chart actually tops out at 21,000 ANA miles during high season. These flights cost 22,500 HawaiianMiles year-round, for a conversion rate of between 1.07 and 1.88 HawaiianMiles per ANA Mileage Club mile.
- Roundtrip ANA flights between Haneda and Hawaii cost between 35,000 and 43,000 ANA miles in economy, depending on season, and 90,000 HawaiianMiles, for a conversion rate between 2.09 and 2.57 HawaiianMiles per ANA Mileage Club mile.
- Roundtrip ANA flights between Haneda and Hawaii cost between 60,000 and 68,000 ANA miles in business, depending on season, and 155,000 HawaiianMiles, for a conversion rate between 2.28 and 2.58 HawaiianMiles per ANA Mileage Club mile.
HawaiianMiles are worth between 0.39 and 0.94 ANA miles.
JetBlue's TrueBlue loyalty program is revenue based, although the dollar value you get per TrueBlue point varies depending on, well, it varies. On a random search I found 6 different conversion rates, between 0.91 cents per TrueBlue point and 1.39 cents per TrueBlue point, with an average of 1.11 cents per TrueBlue point.
HawaiianMile redemptions on JetBlue are also revenue based, although the conversion rate comes with the stern warning: "Miles required for redemption will vary based on ticket value. Chart above shows ESTIMATED mileage redemption amounts."
Nonetheless, it's possible to calculate the minimum and maximum dollar value per HawaiianMile, and arrive at an average redemption value of 0.81 cents per HawaiianMile. Compared to the average of 1.11 cents per TrueBlue point, one HawaiianMiles is worth about 0.73 TrueBlue points.
Korean Air SKYPASS miles are easy to earn through transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards, but of course Ultimate Rewards points are valuable for all sorts of redemptions, so you might prefer to redeem a less flexible and less valuable rewards currency like HawaiianMiles instead.
There are three kinds of HawaiianMiles redemptions on Korean Air: roundtrips within South Korea, roundtrips within "Asia," and roundtrips between Korea and the United States. Flights can be booked in coach and business class. To the best of my knowledge Korean Air does not make partner awards available during their "peak" travel season, so HawaiianMiles can only be used for Korean Air redemptions during SKYPASS's "off" season (if you know otherwise let me know and I'll update this post).
- Coach roundtrips within Korea cost 10,000 SKYPASS miles or 15,000 HawaiianMiles, for a conversion rate of 1.5 HawaiianMiles per SKYPASS mile;
- Business roundtrips within Korea cost 12,000 SKYPASS miles or 30,000 HawaiianMiles, for a conversion rate of 2.5 HawaiianMiles per SKYPASS mile;
- Korean Air has three different zones in Asia, while HawaiianMiles has only a single zone. SKYPASS charges between 30,000 and 50,000 miles for coach tickets depending on zone, while Hawaiian charges 30,000 HawaiianMiles, for a conversion rate of between 0.6 and 1 HawaiianMiles per SKYPASS mile. In other words, HawaiianMiles are 40% more valuable than SKYPASS miles when redeemed for Korean Air flights to Southwest Asia;
- In business class between Korea and Asian destinations, SKYPASS charges between 45,000 and 90,000 miles while HawaiianMiles charges 60,000 miles, for a conversion rate between 0.67 and 1.33 HawaiianMiles per SKYPASS miles;
- Finally, between Korea and the United States SKYPASS charges 70,000 miles in coach and 125,000 miles in business, while HawaiianMiles charges 100,000 miles in coach and 200,000 miles in business, for a conversion rate of 1.43 HawaiianMiles per SKYPASS mile in coach and 1.6 HawaiianMiles per SKYPASS mile in business.
In sum, one HawaiianMile is worth between 0.4 SKYPASS miles (on domestic business class flights) and 1.66 SKYPASS miles (on coach flights to Southwest Asia).
Like JetBlue, Virgin America's Elevate program is revenue based. Unlike JetBlue, however, HawaiianMiles redemptions on Virgin America are distance-based, with three distance bands: under 750 miles, between 750 and 2,000 miles, and more than 2,000 miles. Virgin America Elevate doesn't black out award space to their own members (since the program is revenue based), but they do limit award availability made available to partners.
Until recently, there was no good way of checking Virgin America partner award availability, but since Alaska acquired Virgin America, it's now possible to search for partner award seats using the Alaska search engine. Look for dates where the lowest level award seats are available.
I can't think of any useful metric to convert a distance-based award chart into a revenue-based program. Elevate miles are worth "about" 2.2 cents each, so that's as good a benchmark as any when deciding whether to redeem HawaiianMiles on Virgin America flights.
Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club breaks out award prices for each of their destinations individually, while HawaiianMiles consolidates them into geographic areas. That means HawaiianMiles charges the same price for destinations that Virgin Atlantic charges different amounts for. Here's the HawaiianMile award chart for redemptions on Virgin Atlantic, helpfully annotated with the amount charged by Virgin Atlantic Flying Club:
The key takeaway is that while redemptions always require more HawaiianMiles than Flying Club miles, the difference narrows on Upper Class redemptions since HawaiianMiles awards don't accelerate in price the way Flying Club awards do. So while HawaiianMiles are worth between 0.25 and 0.42 Flying Club miles for economy redemptions, they're worth up to 0.92 Flying Club miles on Upper Class redemptions between, for example, the UK and Johannesburg.
Note that all redemptions on Virgin Atlantic will have carrier surcharges, which you can get a sense of on the Flying Club website.
Virgin Australia's Velocity program is only open to residents of Australia and a few other countries in the Pacific, so you're unlikely to ever actually redeem Velocity miles for a Virgin Australia flights.
HawaiianMiles and Virgin Australia Velocity both use distance-based award charts, although they use different distance bands (Velocity has more, smaller bands). Here's the HawaiianMiles award chart, with the corresponding cost in Virgin Australia Velocity miles:
Note that Australia is very far from the other continents so unless you're flying around the South Pacific all international redemptions will fall in the "Over 4,000 Miles" distance band, where HawaiianMiles are worth between 0.28 and 0.6 Velocity miles each in economy and between 0.3 and 0.64 Velocity miles in business.
Now that we've reached the end of the exercise, what kinds of conclusions can we draw? First, it's worth reiterating that HawaiianMiles are not very valuable, so you certainly shouldn't be going out of your way to earn them.
However, if you have access to cheap and plentiful HawaiianMiles, it's possible to redeem them for real value:
- If you live in a city served by JetBlue, HawaiianMiles are worth an average of 0.81 cents towards those flights. It would take a lot of HawaiianMiles before you could redeem for a cross-country flight in their Mint business class product, but if that's the flight I wanted to take I'd much rather redeem HawaiianMiles than pay cash!
- If you can find partner award space on Virgin America, short roundtrip flights cost as little as 20,000 in economy, and the longest flights in first class top out at just 90,000 HawaiianMiles roundtrip.
- If you can find Korean Air partner award space, HawaiianMiles can be redeemed for first class travel between the United States and Korea, or within Asia, at relatively reasonable rates.
If you don't have the patience or inclination to book travel on Hawaiian's partner airlines, HawaiianMiles can be transferred to Hilton HHonors points at a rate of 1.5 HHonors points per HawaiianMile. HHonors points are also not very valuable, but they're much easier to redeem than HawaiianMiles.
Finally, HawaiianMiles can be redeemed for about half a cent each in rental car gift certificates, or even gift certificates to Foodland, a Hawaiian supermarket chain.