I’ve had the hardest time buying tickets for my upcoming trip. You see, I am going to Hawaii in April and I need to fly into HNL. My plan was to purchase a revenue coach ticket on US Airways and upgrade using my Dividend Miles as it’s just 17,500 miles each way. The good thing about the mileage upgrade is that it clears you into First at the time of ticketing, and more importantly from the city of origin, which in my case would be Chicago- ORD.
US Airways Hawaii flights are all operated by America West B757′s which offer 14 First Class seats. I say not bad, given that the East B757′s have only 8 in First or 12 Envoy if configured with Envoy!
I planned a simple ORD-PHX-HNL-PHX-ORD, but as you know with my trips, the way they are booked resembles nothing how they were planned. PHX-HNL has two flights a day per direction on US and there were absolutely no upgrade seats. None! I’m not flexible at all, so I politely declined the agent’s offer to look around.
Now the good part. US flies nonstop to four cities in Hawaii: HNL, Maui (OGG), Kona (KOA) & Lihue (LIH) are all daily from PHX. US Airways used to offer LAS (Las Vegas)-OGG, but let’s not get into that. It’s just no longer there and what a shame! Anyway, PHX-HNL/OGG are both double daily. In fact, last year, when I needed three upgrade seats to HNL and back I had to return from Maui, since HNL-PHX had none.
What I did differently this year. I looked at everything. When you’re desperate, you’re desperate. Or may I should call it creative?
The good thing about Hawaii is that the islands are relatively close to each other, and while competition is no longer the same without Aloha Airlines, inter-island fares are still pretty low if booked ahead of time. In addition, Hawaiian Airlines (HA) codeshares with almost every USA based airline and quite a few international ones too. They have baggage and ticketing agreements, and most importantly during these times of a-la carte pricing, they do not charge for the first bag you check. After all, if they did, tourists would not hop around the islands, HA would loose customers and islands would loose potential tourists and the revenue they could scrape off of them. In return, the Hawaiian Islands would be pretty upset with HA.
Another idea to digest is that US Airways (and I’m sure many other carriers) will allow HA segments at no extra charge (aside from a few $ in taxes). I mean, if the ORD-HNL fare basis is, say $505 round trip, in most cases US Airways will let you route it via multiple stops, meaning you don’t have to fly ORD-PHX-HNL, you can fly ORD-PHX-OGG-HNL using US up to OGG and then HA on OGG-HNL. It depends on the fare rules, but sometimes you can do 3 or 4 stops, meaning ORD-PHX-OGG-KOA-HNL and the base fare is still $505. Remember, all you end up paying extra is a few more dollars in airport and other taxes.
On my dates, only PHX-KOA had upgrade availability, so my outbound was ORD-PHX-KOA-HNL. Of course, as with all mileage upgrades, they only upgrade you on your frequent flyer carrier, so in my case US Airways. Still, I don’t mind a short KOA-HNL where, as a preferred, I still earn 500 miles and another 500 miles bonus for being a Chairman’s Preferred. Return wise, HNL-PHX was also not avalable for upgrades. Only OGG-PHX and LIH-PHX were available for that evening. The LIH schedule fit me better so I routed myself HNL-LIH on HA, and then US from LIH-PHX-PHL-ORD. Why not nonstop from PHX-ORD? Not available, but PHX-PHL-ORD was and the fare only went up by a few dollars, again due to taxes.
In conclusion, I booked ORD-PHX-KOA-HNL-LIH-PHX-PHL-ORD while confirming everything in First instantly (except KOA-HNL and HNL-LIH since it’s operated by HA). What is good is that I paid only $31 dollars more in taxes than I would have paid for ORD-PHX-HNL-PHX-ORD and would have to ride in coach. Plus, think of all the miles I will earn! I told you, the way I plan flights is never similar to how I book them.
Makes me think of last year’s ORD-LAS-SEA-LAS-PHX-HNL-OGG-PHX-SEA-PHL-ORD method of getting to Hawaii.
Now for some thoughts about using miles to Hawaii:
- Just like with the upgrades, think about flying into one of the other islands. You may not be able to have HA on your ticket as an award, but purchasing a seperate coach ticket between the islands shouldn’t cost more than $39+ tax one-way if planned in advanced. Check Hawaiianairlines.com for that! Whatever you do, don’t fly Go!
- If using miles and wanting to fly United, think about United’s flights from DEN, LAX, and SFO which are high in frequency. ORD-HNL will be hard to get.
- Soon you will be able to use miles on Continental Airlines as they will join Star Alliance.
- Not many people know this, but USA based members can use their miles on Air Canada. Air Canada flies daily to HNL, OGG, KOA nonstop from Vancouver, Canada (YVR). They use larger B767/A333 aircraft where coach is easier to book, yet business class more difficult. Air Canada’s B767′s and A333′s now feature fully flat business class seats, so they’re considered “hot”!
- Two other Star Alliance carriers server Hawaii. Air New Zealand flies a B767 three times per week from Auckland, NZ (AKL), while ANA flies a B767 daily from Tokyo-NRT. If ever in that region or you want to stop in Hawaii and fly onward, you can use them. Both offer coach and business class on those specific flights.
Have a nice clicK life, Aloha,