American AAdvantage Ending Redemptions to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

On top of the tweak earlier in the week that makes peak demand extra availability awards on American the most expensive in the known universe, there’s another change coming up.

American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are partners — but starting September 1 you will only be able to redeem American miles for travel on Hawaiian for intra-island flights and flights beyond Hawaii to their Asia Pacific destinations. You will no longer be able to redeem for Hawaiian flights between Hawaii and the US mainland.

American is Eliminating Redemptions on Hawaiian Airlines for Flights Between US Mainland and Hawaii

Effective September 1 you will no longer be able to use your American miles to fly between the mainland US and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines. (HT: The Forward Cabin)

There’s more than two months’ notice to this change, and there are plenty of other options to Hawaiian on both American and Alaska Airlines. Hawaii awards aren’t getting more expensive, just a little harder. And there are many ways still to get those Hawaiian flights to and from Hawaiian. So this isn’t devastating. But it is disappointing.

Where You Can Still Use AAdvantage Miles to Fly Hawaiian Airlines

The most common thing for members to do will be to use Hawaiian Airlines for intra-Hawaii flights. Here’s that route network:

But you can also use American miles to fly beyond Hawaii. In other words, if you’re based in mainland US you’d fly American or Alaska to Hawaii and then Hawaiian onewards in Asia Pacific.

  • Japan: Sendai, Tokyo Haneda, Osaka, Sapporo
  • South Korea: Seoul
  • China: Beijing
  • Australia: Brisbane, Sydney
  • New Zealand: Auckland
  • American Samoa: Pago Pago
  • French Polynesia: Papeete

Alternatives for Using AAdvantage Miles for Hawaii

You can fly American (including US Airways) to Hawaii and also Alaska Airlines. The American-US Airways merger does mean more flights to Hawaii than before, although it hardly makes up for the loss of Hawaiian.

American’s Hawaii routes:

  • Los Angeles: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, Lihue
  • Dallas: Kahului (Maui), Honolulu
  • Phoenix: Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, Lihue, Kona

American is putting new Airbus A321s on their Los Angeles – Hawaii flights.

Alaska’s Hawaii routes:

  • San Diego: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, Lihue
  • Seattle: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, Lihue
  • Oakland: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, Lihue
  • San Jose: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu
  • Portland: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, Lihue
  • Anchorage: Kona, Kahului (Maui), Honolulu
  • Sacramento: Kahului (Maui)
  • Bellingham: Kahului (Maui), Honolulu

Why Would This Change Occur?

When Delta and Hawaiian were partners similar restrictions were in place. US Airways also had this requirement. The idea was that each airline partnered with Hawaiian for its route network beyond Hawaii, but that Hawaii awards are popular and offering redemptions on Hawaii is thus expensive. Similarly, Hawaiian can bring its passengers to the mainland but in order for that to be an attractive proposition needs to be able to offer connections beyond its own gateway cities.

Since most of Hawaiian’s partnerships do not include this restriction, and the old US Airways partnership did, I’d guess that points in the direction of AAdvantage looking to eliminate a cost. Hawaiian is one of the handful of airlines you could redeem on American’s website so I’d guess it was an exceptionally common choice.

If incremental changes like this help forestall more major devaluations, I’m comfortable with that. On the other hand if this is indicative of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that will be a huge disappointment. We’ll see what 2016 and beyond brings.

Alternatives for Redeeming Mainland – Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has several other mileage partners whose points you can use instead of American’s after August. They’re a partner of ANA, for instance, which is an American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner.

However, these are my favorite options:

Virgin Atlantic miles can be redeemed on Hawaiian and since there are aren’t many great uses for Virgin Atlantic miles this is something to consider (if you have these miles anyway, as I do).

Virgin America’s miles can be redeemed for travel on Hawaiian between the mainland US and Hawaii. For instance,

  • From New York JFK to Honolulu it’s 20,000 points each way for economy and 45,000 for first
  • From San Francisco to Maui it’s 12,000 points each way for economy and 30,000 for first

My mental model is that Virgin America points are a deflated currency, roughly double the required points to compare to other carriers in order to more closely compare apple to apples.

Personally I like transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Korean — 30,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles roundtrip in first for mainland US – Hawaii. This doesn’t get you intra-island connecting flights included, however — if you wanted to fly New York JFK – Honolulu – Maui and back that’s 5000 more miles each way in economy for the Honolulu – Maui segments.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. This is very disappointing for our family. We go to Hawaii every year and always fly Hawaiian using our points from American! Just came back from Hawaii and had planned to use them again next year. We prefer them over American and they have more choices from the cities we like to fly from.

  2. Gary,

    So to be clear, redemption on Hawaiian to Asia Pacific from Hawaii is still possible right?

    Thanks!

  3. @kay – yes – you just can’t get from mainland to hawaii using american miles, but you can do hawaii – asia pacific on hawaiian

  4. little concerning here with news on AA’s FF program this week. Hopefully, it’s last one for while….

  5. Gary — I criticize you when I feel that you are wrong, but this is one heck of an insightful piece of travel journalism! Keep up the good work!

  6. Hawaiian offers the BEST coach and premium coach service to Hawaii. I guess American does not want to compete with that.

  7. You stated in The last paragraph “Personally I like transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hawaiian — 30,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles roundtrip in first for mainland US – Hawaii. This doesn’t get you intra-island connecting flights included, however — if you wanted to fly New York JFK – Honolulu – Maui and back that’s 5000 more miles each way in economy for the Honolulu – Maui segments.”

    I thought ultimate rewards don’t transfer to Hawaiian. Only membership rewards and spg points. It only costs 5000 aa miles to fly inter island one way but costs 7500 Hawaiian miles

  8. Please enlighten us on how to transfer UR points to Hawaiian. Or is this just another way for you to make money on a referral link?

  9. @DonT – you do not transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Hawaiian. You transfer them to Korean and redeem Korean miles for travel on Hawaiian. As for the snark, do you see any referral links in this post at all?

  10. @Gary Thanks. It’s good to know you can do this with Ultimate Rewards and Korean. I live in Hawaii and it’s almost always cheaper to use miles to travel anywhere.

  11. Did it originally say “transfer to Hawaiian” and has now been changed to say “transfer to Korean”? Or did they misread it?
    Gary, you do need an editor. Or at least mix in the occasional spellchecker – I just caught a “liek” around here somewhere..

  12. For many of us, this is a pretty big devaluation. For one, AA’s own availability to Hawaii tends to be much more hit-or-miss than HA’s at least on routings that are workable for me…and not just for flying TO Hawaii but also using as part of an Asian trip. Personally I like HA’s inflight service better than AA’s generally.

    And frankly anything that reduces options and availability in today’s environment is a bad thing.

    The fact that this policy matches what Dividend Miles used to have could be a coincidence but I fear it’s an indicator of the direction AAdvantage is leaning towards in the future. Time will tell, I guess.

  13. Can wards be booked prior to Sept 1 for travel after Sept 1, or award calendar will be wiped clean for anything post-Sept 1?

  14. Gary, this appears to be much worse than previously described. Currently, AA is not allowing bookings from mainland US to an international destination combining another partner with Hawaiian. For example, on March 28, 2016, there is availability AS SJC-HNL as a business (first) class award, and there is availability Hawaiian HNL-AKL as a business class award, but you cannot book SJC-AKL as a single business class award (you could book this prior to September 1). Not sure whether this is a glitch, or represents American’s new policy.

  15. Gary, on August 28 I booked a single AA award for travel SJC-HNL-AKL on AS/Hawaiian. You may be correct; perhaps this was a “loophole” which AA closed on September 1. (Too bad….this is the only practical way to get to Auckland without an overnight flight, and the Hawaiian revenue fares for one way travel are outrageously high. So this was a nice “sweet spot” for those of us who abhor red-eyes.)

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