Fly to Hawaii for Just 25,000 Miles Again Starting Tomorrow

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It is reported by multiple sources (here and here, for example) that that Korean Air will again by a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner beginning tomorrow (January 25th). They went offline with Chase as a transfer partner back in November and while we were told it was going to be a temporary glitch, it remained impossible to transfer points for longer than some hoped.

The good news is, the functionality should be back tomorrow, and Korean Air is a program you really want to know about if Hawaii is on your family’s travel wish list, as this may be the very cheapest way to use points to get your family to Hawaii.  Korean Airlines is also very good for many types of awards, but I’ll stick to the family friendly destination of Hawaii in this post. 

Korean Air is in the SkyTeam alliance, along with carriers such as Delta Airlines.  This means you can use your Korean Airlines miles to fly on a Delta operated flight to Hawaii.  This is a very lucrative award because Korean categorizes Mexico, United States (including Hawaii), US Virgin Islands, Canada, and Puerto Rico all in the same North America Zone.  Usually airlines categorize Hawaii in a region all its own, and charge more miles for award flights as a result.

Korean Airlines Award Chart

However, with Korean travel within the North America zone costs just 25,000 miles round trip in economy or 45,000 miles round trip in business (domestic first).  Being able to fly from anywhere in the United States to Hawaii and back for just 25,000 miles is a fan-tas-tic deal!

Being able to earn those 25,000 miles needed to go to Hawaii is pretty easy for those of us here in the US via the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus Business Card, or even the Chase Freedom®, if you also have one of those other two cards.

If you were to fly using Delta miles for those same Delta operated flights, it would cost you 45,000 miles at the Level 1 rate – and it is very important to know that there has to be Level 1 Delta award availability in order to book with a partner like Korean.  This means it is 20,000 miles fewer via booking with this partner than directly with Delta.  Now the catch to this deal has always been that Delta Saver/Level 1 availability to Hawaii has been less than stellar.  It’s still not perfect, but I have seen improved availability via the SkyMiles 2015 program, at least in economy.

As an example, I have relatives in Austin who may head to Hawaii this summer.  I plugged in 3 people from Austin – Honolulu in July on the Delta flexible search page and expected to find nothing at the 45,000 mile level.  Instead, I found 3 seats at the lowest award level available on good dates and with decent routing/flight times during the summer break.

Korean Airlines to Hawaii

If you want to book those exact flights for 25,000 Korean miles each (instead of 45,000 Delta miles), you will need to call Korean at 1-800-438-5000 to make the award booking (or as they like to call it, bonus ticket booking).  Now, they are a bit different to work with from what I hear, as you can only book for immediate family members, and will have to submit things like copies of passports/photo IDs and a redemption form to complete the booking.  That’s an extra PITA for sure, but worth it if it gets your family to Hawaii.

I recommend reading this post by One Mile at a Time for more details on the exact booking process.  Note that you can put tickets on hold while completing their booking process and transferring in points from Ultimate Rewards, which helps tremendously.

Grand Hyatt Kauai or St. Regis Princeville

Beach at the Grand Hyatt Kauai

Grand Hyatt Kauai or St. Regis Princeville

View from the St. Regis Princeville

Do you have plans to use Korean Air to book awards for your family to Hawaii or beyond now that they are coming back as a functioning Ultimate Rewards transfer partner?

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Comments

  1. so you would have to search for 40,000 one way trips from anywhere in us to hawaii to book the 45,000 mile business class korean award?

    what is level 1 delta?

  2. Sounds great but I can’t seem to find any flights at all from my home airport of Spokane, WA. Would love to take my kids if I could make it work.

  3. This is a great deal on paper, but actually finding an award flight on DL is next to impossible. Before the Chase transfers went away, I gave up trying for a DL flight and used my KE miles for Hawaii flights on Alaska Air. It took a few more miles than for DL, but it was still less than Alaska charges using their miles. If you can’t find a DL flight, you might consider Alaska if they serve your home airport.

    • Yeah, unless something has materially changed with DL’s award availability, this isn’t likely to work in “the real world” — especially for anyone who needs to make a connecting flight. Finding seats at saver-level on one DL flight is lucky — finding them for 2 flights is almost a miracle!

      I guess it could be worth exploring for retirees who can leave anytime. You could also try it for summer break, but I’m guessing that even mid-week departures are tough to find in summer.

      Does anybody know how long Korean will give you to do a connection? That essential information, because your odds would improve significantly (perhaps from 1 percent to 5 percent) if you got 24 hours to change planes. Not a convenient way to travel, but for 25,000 miles . . . .

      • I have had very good luck finding saver availability w delta recently, with some date flexibility. Will have to check connection times as I’m not sure offhand.

        • I looked a little yesterday at DL award availability. I do think it’s a LITTLE better than it used to be, but not great. Like I don’t think you’re going to be making a connecting flight on DL to Hawaii in summer — even if you fly midweek.

          I also looked at the Korean rules. I THINK you could get a free stopover to and from Hawaii from the Mainland, so if you had mega-flexibility and plenty of time, you could try to mix and match flights. And perhaps somebody from the East Coast would WANT to combine a California stop with a trip to Hawaii.

          Still, this is an obscure opportunity only suited to folks willing to put in a ton of time researching the options and finding the needle in the haystack. It certainly isn’t something “normal” (aka 95%+ of travelers) should even consider.

          • iahphx, I’ve put together several Level 1 DL summer Hawaii trips on DL this week (research for relatives), so I know it can be done at least from certain cities, but summer of course will be tough and you need date flexibility. I agree this isn’t for everyone, but I think more people need to challenge themselves to do it, if miles are tight and Hawaii is the goal. Does seem like you can build in a free stopover on SkyTeam awards such as that one. 😉

  4. might be a repeat question, but I have only booked southwest award tickets before. If I see a 45,000 level 1 economy flight. I can call and get a ticket for 25,000 point. That part I get, but what do I have to look for to get first/business class? Is it as simple as having a first class seat available on the same flight. That I can book the economy seat on. Thanks

  5. Never mind I figures it out. “you would have to search for 40,000 one way trips from anywhere in us to hawaii to book the 45,000 mile business class korean award?

  6. I currently have two flights to Hawaii in May reserved on Delta via Korean Air. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this day so I can transfer my UR points to Korean Air and book this trip once and for all! Such an amazing deal!

  7. Hi — I have always been a chase guy so United has been my go to for award travel. My wife and I usually save up and wait to use business or domestic first when going to Hawaii. The problem is the only really good value flights are through EWR or IAD as those are the big 400 planes with lie flat (add like 3 hours of travel). Otherwise, its a crappy up front experience.

    DTW is a Delta hub but I never got into the miles with them because they seemed low value but this is very promising… You are talking about the “level 1” rate… how do I know what this is? For instance, I am planning a trip in May and we are flexible for which week we do. I see a 45,000 economy option, is this level 1? Lastly, what is the mile value I should be looking for for the business level 1 to use the Korean channel?

    Thanks!

  8. I guess that the “Peak Season” increased mileage rate for Skypass redemptions on Korean’s own aircraft don’t apply for partner redemptions? Also worth noting that one would need to find roundtrip saver availability on Delta flights, Korean doesn’t do one-ways at half-price like many other programs.

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