Airlines

So you want to fly to Hawaii…

Scoot has recently started flying to Honolulu, but what other options are there if you don't fancy budget travel?

Scoot announced plans to fly to Honolulu all the way back in May, but it was only recently that they announced prices and timings. For the pretty impressive price of S$699 (I’ve included a bag plus the $20 (!) processing fee that Scoot charges to pay with a credit card), you could fly to Honolulu and back in economy with a 1-2 hour transit in Osaka each way.

For comparison’s sake, here’s how much it’d cost (in USD) to get to Hawaii with full service carriers.

Of course, S$699 is only a promotional price, and it’s safe to say that once the demand stabilizes we’ll see round trip fares closer to the S$1,000 mark (do a search for Scoot around October 2018 and you can find days where round trip economy costs upwards of S$2,700). Plus, you’ll need to factor in all those gotcha fees that budget carriers have for meals, seat selection, entertainment etc. Furthermore, Scoot has an abysmal track record of handling irregular operations, so I’d think very carefully about my backup plans before booking.

Image result for hawaii

I personally am not sold on the allure of Hawaii, given that we in Singapore have so many beach paradise destinations at our doorstep for much cheaper. But reading about the launch got me thinking- suppose you really want to go Hawaii and don’t want to subject yourself to the vagaries of Scoot’s IRROPs plan. Can miles get you there?


In this post, I’m going to look at some of the options for award travel to Honolulu from Singapore. The usual caveats about award travel apply- you might not get the dates you want, you might not get the connections you want and there may not be enough award seats for both you and your travel companion(s).

(1) Redeem a Star Alliance award, preferably through Lifemiles (S$1,244/S$2,034 in Y/J)

Singapore Airlines doesn’t fly to Honolulu (although once upon a time…), so the first instinct many may have is to turn to the Star Alliance partner chart. If you don’t know how to book a Star Alliance award through Krisflyer, here’s a good primer.

We should also remember, however, that it’s possible to book Star Alliance awards through any Star Alliance carrier. In fact, depending on the FFP, you might sometimes find better deals than Krisflyer.

Here’s how many miles it costs to book a round trip flight to Honolulu from Singapore with Krisflyer, and two other FFPs that frequently sell their miles at a deep discount.

Krisflyer Lifemiles Mileageplus
Business 195,000 + S$445.60 102,000 +US$100 120,000 + S$88.20
Economy 110,000 + S$445.60 60,000 + US$100 70,000 + S$88.20

Why are Krisflyer’s prices surcharges so high? Remember that SQ no longer levies fuel surcharges on its own awards, but when you use your Krisflyer miles to book a Star Alliance partner, SQ will still pass on any fuel surcharges they levy on to you. In contrast, Lifemiles and Mileageplus do not levy fuel surcharges on partner award tickets.

Still, this isn’t an apples to apples comparison because 1 Krisflyer mile doesn’t “cost” the same as a 1 Lifemile. Let’s try to convert them into similar terms. We know that you can buy as many Krisflyer miles as you want at 2 cents each through the UOB PRVI Pay feature (you can certainly buy them cheaper than 2 cents, but for the sake of argument we’ll take this figure), that Lifemiles sell for as little as 1.375 US cents (1.88 SG cents), and Mileageplus frequently holds sales at 1.88 US cents (2.57 SG cents).

Here’s how the table looks when we price it out along those lines.

Krisflyer Lifemiles Mileageplus
Business S$4,346* S$2,054 S$3,172
Economy S$2,646* S$1,264 S$1,887

*People are bound to dispute this calculation in the sense that you can earn Krisflyer miles as a byproduct of many transactions in Singapore (credit card spend, pumping gas, booking a hotel etc) but obtaining Lifemiles and Mileageplus requires an explicit out of pocket spend to buy the miles. Therefore, in one sense, unless you outright buy Krisflyer miles you haven’t had any cash outflow. That’s a fair point, but if we need to do an apples to apples comparison then 2 cents is a good benchmark

We can see that Krisflyer is just really poor value for partner redemptions to this part of the world. You’re hit not just with fuel surcharges, but you also shell out more miles than with other programs. I’d personally go with Lifemiles in this scenario.

But the other problem is connections. The only Pacific-based Star Alliance carriers that fly to Hawaii are Air China, ANA and Asiana, and none of them have particularly good connectivity with inbound flights from Singapore. Here’s a sample itinerary for SIN-ICN-HNL with SQ on the first leg and Asiana on the second (I’m viewing this on United’s website, which has recently started showing SQ award space again). Note the almost 5 hour connection in ICN on the outbound leg…

And the 6 hour connection on the inbound.

If you’re flying with Star Alliance carriers, the best connection time you can hope for is a 2h 45 min layover in Haneda flying a combination of UA and NH. And even then there’s no guarantee awards will be available on that route. If they aren’t, you’re easily looking at connections in excess of 4.5 hours, as this Google Flights result shows.

So booking a Star Alliance award can work, but you need to be prepared for a potentially long layover. Maybe leave the airport and explore Seoul or Tokyo?

Fortunately, there are better options…

(2) Redeem a Alaska Mileageplan award with JAL (S$2,289/S$3,634 in Y/J)

Remember Alaska Mileageplan? That awesome little program that lets you do cool things like this? Mileageplan has a host of useful Pacific-based partners that can help you get to Honolulu. Searching yields plenty of options on JAL and Korean Air in both economy and business. Korean Air layovers are crazy so we’ll ignore those options.

That connection time on JAL is tolerable, but JAL doesn’t seem to release many business class seats from NRT-HNL, so on most days you’ll see a mixed cabin award that flies you SIN-NRT in JAL business class, but NRT-HNL in JAL economy while charging you business class prices for the whole award.

That said, it’s not impossible. I spotted several days where HNL-NRT had business class seats with a decent connection in NRT.

Where cost is concerned, the cheapest I see Mileageplan miles go on sale is 1.97 US cents each, or 2.69 SG cents. So the price would be

  • Economy- 80,000 Mileageplan + US$100= S$2,289
  • Business- 130,000 Mileageplan + US$100=S$3,634

These prices are higher than Lifemiles, but you’re trading money for time. Frankly I’d only consider this for business class, because you can easily buy economy class tickets to Honolulu for less than S$2,289.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to go through Mileageplan to redeem JAL awards though, if you have Asiamiles…

(3) Redeem a JAL award through Asiamiles ( S$1,300/S$2,500 in Y/J)

At the risk of sounding repetitive, you can get the same JAL routings via Asiamiles. Remember that almost every bank in Singapore partners with Asiamiles, and miles transfer at the same ratio as to Krisflyer.

Award space on JAL is patchy, but you can find some days where the connection time is somewhat shorter.

Remember that Asiamiles does not let you view JAL award space online (the screenshot above is from Avios), so you’ll need to call up Asiamiles membership services hotline to book your flights.

The GCMap tells me that it’s just over 7,000 miles to fly from SIN-HND/NRT-HNL, so that’ll cost 60,000/120,000 Asiamiles on round trip economy/business, much better than Krisflyer’s rates.

Also remember that if you use UOB PRVI Pay, the UNI$ that you’re buying can be converted into Krisflyer or Asiamiles at the same ratio. So 60,000/120,000 Asiamiles will be S$1,200/S$2,400 respectively. The only thing unclear here is how much surcharges JAL will levy. I’ve estimated fuel surcharges to be S$85, based on this table, and have rounded it up to S$100 to account for airport taxes. 

Conclusion

If I had to choose, I’d probably confirm that award space on JAL exists, then transfer points to Asiamiles and book. I get that the connection times will not be as good as what Scoot is offering, but I’d sure as heck rather fly with JAL than Scoot. Here’s an idea of what business class products JAL offers to Honolulu.

I’m sure the list above isn’t exhaustive and there could be other, smarter ways of getting good premium cabin deals to Hawaii. Feel free to chip in if I’ve missed something.


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7 Comments on "So you want to fly to Hawaii…"

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What is the exchange rate from KF to lifemiles

Dude, you’re churning out articles like a machine! And all this without compromising on their quality and while working on the overall website overhaul / improvements. Had this been the Victorian era, I’d tip my hat down for you 🙂

Lifemiles till last year used to consider Honolulu as part of the same sector as Japan. So while it’s still a very good proposition today, it used to be crazy good till a few months back!

I spoke with a SQ network planner a while ago. Wondered why if they’d consider Canberra and Honolulu (I used to live in Canberra once upon a time. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s Australia’s capital city). A month later they announced the Canberra route, but was told the Honolulu flight was a scoot sort of territory and was hinted it was being looked at. But I was quite curious. For years sq has one hopped to west coast USA via Seoul and Tokyo since it withdrew the A345. Whilst the O&D traffic for both legs to… Read more »

The biggest rip off is they will charge double for seat allocation because sin to Taipei is 1 leg and Taipei to Japan is another leg…

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