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New at the FF mile game.... is attempting to do a free flight to Hawaii worth it???

New at the FF mile game.... is attempting to do a free flight to Hawaii worth it???

Old May 16th, 2004, 02:37 PM
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New at the FF mile game.... is attempting to do a free flight to Hawaii worth it???

I know this sounds like a funny question - but I'm new at this frequent flier mile scene. At first - it seemed like 'free money' to my husband and I (already planning an October trip to Hawaii.... dates very flexible). By using the 25,000 miles I already have and combining them with the 15,000 miles we'd get by signing up for an airline FF credit card (annual fee - $90) - I'd have enough for one 'free' trip to Hawaii. Whoopee!!

HOWEVER - upon further research - I've discovered that redeeming these miles to Hawaii is rather complicated. Odds are we couldn't get directly to our destination (Kona) but would have to buy an inner island flight from Honolulu. Then, of course, we'd have to hope my husband could get a reasonable regular fare price on the same flight.

It all seems so daunting. I'm wondering what the general opinion is on this. Would it be better to just scout out the best sale fares to Hawaii and then use the FF miles for a future trip someone less competitive???

Would love some education on this matter... THANKS!
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Old May 16th, 2004, 02:49 PM
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I booked four tickets using FF miles from Burbank, CA to Maui direct. Went thru United Airlines, which in turn, book the flights on Aloha. It was not difficult to do, but I did it nine months in advance. I then purchased a ticket for my husband, same flight, six months later. Not difficult, and well worth the use of miles. Kauai is a little more complex. Not as many airlines flying direct. I know Aloha stops in Maui first but then continues to Kauai. United is the partner for aloha. I believe American is the partner for Hawaiian. Don't give up!
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Old May 16th, 2004, 02:50 PM
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It will probably depend upon the carrier. With American, we booked a frequent flyer award ticket to Honolulu almost a year in advance. They do book very early, especially the preferable flight times.

I had the same issue, with one award ticket and one paid ticket. There were some great award tickets we could have booked; however, the purchase price on them was almost double!!

You probably will have to go into Honolulu and then buy an interisland to Hawaii. Those tickets are relatively inexpensive, about $80 each. Our final destination was Maui, and we could have flown directly there instead of Honolulu; however, the paid ticket price was too high at the time. (Not sure if any of the carriers go from the mainland to the airport of your choice)

It's been my experience that there are not a lot of great award tickets to any popular destination available unless you are planning way in advance. I have only had experience with American Airlines, so I can't speak for the others.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 02:51 PM
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I'm sorry. I thought your final destination was Kauai. On second glance, its Kona. I still think you have the same airline partners to deal with, however.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 02:52 PM
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Hawaii is one of the hardest destinations to claim FF miles. People are known to try getting seats 330/331 days in advance for those flights.

If you're really flexible (i.e. don't mind NOT going), then you can try to wait for the airlines to open up more inventory. But then you'll also have make sure your husband can get a good fare at that time.

In short, don't bother. Find a good fare for both of you and buy the tickets.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 03:08 PM
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I agree with rkkwan's take. People with flexibility are in the best position to get great fares. A less than well-known fact with some carriers is that the availability of award seats is different, depending on the elite status of the person looking for the tickets. Some flights have zero seats available and many people are willing to trade double miles to avoid the capacity controls and fly on award tickets to premier destinations like Hawaii. In my opinion, you are better off collecting enough miles for two tickets somewhere, rather than trying to match up a paid ticket with an award ticket.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 03:33 PM
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Hi carabro--I booked my January flight to Hawaii in April using American FF miles--I debated purchasing a ticket but the fare was $650--actually less than I paid 6 years ago. I was hoping to depart on a Saturday but there were no award seats available so I moved my trip up a day--flexibility is key. I, too, use an airline ff card and feel it is worth while; my annual fee is $50 and this will be my third "award" trip.
 
Old May 16th, 2004, 04:21 PM
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Carabro what airline are you gpoing to use? I booked 2 FF flights from O'Hare to Kona in Jan. for late summer and was lucky to get those. I also purchased 1 ticket as well. We use United and they go to Kona after a stop on the west coast.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 05:18 PM
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Another thought on using the frequent flier miles. If this is a special trip and you have enough miles to make it work, it is nice to book upgradeable coach tickets and use your miles to upgrade to 1st class. I am not sure where you are leaving from but even from the West coast it's a long flight. My husband surprised me on our 20th Anniversary by booking 1st class with FF miles and not telling me. The only bad thing was we didn't have enought to do it both ways so coming home was a letdown!
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Old May 16th, 2004, 07:05 PM
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Mary2go,

I like that concept. How do you know a coach ticket is upgradable when purchasing? Also, can you immediately call and upgrade or do you have wait until the day of the flight. I'm about to use FF miles for an April 05 flight. Like the idea of purchasing and upgrading though.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 07:23 PM
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hmmm...what's really interesting is that it appears that the best fares are not upgradeable with miles. IF they are, you have to use miles and pay according to a Delta agent I just spoke with. I also input a flexible coach date and the fare was more than double the deeply discounted rate. First Class would be nice, but oh well....

I can never seem to wait long enough to get miles for First Class before I plan a trip. I typically research and plan for flights that I may have a chance of an empty seat next to me. Works most of the time. Especially traveling on Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays.

I say FF miles are the way to go. Also, I purchased my mother a ticket on my same flight to Hawaii one month before departure. Of course I used FF miles several months in advance. It was no problem. We even had seats together on both legs of the flight.

I also use an airline credit card to assist in accumulating miles. Works awesome. I also try to stay at a certain chain of hotels when I travel for business and then use the hotel points for leisure travel.
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Old May 17th, 2004, 03:48 AM
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this past july our family of 5 flew from newark to hawaii on american airlines. we had a hard time trying to arrange flights for 5 people using FF so we purchased the tickets and upgraded all 5 to 1st class rt. it was definitely worth it! we've flown several times to hawaii in coach and its so much more enjoyable for a long flight (especially with 3 boys) in 1st class.
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Old May 17th, 2004, 04:02 AM
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If carabro already has the miles, then the answer is pretty simple. Just call the airline to see if there are seats available and ask what the price is for her husband buying another ticket. However, she doesn't even have the miles yet, and is thinking about spending $90 to get a card... Well, while $90 for 15,000 miles is not too bad a deal, but there's really no guarantee that there will still be 40,000 mile Hawaii awards available by the time the miles are posted, which may take weeks.

As far as upgrade is concerned, each airline is different. For example, on Continental, the miles for Hawaii upgrade is dependent on the fare class of your current ticket: (each way)

Y: 7,500 miles
H, K: 17,500 miles + $200
B, V, U: 17.500 miles + $300
Q, I, S, W, T, X, L: 17,500 miles + $400

So, if you purchase a cheap ticket, you'll need to spend 35,000 miles + $800 to upgrade yourself roundtrip on Continental.

Continental does have a very nice international BusinessFirst service to Hawaii, so that's why they charge such a premium for upgrades. Other airlines that have regular "domestic First Class" on their Hawaii flights will likely charge less and may be less restrictive.

But this illustrates the difference among airline's upgrade policies.
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Old May 17th, 2004, 04:04 AM
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I can add a few tidbits to the excellent advice/info you've already gotten. One way to increase chances of an award ticket is to be willing to make more connections than necessary. When we were redeeming first class tickets from the east coast, there were no seats available NY to Cal. By flying NY/Dallas/Cal/HI we were able to do it. Ofcourse this adds to the odds of missing a connection (which we did) but we got to HI free. I'm not sure we would have done this for 1 free coach
ticket though. You should find out how much an upgradeable ticket costs & see if you have enough miles to upgrade both of you.

Flyertalk.com is a website/message board specializing in the use of ff miles. My experience is they're not too friendly/helpful to newbies, but it might be worthwhile to do some reading there. There are ways to maximize your miles & these guys have them all figured out. For example, at certain times some companies have promotions for double miles so these people move miles from account to account.

Good luck.

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Old May 17th, 2004, 04:47 AM
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Our family of five are flying Delta with our FF miles. My husband and I are flying first class; the boys in coach. I called at midnight, 330 days before our intended departure from BDL looking for a flight to Maui and a return from Oahu on a Friday or Saturday. Couldn't get it done. So, I changed our destination to HNL with a departure on a Wednesday and a return from Maui. (which I had to book 330 days out) It worked well. I used United FF miles to "pay" for our interisland flights from HNL to Kona, and Kona to Maui for four of us. I bought two segments for $133 for our youngest son. Planning ahead makes it doable. Five of us could not afford to fly to Hawaii without the miles so it is worth the extra effort to me. We also plan for 16 days to make the effort worth it. This will be our third "free" trip to Hawaii. I love those Skymiles!
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Old May 17th, 2004, 04:48 AM
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Depending on where you are flying from I see plenty of availability to HNL and OGG on AA in October.
We always fly on FF miles... book as soon as possible
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Old May 17th, 2004, 05:09 AM
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We have redeemed 40+ round trips between the mainland and HAwaii using FF miles (United, Aloha, Delta American.)

I usually fiddle around on the United website to book award travel, inputting as many possibilities (dates, times, departure airports) as possible. I jot down notes and then call the reservation number armed with info.

I have been aboe to get flights just a few days in advance.

Flexibility is the key!

Also, if you call the airline and the agent seems uninterested or not capable of really putting in an effort for your search don't waste the time. End the conversation and call back.

Many times we have been waitlisted for the flights we want after we have booked less convenient flights. We have cleared the waitlist about 80% of the time.

If you are dealing with United make sure they check Delta's flights as you can fly free on Delta with United miles. Some agents don't even check and I have had to ask many times.

My husband has over a million miles on United, it is possible we get preferential treatment. I almost always have an empty seat next to me when I fly, even on full flights.
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Old May 17th, 2004, 06:11 AM
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I booked a week ago on American with miles for flights in August/September (so only about 3 1/2 months away) for NYC to Kona and then back from Maui to NYC - both require changing on the way back, but there are no nonstops that I know of from NYC to Maui or Kona, so that didn't matter. I did get direct flights from the change to those islands, i.e. I wasn't stuck flying through Honolulu and having to change twice.

You didn't see where you were flying from or when, so it is hard to determine. But the best way to find out is just to call the airline and see if they have tickets available - you can put them on hold if they do, even if you don't have enough miles at this point to redem them. That is a lot more effective then asking us to speculate - it really isn't a hastle to use the miles if there are flights you like that are available.

Date flexibility is key. For my Hawaii flights, there were actually a lot of available dates still available, but not all days, and not weekends. So I just had to move my trip back a fews later than I planned to make it work right. I think people that say miles are hard to redem for the most part simply don't have enough date flexibility - they aren't going to give you seats on the most popular flights, so it is tough to get weekend / prime holiday flights (just as you won't get the cheapest fares for those dates either).
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Old May 17th, 2004, 02:12 PM
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Wow...this is great info.

I called Delta airlines to confirm the updgradeable fares after reading some more of this post. The following is what I received from an agent as it relates to upgrading to first class:

Class Y - full coach fare - 7500 FF
CLass B/M - flexible -15,000 FF

Their apparantly is no cost, but is based on availability. Checked on the cost of a discounted fare from ATL (DLT hub) to Maui and it was 60% more than the lowest coach fare. So it depends on the individual.

Thank you all for the great feedback though. I fly often from East to West on business. In looking at my itineraries, realize some of the flights are upgradeable. I'll check into that when I'm on a full flight.
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Old May 17th, 2004, 07:45 PM
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Two things we discovered. In November we booked flights round trip for four using miles from Pittsburgh to Honolulu. We did not get choice routing - had to fly Pittsburgh - Washington DC - LA - Honolulu. In February decided that two of us wanted to stay an extra week and also visit Maui. I called and initially there were no available flights for an extended return. But I found out that persistence pays off - after calling weekly for about a month I was able to extend our return by a week at no additional charge (had to fly inter island though from HNL to Maui and back)

My parents' return ticket was for the same indirect routing that we used on departure. On the day before they were to leave Honolulu, I called and was able to change their return to a much better routing, getting them home about eight hours sooner. So if you are only able to book a less than desirable route, be sure and call nearer the date of travel to see if you can arrange a better schedule.

Pam
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