I get a lot of questions on what's the best way to get to Hawaii on points. Yes, you can fly with Aeroplan for 40,000 miles round-trip in economy, but is there a better way?
In some ways, I fully understand the spirit of this question. Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, but despite its vast distance away from continental North America, it still feels very close to home, being a US state and all. Therefore, when it comes to redeeming miles for travel, 40,000 miles round-trip in economy feels like a big premium to pay, even though it makes perfect sense on paper given that at least one medium-to-long-haul flight is required.
The good news is that there's a way to redeem miles between Canada and Hawaii for just 25,000 miles round-trip!
The Sweet Spot
The trick lies in an award chart "sweet spot" within the Korean Air SKYPASS mileage program. One of the best ways to find sweet spots in various award charts is to take advantage of varying definitions of geographic regions like "North America". In the case of SKYPASS, the definition of "North America" includes Canada, the US (including Hawaii), Mexico, Puerto Rico, and even the US Virgin Islands.
This means that a trip between Canada and Hawaii is considered intra-North America travel, and is priced accordingly.
Now, the only SkyTeam partner you can reasonably fly on this route is Delta, so this trick is best used if you live near an airport serviced by Delta. Fortunately, Delta and its regional affiliates cast a pretty wide net over Canada, serving Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon.
Earning SKYPASS Miles
You might be thinking: "hold on a second, I don't have any SKYPASS miles!" Indeed, besides earning miles by flying on Korean Air and SkyTeam partners, there aren't any credit cards in Canada that feed into the SKYPASS program. Fortunately, all is not lost.
The best way for Canadians to earn SKYPASS miles is by transferring Starpoints from the SPG program. As I've mentioned before, SPG gives you a bonus 5,000 miles whenever you transfer Starpoints to one of their airline transfer partners in 20,000-point chunks. This means that to book a round-trip flight between Canada and Hawaii, all you need is 20,000 Starpoints!
Searching for Availability
While Korean Air recently launched an online booking platform for partner awards, its award search engine is not very intuitive and often doesn't find multi-city routings. Therefore, the best way to search for availability is to use Delta's website.
Simply plug in your origin, destination, and dates, and look for space in Delta's "Main Cabin". Avoid any search results that include WestJet since you won't be able to book these using your SKYPASS miles.
Here's where the generosity of SKYPASS gets even more pronounced: you are allowed to book one stopover and one open-jaw on these awards! That means you can fly somewhere in the continental United States, stay there for as long as you'd like, and then fly into one Hawaiian island and out of another on your way back!
This is an excellent way to maximize your Hawaii trip, especially since you can easily grab a cheap Hawaiian Airlines one-way between two islands to close the open-jaw. (While Korean Air partners with Hawaiian Airlines, you can't book Delta and Hawaiian flights on the same award ticket, unfortunately.)
If you're looking to add stopovers and open-jaws, it's best to search segment by segment to verify availability on Delta, write down the flight numbers, and then proceed to Korean Air's website to book.
Booking the Flights
Once you've found availability on Delta, it's time to transfer your points from SPG to Korean Air SKYPASS. Note that unlike many other airlines, Korean Air only allows members to book tickets for immediate family members (spouse and children) using their own miles. They've been known to ask for things like marriage certificates to prove these relationships.
If you're travelling with other passengers who aren't immediate family members, the best practice is to create a SKYPASS account for each individual passenger and transfer miles in there, rather than pooling your miles into one SKYPASS account. Then, each passenger would book their own ticket from their individual account.
Once you're ready to book, head to Korean Air's booking engine, select "Award Booking" (you'll have to log in to your SKYPASS account), and input your desired dates and destinations. The search engine is rather basic, so you may very well need to use the Multi-City option and input all the segments individually (yes, even layovers).
However, it's pretty good at finding the right availability once you've fed in your desired flights exactly.
Here's an important caveat: if for some reason your desired itinerary is too complex for Korean Air's online system to handle, you'll have to book the award through their contact centre, which can be a notoriously involved process. If you get stuck here and need help, feel free to shoot me an email.
Once your flights are all booked, it's time to make use of your leftover Starpoints and start looking at those glitzy Hawaii resorts!
Don't want to shell out $600+ or 40,000 Aeroplan miles for a trip to Hawaii? Say aloha to Korean Air SKYPASS. With quick and easy access to SKYPASS miles by signing up for the Amex SPG Card, this is one of the award chart sweet spots that Canadians can really benefit from. While it's a bit of extra work to look for availability on Delta, the savings can be extremely valuable, especially given the ability to add a stopover and an open-jaw to your trip.