Today we’re going over Hawaiian Airlines’ craptacular award program, HawaiianMiles. Poor award redemption values and below-average availability means the program is primarily going to be of interest to residents of the islands and those living in major US cities served by the carrier and those who really love Hawaii. Or possibly Japan. After inputting all of my hypothetical award redemptions, I came up with a value of just 0.59¢ per mile.
This number makes HawaiianMiles one of the least-valuable US-domestic carriers on a per-point basis. However, it is trending in the correct direction. Since last year, their point-value increased 0.12¢. This represents an improvement of 25%. This can be attributed primarily to finding of increased award availability.
Where This Number Comes From
After presenting valuations, I always think it’s useful to provide a quick rundown of the calculation method I used to come up with this number. I call it the ACRV, or average consumers redemption value. Placing a value on an award program point or mile is like trying to place a value on a business. In other words, there are formulas to do it, but often, astrology ends up looking like a more exact science.
The basics of it are this: I start with a standardized basket of city pairs. I then find the lowest-priced cash alternative among all carriers, keeping in mind strict limits for trip duration and number of stops. This is then divided by the number of award miles required by the carrier being evaluated, less any fees. I then further reduce by 25% for most airlines. This reduction is meant to compensate for things like the risk of future devaluations, the hassle involved with award bookings as compared to paying cash, and the fact miles are not accrued on award flights.
HawaiianMiles Un-discounted Average Value
For those who disagree with reduction factors and the averaging of zeros, I also present a value that excludes both. In the case of HawaiianMiles, our non-zero and un-discounted average is 1.01¢.[wpdatatable id=16 table_view=regular]
So, how does this compare to Hawaiian Airlines’s peers, aka other US domestic carriers? Not so well. In order of decreasing value, I currently show United at 1.18¢, American at 1.35 and Delta at .94¢. In other words, HawaiianMiles is worth .35¢ less than Skypesos.
HawaiianMiles Value Outliers and Normal Distribution
Mainly for those simply curious, I also publish the two furthest outliers. Our best for the month came from a business-class award seat, Las Vegas to Seoul, offered for 105,000 miles + $6 in fees. The lowest-priced cash alternative was $2,418, providing a redemption value of 2.3¢. That result is in very-respectable territory. But considering it was the best we could do, it alone doesn’t speak well to HawaiianMiles’ upside.
Ultimately, high-value award redemptions are where HawaiianMiles most-obviously falls short. There simply weren’t any. In fact, there were only two examples exceeding 2¢ per mile. Compare that to American AAdvantage. Last time I reckoned that award program, I found a first-class saver award from Dallas to London offered for 85,000 miles plus $5.60 in fees. The lowest-price cash alternative was $7,026, providing an exceptional redemption value of 8.26¢. Those are the type of awards that get points and miles players all hot and bothered. But Hawaiian will have none of it.
Unlike our best redemption, which for me is just for fun, I also like to take a look at our hypothetical redemption value’s normalized distribution, or as it’s more commonly known, the bell curve.
The two lines adjacent to the average represent one standard deviation in either direction. In other words, 68% of award redemptions should occur between the rates of 0.27 and 1.31¢.
For a US Domestic Carrier, this a relatively tightly bound distribution. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For those who prefer reliability over upside, it might be preferable. For comparison’s sake, have a look at the chart United MileagePlus generates. In that case, we have an award program where very high-value and very-low value award redemptions are all possible.
HawaiianMiles Program Structure
Moving on to program structure, and the good news is that Hawaiian still maintains an award chart. Something that Delta and United have done away with. The bad news, is that it’s all over the place and in effect the airline practices dynamic pricing. You can find it here.
HawaiianMiles Elite Tiers
We’ve only got two to keep track of, well, three if you count the weird Premier Club level which is an elite status you purchase. It’s silly. Other than that, Hawaiian maintains Pualani Platinum and Gold.
I won’t go through every nuanced detail because I’m not trying to lose readers and pretty much anyone can just Google this info. But the highlights included priority check-in, Club access, priority security screening, a 50 or 100% mileage earn bonus and complimentary upgrades.
Let’s talk about that last one, upgrades. They exist, but they’re not great. Gold members get complimentary upgrades to preferred seating and a 50% discount on first class. Not exactly rolling out the red carpet there Hawaiian. Platinum members get complimentary first-class upgrades but only at check-in. That kind of sucks. Compare that to Diamond Medallions at Delta who can receive this same benefit 5 days prior to departure and you’ll quickly notice Hawaiian’s deficiency.
How to Earn HawaiianMiles
Earning Hawaiian miles is pretty much like earning miles on any other carrier. You accrue when you fly. Here, we’ve got a straight mile flown, equals mile earned scheme going on. First-class gets a 50% bonus on that and Pualani elites get the earn bonuses referenced above.
One can also credit their Japan Airlines, jetBlue, Korean Air or Virgin miles to Hawaiian, but you shouldn’t. For what it’s worth, I’d send my JAL miles to American and keep my jetBlue miles right where I earned them. In no case would Hawaiian make an appearance.
Car rental companies Avis, Budget and Payless are also able to accrue Hawaiian miles on rentals. But again, those miles are better sent to other airlines.
On the flip side of that equation, one can credit their Hawaiian miles to partners. I’d do this. American, Delta, JAL, jetBlue, Korean, United and Virgin Atlantic/Australia are available. Of these, I’d likely choose American. Just be wary of fare classes. There is a chart which American maintains that maps Hawaiian fare-classes to AA earn rate. Lower fare-classes only earn 25% or nothing, so, watch out for that.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard
We’ve also got a co-branded credit card, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard. It’s got a nice signup bonus of 60,000 points worth $354 after a $2,000 MSR. That’s below my personal $500 signup bonus value threshold. But, there is a kicker, a snake in the grass offer, a one-time 50%-off companion discount. It sounds good, but it’s not. It only applies to round-trip, full-fare coach tickets between North America and Hawaii. So, make of that what you will.
The card otherwise earns 3 points per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases, 2 on gas, dining and grocery plus one on everything else. I consider this very bad, and would likely put $0 of my own spend on this card as the similarly-priced Sapphire Preferred earns much more.
Redeeming for Partner Airline Flights
Now, if you’ve got a bunch of Hawaiian miles and don’t plan on flying with them, partner opportunities exist. One can use their miles to book travel directly on JAL, jetBlue, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. These opportunities are not included in our valuation because they are not bookable online. That said, there might be some value here.
Of these options, I consider JetBlue and Korean most appealing. JetBlue because it is a cash-price based award chart. One will redeem their Hawaiian miles at JetBlue at a rate ranging from 0.66 to 1¢ per point. This is largely in-line with what you’d expect when flying on Hawaaian’s own metal.
Korean Air might also be a great option, but award-space on this airline can be tricky. Nevertheless, if available, their hard and soft premium-cabin products are fantastic.
So, at the moment, HawaiianMiles aren’t an award currency worth too much time accumulating. But they’re not totally without value.
Although I don’t see HawaiianMiles ever matching the versatility of Chase Ultimate Rewards, the value of Amex Membership Rewards or having the high-end upside of American AAdvantage miles, they are at least trending in the correct direction. While almost all other carriers’ award currencies have declined in value over the past year, Hawaiian has managed to increase theirs, and, you’ve got to appreciate that.