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I wrote an earlier post on Hawaii award redemptions when I first discovered this particular loophole. When I wrote about it, I was simply presenting the basic strategy, because we had not yet booked our trip. I am happy to report that we now have an AMAZING trip on the books – including two days in Sonoma Valley and thirteen days in Hawaii!!! Our entire roundtrip flight cost only 25,000 points + $33 per person!! Read along to find out how we did it…
This strategy is alarmingly simple on the surface, but requires just a bit of effort to pull off. This article specifically addresses roundtrip economy award tickets for 25,000, but you can also book roundtrip first class tickets for 45,000 each. I’ll break down the process in steps.:
Step 1: Acquire 25,000 Transferrable Points (per person)
There are five very efficient options to grab these miles. Since credit card links and offers change regularly, I have trouble keeping these links updated. You can apply for the most current offer for any of these cards through CreditCards.com using the banner link at the very top of the website.
Option 1 – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with a 50,000 Ultimate Reward (UR) Point bonus + 5,000 Points for adding an authorized user. To earn this bonus, you will need to spend $4,000 in 90 days. With this bonus, you will have enough for TWO ROUND TRIP TICKETS!! Chase UR points convert directly to Korean Air Skypass miles at a 1:1 ratio, and the transfer is instant.
Option 2 – Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve would be the top option here, because it comes with a sign up bonus of 100,000 UR points! However, it does carry a $450 annual fee, which may deter those who are new to the world of miles/points. The card also features a $300 travel credit annually and free Global Entry. This is an absolutely incredible value if you are willing to pay the big annual fee. You can take FOUR people to Hawaii with the bonus from this card!
Option 3 – Chase Ink Preferred Business Card
The Chase Ink Preferred card comes with an 80,000 UR Point bonus! This will be more than sufficient to get you and a companion to Hawaii. You will even have points left over if you need to top up your Hyatt account for a hotel while you’re in the islands!
Option 4 – American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Card(s)
The Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Card and Starwood Business Card both feature a bonus of 25,000 SPG points. To earn this bonus, you must spend $3,000 (or $5,000 for the business card) within 90 days. Korean Air is a transfer partner for Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points. When transferring SPG points to airlines, you will receive an extra 5,000 miles for every 20,000 points you transfer. Transferring 20,000 SPG points = 25,000 Korean Air miles!
If you do not use your SPG points for Korean Air miles, they are great for booking free nights in Hawaii. We booked 5 nights at the Sheraton Kauai Resort for 48,000 Starwood Points!
Step 2: Create a Korean Air Skypass Account
Once you have earned your Chase UR or SPG points, you must create a Korean Air Skypass Account. Register for an account here. Korean Air also allows you to use your miles to book tickets for immediate family members. If you plan to do this, your family member will also need a Skypass account. Once they create an account, you must submit a Family Registration Application. According to the rep, the online application is processed much more quickly than the paper application. Mine and Brooke’s family application required us to scan a copy of our marriage certificate for proof.
Step 3: Find Award Seats on Delta
Yes, you read that correctly. Delta is a sky team partner with Korean Airlines, therefore seats on Delta flights can be booked using your Skypass Miles. Head over to Delta’s website to locate the flights you want. You must have a sky miles account to view award availability, so go ahead and create one. When you search, make sure you select “Show Price in Miles.” To see which seats that Delta is making available to partners, you may want to do an award search on Air France or Alaska Airlines.
This is where it gets fun! Korean Airlines has pretty generous routing rules. They allow one stopover (connection lasting more than 24 hours) en route to your destination and one open jaw (fly into and out of different airports) at your destination. All segments must be booked on Delta flights, because Korean Air does not allow multiple partner airlines to be booked on the same itinerary. I chose to create the following itinerary:
MCI –> SFO (2 day stopover) –> LIH…(open jaw)…OGG –> MCI
When you search for a route, you do not have to use these exact cities. You can schedule your stopover in a completely different city, and you can use different islands for your open jaw. Use the Multi-City search function to play around with routes. Other possible itineraries could be:
ORD –> SEA (4 day stopover) –> HNL…(open jaw)…KOA –> ORD
JFK –> MCO (3 day stopover) –> OGG…(open jaw)…HNL –> JFK
As long as your route follows these rules, and delta shows award space at the saver level (45,000 – 60,000 Skymiles), you should be able to book the round trip for only 25,000 Skypass miles! Write down the specific details of your itinerary, including flight times and numbers for the next step.
**NOTE – You MUST find your own transportation to complete the open jaw portion of your trip! More on that in Step 7.
Step 4: Call Korean Airlines to Hold Your Itinerary
Now that you have an itinerary selected, and you have taken thorough notes, you need to call Korean Airlines at 1-800-438-5000 and speak to an agent. The agent will take down your selected itinerary and schedule a call back from a booking agent within 24 hours. If you ask nicely (especially if there is limited availability on your routes), they may be able to transfer you directly to the booking agent.
The booking agent will use the information you provided to determine if the seats are actually available. It took me three calls to the booking agent before my itinerary was finalized. On the first two calls, they had no availability on my flight of choice. Sometimes this happens, and you must be willing to adapt. Simply thank them for their time and re-work your itinerary. They will also confirm whether your selected itinerary is within the Korean Air routing rules. If everything checks out, they will hold your itinerary while you handle the next steps.
Step 5: Transfer Points to Korean Air Skypass Miles
At this point, you will need to transfer the Chase UR or SPG Points that you earned in Step 1. Chase UR points transfer to Korean Skypass Miles at a 1:1 ratio and transfer instantly. SPG Points transfer at a ratio of 1:1.25 if you transfer in increments of 20,000 points and can take a few days.
Step 6: Submit the Award Application Form
The final step to booking your ticket is to submit the Award Application Form. You will need to fill out the form, print, and sign it. Then, scan and email the form and a copy of your passport(s) to email@example.com. If you are booking tickets for your immediate family, they must appear as family within your Skypass account (see Step 2). If you plan to travel with people who are not immediate family, each passenger must submit this Award Application Form, and book with miles from their own accounts.
When your application has been accepted, you will receive a call from a Korean Air representative to collect the taxes of $11 per segment. After paying, you should check back within your Skypass account under “my trips.” Look for international tickets, and your tickets should appear within a few days. Congratulations, you’re going to Hawaii!!
Step 7: Complete the Open Jaw (optional)
If you chose to include an open jaw in the Hawaiian islands, you will be responsible for getting from your arrival airport to your departure airport. For our trip, we land at LIH, and depart from OGG. To close the jaw, we are using American Airlines miles to book island hopper flights on Hawaiian Airlines. Simply search for the flights on American Airlines’ website. They only cost 6,000 United miles or 7,500 AA miles per segment (10% less if you have the Citi AA Platinum MasterCard)! We are flying LIH –> HNL –> OGG using this method.
I hope this guide has been helpful to book your dream getaway to Hawaii! Remember that you can apply for any of the cards mentioned in this guide by clicking through the CreditCards.com banner at the top of the page. This will take you to the most current offers for the cards.
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