Flight deals to Hawaii from $119 available into late 2020

Dreaming of the future trips we hope to one day take is part of my family’s strategy for coping with the COVID-19-imposed lockdown. High on our list of vacations we plan to take when the world reopens is a return trip to Hawaii. We loved it before this current phase of life we are all in, and we can’t wait to visit it again when this is all over. Of course, now is not the time for leisure travel. In fact, Hawaii very clearly has asked tourists to stay away for now. No one knows exactly when it will be safe for some to embark on leisure travel to the Aloha State, but dreaming, planning and potentially even booking tickets with flexible change and cancellation rules is part of how my family is coping with our current realities.

Editors note: Don’t book travel unless you fully understand the penalties around changing or canceling if the COVID-19 situation still warrants such measures in the second half of the year. TPG does not recommend leisure travel at this juncture, but we are crossing our fingers and toes for travel later in 2020.

If you are interested in getting something on the books, or even just want to daydream about travel, here is a sampling of one-way paid and award flight deals we are seeing to Hawaii for the second half of 2020 and into early 2021.

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(Photo courtesy of Cavan Images/Getty Images)
(Photo courtesy of Cavan Images/Getty Images)

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Flight deals currently available to Hawaii

Austin – Honolulu: 12,324 Rapid Rewards points or $173

Southwest has many mid-country routes to Hawaii available from about 12,324 Rapid Rewards points each direction as far out as its calendar extends, which is currently late October. Of course, those with a Southwest Companion Pass could fly two people for that price (plus minimal taxes/fees). Keep in mind that Chase Ultimate Rewards points from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio.

Related: How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Charlotte – Honolulu: 15,000 American miles in economy, 30,000 miles in first

If you want to use American Airlines miles to go to Hawaii, you can scoop up deals from a whole bunch of cities — even for holiday travel dates — for 15,000 American miles each way in economy on one-stop itineraries or from 30,000 miles in domestic first class on a wide number of dates into 2021.

Chicago – Honolulu: $199

On both American and United, you’ll find flights to Honolulu starting at $199 into October from Chicago. Beyond October, you’re likely looking at a higher starting price of about $270 each way into early 2021.

Related: Best ways to use miles to fly to Hawaii

Dallas – Lihue: $242

One-stop flights to Lihue are available on American Airlines are available into early-December at this price in each direction. But, what’s great is that after that, the fare only jumps a little to $254 for some holiday travel dates and into March 2021.

Related: Best things to do in Kauai

Houston – Honolulu: 15,000 American miles in economy, 30,000 miles in first

If you want to use American Airlines miles to go to Hawaii, you can scoop up deals — even for holiday travel dates — for 15,000 American miles each way in economy on one-stop itineraries or from 30,000 miles in domestic first class on one-stop itineraries on a wide number of dates into 2021.

Houston – Lihue: First class from 40,000 to 60,000 United miles

Into late 2020, including holiday dates, you can fly in first class on United from Houston to Kauai on connecting itineraries for 40k to 60k miles on select dates. The normal price is 90k to 100k miles each direction. Now, historically United has not put its best business class products on the routes to Hawaii, but there’s no telling exactly which configuration of planes will be flying that route in late 2020.

New York – Honolulu: $223 or 15k American Airlines miles in economy, 30k in domestic first class

One-stop flights on American Airlines are available on most dates from New York City to Honolulu into late-October for $223 each way. Prices rise to the low-$300s each way as you get into very late 2020 dates and into early 2021. But, you can also just save the cash and redeem 15,000 miles in economy or 30,000 in first class on many dates.

Oakland – Lihue: 8,424 Rapid Rewards points or $119

If you want to fly on Southwest’s nonstop flights from Oakland to Lihue on Kauai, it’s just 8,424 Rapid Rewards points on various dates as far out as the Southwest schedule goes (late October). With the Companion Pass, two can fly for that amount, with just the additional cost of taxes.

On these same routes that Southwest operates, expect to also find matching $119 prices on Hawaiian Airlines, at least as far out as the Southwest schedule extends.

Related: 5 reasons to fly Hawaiian Airlines to Hawaii

Seattle – Honolulu: $123

United has $123 one-stop flights into late-October. Prices rise to the low $200s once you get past October to the end of the schedule.

San Jose – Kona: 8,424 Rapid Rewards points or $119

Many of Southwest’s West Coast routes to Hawaii are just 8,424 points each direction on many dates through the end of the calendar.

San Francisco – Honolulu: $389 in first class

If first class has your fancy, know that it’s available from $389 each way on Alaska Airlines into early 2021 — and this includes some dates during the winter holiday period.

Related: Best credit cards for booking airfare

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Hawaii pricing trends

Naturally, prices for flights to Hawaii generally increase as you move from the West to the East Coast. However, unlike with domestic flights or those to the Caribbean, in most cases, I’m not seeing a huge pricing spike as you go from late 2020 into March 2021. This means you could potentially book early 2021 Hawaii trips at lower than normal prices.

The two offers that caught my eyes the most were lie-flat seats on United for significantly fewer miles than normal from places like my own hometown of Houston. And perhaps even better than that were the award deals available with AAdvantage miles. There is widespread availability to Hawaii for 15,000 American miles each direction in economy and 30,000 in domestic first class.

Use the American Airlines award map tool to quickly spot the best deals on miles. If you need to stock up on some American Airlines miles, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is offering 60,000 miles after hitting the $2,500 spending requirement in the first three months. Small business owners could get the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® that is awarding 70,000 miles with $4,000 in spending in the first four months.

Related: Best credit cards for American Airlines flyers

How to find your own flight deals

The above is just a sampling of what we’re seeing to Hawaii, and it’s highly likely the routes you are most interested in aren’t on this list. That’s not a problem if you know how to search for your own flight deals, and here are some of our favorite tools for doing so.

Related: Tips for finding cheap award flights

Explore with Google Flights

Start exploring at Google Flights. You can search flights to your dream destinations from multiple airports to help you spot the best deal. Or, you can search from your destination (“Where from?” field) to any gateway in the United States by typing “USA” in the “Where to?” field. You’ll get a map showing the cheapest flights to airports around the country.

Here’s a map of prices for New York City to Hawaii from Google Flights. (Just keep in mind that this map shows you the next six months, so the cheapest fares may be for dates where we know we won’t be ready for leisure travel.)

Related: How to be an advanced user of Google Flights

Decide if you’ll pay with cash or points

When you find an airfare deal, you’ll need to decide if the deal is best on cash or points. That’s a personal decision that only you can make (and conserving cash right now isn’t a bad plan). There’s no right answer here, but if you have the opportunity to use just 15,000 to 30,000 American miles each way, that’s not a bad deal. We found that the frequent flyer programs that are the most dynamically priced are currently the ones with some of the best award prices to Hawaii.

Related: Should you use miles or cash to buy airline tickets?

Understand cancellation policies before buying an airline ticket

Finally, before buying any airline ticket in the current realities, understand the cancellation and rebooking policies for the carrier you book. Airlines have been adjusting their policies to be more friendly for future bookings, but what that means can vary from airline to airline, and they may differ depending on whether you used cash or miles. While you’re now often able to rebook an airline ticket for a future date without a change fee, just remember that you’ll likely still be on the hook for any fare difference from your old ticket to the new one.

Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies

If you’re booking an airline ticket with points or miles, here are the best ways to avoid change and cancellation fees on award tickets. You can also factor in using a credit card with good built-in travel insurance (though that doesn’t kick in simply because you choose not to travel.)

Bottom line

No one can guarantee when we’ll be able to travel. The coronavirus situation is fluid with no firm end date in sight — yet. If you’re willing to make some speculative bookings for the second half of this year or early 2021, you could end up traveling and having a fantastic time — or you might need to cancel or rebook for a future date. Go into each reservation with your eyes open and a firm understanding of the cancellation/rebooking terms.

Let us know in the comments below if you decide to book something for late this year or early 2021.

Featured image of Disney Aulani by Summer Hull/The Points Guy