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Both United Airlines and American Airlines recently made waves in the award travel world by committing to moving to a more dynamic pricing model for award flights. My feelings are mixed on the why and how of these changes, but

However, the changes Hawaiian Air made to their award redemption charts are bad all around.

No-notice changes are always bad news

Few things irk me more than when a loyalty program makes abrupt, immediate changes to their program, providing no notice whatsoever to program members. This stands in stark contrast to other airlines that provide anywhere from weeks, to months, to even upwards of a year of notice for program changes. Korean Airlines is a recent example, giving members a year of notice that they intend to discontinue the option for a free stopover in Korea on an award ticket.

Hawaiian Airlines made their recent changes with no notice. None. If you are in New York sitting on some Hawaiian miles and hoping to use them to visit Honolulu, Hawaiian just sucker-punched you. Why?

(SEE ALSO: Devaluation! Spend Your British Airways Avios before May 30th!)

It’s really a devaluation

While Hawaiian Airlines spins this as a benefit for members, there is almost nothing about it that is beneficial. It’s just marketing lies to candy-coat what is actually a devaluation. They are giving members “more options” for redeeming their miles. The focus is put on providing more options, even if those options are completely undesirable.

Hawaiian writes that they have “expanded award levels”. In reality, they kept their award tiers either the same or increased them, while simultaneously adding additional award tiers for awards that cost obscene numbers of miles.

Case in points: redeeming Hawaiian Airlines miles for flights between New York and Hawaii just got 50% more expensive. Awards used to cost 20,000 miles for Coach SuperSaver, which was an excellent deal. I’m not sure on what availability was like for these awards out of Boston and New York, but there should have at least been some dates available.

Other regions where economy prices increased include:

  • Flights from U.S. East Coast to Tahiti – formerly 47,500 miles, now 57,500 miles
  • Flights from U.S. East Coast to Australia/NZ – formerly 60,000 miles, now 70,000 miles
  • Flights between Hawaiian islands – formerly 7,500 miles, now 10,000 miles

You can check out the new chart and award price ranges here.

The only piece of silver lining is that cardholders of either the personal or business Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard receive a discount on the number of miles required on international routes. Previously, only the routes between North America and Hawaii were discounted from 20,000 miles to 17,500 miles.

Now cardholders receive varying discounts on all routes, depending on the destination and award tier. Discounts are only applicable to main cabin tickets, not first class. In particular, flights to Australia from both Hawaii and U.S. West Coast are cheaper than previously. But they are still more expensive than rates in many other programs. Here is the discounted award chart.

I don’t have a lot to say, other than to warn you that the program wasn’t a lucrative one to begin with and just got worse.

What this really does it move any potential value the program holds over to cardholders. With discounts across the board, the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is a bit more appealing. However, this doesn’t make up for the fact that you can find better deals so many other programs. Case in point: Hawaiian Airlines charges 42,500 miles between the West Coast and Papeete. This same award is available for only 30,000 FlyingBlue miles.

Conclusion

I’ve never been invested in Hawaiian Airlines loyalty program. There are a few partner redemption options I’ve looking into (Korean business class within Asia, maybe?), but little else interests me. The miles I did earn from a sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard a couple years ago ended up being transferred to Hilton. If I ever picked up the card in the future, it would solely be to transfer the miles to Hilton points. Great job, Hawaiian Airlines.

Hawaiian Air 767 image courtesy of Dylan Ashe under CC-BY-2.0 license


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