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I got an email from reader Karen, who asks:

I would like to take my family of 6 to Hawaii in the summer of 2016 or 2107.  Would like to go first class for this trip.  Have about 1 million chase ultimate rewards saved up. 200k American airlines and 140k Starwood points.  5 of us are based on out NY area and 1 out of Boston. Would like to make sure we get true first class/business class lay flat seats.
I am finding that United is next to impossible for a saver award on their non stop.  It seems American airlines out of LGA connecting seems to be more flexible with saver awards.

First Class to Hawaii

There aren’t a ton of first class options from the Eastern US to Hawaii, and if you want lie-flat seats, the pickings are even slimmer.  United offers lie-flat seats to Hawaii from Newark (EWR), Washington DC (IAD) and San Francisco (SFO), and charges 40,000 miles one-way IF you can find saver space, which is rare, especially when you’re looking for 6 seats.

I actually DID find 6 seats on June 7th of next year when I first looked, but looking now I can only find 4 seats on the direct flight


Other dates only have the “Standard Award”, which is 5 people * 90,000 * 2 for a roundtrip = 900,000 miles.  Nearly a million miles for one trip!  I mean I know that sometimes you have to suck it up and book a Standard Award, but that seems like a LOT!

You do have to be careful searching with United because even when it shows some availability connecting, it’s a “Mixed Cabin” award, where you are in Economy for the leg from Honolulu to California (either LAX or SFO) and then in First for the transcontinental flight.

American and Delta are not much better in availability

So is the trip worth a million miles?


Well, my first reaction would be that no, it would be hard for me to justify 1,000,000 miles for a single trip.

BUT, they’re not my miles!  And if that’s something that’s really important to you, then who are we (am I) to say that it’s not “worth” it.  As long as you’re comfortable with the alternatives (i.e. the opportunity cost of what else you COULD do with those miles), then I say go for it

Some alternatives

In talking with Karen, she mentioned that she and her husband had gone to Hawaii a few years ago using miles, flying Hawaiian Airlines outbound from JFK and United nonstop coming back, and she was not impressed with the seats in first class on Hawaiian, which is why she was interested in a lie-flat bed.

I can understand that – New York to Honolulu is an 11 hour trip, and you don’t want to arrive at your destination so exhausted and uncomfortable that you waste an entire day recovering.  For me at least, it’s less important on the way back, because who cares if you’re tired when you go back to work 🙂

We discussed some alternatives, such as breaking up the trip if you can’t find award availability.  Personally, if I could find a lie-flat bed from places like Chicago, Dallas or Houston, I’d be less concerned about the shorter ride from New York.

But I’m curious to see if any of my readers have suggestions about what they might do.  Leave a note in the comments

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