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MileValue suggested that you may be able to book Virgin Atlantic award tickets with NO fuel surcharges if you use Hawaiian Airline miles.
I just booked a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) ticket, from Chicago to London, for a friend and did NOT pay fuel surcharges! 100,000 Hawaiian Airline miles and $298 for a ticket which costs ~$4,000+ isn’t too shabby!
I priced out the same trip in economy which cost 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and $196 in taxes and fees.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
This opens up another great use of Hawaiian Airline miles besides using them for flights to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines or transferring them to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio.
In fact, using Hawaiian Air miles is the cheapest way to experience a flight on Virgin Atlantic – either in economy, premium economy or in Upper Class. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have First Class, but their Upper Class gets good reviews.
For example, it costs 90,000 Virgin Atlantic miles (as opposed to using Hawaiian Air miles) and $1,127 in taxes, fees, & fuel surcharges for a round trip Upper Class flight using Virgin Atlantic miles from Chicago to London.
In contrast, my friend paid 100,000 Hawaiian Airline miles and $298 in taxes and fees of which $215 were UK air passenger duty for flying in business class – for booking the same flight on Virgin Atlantic by using Hawaiian Air miles!
That’s a savings of ~$830!
Similarly, you can use ANA (Japan’s All Nippon Airways) to book awards on Virgin Atlantic. You will pay less miles because ANA has a distance based award chart, but will still pay the $1,100 in fuel surcharges.
For example, it costs 68,000 ANA miles when you redeem ANA miles for a round trip flight in Upper Class, from Chicago to London, on Virgin Atlantic. But you still pay the high fuel surcharges. I’d rather pay 100,000 Hawaiian Airline miles and save cash (~$830) on fuel surcharges by booking through Hawaiian Airlines.
In my experience, award availability is fairly good on Virgin Atlantic especially if you are flexible with your travel dates.
Hawaiian Air Award Chart
The Hawaiian Air award chart has some great hidden values.
For example, it is only 50,000 Hawaiian Air miles to fly in coach from the mainland US to London on Virgin Atlantic. In contrast, most other airlines require at least 60,000 miles for a round trip award from the US to London.
However, this only helps if you live in a Virgin Atlantic departure city (cities listed below). Otherwise you have to find a way to get to the departure city on your own.
Another great value is the ability to fly from the US to any Virgin Atlantic destination in upper class for only 140,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. So you could fly from, say, Chicago to Dubai, South Africa, Delhi or Hong Kong for only 140,000 Hawaiian Airline miles!
Virgin Atlantic Routes
Below is a list of US departure cities and possible destinations. All destinations involve transiting through London, but you CANNOT have a stop over for longer than 24 hours when you use Hawaiian Airline miles for award travel on Virgin Atlantic. But if you travel in Upper Class, you’d get access to the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse which is quite swanky!
You either have to live in a Virgin Atlantic departure city or find a way to get there on your own. British Airways Avios and the Southwest Companion Pass could be helpful getting to the US departure city, but be sure to allow plenty of time in case of delays because you’re on your own if you are delayed and your Virgin Atlantic flight takes off on time.
1. Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), San Fransisco (SFO), Washington, DC (IAD). Flights to: Cape Town, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos, London, Shanghai, Sydney & Tokyo.
2. Las Vegas. Flights to Cape Town, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos, London (Gatwick), Manchester, Shanghai, Sydney & Tokyo. Note that you will have to transfer from London Gatwick to London Heathrow for all flights outside the UK.
3. Orlando. Flights to Cape Town, Delhi, Glasgow, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos, London (Gatwick), Manchester, Shanghai, Sydney & Tokyo. Note that you will have to transfer from London Gatwick to London Heathrow for all flights outside the UK.
Hawaiian Airlines Award Booking Restrictions
Here are some restrictions when using Hawaiian Airlines miles. These were repeated to me by different Hawaiian Airline agents, but I called back only 5 times, so I’m not sure if these rules are enforced all the time.
Emily: “Only” 5 times? I’m glad I let Daraius make all the award bookings!
- Combine different airlines on the same award
- Have a stop over of more than 24 hours, but you can have a layover while transiting through London
- Mix cabins. For example, fly the outbound in coach and the return in business class even when paying the full business class award rate. This was the silliest rule to me, but I didn’t attempt to actually ticket an itinerary like this
- Have an open jaw where you fly to one airport, but fly back to your origin from a different airport
Using The Virgin Atlantic Website to Find Virgin Atlantic Award Seats
The easiest way is to first find Virgin Atlantic award availability on the Virgin Atlantic website and then call Hawaiian Airlines (see next section) to book the award.
Step 1. – Log into the Virgin Atlantic Website
Log into your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account.
If you don’t have an account, you can sign-up for a Flying Club account here.
Step 2 – Spend Miles
Click on “Book Flights/Spend Miles”
Step 3 – Book a Reward Flight
Click on “Book a Reward Flight”
Step 4 – Enter Your Flight Information
Enter in your flight information and select whether you want to travel in economy, premium economy, or Upper Class. Make sure that the “Spend Miles” option is checked.
Click on “Search” to begin your search.
Step 5 – Calendar
If there are no award flights, you will see a calendar of available dates. Select dates which work for you and click on “Show Flights”
Step 6 – Flight Details
You now know that there is 1 Upper Class award seat from Chicago to London on Virgin Atlantic flight VS 040 returning on VS 039 on May 9, 2013.
So instead of relying on the Hawaiian Airlines agent to find this flight for you, you can feed this specific flight to the agent to book.
At this point, write down the flight details. For example, I’d write down:
VS 040 from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to London Heathrow (LHR) departing at 18:00 on May 1 and arriving in London on May 2 at 08:00 am in Upper Class.
VS 039 from London Heathrow (LHR) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) departing at 11:00 am on May 9 and arriving in Chicago on May 9 at 13:55 pm in Upper Class.
Armed with this information, you can now call Hawaiian Airlines to book your Virgin Atlantic award flight. You can also ignore the taxes and fees which show up on the Virgin Atlantic website because you will pay only a small fraction of that when you use Hawaiian Airline miles.
How to book Virgin Atlantic Flights Using Hawaiian Airline Miles
The best way to book flights is to find award availability on Virgin Atlantic in either economy, premium economy, or Upper Class using the Virgin Atlantic website (see previous section) and to then call Hawaiian Airlines to book the award.
The Hawaiian Airlines agents are based in the Philippines and are very polite on the phone. But they don’t appear to be trained well and don’t appear to have experience booking Virgin Atlantic awards. I have not read of anyone booking a Virgin Atlantic award using Hawaiian Airlines on FlyerTalk or on other blogs, so this could be a first time for many of the agents.
My best advice is to not get flustered or to call the agent incompetent and get frustrated. We don’t know what systems the agent is working with or the level of training which the agent has received. It is usually best to be friendly and patient to help get what you want.
Instead, try to guide the agent through the booking process which includes spelling out the airport codes for the agent. If the agent can’t find the flight or is making stuff up (“we can only book 3 weeks in advance”) hang up politely and call back immediately and speak with a new representative.
It took 5 separate phone calls & about 40 minutes to complete my friend’s booking. Here are a few tips:
1. Call Hawaiian Airlines. Call Hawaiian Airlines at 877-426-4537. Press “0” on your keypad and enter your 9 digit Hawaiian Air number followed by “#.”
Business hours are from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm HST, Monday to Friday. That’s 1:00 pm CST to 9:30 pm CST, Monday to Friday.
2. Guide The Telephone Representative. Be very specific in your request to the telephone agent. Include as much detail as possible (without overwhelming the representative) and take it step-by-step.
In my experience, the representatives appreciated the guidance. The agents appeared to be following a script and would put me on hold, so bear with them.
Here’s how my conversation went:
Me: Hello! I’d like to book a flight on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) for 100,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles from Chicago to London.
Agent: I’d be more than happy to help you with that. What is your departure date?
Me: I’d like to leave Chicago – that is airport code ORD – on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. [You could even specify the flight number and timing if you want]
Agent: When would you like to return?
Me: I’d like to return from London – airport code LHR – on Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Agent: One moment please while I check.
Me: Sure, take your time!
Agent: Yes, there is availability.
Me: Ok, thank you! [I then check to make sure that the flights which the agent found match the flights which I found on the Virgin Atlantic website and that the class of service is the same]
Let’s ticket this now!
Agent: I can’t ticket this now until Virgin Atlantic confirms the flight, but here’s your confirmation number. Please call back within 3 days to complete ticketing.
Me: Sure! [I then call back in a few minutes or in a few hours to complete the ticketing. Be sure to get the Virgin Atlantic confirmation code in addition to the HHawaiian Airlines code so that you can look up your flight information on the Virgin Atlantic website.]
3. Hang Up & Call Back. Many times, the agent won’t be able to find the flights you want. Politely thank the agent, and CALL BACK! There is a lot of variability in staff experience levels so use this to your advantage.
I was told that I needed to wait until 21 days before departure [Thanks, goodbye! click]
And many agents couldn’t find the flights which I saw on the Virgin Atlantic website so politely hang up and call back
Do NOT tell the agents that you can see the flights on the Virgin Atlantic website because they will tell you that award availability is different for members of Virgin Atlantic’s program. In my experience, there is no difference in award availability so don’t bring up the Virgin Atlantic website in your call.
4. Virgin Atlantic Award Calendar. I suggest having the Virgin Atlantic award calendar open when you call. If the agent can’t find awards for the date you’re looking for, you could ask him or her to search for another date which has award availability. If the agent still can’t find availability, it could be that the agent doesn’t know how to find availability in which case, hang up and call back!
5. Requesting Flights & Confirmation. Another quirk is that you sometimes can’t complete the ticketing process in 1 call. That’s because Virgin Atlantic has to confirm whether there are award seats on the flight.
In my experience, once you get a confirmation code from Hawaiian, call back in a few minutes or hours to see if another agent can complete the ticketing. If not, call back the next day and you should be able to complete booking the award.
Earning Hawaiian Airline Miles
It is very easy to earn Hawaiian Air miles!
1. Credit Cards. You earn 35,000 Hawaiian Airline miles each with the Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii (issued by a division of Bank of America) Hawaiian Airlines cards. You can get the bonus separately for each of these cards. These are not my affiliate links.
Even better, you *may* be able to get the 35,000 mile sign-up bonus again, if you apply for the card after 3 to 4 months. You may not need to cancel the card before reapplying, but cancelling could help if you have a lot of outstanding credit with Bank of America.
I usually mention that I want to separate my business and personal travel expenses or that my travel preference recently changed and that I try to align my credit cards to my travel preferences.
2. Transferring Points from American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Hotels. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood hotel points to Hawaiian Airlines in a 1:1 ratio. Transfers from Membership Rewards are instant, but it could take ~1 week to transfer Starwood hotel points.
3. Amazon.com Shopping. You can earn 1 Hawaiian Airline mile per $1 spent for shopping on Amazon.com when you shop via the Hawaiian Airline shopping portal. This is the only way to earn miles for Amazon.com shopping.
4. Purchase Unlimited Miles. You can purchase an unlimited amount of Hawaiian Airline miles from the Hawaiian Airlines website up to 10,000 miles per purchase. It costs 2.68 cents per Hawaiian Airline miles, so this is usually a poor value unless you want to top off your account.
However a slightly cheaper way is to buy American Express Membership Rewards points for 2.5 cents per point and then transfer them to Hawaiian Airlines. You can only buy 500,000 Membership Rewards points directly from American Express.
5. Transfer Miles For Free. If you have a Hawaiian Airlines credit card, you can receive miles from anyone for free. This is a great way to consolidate miles from your extended family.
Using Hawaiian Airline miles on Virgin Atlantic flights with no fuel surcharges is a great new way to use Hawaiian Airline miles! However, it does take time and multiple Hawaiian Air agents to successfully book an award.
You can also use Hawaiian Airline miles to travel to Hawaii (but Hawaiian Airlines has limited routes from the mainland US) and to transfer to Hilton in a 1:2 ratio.