Starting November 2015, Virgin America will begin operating flights between San Francisco and Hawaii. If you’ve ever flown to Hawaii in economy class, you’ll understand what a huge upgrade this is. The airline will be operating one daily flight to Honolulu and Maui. The Honolulu route will begin on November 2 while Maui is scheduled for December 3. To celebrate this new expansion into Hawaii, Virgin America is offering $199 one-way fares to these destinations. To qualify for the $199 fare, flights must be booked by April 8, for travel through February 28, 2016.
There are a couple of things to consider with this $199 one-way fare sale. A $400 roundtrip fare between the Bay Area and Hawaii isn’t exactly a steal. Both Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines have on occasion offered fares as low as $200 roundtrip. Plus, Alaska Airlines has a $99 companion pass that brings the cost of travel down even further. Virgin America, on the other hand offers their credit cardholders $150 off a companion ticket every year, which isn’t as good of a deal on a $400 roundtrip fare. So while you’ll be flying what is, in my opinion, a superior airline the fare isn’t anything special. In fact, I searched some sample dates using Google Fights and Hawaiian Airlines offered the same fares.
On the up side, Virgin America may end up with some very cheap award redemption rates for flights to Hawaii. Virgin America Elevate members earn 5 points per $1 on airfare, which can be redeemed at a rate of around 2.2 cents each for economy awards. Award availability is normally great, but it doesn’t look like they’re offering it on fares to Hawaii. When they do, you can expect to pay around 8,558 points one-way flight that costs $199. This is cheaper than the current redemption rate of 12,000 Elevate points for a one-way flight to Honolulu with partner carrier Hawaiian Airlines.
Considering most award redemptions to Hawaii require 35,000 – 45,000 miles roundtrip, redeeming just around 17,000 Elevate points is an incredible deal. Again, we’ll have to wait for it since Elevate redemptions don’t seem to be an option right now. At these rates, if your roundtrip flight costs less than $770 – $990, Virgin America will have lower redemption rates. Unless they announce a devaluation, now might be a good time to start stocking up on Elevate points.
Virgin America has long been my favorite airline for domestic flights and the first frequent flier program I ever redeemed miles with. Their economy seats are comfortable, the service is great, and the travel experience as a whole is much more pleasant. If I ever do decide to go back to Hawaii, I will definitely pick Virgin America over any other carrier. While flying first class on United between SFO – HNL was a great experience thanks to the flatbed seat, Hawaii isn’t a destination I’d want to fly in a premium cabin unless it was a stop-over on a longer journey.
Will you be flying Virgin America on your next trip to Hawaii?