How to Fly First Class to Hawaii for $16.80

Hawaii is a dream travel destination for many people. Ashley and I spent our honeymoon there and couldn’t wait to go back.  We even talked about living there at some point in our lives.  When most people start looking into vacations and they see how much flights to Hawaii cost, they look to travel somewhere else.  When we went on our honeymoon, our flights cost over $2000 all together…and that was in economy seating (which was miserable on the way back). 

But there is hope.  As the title implies, I recently booked us First Class tickets to and from Hawaii for $16.80 per person.  These tickets normally cost $5155 together.  Saving $5k on flights means we can extend our vacation to over 2 weeks.  So how did I do it?  Simply by following these 10 steps below:

Overview:

1. Sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card (CSP) x2 or CSP & Chase Ink Business+
2. Meet minimum spend requirements
3. Sign up for Korean Skypass and Delta Skymiles awards programs
4. Add family members to Family Plan on Skypass
5. Locate Availability to Hawaii on Delta (or ExpertFlyer)
6. Call Korean Air to Reserve tickets
7. Fill out Skypass Award Application
8. Transfer Miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Skypass
9. Pay taxes (~$16 per person) and receive tickets
10. Visit Delta Skymiles website to select seats

Pretty easy, right? It is definitely worth it to save $5k.  Okay, so I’ll break it down step by step:

 

1. Sign up for Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card (CSP) x2 or CSP & Chase Ink Business+

Most everyone has heard of Airlines giving out frequent flyer miles or points.  However, if you aren’t a frequent traveler, your points might expire before you ever have enough to actually use them.  The solution: Get more points, and get them fast.  Credit card issuers like Chase, Citi, American Express etc. offer cardholders the ability to earn points that can be redeemed for travel either by directly purchasing tickets through Chase, or by transferring points to travel partner airline rewards programs.

Everyone has seen the commercials for the many different credit cards offering 1 or 2% cash back…sometimes even up to 5% cash back in certain categories.  Some of them even let you redeem your cash back for travel.  These cards are nice, and I used them all the time to get Amazon credit before I discovered real travel credit cards.  The problem is, you’re leaving lots of money on the table by using these cards.  Using a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred will stretch your points and miles 5x as far in many cases.

However, one of the biggest reasons to sign up for the CSP, is the 50,000 point bonus you get after meeting the minimum spending requirements (more on that in step 2). Similarly, Chase offerers a business credit card, the Ink Business + which has a sign up bonus of 60,000 points after minimum spend has been met.  However, in order to be approved for this card, you must have some type of business (sole proprietorships do count though).

To fly roundtrip to Hawaii you will only need 25,000 points per passenger for economy, or 45,000 points per person for first class.  So by signing up for 1 CSP credit card, you have enough points to get 2 people to Hawaii & back in economy.  If you want to fly first class, or take more people, you can have your spouse sign up and get another 50,000 points.  Then use the CSP for everyday spending and you will earn 1 point on all purchases and 2 points on all restaurant and travel purchases.  With the Ink Plus card, you can earn 5x points at office supply stores (which sell tons of gift cards, think Amazon), and 2x points on gas, plus 1 point for all other purchases.  Your points will start to add up quickly. In just 1 year, Ashley and I had earned over 330,000 points with 3 credit cards (2 CSP & 1 Ink+).

 

2. Meet minimum spend requirements

The next steps after you are approved and receive your card(s) is to meet the minimum spending requirements in order to receive the sign-up bonus.  For the CSP, you’ll need to spend $4,000 within 3 months. For the Ink Plus, you’ll need to spend $5,000 within 3 months.  This might sound like a lot, but don’t be intimidated, you have 3 months from the date you are approved to meet these requirements.  Plus there are some easy ways to reach the minimum spend.  

A few of them are:

  • Buy Gift Cards for future use (grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, even Visa gift cards if you need to)
  • Use new cards for planned big purchases
  • Pay Bills with your CC….some like insurance can be paid in advance (and you might receive a discount)
  • Micro-lending via Kiva.org (Do this! Help break the cycle of poverty for entrepreneurs around the world)
  • Tithe in advance
  • Pay Mortgage or Car Payment with Tio
  • Buy Money Order with your card at smaller grocery stores, then deposit it into your bank

Just make sure you complete the minimum spending requirements within the given time period and you’ll get your huge sign up bonus.

 

3. Sign up for Korean Skypass and Delta Skymiles awards programs. (Free)

Okay so now that you’ve received your sign up bonus(es), its time to sign up for the 2 rewards programs.

The first one is Korean Air Skypass.

The second is Delta SkyMiles.

These two programs are part of the Skyteam Alliance, which means your can book award flights on Delta with Korean Air Points. So for example: Delta flies from the mainland US to Hawaii.  You can use your Korean Air Skypass points to book award flights on Delta.  Korean Air Skypass is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.  

So it looks like this: Earn Ultimate Reward points via your CSP or Ink+ credit card > Transfer those points to Korean Air Skypass> Book Award Flights on Delta via Korean Air Skypass.

 

4. Add family members to Family Plan on Skypass

If you will be traveling with family, then you will need each traveler to sign up for their own Skypass account. Once they are all signed up, you will have to connect all the accounts into a Family Plan on the Skypass website dashboard (requires proof of relationship -marriage license for spouse / birth certificate for children).  Note: With Korean Air, you can only book award tickets for family members.

 

5. Locate Availability to Hawaii on Delta (or ExpertFlyer)

Since you will be flying on Delta to Hawaii, login to your account at the Delta website and locate the flights you want. Make sure you Click “Show Price in Miles” when searching. Also, you’ll want to only show flights operated by Delta, not Delta & Partner Airlines.

The easiest way to search is using the advanced search on Delta’s website.

delta search

delta calendar

You are looking for Saver award availability- Which is currently 22,500 pts one way in economy (or 45,000 round trip) and 40,000 one way in First Class (80,000 round trip). Remember, these are just Delta’s prices for award tickets – Korean air only charges 45,000 pts round trip in first class and 25,000 pts round trip in economy for the exact same flight on the same airplane. Generally speaking, there is usually a lot more availability in Economy compared to First Class.

So for example, lets say you see that January 31st has an 80,000 RT First Class Fare.  The next step is to verify the availability on the website ExpertFlyer.  This is a premium website, but you can get a 5 day free trial and access everything you need to search for availability.  If your trial expires, just sign up and its like $9.99 a month and you can cancel online after your first month.

So in Expert Flyer, you’ll want to search in the Award and Upgrade Availability Search as seen below:

expert flyer

 

Be sure to enter the correct dates and quantity of tickets.  Lastly, make sure you select which Class of tickets you want to search for.  In this case, I selected all three to see all the availability.  Here is the search results from DFW to Honolulu on 1/31/17:

The important thing to look for is the far right column labeled “Seats.”  If you see “Yes” then there is award seat availability for the quantity you searched.

To HNL

 

If you want to make things more interesting, you can add a “Stopover” or “Open Jaw” to your flight plan.  A stopover is simply a layover that is longer than 4 hours…. Meaning, instead of just flying from DFW > LAX > HNL all in one day, you could leave DFW on one day, stay a few nights in LA, then fly to Hawaii after that.

An open jaw is where you fly into one city at your destination, but fly out of a different one.  For example: Say you wanted to visit more than 1 island while you are in Hawaii.  Your flight plan could look like this:

To Hawaii:
DFW > LAX (stay a few nights) > HNL

Return Flight:
KOA (one of the Big Island Airports) > LAX > DFW

**The only caveat with Open Jaws are that you are responsible for getting from HNL to KOA (which is easy to book via inter-island flights).

 

6. Call Korean Air to Reserve tickets

Once you have organized your flight info (I use a spreadsheet) its time to call Korean Air to reserve your tickets.  This step requires some patience, but the end result is worth it.  Their number is (800) 438-5000. When you first call, you might be told there are longer than normal wait times and they will request to call you back. If this is the case, go ahead and give them your number to call you back, but then hang up and call again.  Once you finally get connected you will be speaking with a reservation agent. Tell them you would like to book an “Award Bonus Ticket” on Skypass with Delta Airlines.  They will request your flight information for your departure and return.  Make sure you explain everything in detail with the flight numbers, exact dates, and be clear about which fare class you would like to book in (economy or first class – they might refer to first class as business class).

At this point, once they have all the information from you, they will set up a call back from a Skypass agent.  They say they will contact you within 24 hours. Skypass agents are only in the office from 10:30AM CT to 7:30PM CT – so be aware of that.  When the Skypass agent calls you back, they will say they have searched for availability on your flights and either found it, or there is no availability.  If they found availability, great! If not, make sure they have the exact dates, flight #s, times, etc. and ask them to check again (they have to manually search for award availability on delta flights).  If they still say there is nothing, ask them to check different dates.  If still nothing, then thank them and hang up and try again with a different Skypass agent (this will require setting up another call back).  Make sure your flight plan meets there routing rules – You are only allowed 1 stopover and 1 open jaw during your trip.

To save some time, it might be a good idea to write down 2-3 different travel dates.  Once they call back, run through the same process and if they’ve found availability, then request that they reserve the award for you and whoever is traveling with you.  Ask for a Korean Air Booking Reference # (to be used in step 7)  as well as a Delta Booking Reference # (so you can pick your seats on Delta’s website). At this point, they will confirm the flight information and instruct you to fill out a form (see step 7). 

 

7. Fill out Skypass Award Application

Now it is time to fill out the Award Application for each passenger. The form is pretty straightforward. The only section I wasn’t sure about was the “Portion” section.  This is just asking for the route. The proper way to fill this out is like this:

DFW – LAX – HNL – LAX – DFW  If you are flying roundtrip from DFW to HNL via LAX. 

Also, when filling out the Mileage Redemption Detail section, I would go ahead and list all of the passengers and their Skypass numbers on each form. Then put a Zero next to everyone else on the Mileage to Redeem section, but on yours put the number for that passenger. So if you are flying Economy you would put 25,000 on each separate form next to your name (45,000 if first class).

Once you have completed forms for all passengers, then email them along with a copy of your passport to: engskypass@koreanair.com

I recommend putting your booking reference number somewhere in the subject line.  After sending the email, call Korean Air again and tell them you just emailed the Skypass Award Application and you want to confirm they received it and pay the taxes for your flight.  Now they will either transfer you to a Skypass agent directly (not likely) or set up a call back.  Before you get off the phone, confirm that everything is set up and booked correctly for your award ticket. Then hang up and move on to step 8.

 

8. Transfer Miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Skypass

Now its time to transfer the points to Skypass from your Chase Ultimate Rewards dashboard.  Login to your account on Chase and navigate to the Ultimate Rewards section, then go to Use Points > Transfer to Travel Partners. Select Korean Air Skypass and transfer the exact total number of points needed for you and other traveling with you. Your points will transfer instantly to your Skypass account.

**NOTE: You can only transfer points 1 time in a 24 hour period.

chase

 

9. Pay taxes (~$16 per person) and receive tickets

After your points have been transferred you can either wait for Korean Air to call you back, or you can call them (I recommend calling them back).  Tell them you would like to pay your taxes on an award ticket. They will collect your credit card info (TIP: use your CSP card and earn 2x points and avoid foreign transaction fees). The Skypass agent will then email you the e-ticket and receipt. Ask them to stay on the phone until you receive the email.  You can also login to your Skypass account and click on My Trips on the upper right corner of the website. There you should see your e-tickets for you and your family.  Print the e-tickets and receipt for your records.

 

10. Visit Delta Skymiles website to select seats

You can login to delta and enter the Trip Confirmation of Booking # that they Korean Air Skypass agent gave you on the phone. Once you are logged in you can select the seats for all passengers. Now you are all finished and you get to save thousands of dollars and fly to Hawaii (in first class if you prefer).

 

Bottom Line:

HoneymoonFlying to Hawaii doesn’t have to be expensive, even in first class.  While calling Korean Air a few times might seem frustrating, it is so worth it. You’ll save tons of money and points by booking Delta via Korean Air.  

I mean, who would have ever thought you could fly 2 people in first class roundtrip to Hawaii for just $16.80 each? This is just the beginning on what is possible in the travel hacking world.  

 

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