Mommy Points alerted me to Online Travel Review’s post on how to take advantage of the Icelandic kroner’s devaluation against the dollar for a super-cheap flight to Hawaii. It turns out that Icelandair will allow you book an award seat on their partner, Alaska Airlines, for only 20,000 miles in coach or 30,000 miles in first. You can buy 30,000 miles pretty cheaply because although 39,500 kroner sounds like a lot, it’s really only about USD$328.
This takes advantage of a current 20% bonus offer for purchasing miles, which means you really only have to buy 25,000 and get an extra 5,000 free. But so what? Even after the promo ends you’d still only pay about $393 for a first class seat if you had to buy all 30,000 miles. Yes, the award chart says flights within the continental US and Canada, but in the description above it talks about flying to Hawaii, and OTR called in to Icelandair just to confirm that you can actually use this deal to fly cheap to Maui, Oahu, or any of the other Hawaiian Islands. You could use it to go to Alaska, too, perhaps as part of an Alaskan cruise!
Coach is a good deal, too, at around $228, although I’m less enthusiastic. I am lucky enough to live on the West Coast, where $300 fares to Hawaii are not unheard of. I’m not sure it is worth the hassle of searching for award space to save a few Jacksons, and the flight is short enough that first class isn’t really necessary. Remember that not all award seats shown on Alaska’s website are available to partners like Icelandair. Typically it is only the deep saver awards that are shared, and these may be a small portion of the total award inventory.
But if you are coming from anywhere else in the country Alaska serves, then both the coach and first class fares are a great deal if bought with miles instead of cash. And it could be brutal to sit in coach and endure the connections. Those connections will be tough because you have to fly Alaska metal (meaning only Alaska-operated flights, which tend to connect in Seattle, San Jose, and San Diego). If the itinerary connects in Seattle, I saw several options that require staying overnight. (Tip: check out 13 Coins for dinner.)
My advice is to look for award space before you jump in and buy several thousand miles. You’re capped anyway at buying more than 100,000 miles a year, but I’m sure a few people will be smart enough to open multiple accounts. But when I looked to see what was available from Dallas, or even San Jose, to get to Maui, I found a lot of dates that just didn’t work for me or my family. For that reason, I think I’m still likely to pass because I’m not in a situation right now to invest a thousand dollars in miles I may not use anytime soon.