Monday, March 17, 2008

Earn SkyMile Elite miles to Sydney...kinda

As a frequent traveler to Down Under, I was excited to see the press release announcing Delta's new deal with Hawaiian Airlines.

Basically the deal announced for SkyMile members means the opportunity to earn miles on inter-island flights on Hawaiian -- plus flights between Honolulu and Sydney and future international flights from HNL. The real bonus is the ability to earn ELITE miles from the US to Sydney. For Skymile members its very hard to earn elite miles to SYD, unless you want to travel via Seoul.

Normally I fly United to Sydney, but their 747-400s are really showing their age and while Economy Plus is GREAT, I still dont like being on a plane for 14hours-plus in a 3-4-3 seating configuration. To avoid the 747/United flights I used to fly SEA-HNL on United connecting to Air Canada's HNL-SYD route, but thats no longer available due to Air Canada's new 777s which can fly YVR-SYD non-stop year-round.

So having the optional ability to stopover in HNL and being on a 767 with its 2-3-2 configuration -- plus earning Skymile Elite status seems like a great flight to me! But I knew the devil would be in the details of this HA-DL partnership.

The Delta Press Release seems to indicate its a very straight forward deal...

“With Delta’s service to Honolulu, Kona, Lihue*, and Maui, and Hawaiian’s routes within Hawaii and to the South Pacific, SkyMiles members will have more opportunities to reach their island paradise of choice and beyond to other popular global destinations.”

Delta SkyMiles members will earn base miles, class of service and elite tier bonuses on eligible fares of flights operated by Hawaiian. "

Oh...but wait, there is that pesky "eligible fares" disclaimer language! To make matters worse, on its not easy to find an eligible fare.

Its not until the final purchase screen when can you see the actual class of service booked AND which fare classes don't qualify for miles. In this case, H, K, and O classes dont qualify for any miles -- and presumably any elite SkyMiles.

While I can understand the reason to exclude super low fares, its seems unbelievable that Hawaiian doesnt allow you to "upgrade" to a eligible fare class or at least search by eligible fares. At a time when airlines are searching for ways to improve fares and "extra" revenue -- this search ability seems like a no-brainer.

Would I pay an extra $100 to earn Elite Skymiles on SYD-HNL roundtrip? -- you bet! Would I pay $500? maybe not...but Hawaiian doesnt even give me any choices. Well there is a nice $3385 one-way first class fare option...but I dont think that is going to happen for me:

I am happy to see a real SkyMile option to Sydney, but Hawaiian needs to provide some way to book the Skymile-eligible fares online. I checked on and entering "SYD" generates an error message:

SYD is an invalid city code or cannot be booked through this web site. Please check the spelling of SYD or use the appropriate city code."

Hopefully someone will fine tune this relationship -- soon.