Air travel in the US is not necessarily expensive, but sometimes using points to offset the cost of cash tickets makes sense.
Velocity Frequent Flyer members redeem their Velocity Points for travel on two US airlines: Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines. (Note that whilst you can earn Velocity Points on Air Canada flights, you can’t redeem them.)
In this guide, I advise when to use your Velocity Points for travel within the US, and when to use cash and save your points for another time.
All prices in this guide are in Australian Dollars.
How to maximise Velocity Points by flying Delta Air Lines within the US
When should I use my Velocity Points to fly Delta?
The good thing about Delta is that it falls into the cheaper of the two award charts for Velocity. You can easily search for award availability on Delta flights and book your redemption through the Velocity website.
Delta is my second-favourite airline to fly within the US, after JetBlue.
Delta’s flights are focussed around its hubs, which are mainly concentrated in the eastern half of the country.
Unless you are flush with points, I would suggest using cash or points for Economy Class travel for flights of three hours or less. For longer flights, using points to fly in Business Class may be a better choice.
However, there are occasions when the only award availability that can be found is in Business Class on relatively expensive flights of less than three hours. In this case, I would consider taking the redemption.
Economy Class travel
You’ll get the highest value from your Velocity Points when you use them:
- on routes where Delta is the sole operator; and
- for last-minute travel.
For example, Delta is the only carrier flying nonstop between Los Angeles and the ski town of Jackson Hole in Wyoming during certain months of the year. Given that cash prices start at AU$379 one-way for this two-hour flight, you can get over 3c value per point by using 11,800 Velocity Points + $14.60 in taxes instead. This far exceeds our valuation of Velocity Points at 1.8c each.
Let’s say that you’re on a business trip to Silicon Valley and you meet the partner of your dreams. You decide to fly last-minute to Las Vegas for a shotgun wedding, but prices are upwards of $700 for both of you to fly in the next two days. Velocity Points to the rescue!
You can use 15,600 points + AU$29.20 to fly two people from San Jose to Las Vegas. This gives you 4.3c value for each point, which is more than double its value.
‘First’ Class travel
It’s best to use your Velocity Points for premium cabin travel on domestic US flights of more than three hours in length. However, let’s be real here—this is a Business Class product. Airlines in the US call their top domestic product ‘First’ Class, but it’s just marketing.
This is a comparable product to flying domestic Business Class on Qantas and Virgin Australia. However, you may find the onboard dining options more limited. For example, Point Hacks team member Daniel Scibberas recently travelled the two hours from Detroit to Atlanta and only got offered cookies, almonds or Cheez-Its. On a comparable flight in Australia, e.g. Brisbane to Adelaide, you’d get a hot meal.
Chances are that if you are flying domestically within the US, you’ll be on an aircraft like the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. They’re set up with recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration, much like you’ll find in Australia.
If you are flying on a transcontinental route, i.e. between the West and East Coasts, then you’ll probably get a lie-flat seat (called Delta One). This is also set up in a 2-2 configuration on a single-aisle aircraft like the Boeing 757:
or a better 1-2-1 layout on Boeing 767s.
You can find out if you are getting a recliner or lie-flat seat by using this Chrome extension.
To get a lie-flat seat, you’ll need to be flying on routes across the country like Los Angeles/Seattle to New York/Boston. Also, some flights from Hawaii to the mainland are lie-flat. These flights are in the range of 5-7 hours, so you’ll want a bed to relax.
All of the flights mentioned above cost 49,500 points + $14.60 in taxes.
How to book Delta Air Lines flights using Velocity Points
- Log in to your Velocity Frequent Flyer account
- Search for award availability on the Velocity website
- Make your redemption booking online
Lounge access when flying Delta
Note that if you are flying Delta First Class within North America, you won’t get Delta Sky Club lounge access. This is different from the situation in Australia, where you get lounge access prior to Business Class flights with Qantas and Virgin Australia.
However, you can gain access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying in any cabin, even Economy Class, if you are a Velocity Gold or Platinum member (plus one guest) or hold an American Express Platinum Charge Card (no guesting privileges).
How to maximise Velocity Points by flying Hawaiian Airlines within the US
First of all, you can use your Velocity Points to fly Hawaiian Airlines from Sydney and Brisbane to Honolulu. There is usually more award availability on these flights than on Qantas. There is a separate guide comparing your options below.
When should I use my Velocity Points to fly Hawaiian Airlines?
Hawaiian Airlines falls into the more expensive partner award chart for Velocity, costing 12-30% more than comparable flights on Delta (depending on the route).
Its hubs are Honolulu and Kahului, with focus cities in Kailua-Kona and Lihue.
Intra-Hawaiian Island travel
All flights within Hawaii fall in the first zone of the award chart (600 miles or less), costing 10,000 Velocity Points. Given our valuation of Velocity Points at 1.9c each and taxes of $14.60 on Hawaiian Airlines redemptions, I would only suggest using Velocity Points when these flights cost more than $200 in cash.
Given it is rare to see tickets this expensive, even for last-minute travel, it’s best to save your Velocity Points for Hawaiian Airlines flights to the mainland (or one of these other best uses of Velocity Points).
Travel between Hawaii and the mainland
You’ll want to aim to get on a lie-flat ‘First’ (Business) Class seat on Airbus A330 flights to major US airports. These include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland on the West Coast, and New York JFK and Boston on the East Coast.
Smaller airports get recliner seats on Airbus A321 aircraft. These fly to places like Long Beach, Oakland and Sacramento.
Flying between Honolulu and San Francisco is a sweet spot. Here is the pricing for one-way ‘First’ (Business) Class flights from Honolulu:
|Most other US West Coast airports, e.g. Los Angeles||53,000|
|New York and Boston||78,000|
How to book Hawaiian Airlines flights using Velocity Points
- Search for award availability on the American Airlines website
- Phone Velocity to make your redemption booking
The best way to get value out of your Velocity Points when flying domestically within the US is by using them for Economy Class flights:
- on routes that Delta is the sole operator; or
- booked at the last-minute;
and for Business (‘First’) Class flights:
- of three hours or more; and/or
- on routes on which you can find lie-flat seats.
Award redemptions on Delta are cheaper than those on Hawaiian Airlines. Plus, you can book Delta redemptions online without having to call, like you have to do with Hawaiian.
If you are going to use your Velocity Points for travel on Hawaiian Airlines, it’s best to use them for travel to/from the mainland rather than within Hawaii.
Do you have any tips for using Velocity Points for travel within the US? Share in the comments below!
Supplementary images courtesy Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines.