How to upgrade Hawaiian Airlines seats and cabin classes

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A vacation in Hawaii is a common item on many bucket lists, and with good reason. With miles of sandy beach, lushly forested paths, and breathtaking volcanic peaks, Hawaii is the perfect setting to relax in the sun, take a dip in the ocean, or hike a mountain trail.

With more flights to and from Hawaii than any other carrier, Hawaiian Airlines is a convenient way to reach the islands. Flight times tend to be lengthy due to the islands’ distance from the mainland, so seat and cabin class upgrades are good things if you can get them. Fortunately, Hawaiian Airlines offers several ways to do this, from using miles to paying with cash to free upgrades for elite frequent flyers.

Looking for more information about Hawaiian Airlines? Check out our guides to Hawaiian’s fare classes and codes, economy class service, flight changes, and more.

Free seat upgrades

There are basically two ways to get a free seat upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines flights: (1) Guaranteed free seat upgrades are available to elite members of HawaiianMiles, the airline’s frequent flyer program. (2) You can also request an upgrade from the gate agent.

(1) Pualani Platinum and Pualani Gold members of HawaiianMiles are eligible to receive free upgrades to Extra Comfort seats on flights that Hawaiian Airlines operates, if seats are available. For Platinum members, up to six companions traveling on the same reservation are also eligible for the free seat upgrades. Revenue tickets (except Main Cabin Basic) as well as all flight award tickets are eligible for the complimentary seat upgrades.

Starting 24 hours prior to departure, Pualani Platinum and Gold members can select an upgrade to Extra Comfort seating when checking in for their flight. Upgrades to Extra Comfort seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

(2) You may be able to snag a free seat upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines by speaking with the gate agent before your flight.

Free class of service (cabin class) upgrades

North America and international flights

Members of HawaiianMiles with platinum-level elite status (“Pualani Platinum”) receive two certificates that can be used for a one-way upgrade from economy to first or business class on Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights. Each certificate is valid for a one-way upgrade on flights up to 3,500 miles. For flights that are more than 3,500 miles in distance, two certificates must be used for the upgrade.

To earn platinum status, HawaiianMiles members must fly 40,000 miles or 60 flight segments during the calendar year. Six more upgrade certificates can be earned after flying an additional 75,000 miles, with one extra certificate awarded for every 10,000 miles flown over 75,000.

Inter-island flights

For flights to neighboring islands, Hawaiian Airlines Pualani Platinum members are automatically assigned a first class seat at check-in if one is available. If a first class seat isn’t available, they’re placed on an upgrade waiting list. If seats open up prior to departure, members are assigned to them based on the order in which they were checked in.

Paid seat upgrades

If you purchased an economy class seat from Hawaiian Airlines, you can pay to upgrade it to an Extra Comfort seat. Only Main Cabin fares can be upgraded. Main Cabin Basic fares aren’t eligible for upgrades of any type. When purchasing Hawaiian Airlines flights, you’ll be given the option to purchase Extra Comfort or Preferred seats on the seat selection screen.

Hawaiian’s Extra Comfort seats can only be purchased with cash or gift cards; you can’t use miles to purchase the upgrade. If you paid for an economy ticket using miles, you can’t use miles to upgrade it to an Extra Comfort seat, but you can upgrade the seat by paying cash. The cost to upgrade to an Extra Comfort seat on Hawaiian Airlines ranges from $9 to $399 depending on the route and seat location.

Passengers who are flying on a Main Cabin fare can also pay to upgrade to Hawaiian’s Preferred Seats, which are more conveniently located than other economy seats.

Paid class of service upgrades

Upgrading with cash

If you’ve booked a Main Cabin economy class ticket with Hawaiian Airlines, you can pay to upgrade to first class or business class beginning 24 hours before departure. Here’s how: At the top of the Hawaiian Airlines home page, click “Manage Flights” then “My Trips”. Enter your information, select the option to upgrade seats or cabin class, and follow the instructions to complete the transaction. You can also upgrade at an airport kiosk.

Bid on an upgrade

If your flight is eligible, you can bid for an upgrade to first or business class with the Hawaiian Airlines “Bid Up” program. Check your My Trips itinerary – there will be a special offer inviting you to place a bid if your flight is eligible. Passengers with eligible flights will also receive a “Bid Up” email inviting them to make an offer on an upgrade.

Upgrading with miles

To upgrade an economy fare with miles, you’ll need to call the Hawaiian Airlines reservations center anytime up to 26 hours before departure. After that, upgrades with miles aren’t available.

Hawaiian offers two types of mileage upgrades to first or business class: First / Business Saver and First / Business Flex. The Flex upgrades are offered during busy times when Saver awards aren’t available. As you might expect, Flex upgrades cost twice as Saver upgrades, as you can see in the chart below.

Upgrades to Hawaiian’s first class on North America – Hawaii flights are 25,000 or 50,000 miles each way, and most international business class upgrades will set you back 45,000 miles each way for Saver awards, or 90,000 miles for Flex upgrades.

Chart showing the cost in miles of Hawaiian Airlines upgrades
How do I upgrade seats on Hawaiian Airlines flights?

There are several ways to upgrade seats or cabin classes when flying on Hawaiian Airlines. Seat upgrades can be purchased with cash. Class of service upgrades can be purchased with cash or miles. Elite members of HawaiianMiles can upgrade seats or cabin classes for free.

Can I bid to upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines?

Passengers with Hawaiian Airlines economy class tickets can place a bid to upgrade to first or business class (if their flight is eligible).

Can I upgrade Hawaiian Airlines seats with miles?

Hawaiian Airlines economy seats can be upgraded to first or business class using miles.

You can’t upgrade to Extra Comfort seats using miles. If you don’t have elite status with HawaiianMiles, you’ll have to pay cash for the upgrade.

How many miles are required to upgrade to first / business class on Hawaiian Airlines?

One-way upgrades to first or business class on Hawaiian Airlines will cost at least 25,000 miles for North America flights and at least 45,000 miles for international flights.

How do I get a free upgrade on Hawaiian Airlines?

HawaiianMiles elite members (Gold and Platinum) are entitled to a free upgrade to Extra Comfort seating on Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights.

Platinum members receive at least two certificates good for free one-way upgrades to first class (North America flights) or business class (international flights). On inter-island flights, platinum members automatically receive a free upgrade to first class at check-in, if seats are available.

How do I get on the upgrade list for Hawaiian Airlines?

If you don’t have elite status with Hawaiian Airlines but desire an upgrade to first or business class, or even to Extra Comfort seating, you might be able to get onto the upgrade standby list simply by asking the gate agent. Make sure to approach the agent when they aren’t busy helping other passengers or with other tasks.

Once you’re on the plane, you can ask the lead flight attendant for an upgrade. Make sure to ask before the door is closed and takeoff procedures begin.

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