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The Best Ways to Fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO)

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Andrew Kunesh
Andrew Kunesh's image

Andrew Kunesh

Former Content Contributor

69 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 28U.S. States Visited: 22

Andrew’s a lifelong traveler who puts in over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew’s worked at Th...
Edited by: Nick Ellis
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Nick Ellis

Editor & Content Contributor

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Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to le...

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Flights between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) are aplenty; after all, it’s either a day-long train or car ride, or a flight that’s just over an hour and a half each way. With so much competition on this route, flights are generally pretty cheap too. Prices usually hover around $49 one-way when booking at least a few weeks in advance.

But as you’d expect, prices jump during peak travel times or when booking at the last minute. So if you commute between LAX and SFO often, it’s good to have a mileage backup plan in place for when flights jump.

Here are the best ways to use airline and credit card miles to book award tickets between LAX and SFO focused on finding options that provide the best value between the two cities. This will allow you to save your hard earned miles for future trips.

Keep a Lookout For Delta Promotion Awards

Using Delta Promo awards to fly between LAX and SFO.
Delta promo awards are one of the cheapest ways to fly between LAX and SFO. Image Credit:

Delta Air Lines has a dynamic award chart meaning that award ticket prices can fluctuate up and down depending on passenger load, dates, and other factors. Because of this, Delta often runs promo awards on its flights between LAX and SFO. Sometimes pricing flights as low as 5,000 miles one-way, so mess around with Delta’s booking calendar to find the best deal.

You can use a Delta co-branded American Express credit card to earn Delta SkyMiles or transfer points since Delta is an Amex transfer partner and Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner.

American Express currently offers several Delta co-branded personal credit cards, each with varying benefits and welcome bonuses.

Fly Alaska Airlines Between The Cities For Cheap

Fly Alaska Airlines Between LAX and SFO
Alaska Airlines flights cost just 5,000 miles between LAX and SFO. Image Credit:

After acquiring Virgin America, Alaska Airlines set up hubs at both LAX and SFO. Because of this, the airline flies multiple times per day between these 2 cities, as well as other Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area airports like San Jose (SJC).

Like Delta, Alaska flights between the cities start at just 5,000 miles one-way in economy, but may be higher during peak dates.

Currently, Alaska Airlines’ only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy, so it can be tough to earn points with the program. But never fear, check out this mega list of ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles through credit card spend, partners, and more.

United Awards Start at Just 7,000 miles

Using United MileagePlus miles to fly between LAX and SFO
United MileagePlus miles can be a solid way to fly between LAX and SFO. Image Credit:

United Airlines recently started charging fewer miles for short-haul tickets. Currently, you can fly between LAX and SFO for just 7,000 United miles one-way in economy. This is 7,500 miles less than a standard economy award ticket, and it can be a good deal depending on the price of a paid ticket.

Hot Tip: United gives its co-branded credit cardholders access to expanded award space. This may open up more award options between LAX and SFO.

As you’d expect, you can earn United MileagePlus® miles with a co-branded United credit card from Chase. Alternatively, you can transfer in points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, so you have a few options if you want to use United to fly between LAX and SFO.

Book a Short-Haul American Airlines Award Ticket

Using American Airlines miles to fly between LAX and SFO
American offers discounts on award tickets between LAX and SFO. Image Credit:

Like United, American Airlines also charges fewer miles for short-haul redemptions under 500 miles. The airline charges 7,500 miles for flights between LAX and SFO, giving you a 5,000 mile discount from a standard domestic redemption. If you prefer to fly in business class between LAX and SFO, those awards cost 15,000 miles one-way.

Note that American partners with Alaska Airlines on flights between LAX and SFO. So with that in mind, American Airlines elite status members will want to search for flights operated by American Airlines so they can take advantage of benefits like preferred seating and upgrades. Unfortunately, it’s harder to acquire American Airlines miles than other options on the list.

Currently, you can only transfer in miles from Marriott Bonvoy, but if you still need extra miles, consider trying a few of these many ways to earn American Airlines miles.

Get a Low Flat-Rate Redemption with British Airways Avios

Using British Airways Avios to Fly Between LAX and SFO
British Airways charges 9,000 Avios to fly between LAX and SFO. Image Credit:

British Airways Avios is a popular way to redeem for short-haul flights around the United States. All North American flight redemptions under 1,151 miles cost 9,000 Avios in economy class and are operated by Oneworld partner American Airlines or Alaska Airlines. For the LAX to SFO route, you can find excellent award space on American even when booking at the last minute.

Even better, you can transfer points to British Airways from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Additionally, you can move Avios from Iberia to British Airways so long as both accounts have been open for at least 90 days. This means that you have plenty of options for flying

British Airways has a co-branded credit card with Chase too. You can use this card to earn Avios on every purchase, putting you closer to more award tickets up and down the California coast.

Cover Cheap Tickets with Southwest Miles

Southwest Rapid Rewards prices awards based on how much a paid ticket costs, so the lower the cash price, the lower the cost of an award ticket. Use these options if paid tickets are cheap but you’d still rather use points to cover your purchase.

Here’s a look at how to use the program to book an award ticket between LAX and SFO, or surrounding airports:

Using Southwest Rapid Rewards to Fly Between LAX and SFO

Using Southwest Rapid Rewards points between LAX and SFO
Southwest operates flights between multiple Los Angeles area airports. Image Credit:

Southwest Airlines has 12 daily flights between LAX and SFO, and even more flights from other Los Angeles area airports like Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Bob Hope Airport (BUR).

When looking for flights between LAX and SFO 3 weeks in advance, you can find tickets for $49 one-way or just 2,517 Rapid Rewards points; this gives you a value of 1.7 cents per point. This is a pretty solid Rapid Rewards redemption, so definitely give it consideration for your next jump up the coast.

Hot Tip: Southwest Airlines offers 2 free checked bags on all of its flights. This includes award tickets, so if you’re planning to check bags to SFO, it’s worth your consideration.

If you need Rapid Rewards miles, you can transfer miles in from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy. Alternatively, you can open a co-branded Southwest credit card or try one of these earning methods.

Final Thoughts

In this article, you learned all of the best ways to use miles and points to fly between LAX and SFO. Remember, these flights can be had for very cheap when booking in advance, so only use points when booking at the last minute or other times when flights are expensive. Otherwise, your points and miles may be better saved for a more exciting redemption.

If you do need to book LAX to SFO with points, check Southwest, and Delta first; these usually provide the best value right off the bat. If that doesn’t work out, search with United, American, and British Airways if your mileage portfolio allows.

Frequently Asked Questions

What airlines fly between Los Angles and San Francisco?

Currently, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines have service between LAX and SFO.

How many airports are in the Los Angeles area?

There are 4 secondary airports in Los Angeles: Bob Hope Airport (BUR), Ontario International Airport (ONT), John Wayne Airport (SNA), and Long Beach Airport (LGB). These airports are served by a number of carriers, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and others.

How many airports are in the San Francisco Bay Area?

There are 3 secondary airports in San Francisco: Oakland International Airport (OAK), Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), and Buchanan Field Airport (CCR). These are served by a number of airlines, including United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and others.

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About Andrew Kunesh

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.

He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.

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