Should You Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Book Korean Air Skypass Awards?
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Hilary Stockton
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Should You Use Ultimate Rewards to Book Korean Air Skypass Awards?

 

Update: Korean has updated the SkyPass site. See How to Redeem Korean Air SkyPass Miles for Award Travel

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Recently TravelSort reader John C. asked about transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air Skypass vs. to United MileagePlus for an upcoming trip, which prompted me to look at the Korean Air Skypass program and award charts.

First off, as you probably know, Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Korean Air Skypass miles:

Should You Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Book Korean Air Skypass Awards?

 

Korean Air Skypass Partners

Korean is part of SkyTeam, so partners include: Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, TAROM, and Vietnam Airlines. 

Additional non-SkyTeam partners include: Alaska Airlines, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, Garuda Indonesia

 

Skypass Award Charts

Now, Korean Air has two award charts, one for travel on Korean Air and the other for Skyteam redemptions. As you can see, the Korean Air chart has a number of blackout dates that include Christmas, New Year's and mid July-mid August and tends to be quite stingy with award availability, so I wouldn't advise booking on Korean Air metal.

Korean Air Skypass Award Blackout Dates 2013-2014

 

Korean Air's SkyTeam chart offers redemptions that on the whole are on par with or more expensive than those available via United, American and Delta, with a few key exceptions: U.S. business class awards to Europe, which are 80K Skypass miles (vs. 100K MileagePlus miles, 100K AAdvantage miles and 100K Delta SkyTeam miles).

You may get excited to see that, unlike Delta, Korean does even appear to offer first class awards. Don't get too excited about flying Air France First Class though--Air France doesn't release any First Class award availability to partners; it's reserved for Air France Flying Blue members. And Air France would have been the only First Class option, since Alitalia and KLM don't have First Class, only Business Class (see Airlines and Routes with the Best First and Business Class Award Availability for Europe).

It's also worth noting that if you're flying from Hawaii to Europe, even though there is a different award chart (since Hawaii is grouped with Mexico and Central America) the roundtrip business class award cost to Europe is still 80K--this is a great deal, since Hawaii-Europe with MileagePlus miles would be 115K miles, 100K AAdvantage miles and 120K Delta SkyMiles.

Business awards to North Africa are also a good deal, at 80K Korean Skypass miles, vs. 115K MileagePlus miles, 150K AAdvantage miles and 120K Delta SkyTeam miles.

Should You Use Ultimate Rewards to Book Korean Air Skypass Awards?

 

Arguably though, the best deal of all is USA to Tahiti via Air France for 90K Korean Skypass miles. This same award would be 150K Delta SkyTeam miles, so Korean offers a savings of 60K miles!

Granted, Air France business class award availability to Tahiti isn't great, and the seats are my least favorite (see Best International Business Class Seats for Sleeping).

 

Of the non-SkyTeam partners, I think the most intriguing alliance is with Emirates, since Emirates now partners with so few airlines. Unfortunately, there's no real bargain here--in fact, you'll pay a premium for this award (140K Korean Skypass miles, vs. 120K MileagePlus or Delta SkyTeam miles or 135K American AAdvantage miles) but it may be worth it to some people who value the Emirates experience. 210K Skypass miles for First Class though just seems too much of a premium to pay, given that it's 150K with MileagePlus. 

And you can forget getting a reasonably priced award to the Maldives, since that would count as 2 awards: 1 to Dubai or Colombo, and a separate award from there to the Maldives.

Should You Use Ultimate Rewards to Book Korean Air Skypass Awards?

 

Searching Korean Skypass Partner Award Space

You can't search for Korean partner award space on Korean Airlines' own site, but you can search using Air France, Delta and ExpertFlyer as described in How to Find SkyTeam Award Space.

 

Booking Korean Skypass Partner Awards

You can either call the Korean Air Service Center at 800-438-5000 or book Korean Air Skypass Awards Online.


Get More Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

If you're finding this post helpful, please consider getting yourself more Ultimate Rewards point by applying for one or more Chase credit cards through one of our referral links.

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $3000 in the first 3 months, gives you 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining, a 7% annual points dividend on all points earned, has no foreign fee and gives you 24/7 access to a human advisor
  • The Ink Bold Charge Card also offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5000 in the first 3 months. You earn 2x points per dollar spent at gas stations, hotels and travel agencies, and 5x points per dollar spent on wireless/cell service, cable and satellite TV, and office supply stores.
  • The Chase Freedom Visa offers $200 cash back (which can instead be earned as Chase Freedom points that transfer into 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after $500 spend in 3 months, with 5x for bonus category spend up to 30,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points for the year. Unfortunately the $300 cash back/30,000 for $500 spend offer that we mentioned in Get 60,000 Points with the No Fee Chase Freedom Card is no longer available, but 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (20K points after $500 spend and 30K points if you max out the bonus categories) is still very good, especially for a no fee card.


Bottom Line

  • For a Tahiti award, where there are so few award options, it's a no brainer to save 60K miles and use Korean Skypass miles instead of Delta Skymiles. Call ahead to check availability before transferring.
  • If you're looking for the cheapest possible business class award to Europe or North Africa, definitely consider transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Skypass after calling and checking that the space is available on your desired dates
  • If you're traveling from Hawaii to Europe, you'll save even more on a business class award with Korean Skypass, vs. using United MileagePlus or Delta SkyTeam miles.
  • If you're traveling to the UAE, Bahrain, Oman or Qatar, you could fly Emirates in business class for a bit more than you'd pay using MileagePlus, AAdvantage or SkyTeam miles, but for some, the Emirates experience may be worth it. 
  • If you need a business class flat-bed seat or first class seat to Europe, you'll probably want to stick with Star Alliance (United and Continental where the fully flat beds are installed; or Swiss if you're willing to fly from Montreal), British Airways (if you're willing to pay high fuel surcharges) or Delta (767-400s with staggered business class).

 

Related Posts

Book Korean SkyPass Awards Online

Best Ways to Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Asiana's New First Class Suites Bookable with United Miles

How to Find SkyTeam Award Space Using Delta Miles

Alaska Airlines: New Online Award Search for Emirates, Air France-KLM, Qantas


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Comments
User_avatar_default John C. commented 31 Dec 2011
Hi Hilary. Thanks for a terrific summary of all the business class awards available through Korean Skypass. Another benefit of the Skypass program is pooling of miles via the Family Plan. Combine this with the generous Ultimate Reward points transfer options and the miles will really start to add up.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 01 Jan 2012
John, thanks! Yes, the Korean Air Skypass Family Plan looks great for endorsing tickets over to family members (where you have enough in your own account to issue the award in a family member's name), but it doesn't look like you can pool miles to redeem a SkyTeam partner award; see http://www.koreanair.com/local/na/gd/eng/sp/rm/eng_sp_rm_ufm.jsp#4
User_avatar_default John C. commented 01 Jan 2012
Thanks
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 01 Jan 2012
Alisha, no, the blackout dates mentioned are specifically for flights on Korean Air; for partners it depends on the partner's blackout dates. As far as I know, Air France does not have blackout dates; but you'll still need to book well in advance given usually sparse availability to PPT.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 19 Jan 2012
Alisha, yes, Korean does charge fuel surcharges on all awards where the partner charges them on revenue tickets.
Picture?type=large Points M. commented 20 Jan 2012
Hi Hilary - I posted an almost identical article on Dec 19 but I couldn't find the taxes and fees. http://boardingarea.com/blogs/pointsmilesandmartinis/2011/12/booking-award-flight-to-french-polynesia-with-chase-sapphire-preferred-and-chase-ink-bold-bonuses/ Could you find the taxes and fees for business class?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 21 Jan 2012
Points M, I unfortunately don't know the fees offhand, but Korean Air Skypass agents should be able to disclose these by phone; did you call them and they weren't forthcoming about the taxes and fees?
Picture?type=large Points M. commented 21 Jan 2012
Hi - Yes I called the agents several times. The process would usually require me to (1) get them to agree the cost is only 90k for business which I did by pointing them to their own site and then (2) searching endlessly for availability which was showing on AF's site. They never could find even one seat in Coach or Business, so I couldn't price it out with them. I think they either don't know how to find availability or block out all seats on that route.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 21 Jan 2012
Ah, good to know--that's pretty disappointing, if Korean is indeed blocking business awards, given they have that footnote on the chart.
User_avatar_default Jennifer V. commented 05 Mar 2012
Beware! I just booked a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo via Korean Air using 70,000 SkyPass miles. Unfortunately, the taxes and fees came out to $623.70!
User_avatar_default Elsie C. commented 18 Mar 2012
I may have missed it, but can anyone confirm that one way redemptions are available? It has been rumored to be possible, but the language is a bit vague on the web site.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 24 Mar 2012
Elsie, sorry for the delay--yes, one way redemptions on Korean Air are allowed for 50% the points for roundtrip.
Picture?type=large Arun S. commented 15 Aug 2013
Hilary, I am not able to get to the charts for some reason in the Korean Airlines website. Is there a link or pointers to get there?
Picture?type=large Jason T. commented 06 Jan 2014
How do you put the reservation on hold while you wait the 3-5 days for the UR points to transfer over?
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