I have booked hundreds and hundreds of millions of miles worth of premium cabin international awards through my award booking service. But believe it or not I had never booked anything with miles in a Korean Air Skypass account before.
Actually, this isn’t that surprising. Most of my clients are US-based with a smattering in Europe and Australia. The clients I’ve had in Asia have mostly been using miles in US frequent flyer programs for their rewards.
Not too many US customers have Korean Air Skypass accounts. Plenty have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, though (from Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold Charge Card). And those transfer to Korean — but since the Ultimate Rewards program is pretty new, and the Korean Air partnership still just shy of a year old, I actually haven’t had occasion.
And today I discovered that they offer one of the Most. Backward. Systems. Ever.
- You can only redeem for yourself and family members.
- And they want proof of family relationship.
If two non-family members are going to be traveling, transfer points into each of their accounts separately don’t put all the points into one account. Fortunately with Chase Ultimate Rewards you can move points from your account to whatever mileage account you wish. And points transferred to Korean usually transfer in real-time.
In this case I was redeeming for two passengers out of the same account, spouse pre-registered to the account with the points in it. Korean said it could take 2-3 days after filling out the online form to register a family member for processing to occur, but it actually happened overnight.
The redemption tool online wasn’t working properly — the website wouldn’t populate the origin and destination city drop down boxes. There was no way to pick where you were flying from and to, and the form wouldn’t submit without values in the boxes. So I had to call.
Fortunately the telephone agent answered quickly, and they found the flights right away.
In my very limited experience, FlightStats.com and Expertflyer show “A” availability on Korean Air (first class award space) and what is shown in those two places matches Korean’s view of what’s available.
The agent set up the reservation. And then they require that a form on the website be completed and emailed or faxed in to authorize the redemption.
I was told to call back in two days to confirm that the form was received and processed, and that I would be able to find out the taxes and be able to pay them at that time.
Meanwhile I don’t like that while I have a booking reference number, the award inventory still appears to show available.
Booking process notwithstanding, though, Korean Air’s award space in first class is downright amazing. First class on the Airbus A380 from Seoul to JFK is out of this world good, several seats on most of the flights I’ve checked are available. With enough points you can to go Asia and back in first class and on one of the modern big birds, all on award tickets.
Mind you, there’s even tons of space booking over peak holiday periods like Christmas.
And Korean Air flies to Toronto, Vancouver, Atlanta, Washington Dulles, New York JFK, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
What’s more there doesn’t seem to be a ton of competition for first class award seats. You can transfer points over from Chase Ultimate Rewards, but you aren’t competing with members of Delta’s frequent flyer program for the seats, even though Delta is a partner of Korean through Skyteam the Delta Skymiles program does not allow redemptions in first class. Taking that huge base of members with large point balances off the table and availability is great.
Korean’s business class availability is really good too. And while Delta members face blackout dates on all routes any date that Korean blacks out on any route (which means that about a third of the year is blacked out entirely), Korean’s members have access to seats on many of those days at the low level (and even on ostensible blackout dates for more miles).
They offer one-way awards and those can include a stopover, such as JFK – Seoul (stop) – Hong Kong all in first class on an Airbus A380 for 80,000 points.
Sure, the award chart is more expensive in many cases than that of US frequent flyer programs. But it’s competitive with world standard and the availability in first class is truly golden.
Walking through their process, though, now that’s another story!