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That’s because they offer the best first class award space between the US and Asia of any airline. And there’s very little competition for that space — because Korean Air partners like Delta and Alaska can book business class awards on Korean, but cannot book first class awards.
There just aren’t that many people with Korean Air miles looking to book first class awards living in the U.S. And of course Korean Air flies to more US destinations than any other Asian ariline.
First class awards are less expensive than what United and American now charge. From the US to Japan, South Korea, and China (including Hong Kong) the price is 80,000 miles each way. Southeast Asia is 95,000 miles each way. If you want to travel all the way to Australia it’s 120,000 miles — expensive, but roughly market for first class and with great availability.
They offer super generous award holds. There are very low booking/change fees. And infant award travel on Korean is cheap (10% of the mileage, not 10% of the fare).
While I find Korean Air agents to be competent and helpful, I always prefer online booking to be available at least when possible.
This covers SkyTeam partners like Delta, Air France, KLM, China Eastern and China Southern, etc. It does not cover partners outside of the SkyTeam alliance like Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian, Etihad, Emirates, Jet Airways, or Gol.
Korean charges just 80,000 miles roundtrip for business class between the US and Europe. This means flying on their SkyTeam partner airlines like Delta, Air France and KLM. That’s a 36% savings on the 125,000 miles that Air France KLM Flying Blue charges and a 43% savings on the 140,000 miles that Delta charges. You have access to the same saver award space that these airlines make available to their partners, too.
Fuel surcharges for Asia awards are much lower, of course.
Meanwhile you can book Delta awards to Hawaii now online using Korean miles. That’s just 25,000 miles roundtrip (and SkyTeam and partner awards must be booked roundtrip) in economy compared to 45,000 miles Delta charges for, say, New York JFK to Honolulu.
Delta is cheaper in first class, too.
(HT: Dan’s Deals)