Maximizing Ultimate Rewards: Korean SkyPass #1

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This post is part four of a series about how to maximize value when transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards to loyalty program partners. 

Maximizing Your Ultimate Rewards Series Index

Korean Air has multiple award charts when redeeming its SkyPass miles. There is one award chart to fly Korean, one award chart to fly SkyTeam partners (click SkyTeam awards on left hand side toolbar), and award charts to fly Alaska, Hawaiian, Gol, and Emirates (click partner airlines bonus on the left hand side toolbar, and then click the appropriate logo). Each award chart has sweetspots, so I will run through all the sweetspots in three posts. This is the first post on Korean Air sweetspots

Korean Air flies to more American cities (12), which is more than any other Asian airline. Korean flies a modern First Class, which gets good reviews. Korean releases more First Class award space than any airline I’ve ever seen, and there is almost no competition for those award seats because Delta SkyMiles can’t book them.

But what are the good deals on the award chart to fly Korean First Class?

Here are some deals we particularly like:

  • United States to China, Japan, Korea, Northeast Asia: 80,000 miles in First Class
  • Japan, Korea, or China to Southwest Asia or Maldives: 57,500 miles in First Class
  • Japan, Korea, or China to Southeast Asia: 45,000 miles in First Class

Prices are about 50% higher during the peak window, which only affects 60-70 days a year. If you want to fly Off Peak, it is very easy to do. Just avoid these peak dates:

United States to China, Japan, Korea, Northeast Asia: 80,000 miles in First Class

American also charges only 80,000 miles in First Class to Japan and Korea, but a whopping 110,000 miles to China and Southeast Asia. Award space is fairly good on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific. If you can’t find award space there, search Korean award space, which is plentiful.

Korean charges the same price to Korea, Japan, and China. For the same price as the direct flight from Korea, you can tack on another few hours in First Class on a different aircraft to sample a few different First Class suites. I believe the longest itinerary you can get for 80,000 miles is Hong Kong to Seoul to Atlanta, though most of the flights to the United States are about the same length.

Out of Hong Kong, fuel surcharges are only $86.

Japan, Korea, or China to Southwest Asia or Maldives: 57,500 miles in First Class

Fly from the United States to Northeast Asia on a cheap award (like maybe 25,000 Alaska miles in economy), hang out for a bit, and then fly a Korean award to Southwest Asia.

You can squeeze quite a bit of flying over 2-3 segments onto the Korean award. Something like Hong Kong to Seoul to Colombo to the Maldives for 57,500 miles in First Class is outrageously cheap. Seoul to the Maldives is 11.5 hours–-10 hours in the air and 1.5 hours on the ground in Sri Lanka.

Taxes and fuel surcharges are only $23.77.

Even Seoul to Mumbai is 8 hours and 40 minutes of First Class for 57,500 miles and $2377.

Japan, Korea, or China to Southeast Asia: 45,000 miles in First Class

Again if you can get to and from Asia on separate awards, this offers great value from Northeast to Southeast Asia.

Seoul to Yangon, Myanmar is 45,000 miles + $27 for 6 hours of First Class. You can get more time in First Class by connecting to Seoul for free from somewhere in Japan or China.

Singapore is about the same distance and the same price. Award space is available on multiple daily flights for 45,000 miles + $23.77 in First Class.

Bali is the longest flight to Southeast Asia, but I didn’t find any First Class space. Business Class is 35,000 Korean miles + $23.77.

Bangkok and Chiang Mai are 45,000 miles + $25.18

Free Stopovers

One way awards on Korean flights can have a free stopover.  The only restriction on how long your stopover can be is that all flights must be flown within one year of booking.

For example, here’s a First Class award from Los Angeles to Seoul in mid March, stopover in Seoul for two months, and then on to Tokyo in mid May for the all-in price of 80,000 Korean miles + $49.17.

Product

Korean Airlines lists five First Class products. All are fully flat beds.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.37.36 PM

The best one, the Kosmo Suites 2.0 was introduced in May 2015, and this blogpost (Google Translate) said they will be on the 747-8i, 787-9, 777-300ER, and A330-300. It looks like they will only be on new planes delivered, and other planes will not be retrofitted. I do not think all 777-300ERs or A330s will have them.

Unfortunately I cannot find more specific information about which First Class product is on each plane.

Bottom Line

First Class award space on Korean Air is available on nearly every flight for 2+ passengers. You can book it for as little as 45,000 Korean miles one way plus under $30 of taxes and fuel surcharges.

There are sweetspots on the chart from the United States to Asia as well as for intra-Asia awards.


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11 COMMENTS

  1. Sarah and Scott: Thanks so much for this series on Ultimate Rewards and Korean Skypass. As someone who’s becoming increasingly disenchanted with the ability to find saver business and first awards on the legacy US carriers, I’m shifting my focus more on the foreign carriers for future international award travel. You lay it out so well, I’m printing it all and putting it in my Korean Skypass folder.

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