Maximizing Ultimate Rewards: Korean Skypass #2 (on SkyTeam Partners)

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This post is part five 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 second post on SkyTeam partner sweetspots

Korean SkyPass awards that fly SkyTeam partners have the following rules:

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.29.54 AM

  • Roundtrip and one way awards are the same price, so book roundtrip awards
  • You get one stopover per roundtrip award in addition to the destination
  • You can have three segments maximum in each direction
  • You get one open jaw, at the destination only

Add that up, and you see that a SkyPass SkyTeam award can include time in four cities.

  • A to B (stopover)
  • B to C (destination, open jaw between C and D)
  • D to A

You can include more if you want to take advantage of 23 hour layovers, but I’ll ignore that option for the rest of the post.

The regions for the SkyTeam award chart are mostly what you’d expect, with interesting exceptions highlighted.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.20.55 AM

So what are the good deals on the SkyTeam award chart?

Here are some deals I particularly like:

  • Mainland to Hawaii: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class
  • Within USA, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class
  • North America to South America: 50,000 miles in economy
  • South America Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 40,000 in Business
  • China Hopper: 20,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 25,000 in Business
  • Indonesia Hopper: 20,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 25,000 in Business
  • Middle East Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 40,000 in Business
  • Europe Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy

Note that I don’t include the Vietnam Hopper or Taiwan hopper because of fuel surcharges on Vietnam Airlines and China Airlines.

How to Search

SkyPass awards flying SkyTeam partners are now bookable on koreanair.com. This is great news since you don’t have to waste time calling in to book anymore. However I still think it’s a little bit easier to search delta.com for Level 1 award space and only then to search koreanair.com for that space that you already know exists. Here are some tips for performing the search on koreanair.com once you have your award space from delta.com.

Scroll down to the flight search. Select “International” and “Redeem Miles.”

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You will be required to sign into your Korean SkyPass account. Sign up for a free one here.

Search is completely intuitive. The only problem is that if you search a date without award space, you get an error message instead of a calendar showing when there is award space.

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For that reason, it may actually be a time-saver to search Delta award space on delta.com and then go to koreanair.com to search and book award space you already know exists.

Any Level 1 award space on delta.com is bookable with Korean miles. Unfortunately since Delta no longer labels its award search results Level 1-5 and deleted its charts, the only way to know whether the space is Level is to compare it to this Delta chart I’ve created.

Remember when searching on delta.com, you will not pay the prices you find there. You will book the Level 1 award space with Korean miles on koreanair.com and pay the prices on the Korean Air award chart.

The Sweetspots

Within USA, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 45,000 miles roundtrip in First Class

Simple Mainland to Hawaii

Korean is the only airline I know of that puts Hawaii in the same region as the rest of North America for trips within North America. Take advantage with a roundtrip to Hawaii on Delta flights.

I’d search delta.com for award space one way at a time. Make sure your search on delta.com looks like this, including ticking the “Delta Only” circle (to avoid Alaska Airlines results, which you can book with Korean miles, but at a higher price.)

Your results need to be priced at 22,500 Delta miles one way in economy or 40,000 Delta miles one way in First/Business Class for Korean to have access to the award space. I won’t say there’s a lot, but there is some, and if you are flexible, you can get it for about half what Delta would charge for the same seats.

If you’d like, you can fly into one island and home from another. Just book an interisland flight for under $100 per person to island hop in Hawaii. You can also have a stopover in one direction in a city like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, or Atlanta.

Other Options

Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are all included in the region. You can fly to one, open jaw to another, and stopover in a third on your way home. This 25,000 miles award in economy is constrained only by your imagination.

There are no fuel surcharges on Delta flights within the region that Korean defines as North America.

North America to South America: 50,000 miles in economy

(Korean charges 110,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class to South America, which is better than Delta. Alaska theoretically charges only 45,000 miles each way in AeroMexico Business Class, but Alaska miles haven’t been able to book AeroMexico flights for a while now.)

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Korean groups all of South America into one region, so this isn’t a good deal to Northern South America, which you can get to for as little as 17,500 American Airlines miles or 15,000 Alaska miles one way.

This is, however, a good deal to Southern South America, since the normal price is 60,000 miles roundtrip.

AeroMexico releases good award space in economy to many destinations in South America via Mexico City, and Delta and Aerolineas Argentinas release some award space. You can search all three airlines on delta.com.

All the Aerolineas Argentinas and AeroMexico award space there can be booked with Korean miles; only the Delta space priced at 30,000 miles one way can be booked with Korean miles. None of the award space within the Americas has fuel surcharges.

I’d look into flying to Southern South America with a stopover in Mexico City, and using an open jaw to return from a different part of South America. Look for an open jaw that you can fill with a cheap British Airways Avios award on LAN flights.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 6.32.35 PM

Within South America: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 40,000 in Business

Your only option within South America is Aerolineas Argentinas, which has two hubs at the two Buenos Aires airports.

Here are its flights from the mainly domestic airport in the city (AEP).

Here are its flights from the mainly international airport half an hour or more outside the city (EZE).

Search for Aerolineas Argentinas award space on delta.com. There are no fuel surcharges on its flights.

China Hopper: 20,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 25,000 in Business

A footnote on the Asia 2 chart shows a fantastic discount for roundtrips within China.

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With your stopover, open jaw, and destination, you can see a lot of China on China Eastern, China Southern, and Xiamen Airlines. I’d look to fill the open jaw with high speed rail.

  • A to B (stopover)
  • B to C (destination, train ride between C and D)
  • D to A

That’s four cities in China for 25,000 miles in Business Class plus taxes, plus the cost of a train ticket.

Search for the award space on delta.com. Within China, there are no fuel surcharges on these airlines.

Indonesia Hopper: 20,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 25,000 in Business

A footnote on the Asia 2 chart shows a fantastic discount for roundtrips within Indonesia.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 5.10.03 PMGaruda Indonesia doesn’t charge fuel surcharges within Indonesia, and its Wikipedia page lists four hubs, two secondary hubs, and two focus cities in Indonesia, so your options to see four cities on one award should be immense.

Middle East Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 40,000 in Business

Saudia has three hubs in Saudia Arabia and flies throughout the Middle East. Again, you can construct quite an interesting five-city itinerary for a ridiculously low price. Saudia doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on its Middle East routes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.45.50 AM

Europe Hopper: 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy

SkyTeam has several European partners: Air France, KLM, Altialia, Air Europa, Czech, Aeroflot, and TAROM Romanian.

Unfortunately all of them charge fuel surcharges intra-Europe except TAROM. Here’s where TAROM flies. You could fly something like:

  • Bucharest to Paris
  • Munich to Iași
  • Iași to Bucharest

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 6.33.17 PM

Or you could use some TAROM segments and just pay fuel surcharges on one segment on another SkyTeam airline.

Bottom Line

SkyTeam awards with Korean miles are sometimes very cheap, especially within one region. You want to look for partners that don’t charge fuel surcharges on the routes you want to fly, and you want to take advantage of your stopover and open jaw for maximum value.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Since Delta is rare airline that allows you to book econplus, Delta Comfort, with miles does Korean have a rate for that? Thinking specifically mainland to Hawaii r/t?

  2. @Sarah

    Do you think other airlines like asiana, or some other international carriers have some sweet spots. Emphasizing on which may be Amex membership /ultimate rewards transferable partners.
    And if you would consider doing series like these in future.

    Thanks

    Dracs

    • Absolutely. We have a ThankYou Points series already, are in the middle of this Ultimate Rewards series now, and are planning on rolling out SPG and Membership Rewards series in the future.

  3. Using KE miles to book DL awards sounds great until you go DL.COM and find few, or no, awards at the lowest tier. Very frustrating.

  4. isn’t there a limit on the # of segments for booking delta to hawaii from US with Korean? I found 22,500 award space on delta (delta only flights) but Korean won’t pull them up.

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