Maximizing Ultimate Rewards: Korean Skypass #3

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This post is part six 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, Etihad, Jet, 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. The post on SkyTeam partner sweetspots is here. This is the last post, about sweet spots when flying Korean’s non-alliance partners. 

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

  • Roundtrip and one way awards are the same price, so book roundtrip awards.
  • Emirates, Hawaiian, Etihad, and Jet awards are priced per segment, so connecting itineraries are really two awards.
  • Alaska and Gol awards are NOT priced per segment, so connecting awards are allowed for the price on the award chart.
  • You get one stopover per roundtrip award in addition to the destination on Alaska and Gol awards. You can also feel free to stopover between segments on Emirates, Hawaiian, and Jet awards (only one on Jet awards), since connecting itineraries are really separate awards.
  • You get one open jaw, at the destination only

Add that up, and you see that awards on Alaska and GOL 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.

SkyPass awards will include fuel surcharges when an identical cash ticket would have fuel surcharges. You can use ITA Matrix to look up fuel surcharge info for the awards in this post. Only the awards flying Emirates have fuel surcharges.

So what are the good deals on the non-alliance partners’ award charts? Let’s look at the charts one by one.

Emirates Chart

This award chart takes up the most space, so I have just excerpted it:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.24.39 PM

 

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.24.29 PMScreen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.26.25 PM

Every roundtrip direct flight is a new award, and there are no bargains on the award chart. The United States to Dubai roundtrip is 210,000 miles plus fuel surcharges. Alaska charges 180,000 miles with no fuel surcharges and is also an SPG partner.

It’s better to book longhaul Emirates First Class with Japan Airlines miles instead, who charges less miles and no fuel surcharges.

The short haul flights are probably not a great deal either. Yes, Hong Kong to Bangkok roundtrip is 70,000 miles in First Class, and Auckland to Australia roundtrip is 75,000 miles in First Class. That’s two showers for not a ton of miles, but there are fuel surcharges, and it’s probably not convenient for Americans to fly roundtrips on these routes.

Etihad Chart

Here’s the portion of the award chart that displays how many Korean miles it costs to fly roundtrip between the United States, Canada, or Australia to the UAE (in economy, Business, and First Class from left to right).

Those prices are much cheaper than redeeming Etihad’s miles on their own flights which include hefty fuel surcharges, and are also cheaper in economy and First Class than what American Airlines charges:

  • 80k American Airlines miles roundtrip in Etihad economy USA <> UAE
  • 230k American Airlines miles roundtrip in Etihad First Class USA <>UAE

If you have 210k Korean miles to shell out, that’s one of the best prices, if not the best price, to fly Etihad First Class between the United States and United Arab Emirates–especially considering there’s no fuel surcharges.

Here are the prices to fly between Europe and the UAE, which are also a bit cheaper than redeeming American Airlines miles (in economy, Business, and First Class from left to right).

Etihad is a relatively new partner of Korean however, so I’m not sure how easy in practice it is to book it. If anyone has any experience, let us know in the comments.  

Alaska Chart

The Alaska award chart is very good when you consider that you are allowed a free stopover and free open jaw.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.24.50 PM

You could fly something like Washington DC to Seattle (stopover), to Honolulu, returning from Maui to Washington DC for 30,000 miles total.

For direct flights, though, you are probably better off using British Airways Avios to book the same Alaska award space.

Jet Chart

You can ignore the prices between the United States and India as Jet doesn’t fly between the two regions any more. Intra-India prices are decent, cheaper than what you’d pay in United but more expensive than redeeming American Airlines miles (10,000 miles one way).

Hawaiian Chart

Within Hawaii, tickets for 10,000 miles roundtrip are a decent deal if the flights are going for about $100 one way.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.25.57 PM

From New York (JFK) to Honolulu for 30k/60k roundtrip is a very good deal, but there is precious little award space on the route. From Hawaii to Tahiti or Samoa for 60k/90k is a decent deal if you have a need for those routes.

The awards to Australia and Asia in First Class are cheaper with Hawaiian miles.

Gol Chart

The Economy Comfort deals are awful, but the economy prices could be worth paying if you can maximize the itinerary.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.25.37 PM

For instance, for 25,000 miles, you can book something like:

  • Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires (destination, open jaw between Buenos Aires and Montevideo)
  • Montevideo to Porto Alegre ( stopover)
  • Porto Alegre to Sao Paulo

Bottom Line

The non-alliance partners offer fewer sweetspots than flying Korean Air or SkyTeam partners. The top sweetspot is flying Etihad First Class between the United States and UAE. I also see some value in flying Alaska to Hawaii with a stopover (though remember that it is cheaper to fly Delta to Hawaii with Korean miles), and some possible value flying Jet within India or Gol intra-South America.


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12 COMMENTS

  1. Please Correct:
    Jet Airways intra-India flights cost 25k r/t Korean Air miles. However American Airlines charge 10k each way or 20k roundtrip. They are cheaper and convenient since there might not be award availability in either direction.

  2. Not that new, but a few years ago KE was just partnering with EY, and I had no luck getting them to complete an award booking AUH-SEY. Things may have changed, which would also make said AUH-SEY booking a sweet spot.

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