Sweetspots with Korean SkyPass Miles #1: First Class Korean Air Flights as Cheap as 45,000 Miles

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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, and award charts to fly Alaska, Hawaiian, Gol, and Emirates (click logos). 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 is here. The second post on SkyTeam sweetspots is here. This third post on sweetspots when flying Korean’s non-alliance partners is here.

Korean SkyPass miles should have your attention. You can easily transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or SPG Starpoints to Korean miles and then book cheap, abundant award space on Korean and its partners.

Korean Air flies to more American cities (11) 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 I particularly like:

  • Los Angeles to Sao Paulo: 70,000 miles in First Class
  • Seoul to Los Angeles, stop up to a year, Los Angeles to Sao Paulo: 110,000 miles in First Class
  • United States to China, Japan, Korea, Northeast Asia: 80,000 miles in First Class
  • Japan, Korea, or China to Southeast Asia: 45,000 miles in First Class
  • Japan, Korea, or China to Southwest Asia or Maldives: 57,500 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:

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Los Angeles to Sao Paulo: 70,000 miles in First Class

American charges only 62,500 miles for the route in First Class, but good luck finding any award space on the American Airlines flight. Korean award space is plentiful.

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As an added bonus, fuel surcharges are illegal for flights leaving Brazil.

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Seoul to Sao Paulo with a stopover in Los Angeles: 110,000 miles in First Class

One way awards on Korean flights can have a stopover. If you live in Los Angeles, that means you can get one way of a roundtrip to Asia and one way of a roundtrip to South America in First Class booked for 110,000 Korean miles and $63.

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All flights must be flown within one year of booking, which means you could have your stopover for 6, 8, or 10 months between the trips. Just book the other half each trip as separate awards.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get the stopover to show up online, so call Korean at 800-438-5000 to book with a stopover.

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

American charges only 62,500 miles in First Class to Japan and Korea and 67,500 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.

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Out of Hong Kong, fuel surcharges are only $29.

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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 American Airlines miles in economy), hang out for a bit, and then fly a Korean award to Southwest Asia.

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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 12 hours–10.5 hours in the air and 1.5 hours on the ground in Sri Lanka.

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Taxes and fuel surcharges are only $31.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.45.48 PMEven Seoul to Mumbai is 9.5 hours of First Class for 57,500 miles and $31.

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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 + $30 for 6.5 hours of First Class. You can get more time in First Class by connecting to Seoul for free from somewhere in Japan or China.Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.45.41 PM

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Singapore is about the same distance and the same price. Award space is available on multiple daily flights for 45,000 miles + $30 in First Class.

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Bali is the longest flight to Southeast Asia, but I didn’t find any First Class space. Business Class is 35,000 Korean miles + $30.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.42.51 PMBangkok and Chiang Mai are 45,000 miles + $30 also.

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Product

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

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The best one, the Kosmo Suites 2.0 was introduced in May 2015, and this blogpost (Google Translate) says 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 better information about which First Class product is on each plane.

Getting Korean Miles

Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to Korean miles

SPG points transfer 1:1 to Korean miles, and for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you get 5,000 extra Korean miles. So to get 80,000 Korean miles, you’d need to transfer 65,000 Starpoints. Starpoints transfers are not instant. In a few days, we’ll probably know how long they take.

The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express are offering their once-a-year 30,000 Starpoints bonuses. The personal card requires spending $3,000 in the first three months, and the business card requires spending $5,000 in the first three months to unlock the bonuses.

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The increased bonus is only for applicants approved by September 14, 2015.

Links:

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, United States to South America, and for intra-Asia awards.

 


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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19 COMMENTS

  1. “Korean Air flies to more American cities (11) than any other foreign airline”

    more than BA or Air Canadia?

  2. Why are Korean Miles so dam difficult to use? I understand they cut surcharges recently but just to transfer takes forever and the award chart is purposely hard to follow.

    • yes, the chart is somewhat convoluted but to make your life easier you can create a free account with 0 miles in it and run a search for your dates and destinations.. the website will tell you how many miles you need. hope this helps.

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