Sweetspots with Korean SkyPass Miles #2: SkyTeam Partner Awards for Way Too Cheap

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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. The post on Korean Air sweetspots is here. You are reading the second post on sweetspots on the SkyTeam chart.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 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.

SkyPass awards will include fuel surcharges when an identical cash ticket would have fuel surcharges. I used ITA Matrix to look up fuel surcharge info for the awards I’ll talk about in this post. You can do the same thing to estimate the taxes and fuel surcharges of an award you have in mind.

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.

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.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.54.05 AMYour results need to be priced at 22,500 Delta miles one way in economy or 40,000 or 50,000 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.
Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.54.36 AM

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, but Alaska charges only 45,000 miles each way in AeroMexico Business Class.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.22.37 AM

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 15,000 American Airlines 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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.25.08 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 4.13.19 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 4.13.40 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 5.09.38 PM

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 airfrance.us. 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 three 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 four 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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.25.37 AM

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.

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 25,000 Korean miles, you’d need to transfer 20,000 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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.20.20 PM

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

Links:

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.

 


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25 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome information!!

    I’m planning to get to SE Asia in Oct 2016, Hong Kong and a few other stops and was considering using AA/Cathay from LAX to get me there or back. So from what I understand I could get to Korea in their Prestige Class, at least in the Off Peak RT for 125k per person, correct? Is Hong Kong considered SE Asia or China? I’m guessing China. That would then be another 45k, total RT 170k? This way I could have a stop in Seoul?

  2. Hi, I remember I could only redeem Korean Air first class for myself and my spouse, and Korean Air requires the files to prove that. Does this rule also apply here, when I redeem Korean Air miles for China Hopper, for example? Thanks.

  3. OK, this is all nice and dandy but what partners can they actually book in international F? Air France? (not holding my breath) Or Garuda? (don’t think so either)
    Not sure any other SkyTeam partners have international F… so why is it on the award chart?

  4. I usually am fairly adept with these charts, but Korean has me confused. Would I be able to book HKG-PVH (stopover)-KIX (destination)-PEK on one award with Korean? Any idea how many miles?

    • Assuming you mean Shanghai (PVG), yes I think you can book that at the price of a single roundtrip intra-Asia award.

  5. Is there way to lower fuel surcharge for North America to Europe in business? The estimated surcharges are ~$1k per person in AF and KLM! Is there any tricks?

  6. Just… FYI: The 20k Indonesia pricing is for direct (read: non-stop) flights only. I tried booking a one-stop flight and it priced at the 40k level.

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