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Korean Air SKYPASS is one of our favorite rewards programs, and, despite some bad publicity it has received recently, we still think it is extremely undervalued by many travelers. To fix that, here are ten reasons why award tickets with Korean Air's SKYPASS program should be on your radar:
1. Complimentary Stopovers
Korean is one of the few airlines that allows two stopovers on roundtrip awards. This means you could travel from Los Angeles to Sydney with a stopover on the outbound in Seoul and a stopover on the return in Shanghai for the same award rate as a roundtrip from LAX-Sydney. Sure you'd be responsible for some additional government and airport taxes, but you'd add two more destinations to your trip!
If you are booking a one-way award with Korean, you can still add one free stopover. However, keep in mind that Korean only allows one-way award bookings on flights they operate, so you are mostly limited to a stopover in Seoul on a Korean one-way award — still not a bad option!
2. Fantastic First Class Availability
Finding an airline that not only has excellent first class seats but amazing award availability is seemingly impossible — but then there is Korean. It is not at all uncommon to see 4 to 6 seats available even on dates that you might consider difficult to book awards. Best of all, Korean’s first class product is exceptional, particularly if you have the chance to fly on an aircraft featuring their new Korean Air Cosmo Suite 2.0.
3. Minimal Fuel Surcharges
Korean used to impose significant fuel surcharges on most of their awards. Fortunately, though, over the last year or so they have significantly reduced these fuel surcharges and even eliminated them altogether on some routes. As such, even if the Korean award you want to book incurs fuel surcharges, they are likely going to be extremely low.
4. Excellent Transfer Partners
Korean is a transfer partner of Marriott Rewards. Therefore, even if you have never flown Korean, you likely have access to thousands of Korean miles. If you're looking to pick up more miles, great credit cards that can help you do this include the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
5. More North American Destinations than any Asian Airline
Korean flies to more North American destinations than any other Asian airline. Among the cities/airports served by Korean are Atlanta, Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Honolulu, Houston-Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver, and Washington-Dulles. As such, you likely live in a city served by Korean or can easy re-position to one such city.
6. Awards on Korean Air can be Booked Online
The process to book Korean Air awards over the phone can be cumbersome. However, if you want to book a Korean award on one of their flights, you can do so online, even if you want to add a stopover. Do keep in mind, though; that Korean partner awards cannot be booked online.
7. Generous Holds on Awards
Korean commonly allows holds on awards for their own flights of up to 30 days (occasionally they will allow longer holds). For partner awards, the typically allow holds of 3-5 days. This allows you to secure your space before transferring your points!
8. Excellent Customer Service Agents
You might not expect it, based on previous experiences with customer service agents on other airlines, but Korean is an exception. They are polite, have a genuinely positive attitude, and know how to handle most every award booking scenario with confidence. If you do need to give them a call to book an award, something that is necessary for partner awards, at the very worst you'll know you'll have a pleasant experience.
9. Lap-Infant Awards for 10% of the Miles Required
If you want to travel on an award itinerary with a child younger than two, Korean is among your best options. Unlike most airlines, Korean requires 10% of the miles redeemed by the parent (plus taxes), not 10% of what the paid fare would have been. As such, if you paid 90,000 miles for a first-class itinerary, you will need to redeem 9,000 miles plus taxes.
10. Fantastic Award Modification Fees
If you need to make a change, the fee is 30,000 KRW (approximately $27). If you need to cancel an award and want them to refund the miles, the fee will be 500 miles for a domestic award and 3,000 miles for an international award if the refund is issued within a year of when the award was initially issued.
When looking at mileage programs, your first thought is likely to focus on the airline with which you see the most. Perhaps it's the airline you travel on most frequently or hear about from friends and family, but you made find that right mileage program to invest your miles in could be based on the other side of the world. Before you commit to a location for your miles, check out Korean; you might be pleasantly surprised.
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