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Update: Just after we published this post, Korean Air announced the suspension of these changes. Korean Air doesn't provide a new effective date for these Korean Air award chart changes. The full notice reads:
The implementation of NEW SKYPASS, which was scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2023 (after a grace period of three years and three months including prior notice), will be suspended.
The mileage accrual/deduction criteria and the elite program will be maintained without any changes.
Apart from the suspension of the NEW SKYPASS implementation, Korean Air has the following plans to make it more convenient for customers to use their mileage.
▲ Expansion of award seat supply ▲ Various mileage discount promotions ▲ Expansion of mileage usage (In-flight duty-free purchase, Jin Air, etc.)
Additionally, the ‘Cash & Miles’ service for combined payment of mileage and cash will continue to run, and the U.S. Dollar will be added as a payment currency in March.
Way back in 2019, Korean Air announced an overhaul of its SKYPASS program — which it then delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in a recent email to its members and in an update to its website, Korean Air confirmed that its award chart changes will take effect on April 1, 2023.
These changes include some positive but mostly negative changes to award redemption rates, an improvement to mileage accrual for premium cabin flights on Korean Air, and the elimination of Korean Air's around-the-world tickets.
In this article, we'll review the good and bad of the Korean Air award chart changes and the changes to the Korean Air Skypass elite status program.
Korean Air Award Chart Changes
The new Korean Air award charts are distance-based, while the older chart was based on travel between regions. The new award pricing is effective for bookings made after April 1, 2023.
As you can see — unlike many other award chart changes — not all of the SkyPass changes are negative. In fact, the changes to economy redemptions are relatively well-balanced with some positives. However, award rates are mostly increasing on long-haul routes to the U.S. and U.K.
Negative Korean Air Award Chart Changes
The main increase is on longer Korean Air routes and in premium cabins.
Economy awards that will fall under zones 5, 6, 8, and 9 are generally seeing a price hike. So, if you want to book one of those awards, you'll want to do so before March 31, 2023, to lock in the older award pricing. The new award pricing is as follows:
- Zone 5 (2,000 and 2,999 miles) — one-way economy awards will cost 22,000 miles. This zone includes routes from Incheon to Singapore, Bangkok, and Delhi which currently cost 20,000 miles. That means awards on these routes are increasing by 10%.
- Zone 6 (3,000 and 3,999 miles) — one-way economy awards will cost 27,500 miles. Routes from Incheon to Colombo, Jakarta, and Mumbai currently cost 20,000 miles — meaning a 38% increase.
- Zone 8 (5,000 and 6,499 miles) — one-way economy awards will cost 40,000 miles. Routes from Incheon to London, Paris, and Los Angeles currently cost 35,000 miles — meaning a 14% increase.
- Zone 9 (6,500 and 9,999 miles) — one-way economy awards will cost 45,000 miles. Routes from Incheon to New York, Toronto, Atalanta, and Washington, D.C. currently cost 35,000 miles — meaning a 29% increase.
Business- and first-class awards are also increasing in price. For example, the current Korean Air award chart rates between Seoul and North America/Europe/Middle East/Oceania are:
- 62,500 miles each way during off-peak dates.
- 92,500 miles each way during peak dates.
Starting April 1, 2023, business class award rates on these routes will vary between 65,000 and 90,000 miles each way during off-peak dates and 100,000 and 135,000 miles each way during peak dates.
For example, a Korean Air business class award from New York (JFK) to Seoul (ICN) currently costs 62,500 miles each way during off-peak dates:
However, for tickets after April 1, 2023, off-peak business class award rates will jump to 90,000 miles each way:
Positive Award Changes
With the main negative changes out of the way, we can have a look at the positive changes coming on April 1, 2023. The bulk of the decreases are economy awards on shorter haul routes. However, flights in Zone 7 — which cover a distance of 4,000 to 4,999 miles — are also decreasing. The improvements are as follows:
- Zone 1 (1 and 499 miles) — one-way economy awards now start from 10,000 miles instead of 15,000. These include routes from Incheon to Fukuoka, Shenyang, and Vladivostok.
- Zone 2 (500 and 999 miles) — one-way economy awards now start from 12,500 miles instead of 15,000. These include routes from Incheon to Beijing, Taipei, and Okinawa.
- Zone 4 (1,500 and 1,999 miles) — one-way economy awards now start from 17,500 miles instead of 20,000. These include routes from Incheon to Manila, Hanoi, and Cebu.
- Zone 7 (4,000 and 4,999 miles) — one-way economy awards now start from 32,500 miles instead of 35,000. These include routes from Incheon to Dubai, Brisbane, and Honolulu.
Changes to Korean Air SkyTeam and Partner Award Chart
Awards on Korean Air partner flights are also changing from a region-based award chart to a distance-based award chart. While this change should theoretically have winners and losers, it's mostly bad news for the sweet spots of Korean Air. So, make sure to book any of the following before March 31, 2023:
- 25,000 miles round-trip between anywhere in the contiguous U.S. and Hawaii — or 45,000 round-trip in business class (although that's mostly theoretical).
- 80,000 miles round-trip for business class awards between the U.S. and Europe.
- 120,000 miles round-trip for business class awards between the U.S. and Africa.
The only bright spot in these changes is that one-way awards will now be possible. Starting April 1, 2023, all Korean Air partner awards will price at the following rates:
|Distance per Segment||Economy Class||Business Class||First Class|
|1 - 499 miles||11,000||22,000||33,000|
|500 - 999 miles||14,000||28,000||42,000|
|1,000 - 1,499 miles||17,000||34,000||51,000|
|1,500 - 1,999 miles||20,000||40,000||60,000|
|2,000 - 2,999 miles||25,000||50,000||75,000|
|3,000 - 3,999 miles||30,000||60,000||90,000|
|4,000 - 4,999 miles||36,000||72,000||108,000|
|5,000 - 6,499 miles||43,000||86,000||129,000|
|6,500 - 9,999 miles||50,000||100,000||150,000|
Eliminating Around-the-World Tickets
One of the sweet spots in the current Korean Air award chart is around-the-world awards. Skypass members can book around-the-world tickets with up to six stopovers (up to four per region) for the following prices:
- Economy: 140,00 miles.
- Business class: 220,000 miles.
Unfortunately, Korean Air will fully eliminate its around-the-world award redemption option effective April 1, 2023. So, this is your last opportunity to use Skypass miles for an around-the-world ticket.
Korean Air Elite Status Changes
Korean Air SkyPass is overhauling its elite status levels, changing its names, and introducing new qualification requirements. The changes take effect on January 31, 2024. The new four tiers beyond the entry level are Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
Tier qualification has also gotten easier with reduced thresholds to reach status. From now on, you must reach the following thresholds to qualify for elite status.
- Silver: 10,000 tier-qualifying miles.
- Gold: 40,000 tier-qualifying miles.
- Platinum: 70,000 tier-qualifying miles.
- Diamond: 100,000 tier-qualifying miles.
Million Miler Club members will receive lifetime Platinum Status. In contrast, Morning Calm Premium Club members will receive lifetime Gold Status — if they have reached the qualifying criteria by January 31, 2024.
Korean Air Mileage Earning Changes
As part of the revamp of the Korean Air program, class bonus accrual rates are being updated from April 1, 2023. As is typical for recent airline changes, economy will earn less and premium cabins will earn more miles. Your class bonus earning rates are as follows:
- Economy class fares earn between 25% and 100% vs. between 70% and 100% currently.
- Prestige Class fares earn between 125% and 200% vs. between 125% and 135% currently.
- First Class fares will earn between 200% and 300% vs. between 165% and 200% currently.
Cash and Miles Fares
Korean Air is also introducing the ability to pay for part of your fare using miles. You can now pay for up to 20% of your ticket using miles — with a minimum redemption of just 500 miles. Cash and miles fares are subject to the following terms:
- Cash and Miles are only available for flights operated by Korean Air.
- Must purchase tickets with Korean won to qualify.
- The miles exchange rate varies by route and season.
- Miles can be used when purchasing a ticket for a family member.
Overall, these Korean Air award chart changes are positive for members flying in premium cabins and booking awards on short-haul routes. These travelers will enjoy higher accrual rates and reduced redemption rates.
Plus, the simplified elite status program means travelers will no longer need to accumulate 500,000 lifetime miles to finally earn SkyTeam Elite Plus status through Korean Air.
On the other hand, if you use your miles for long-haul awards, the new changes are somewhat disappointing since you will pay more in miles for your awards. And advanced travelers will be sad to see the Korean Air around-the-world redemption option being eliminated.
Are these new changes a positive or negative for you? Let us know in the comments below!
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