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Korean Air SKYPASS is one of our favorite frequent flyer programs. Over the last decade, we’ve seen continual consolidation in the U.S. rewards market, accompanied by a slow but steady decline in value of some of our favorite rewards currencies.
Over that same timeframe, Korean Air has been diligently chipping away at improving the SKYPASS frequent flyer program, adding new functionality and high-value redemption options, and working on providing a quality experience for its members. A transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards and also one of SPG's 30+ airline partners, Korean SKYPASS offers some of the best first-class award availability of any airline, and flies to more U.S. cities than any other Asian carrier.
SKYPASS does have its quirks and restrictions, but on the whole, it provides top value redemptions across a number of quality destinations. Members can transfer high-value, flexible rewards currencies to redeem for awesome experiences — these are the hallmarks of a quality rewards program.
We've covered our favorite sweet spots with Korean, and delivered our top 10 reasons to consider booking SKYPASS awards in previous posts. This post will focus on how to book awards using the Korean Air SKYPASS website, which partner awards can be booked online and which require you to call a Korean reservations agent, and the rules for using SKYPASS miles when booking Korean, SkyTeam, and other partner awards from the likes of Alaska, American, Emirates, Etihad, and Hawaiian Airlines.
How to Redeem SKYPASS Miles for Korean Air Awards
Korean offers rewards outside redeeming miles for flights, but there is much better value in redeeming SKYPASS miles for award tickets. Redeeming miles with Korean Air is a straightforward process.
- Log into your SKYPASS account at KoreanAir.com
- Click on ‘Book a Flight’ in the main navigation menu
- Select ‘Award Booking’ under the Award drop-down
- Choose Domestic or International (domestic in this instance is flights within South Korea) —> Award Booking —> Korean Air Award
- Choose from One Way — Round Trip — Multi-City (Korean allows up to two stopovers per roundtrip and also permits open-jaw awards)
- Select your Cabin Class and Passengers (linked as part of your Family Plan)
- Click the “Find Flights’ button
If award seats are available they will display on the next page. Select your preferred flight/s and if necessary click calculate.
The award cost + any taxes/fees will display in the bottom right of your page
Click ‘Continue’ to finalize your booking
Are There Restrictions on Korean Award Bookings?
It’s important to understand some of the rules when redeeming Korean SKYPASS miles, as they differ between Korean redemptions and SkyTeam redemptions.
- You can only redeem award tickets for immediate family members, spouse, children, parents, siblings, parents-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandparents and grandchildren. No boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic interest/work buddy allowed. This is one of the more restrictive elements of Korean’s frequent flyer program.
- Korean does offer holds on both Korean and partner awards but you will need to call the reservations line (1-800-438-5000) to hold the tickets, giving you the time to transfer points from other programs if necessary. Traditionally, Korean offers longer holds on its own award tickets than those of partner airlines, but we've had SkyTeam partner awards held for 6+ months!
- Infants in-lap on Korean cost 10% of the award fare paid by the parent, but you’ll pay full price if traveling on partners.
- You can book one-way, round-trip, and multi-city awards, open jaw flights at the destination, and up to two stopovers per round trip on Korean (one each way).
- Partner awards must be booked roundtrip but you are allowed up to one stop over each way.
- You can use Family Pooling of miles between registered family members for awards on Korean but not on partners.
- Rather than blackout dates for peak load times, Korean uses peak season rates (not available on SkyTeam partners), see the image below.
Redeeming Korean SKYPASS Miles on SkyTeam Partners
Korean used to be known as much for the difficulty of booking partner awards as for the value of its redemptions. But that all changed at the start of 2017 with an overhaul of the Korean website which now allows for members to book awards on SkyTeam partners.
The process for booking a partner award is almost identical to redeeming on Korean, however, click on the ‘SkyTeam Award' button at the top of the city/cabin class selection page.
Again, you can see the available award flights on the next page. Select your flights, press Calculate, and you could be on your way to Hawaii for just 25,000 miles round-trip!
Redeeming Korean SKYPASS Miles on Non-SkyTeam Partners
Korean also offers partner awards on non-alliance partners:
- Alaska Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Jet Airways
These partner awards can't be searched for, or booked, on the Korean website. You’ll need to search for award availability elsewhere (for example AlaskaAir.com), then call the Korean reservations line on 1-800-438-5000 to book the award tickets.
The rules are different again for non-alliance partner awards, with mileage rates, fees, and charges changing from airline to airline.
- No infant and child mileage discounts
- Departure and arrival cities must be in the same country
- Itinerary must consist of single airline, codeshare flights not applicable
- Only direct flights can be flown between origin and destination with the exception of Alaska Airlines and GOL
- Partner Airlines Award is valid only for a round-trip.
- Family Plan or pooled miles can be used
- Open-jaw travel is applicable once at the destination
Searching Korean Air SKYPASS Award Availability
One of the frustrations members can encounter when booking Korean awards is the booking gate only shows award availability for the date searched. There is no calendar search in the booking gate itself displaying award availability.
There is, however, an ‘Award Seat Availability‘ button found directly under the Award Booking drop-down. Why this function wasn't tied into the award booking process when the website was revamped, we'll never know. As it stands, the award search and booking functions are separate and that is one of Korean's quirks members must learn to live with.
Increasing Your SKYPASS Miles Balance
Part of the value in Korean Air SKYPASS come from its transfer partners. Having both Ultimate Rewards and SPG as transfer partners allows members to transfer points earned on some of our favorite rewards earning credit cards like those listed below:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card (via instant transfer from SPG)
You can also earn points via the Korean Air co-branded cards offered by US Bank, which earn up to 2 SKYPASS miles per dollar spent on Korean Air purchases, but you will get much better value from the above cards, in addition to an array of other benefits.
Following Korean’s website updates, booking award travel on Korean and SkyTeam partners is a fairly straightforward process. Rules surrounding Family Pooling and registering immediate family members can be hard to understand at first, but Korean has a page dedicated to registering family members on its website, and the agents on the Korean reservation line are knowledgeable and more than willing to walk you through the process.
For a handpicked selection of top value redemptions using SKYPASS miles, see our post on Korean sweet spots. And if you have any questions regarding booking Korean awards, let us know in the comments!
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