Korean Air SkyPass award chart changes coming April 1, 2014

I’ve written about Korean Air’s SkyPass program in the past. It’s interesting in that it allows for first class SkyTeam redemptions (which Delta SkyMiles can’t be used for), and also interesting because it’s a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so the points can be pretty easy to come by if you have one of their credit cards.

The great thing about first class on many SkyTeam airlines is that they release a ton of award space, since not many people have access to those seats. It’s not unusual to see four or so first class award seats per flight on China Southern or Korean Air, so if you’re looking for a first class award for a large party, they’re a program that’s tough to beat.

Korean_Air_Award_Space
Four Korean Air first class award seats

China_Southern_Award_Space
Six China Southern first class award seats

Anyway, per an announcement on their website, it appears as if they’ll be adjusting their award chart for bookings made as of April 1, 2014.

Korean_Air_SkyPass

First of all, it’s worth noting that they’re giving plenty of advance notice here — this only applies for bookings made as of April 1, 2014, so you can issue tickets up until that date at the old rates, even if it’s for travel after April 1.

It seems they’re making changes to both their Korean Air award chart and SkyTeam award chart. The one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers about Korean Air is how many awards charts they have and how damn complicated they make them.

So I’ll cover the basics, or else this will turn into a research paper as long as a novel.

Korean Air award chart

Previously Korean Air charged a different number of miles whether you were flying their old or new premium class product. With the new award chart they’ll be charging the same number of miles regardless of whether you fly their Prestige or Prestige Sleeper business class seat, and the same number of miles regardless of whether you fly their First Class, First Kosmo Sleeper, or Kosmo Suites seat.

Here’s the old award chart for travel on Korean Air:

SkyPass_Old2

While here’s the new award chart for travel on Korean Air:

SkyPass_New2

Best I can tell, for the most part redemption rates remain the same for the Prestige Sleeper business class product and Kosmo Suite first class product, they’re mostly simply getting rid of the differentiation in cost based on the type of product. The award chart is so mind-numbingly complicated, though, that I might be missing something.

SkyTeam award chart

Their new SkyTeam award chart can be found here. This is where most of the price increases seem to be.

For example, here’s the old chart for travel from Southeast Asia:

SkyPass_Old

Meanwhile here’s the new chart for travel from Southeast Asia:

SkyPass_New

As you can see we’re looking mostly at premium cabin mileage increases. Between the US and Southeast Asia, for example, we’re talking about an increase of 20,000 miles per passenger roundtrip.

Meanwhile here’s the old chart for travel from the US:

SkyPass_Old1

And here’s the new chart for travel from the US:

SkyPass_New1

As you can see there are only a couple of increases there, though oddly the chart doesn’t cover travel to many parts of Asia, which have gone up. To see those costs you have to work “backwards” and look at the cost of travel to the US from those regions (as opposed to looking at the cost of travel from the US to those regions).

Anyway, any devaluation is a bad one, though in the grand scheme of things I think this one is pretty mild compared to others we’ve seen. At least they’re giving a good bit of advance notice here, which I can’t say of certain other programs.

(Tip of the hat to Jeremy)

Comments

  1. So it looks like (per the very last chart) one could fly USA to S. Africa in first for 160,000 points round trip? So would that mean on AF? Am I missing something? Ah, I’ll bet AF doesn’t make seats in first available to their partners, in which case, how does one fly USA to S. Africa in first?

    Not that anyone should ever fly AF first, ever (Especially not revenue, which I’ve done, sadly, a few times), but for 160k in points, the ground experience in CDG is fantastic, and their seats are comfy even though they’re not suites (I find them exceptional for sleeping). Everything else is…barely adequate.

  2. @TravelinWilly, per flyertalk thread, it’s not possible to redeem AF First as someone has called and confirmed with the Korean Air rep.

  3. @AC,

    Thanks for the info. – I avoid AF completely these days anyway for revenue tickets, but the KA chart made me wonder how the heck someone can get from the US to S. Africa in first class on skyteam other than on AF, as I don’t think it’s possible within the alliance otherwise. Like, I wonder why KA even offers this award on their chart.

  4. @ Apu — That’s the problem with the Korean Air website. I’m not a tech guy so I don’t know how to describe it, but for whatever reason you can’t link directly to pages, as they all just show “koreanair.com” in the URL. To get to the award chart though click on “SkyPass,” then “Redeem Miles,” then “Korean Air,” then “Award Tickets,” and you should eventually get there.

  5. @ LX — In theory it’s a good deal, except the only airline that has a first class product (Air France) doesn’t release award space. So that award really doesn’t exist for all practical purposes.

  6. Lucky, I agree that it’s a little steep but it’s like 3 long segments @ 130k compared to only 2 if I do bom-sfo for 105k! With that in mind I consider it a pretty sweet deal for the hours of flying per mile or the other way…

  7. @lucky

    Heh, wonder if they’ll let you route through Asia for US-Europe in F, since that’s the “most direct” with F availability

  8. Hey Lucky – Can you tell us if tell us if these are ow or rt awards? Are any stopovers or open jaws allowed? Thanks!

  9. The thing that would make me reluctant to use KE (or OZ, for that matter) as my primary frequent flyer program is their maddeningly complicated process for booking awards. Or maybe they do that on purpose?

  10. Thanks for the great explanation Ben! When I sent you that info, I had no idea just how confusing their program/award chart actually was. Their own chart makes my head hurt just looking at it! Thanks again and its so strange that nobody knew about this…shows how little attention is paid to the program in the US unless this change just happened today.

  11. @jeremy, KE has had this on their website the last few weeks. Back in late July I was looking for KE award space and read about the changes effective April 1, 2014 but the changes are minimal for N. America so perhaps that’s why it wasn’t discussed that much over here?
    @lucky, in the 2nd paragraph, you state skyteam airlines release a ton of award space. Do you think star alliance and oneworld also release the same amount except a lot more people actually redeem them (so by the time the average Joe looks for award space, they’re gone)?

  12. This is very interesting. Will bookmark for future plans.

    Did you ever post on the process of booking KE Awards? I heard it is somewhat complicated and you need to present the same credit card at check in or something??

    Also do you have a link to the KE blackout days. I think their blackout dates are also somewhat complicated – or at least anytime I try booking KE with my Delta points there always seems to be some blackout taking place.

  13. @ Greg — The process? It’s a total and complete PITA. That’s about all I’ll say. 😀

    I wish I could link directly to the blackout dates, though Korean Air’s website doesn’t seem to be link-friendly since all the URLs still show “koreanair.com.”

    But if you click on “SkyPass” and then “Redeem Miles,” you should see them listed there.

  14. It seems that 80k RT (I assume) for US-Europe on DL/KLM/AF biz could be a good deal for some who are UR point rich. I personally would rather save the UR points for UA/Hyatt transfers and spend 100k DL or AMEX MR miles for that redemption, but it could make sense for some.

  15. @ Matt — Can be a good value, though keep in mind they do impose fuel surcharges on those redemptions, so you’re looking at $600+ per roundtrip out of pocket.

  16. I think the reason they dont include from US to Asia is that all US to Asia routes go via Korea and the Skypass awards does not allow you to use awards for transpacific flights whcih would in essence be from US to Korea.

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