Rounding Out The A380s: Introduction

Introduction
How To Redeem Korean Air SkyPass Miles
China Southern Los Angeles Airport First Class Check-In
Korean Air Lounge Los Angeles Airport
China Southern A380 First Class Los Angeles to Guangzhou
W Guangzhou Hotel
China Southern Lounge Guangzhou Airport
China Southern A330 First Class Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita
Korean Air Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport
Korean Air 777 First Class Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon
Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul Incheon
Korean Air A380 First Class Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles


My quick A380 jaunt to Asia was prompted by two things:

I wanted to try every A380 first class product in the world

In my never ending quest to try the world’s best first class product (all for you guys, of course ;) ), I wanted to be sure that I’ve tried every A380 first class product in the world. Prior to this I’ve flown the following airlines in A380 first class:

That left exactly two airlines currently operating the A380 that I hadn’t yet flown on the whale jet — Korean Air and China Southern. As luck would have it, both of them can be redeemed for using Korean Air SkyPass miles, so I could try them both on a single award.

Besides, this would allow me to say I’ve tried all A380 first class products before Asiana, Etihad, and Qatar take delivery of their A380s later this year (though I hope to try them as well).

What good uses are left of Chase Ultimate Rewards points?

The United MileagePlus devaluation radically altered the best uses of Chase Ultimate Rewards points for many. While I think transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt Gold Passport for hotel redemptions remains a great option, what other good values are there for airline redemptions?

Korean Air SkyPass is an Ultimate Rewards partner that’s often overlooked, so I really wanted to experience the products available through SkyPass. After all, cards accruing Ultimate Rewards points are still incredibly valuable, in my opinion, given the bonuses they offer. It’s tough to argue with the 2x points on dining and travel offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the 5x points offered on office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services on the Ink Plus® Business Card and Ink Bold® Business Card (not even factoring in the huge sign-up bonuses). That has translated into cardholders earning bonus points on the bulk of their spend, which has been incredibly compelling.

Booking the ticket through Korean Air SkyPass

In tomorrow’s post I’ll cover the process of booking a Korean Air SkyPass award in great detail. After all, ticketing an award with Korean Air SkyPass is nothing like ticketing through a US frequent flyer program. They require just about everything short of your firstborn to ticket an award reservation.

Korean Air SkyPass charges 80,000 miles for one-way first class travel between the US and Northeast Asia, or 160,000 miles roundtrip. Per their award chart, Northeast Asia includes Korea, Taiwan, East Russia, Mongolia, Japan, China, and Hong Kong.

KoreanAir-SkyPass-Redemption-Chart

While you can make one-way redemptions for travel on Korean Air, if a partner airline is involved then roundtrip award travel is required.

China-Southern-A380-First-Class-1
China Southern A380 first class cabin

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-005
Korean Air A380 first class cabin

Choosing the flights

Unfortunately through at least April I didn’t have more than a six day period where I could travel, so I had to make this trip quick. My goal wasn’t just to fly one longhaul flight on China Southern and Korean Air, but I wanted to also try their intra-Asia service. So I tried to look for a destination in Northeast Asia which they both service with a longhaul configured aircraft.

That airport was Tokyo Narita. China Southern flies an A330 there, configured with their longhaul first class product.

China-Southern-A330-First-Class-1
China Southern A330 first class cabin

Meanwhile, Korean Air flies a 777 there, also configured with their longhaul first class product.

Korean-Air-777-First-Class
Korean Air 777 first class cabin

I’ve been to Tokyo and Seoul many times before, so instead decided to spend two nights in Guangzhou as a stopover. Guangzhou was recently added as a city in China which you can transit without a visa for less than 72 hours, so I took full advantage of that.

Guangzhou isn’t a “traditional” tourist destination, but since I’ve visited most other major cities in Asia, it seemed like a fun place to check out.

In the end my routing looked as follows:

02/06 CZ328 Los Angeles to Guangzhou departing 10:30PM arriving 5:40AM (+2 days)
02/10 CZ385 Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita departing 9:30AM arriving 2:20PM
02/11 KE706 Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon departing 9:10AM arriving 11:50AM
02/11 KE011 Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles departing 3:00PM arriving 9:00AM

Korean-Air-SkyPass-Trip

As far as my positioning to and from Los Angeles goes, on the outbound I had the amazing opportunity to fly a Gulfstream IV from Boeing Field to San Diego, and on the return I booked a $100 ticket on Alaska from Los Angeles to Seattle. Lemme tell you, after flying a Gulfstream IV, Alaska is no longer my preferred method of transportation up and down the west coast. ;)

Booking a hotel in Guangzhou

In Guangzhou I booked the W Hotel, which I’ve heard great things about. While the W Guangzhou doesn’t belong to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts or Virtuoso, it does belong to the Starwood Luxury Privileges program, which offers similar benefits.

For booking through an agent with access to the Starwood Luxury Privileges program I received the following benefits (in addition to my SPG Platinum benefits):

  • Upgrade on arrival if available
  • Daily breakfast for two guests
  • One 600 CNY food and beverage credit per room, per stay
  • Early check-in if available
  • Late check-out if available

While my rate wasn’t cheap at ~$220USD per night, it seemed worthwhile with the above benefits. I managed to use two of my SPG Platinum Suite Night Awards to confirm into a Fantastic Suite, which cleared five days out.

W-Guangzho-Hotel-18
W Guangzhou Fantastic Suite

Stay tuned!

In the next post I’ll be sharing more details on the actual process of finding award space and booking an award ticket through Korean Air SkyPass. I’ll be posting one installment per day.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, let me know below. Thanks for reading!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I earn a referral bonus for anyone approved through some of the above links. All are for the best available offers. Thanks for your support!)

Comments

  1. choi says

    does MLE is considered Indian Ocean, If it is , I wonder the logic of less miles than going S Asia.

  2. Luis says

    100k miles to fly first class from USA to Europe? Which airlines can i book at that rate using Korean Air miles?

  3. says

    @ MEOW — It’s interesting that on the Korean Air award chart it’s considered “Southwest Asia,” while on the partner award chart it’s considered “Central & South Africa/Indian Ocean.” Odd.

  4. Kevin says

    Ben, did the benefits at the W Guangzhou change as what’s posted on this list from David differs? $220 seems quite cheap as most of the “preferred” rates I see are in the neighborhood of $300 before taxes (1800 CNY).

  5. says

    @ Kevin — As far as I know these are the same benefits that have been in place since the program started (for this property). The Luxury Privileges rate was the same as the flexible/best available rate.

  6. skypass says

    Lucky, you might be planning on it, but can you also review how to search for KE space and not just the booking process. When I’ve tried on their site I get an error that I don’t have enough miles. I imagine most of us are trying to transfer in from Chase UR, so probably a common problem.

  7. Gordon says

    Do you receive SPG Status credit when you book Starwood hotels via Fine Hotels & Resorts?…I have always avoided doing that as was told nights do not count for status and only book Starwood via SPG.com

  8. Euro says

    Hmm, I thought both of your Korean Air segments were in the suites class. Nonetheless, would have preferred to see a compare/contrast between these two products.

  9. Tom says

    Can you talk about Korean rules for booking a one-way award? Can you have a stopover? For example could you book LAX-ICN(stopover)-NRT all on Korean metal for 80,000 miles?

  10. says

    @ Tom — I’ll talk more about the booking process in the post tomorrow. You’re not allowed a stopover a one-way award, though. Only on a roundtrip.

  11. CalAggie21 says

    Would it be possible to redeem an award flt on Asiana, Qatar, and Etihad on USDM before they officially exit *A? 120K F RTW sounds great in trying all 3 products.

  12. says

    @ CalAggie21 — Unfortunately not. At the moment US Airways only partners with Asiana, while they’ll only begin partnering with Qatar as of March 31 (when they join OneWorld). While Etihad is an American AAdvantage partner, we don’t know if/when they will be a US Airways Dividend Miles partner.

  13. Ivan Y says

    @ Lucky — in your next installment, could you discuss options for using KE miles to book US-Europe in Business, please? You may have covered it already, but I’m curious about how much space AF releases to partners.

    Don’t have too many options from Houston to Europe, so whenever AF upgrades equipment, IAH-CDG sounds appealing. I believe, AF charges 100K so KE would be 20K cheaper.

  14. says

    @ Hong Kong Airline News — Because for the most part the flight was forgettable. I’ll be covering it in the trip report, though.

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