Korean Air SkyPass Award Ticket Holds

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Airlines have varying policies on holding award tickets. Some — like Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, and Delta SkyMiles — don’t allow holds on award tickets at all.

Other airlines do allow award ticket holds under varying circumstances. Some will hold award tickets for a day, some for a few days, and some only if you already have enough miles for the ticket in your account. Conventional wisdom suggests that American AAdvantage is among the most generous, in allowing award ticket holds for five days. That’s quite a long time, and means you have enough time to “plan” a points transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest.

Korean Air SkyPass has the most generous award ticket hold policy

None of the above programs even come close to holding a candle to Korean Air Skypass’ award hold policy. In most cases Korean Air SkyPass will hold an award ticket for travel on Korean Air metal until two days before departure. And that’s even if you don’t have any miles in your account!

Korean Air has quirky rules for booking award tickets

It’s ironic that Korean Air is so lax about their award ticket hold policy, given that they have so many other strict rules about redeeming miles. For example:

  • You can only redeem Korean Air SkyPass miles for immediate family members
  • In order to issue an award ticket over the phone you have to fax in your passport and other documentation
  • They need to call you in order to issue an award ticket — they won’t issue it if you just call, because there’s a separate department that handles that

So while it can be a pain in many ways to book Korean Air SkyPass awards, their hold policy is out-of-this-world generous.

Why Korean Air SkyPass is so valuable

As I wrote about last month, there’s a ton of value in Korean Air’s SkyPass program, which partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards. For my own travels, I’ve redeemed more Korean Air SkyPass miles this year than any other mileage currency.

Korean-Air-First-Class-1
Korean Air A380 first class

That’s because:

  • Korean Air SkyPass has an incredible amount of first class award space between the US and Asia
  • Korean Air has a top notch first class product
  • Korean Air SkyPass redemption rates are quite reasonably priced, at 160,000 miles roundtrip in first class between the US and North Asia

Korean-Air-Award-Space-4
Tons of Korean Air first class award seats, even far in advance!

Given how easy it is to rack up Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, and Ink Bold® Business Card, these are awards that are very attainable for people in our hobby.

Korean-Air-First-Class-2
Meal in Korean Air first class

Implications of long award holds

Practically speaking, why is it so awesome that Korean Air will let you hold award tickets for months?

  • You can place an award ticket on hold for travel in the future, and continue working on accruing enough miles to redeem for it. You’re basically able to lock in a future award ticket without having enough miles yet.
  • You can use it to hedge your bets. If you’re hoping for a different type of award or aren’t sure about your dates yet, it’s a good way to speculatively lock in availability.

Keep in mind that Korean Air SkyPass is extremely generous on award ticket changes as well. They don’t charge fees for changing or canceling award tickets either.

How do you get such a long hold?

It’s worth noting that typically they’ll only allow holds for partner award tickets for about five days. But for Korean Air metal, they’ll usually proactively offer a ticketing deadline a couple of days before departure.

Sometimes if you’re planning way in advance (10+ months out), they’ll “only” hold it until a month prior to departure. But in my experience they’ll almost always proactively offer an astoundingly long award ticket hold.

Check out this post for more information on redeeming Korean Air SkyPass miles.

Bottom line

Don’t abuse it, but it’s certainly a good trick to know about. I’ve received a handful of emails in the past week from people that tried to redeem Korean Air miles and said “my ticket is on hold until a couple of days before departure, is this a mistake?” So going forward this will be a useful post to refer people to. 😉

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Comments

  1. good to know, thank you. can you hold a ticket if you have 0 miles and just opened the account?
    thx.

  2. Good to Know Lucky.

    Let me ask you something. I will travel an economy promotional ticket (it is not an award ticket) from GRU to LAX round trip Korean Airlines on next september. Is it possible to upgrade it to business at the check in paying some diference?
    I know that American Airlines do that if they have free places on business but I don’t Know about Korean Air.
    Is there any other possibility you Know to upgrade this ticket?
    Thank You

  3. @ Lantean — You can’t even search online unless you have enough miles for the ticket in your account.

  4. “Don’t abuse it”

    Yes, because we know “people in our hobby” never try to exploit loopholes, mistakes and others’ generosity.

  5. @voice of reason. yep, if it weren’t so hard to book in the first place, i’d imagine all the seats would be snapped up at 330 days and suddenly available at 2 days out.

  6. I have a bad feeling that this is going to impact availability of awards on Korean air. Lots of people are going to make speculative bookings that they’ll never use, taking award seats out of inventory.

  7. Ben — how does KE define a stopover? I can’t find it on their website or in your previous Skypass posts. Thanks, and sorry if you answered this already and I somehow missed it!

  8. So can I purposely build in a ~23 hour layover on an international Skyteam partner award even if there would be same-day connections available? Basically, is KE flexible with this kind of thing or will they make me take the shortest legal connection?

  9. Regarding this: “They need to call you in order to issue an award ticket”:

    Is that true even if you book online or just over the phone? I booked online for a flight in a few days and haven’t received any call.

  10. @ Ty — You can book a ticket for yourself online without faxing anything in. But if it’s a ticket for someone else you still have to fax in the form.

  11. Hi. Hoping you can help me on this. Any suggestions on how to “prove” to them that my parents are my parents?

    I want to book flights to Korea for my parents, and found out they require several forms. The “family registration form” asks for legal documentation of my relationship to my parents. They list birth certificate, marriage certificate, or first page of income tax form. I was born in Korea 45 years ago, got married in Vegas, and my parents have not claimed me as a dependent for 30 years!

    When I called Korean Air, the representatives just keep repeating the same 3 things!

  12. @ SP — Ouch, that’s ridiculous! Do you have the same last name as your parents? What a crazy policy they have…

  13. Hi! Yes, same last name…they live with me and we look alike. I even thought of asking our family physician of 35 years to write a letter and attest to the fact that we are a family!

    But when I called Korean Air (called them twice), they just kept repeating the same 3 thing! Even though its an 800 number, the representative must be in Korea, as both told me that I should be listed on my parents tax form! When I explained that I have not been listed for 30 years since they dont claim me as a dependent, but reps said something like. “Oh, I am not familiar with American tax process!”

    Oh well, time to figure out a plan B!

  14. @ SP — Hmm, I’ve found their US processing center to be a bit more lenient. Are you calling during US business hours Monday through Friday?

  15. Hi. Yes. Called twice today. Maybe I’ll go home and dig through my parents boxes of documents to see if I can come up with anything. What a strange process!

  16. What are the precursors to triggering the event you described as “They need to call you in order to issue an award ticket — they won’t issue it if you just call, because there’s a separate department that handles that.”? I held a ticket (for myself on only KE metal) on the phone and then finished accruing the miles required over the course of a few months. I then ticketed it on koreanair.com without incident, and they never called me to confirm anything. (To be abundantly clear, I’ve already flown this ticket without any issues.)

  17. Another very informative post of Skypass miles use, thanks Ben. And thanks for the advice yesterday on booking our flights from ATL to Fiji–wonderful that Korean let’s us hold this rsvn until Feb 5th,

  18. @ Mitch — Whoops, I should have clarified that applies for partner awards, as you can indeed ticket straightforward Korean Air metal awards online.

  19. I just opened a SkyPass account and went through the “Book a Flight” route (buy using Points).

    But I get stuck at a prompt that says: “Sorry, unfortunately, the members of your flight don’t have enough miles to purchase this flight.. Please try again by changing your flight(s) after checking needed mileage amount.”

    When you’re about to place a hold, do you still go through the typical “Book a Flight” route?

  20. I notice a typo in my earlier comment! In the first line, I meant to type “BY using points” instead of “BUY using points”.

  21. Any word on whether the extra-long holds are still being given?

    Just called and placed an award on hold for about 10 months out (Korean metal), and the rep only gave me a month to ticket. I tried to fish for the extra-long hold and asked if there was a way to extend it (since who knows how long the outage of UR transfers will last), and the rep said that I could call back (if I had trouble transferring miles or taking care of the family paperwork) and they could extend it. Guess I’ll have to do that in a few weeks and see if another rep will give me the long hold. I need the long hold because I can’t ticket until June (getting married, wife changing name and getting new passport).

  22. I am a big fan of Korean Air and fly each year London – Sydney. Of all the ways that I have taken this gruelling journey in my lifetime, this route is the best. I do accumulate my miles and occasionally have enough for an upgrade but I would love to be able to rack up SkyPass miles more quickly. Have you come across any UK or Australian credit cards that award miles that can be converted to SkyPass? I haven’t yet been able to find one.

  23. Just did a hold for 12 months out. They said they could extend it to Jan 1, 2016, but also said if need be I would be able to extend that once I was within a week of the deadline (so to call and extend on Dec 24).

    Wondering if you’ve ever noticed anything like that. Hoping it just has something to do with it being the new year and that I’ll be able to extend it at least several more months past that (will need a bit more time to make up the miles!)

    Either way, thanks again for the advice!

  24. Do you know if they will also hold Award upgrades? It is significantly more to buy an upgradeable economy ticket and I will have to wait until I get my points from Chase before I’ll have enough miles to do the upgrade (I’m getting 2 tickets plus a lap infant).

    Thanks

  25. @Danny – not sure if they allow holds for award upgrades on a paid ticket, but I currently have an award ticket in business that I want to upgrade to F and the agent gladly put the upgrade on hold/waitlist for me until space opens up.

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