Will Ultimate Rewards Transfers To Korean Air Return?

On Friday I wrote about the sudden change to the Chase Ultimate Rewards website, whereby points transfers to Korean Air SkyPass were no longer possible.

While not an especially popular Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, personally it’s one of my favorites.

Korean Air belongs to SkyTeam, and is one of the few SkyTeam airlines through which you can redeem miles for first class at the saver level. What makes Korean Air SkyPass so great?

Korean-Air-First-Class
Korean Air First Class 777-300ER

  • Korean Air releases a ton of first class award availability, and there’s not much competition for those seats. As long as you’re not traveling over the peak dates, you should have no trouble finding award space on just about any date.
  • Korean Air partners with China Southern, China Eastern, etc., which also have solid first class hard products and release a good amount of award space.
  • Korean Air SkyPass first class award redemption rates are extremely reasonable.

China-Eastern-777-300ER-2
China Eastern First Class 777-300ER

So what’s going on with the partnership between Korean Air SkyPass and Chase Ultimate Rewards? Did they really just discontinue it without any notice whatsoever?

I have a hard time imagining that’s the case. When partnerships like this have been discontinued in the past, there has almost always been a good amount of advance notice.

This is especially important with Korean Air SkyPass, because they allow really long award holds, so you can hold an award ticket for ~10 months, and only transfer miles and ticket the reservation a few days before departure. Beyond that, Korean Air doesn’t have any other major partners for transferring points, so it’s really tough to “top off” an account.

Based on emailing Chase customer service, the claim seems to be as follows:

Chase is not currently processing point transfers to the Korean Air SKYPASS program. We will update the Ultimate Rewards Web site when the functionality returns.

The verbiage does suggest that the functionality will return (they say “when,” not “if). That being said, I’m not sure I’d trust any front line representative in regards to this, regardless of whether they say the outage is temporary or that it’s permanently discontinued.

My guess — and I hope I’m right — is that it’s a poorly communicated temporary outage. I have to imagine they’d give some notice if the partnership were actually intended to be discontinued.

This would be a big blow to the value of Ultimate Rewards points for me, based on my recent redemption patterns. This year alone I’ve redeemed Korean Air SkyPass miles for the following segments:

That being said, Ultimate Rewards did recently pick up Singapore KrisFlyer as a transfer partner, which I’d consider to be at least as valuable.

Comments

  1. Hey Lucky,
    This kind of messes up my plan for a family trip (5 tickets) using the UR points I amasses this past year for travel RT on KE LAX-ICN. I checked out to see if Singapore Air flies that same route and it offers the ASIANA flights. If I transfer UR points to KrisFlyer, do you think there might be good or decent availability of 1st or business class seats for use on those ASIANA flights? thanks

  2. “That being said, Ultimate Rewards did recently pick up Singapore KrisFlyer as a transfer partner, which I’d consider to be at least as valuable.”

    I’m not sure I’d agree with this.

    KE has MUCH more award availability over SQ in the premium cabins, and to many, that would make KE more valuable than SQ.

  3. I got the same exact wording as you did from my message to Chase, so I don’t think that it’s coming from a front line rep. It appears that someone higher has issued the wording, and the situation is hopefully temporary.

  4. *adds onto TravelinWilly’s comment* That and in terms of the Chase UR partner portfolio, only with KE can one book Skyteam awards and first class Skyteam awards. SQ just opens up more SQ and allows the same access to Star Alliance that UA has.

    Is there any other FF program that can redeem first class Skyteam awards at a reasonable rate other than KE in case Chase did discontinue their partnership? AF Flying Blue? Saudia? China Eastern/Southern?

  5. Having just gone to FTU Amsterdam, please note that skyteam airlines can only redeem other skyteam airlines’s business & economy class seats. Each skyteam airline has to have a special relationship with each other when redeeming partner first class seats. Hence why you cannot use KE skypass to redeem Air France La Premiere or Garuda First. In turn, KE Skypass has special relationships with China Southern, China Eastern, and China Airlines; and thus can redeem Skypass miles for those partners’ first class seats. This is one major difference between skyteam alliance and oneworld.

  6. There are many Korean F awards that you had me dreaming about including the 5th Freedom flight from LA to Brazil. Really hope the transfer option returns. If not, it is a deval to Chase UR.

  7. Lucky, I’m not usually one to grouse about “free” (ad-supported and SEO’d) content (or lack thereof) and I know it can be hard to do research while traveling, but 86% of this post is recap or linkbacks… and that’s ignoring the rest of the page. Plus, total violation of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.

  8. Is it possible to redeem Flying Blue miles (from Amex MR points) for SkyTeam first class products like Korean and China Southern/Eastern? I know AF First itself is off-limits but is that an alternative option for getting to the Asian SkyTeam First products?

  9. i just got off phone with a KAL rep.
    she told me from their stand point, nothing has changed in terms of the partnership with chase. everything is of the status quo.

    i am going to call my chase branch manager tomorrow morning and will post if i get any substantive answer.

  10. @ steven k — To be honest I wouldn’t expect you’ll learn a whole lot from a Chase branch manager. But please do report back!

  11. Wasn’t the main reason why most people don’t redeem with Korean the fuel surcharges? None of that has changed, unless you absolutely need that international first class seat.

  12. @calwatch – I would think the byzantine booking process had just as much, if not more, to do with it than YQ.

  13. @ calwatch — The fuel surcharges are mild, in my opinion, especially compared to awards to Europe. They’re $150-200 one-way, in my experience.

  14. I’ve accumulated about 200K rewards points through Chase Sapphire and Ink card just so that I could transfer miles to Korean Air. To find out that Chase no longer transfer these points to Skypass was a huge upset. How could they drop without any notice to the customers who like me, who solely used this card for the Skypass mileage?! The website still advertise KAL as one of the partner airline. False advertisement!!

  15. @ Jennifer Pak — It’s apparently just a temporary thing, so the ability to transfer points to Korean Air should hopefully return soon.

  16. lucky,
    what do you mean when you said “It’s apparently just a temporary thing”?
    have you hear anything concrete?
    i met with my chase banker the other day. he called the credit card division then to the web support team. he couldn’t get any solid response from them.
    one thing he told me was based on his experience, chase usually informs its customers before ending partnerships.

  17. @ steven k — Yes, we’ve heard from several reps/sources now that it’s a temporary thing, and that the link should be live again at some point. No timeline has been announced, though.

  18. I was excited today when I saw Korean Air link on the UR site (old design’s drop-down menu for transfers) but after clicking it, site got switched over to the new design and Korean was no longer listed. So I guess they are not back yet…

  19. Bummer. Any of you who have contacts with chase ultimate awards points division may be able to get a definitive answer temporary or permanent ?

  20. I have more than 200,000 miles on Chase Sapphire and Inc cards with my wife. We planed to visit Bangkok and Korea this April.
    Can anyone give some advice?
    Should I file the complaints or just wait? Is there any options to use to visit Bongkok and Korea with Chhase Reward points?

  21. @ Abraham Pak — You can still transfer them to United or Singapore, both of which can potentially be great programs for travel to Thailand and Korea.

  22. Lucky,

    >Point Transfer “What are the participating frequent travel programs?”

    https://www.chase.com/index.jsp?pg_name=ccpmapp/shared/assets/page/UltimateRewards_FAQ

    >1:1 Point Transfer to Leading Frequent Travel Programs

    https://creditcards.chase.com/sapphire/credit-card-benefits

    >>Korean Air Website

    https://kr.koreanair.com/global/en/skypass/earn/credit-cards/Chase-Bank.html

    It seems as if the Korean Air and Chase partnership is going to be operational once again. But how long do these things usually take? Any idea what these two companies are waiting for?

  23. There is one card US Bank Skypass Signature visa that is partnered with Korean Air.
    You can transfer points direcly.

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