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One of my favorite Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners is Korean Air SkyPass.
I’ve redeemed hundreds of thousands of miles through Korean Air SkyPass the past couple of years, including for travel in Korean Air first class between Seoul Incheon and Los Angeles as well as between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo.
What makes Korean Air SkyPass so great is that you can redeem those miles for award travel in first class on many SkyTeam carriers. Delta SkyMiles is the biggest SkyTeam frequent flyer program, except they don’t actually let you redeem miles for international first class. That’s sort of great, since it means Korean Air first class award availability is consistently wide open for those with the right miles.
I’ve long considered Korean Air transfers to be one of the best uses of points I earn on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, especially since Korean Air SkyPass didn’t partner with any of the other “big” three flexible points currencies.
Well, it looks like that has finally changed — Starwood Preferred Guest and Korean Air have just announced a partnership, and are now transfer partners.
That means Starpoints can be transferred to Korean Air at a 1:1 ratio. On top of that, for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus. That means when transferring in the right increments you’re basically earning 1.25 Korean Air miles per Starpoint. SPG mileage transfers aren’t instant, for what it’s worth.
Airline transfers are a great use of Starpoints, especially for harder to earn currencies like Alaska Mileage Plan, Korean Air SkyPass, etc. So this is something which adds even more value to the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
Starwood has nearly three dozen airline transfer partners, already making them the flexible currency with the most airline transfer partners. Of the programs SPG didn’t previously partner with, Korean Air is probably the currency I value most, so kudos to them on this addition.
It is worth noting that Korean Air is a somewhat quirky program, though. They have some rules which are both awesome and terrible:
- You can change or cancel Korean Air award tickets without paying any fees
- Korean Air often allows award ticket holds for months at a time
- Korean Air only lets you book tickets for immediate family members; boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, etc., don’t count (the great news is that Starwood allows household points transfers, meaning you can transfer Starpoints to non-family members living at the same address, and then those points can be transferred to their Korean Air account)
- Korean Air has some peak travel dates, where award redemptions are considerably more expensive
While probably not useful to most, it’s also worth noting that you can earn 1,000 bonus Starpoints if you sign-up for SPG and make a stay at a property in the Asia Pacific region by November 12, 2015. Registration is required to take advantage of that offer.
All else being equal I’d probably still rather transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to Korean Air SkyPass, but if you have more Starpoints I think it can still be a great value.
Korean Air flies to more destinations in the US than any other Asian airline, and given the amount of first class award space they release, they’re an even more compelling option.
(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)