I receive emails, Tweets, and comments all the time from readers saying how much they enjoyed flying [insert premium cabin product] for the first time, and that puts the biggest smile on my face. The most common ones are probably Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa first class.
What puzzles me, however, is how few people seem to be redeeming miles for Korean Air first class, which I consider to be one of the best and most attainable award redemptions out there.
For my own travels this year I’ve redeem more Korean Air SkyPass miles than any other mileage currency. So far I’ve flown the following this year using Korean Air SkyPass miles:
- China Southern First Class A380 Los Angeles to Guangzhou
- China Southern First Class A330 Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita
- Korean Air First Class 777-200 Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon
- Korean Air First Class A380 Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles
- Korean Air First Class 777-300ER Los Angeles to Sao Paulo
Now, admittedly China Southern first class wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping, though Korean Air’s first class product blew me away and exceeded my expectations.
Why should you be redeeming miles for Korean Air first class?
Korean Air SkyPass miles are easy to come by
Korean Air SkyPass is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, which is one of the easiest points currencies to come by, in my opinion, thanks to the generous sign-up bonuses and category bonuses for everyday spend on those cards:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers double points on dining and travel, no foreign transaction fees, and a 7% annual points dividend (plus a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 within three months, plus an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make their first purchase within three months)
- The Ink Plus® Business Card and Ink Bold® Business Card, which offer 5x points on office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services (plus a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months)
Furthermore, if you have the Chase Freedom® or Ink Cash® Business Card in conjunction with one of the above cards, you can redeem those points as “premium” Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them to Korean Air SkyPass at a 1:1 ratio.
Korean Air flies to more destinations in the US than any other Asian airline
There’s not an Asian airline that has as many destinations in the US as Korean Air. Their USA destinations include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington. That’s a lot of destinations, and depending on where you live, could easily translate into one less connection enroute to Asia.
Korean Air releases a ton of first class award space
I think I can say with near certainty that there’s not another airline that releases as much saver level award space to Asia as Korean Air.
And the best part is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re planning your trip far in advance or close to departure, there’s consistently tons of space either way.
For example, yesterday I pulled up award space between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon for Sunday. Both A380 flights had five saver level first class award seats each — FIVE! Talk about a hell of a party you could have aboard!
For a return tomorrow, each A380 flight also has 4-5 first class award seats.
And if you want to plan far in advance, space is also excellent. Pulling up random dates ~10 months from now, most dates between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon have ~8-10 first class award seats available.
The one thing to note is that Korean Air SkyPass does have peak dates (where additional mileage is required), which vary somewhat by year and direction of travel (Korea to US vs. US to Korea).
It’s also worth noting that they impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions, though they’re quite reasonable compared to what you’d pay going to Europe. For example, fuel surcharges for roundtrip first class between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon are ~$300.
Korean Air first class is a great product
I’m a huge fan of Asiana, and had always been told that Asiana was the airline in Korea with substance, while Korean Air was the airline with style. That wasn’t my experience at all — Korean Air had every bit as much substance as Asiana.
From the service to the food to the bedding to the ridiculous amenities that Korean Air has on the A380 (lounge, bar, duty free gallery, etc.), I was blown away across the board.
Korean Air has reasonable redemption rates
Korean Air has reasonable redemption rates, which are downright cheap compared to United’s new partner award redemption rates, for example.
Here’s how many miles are required one-way in non-peak season for travel in Korean Air first class:
- North America to Korea, Japan, China, or Northeast Asia: 80,000 miles
- North America to Southeast Asia: 95,000 miles
- North America to Southwest Asia: 105,000 miles
- North America to Oceania: 120,000 miles
- North America to South America: 70,000 miles
Korean Air allows one-way awards with stopovers
If you’re traveling on Korean Air metal, you can book one-way awards for half the cost of a roundtrip, and can even have a stopover in Seoul Incheon on a one-way award, if applicable.
When you combine airline quality, availability, and redemption rates, I don’t think there’s a better option for first class travel to Asia than Korean Air SkyPass. It can be tough to find two first class award seats on a single flight to Asia nowadays, let alone 4-5 seats, enough for a family.
So if you haven’t yet redeemed miles for Korean Air first class, what are you waiting for?
(In the interest of full disclosure I earn a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the above links. They’re all for the best publicly available offers for each card. Neither this post, nor the comments, are provided nor commissioned by Chase. The comments below have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser, and it is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered. Thanks for your support! )