Korean Air Added As SPG Transfer Partner

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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:


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.


Bottom line

This is a fantastic new partnership, and can be a great use of points earned with the SPG Personal AmEx and the SPG Business AmEx.

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)

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  1. Is there an efficient way to use Korean Skymiles to travel from the west coast to europe? KLM the best bet? What’s the best way to search for award availability?

  2. Does Korean Air still have that pain in the butt policy with having to scan your passport and send it to them, and for everyone else on your itinerary? I used them once a while back and it just was an awful experience. Has it gotten better?

  3. Shucks! After watching my starpoints grow very slowly @ 1/$ on my SPG AMEX to a grand total of 12K over 2-3 years (it means I spent $12K), I just decided to put them to good use and booked a one-night cash+points award that cost me 5K starpoints + US$75 at Sheraton Brussels Airport Hotel in a couple of weeks — a really great “value”.

    I guess I will have to regrow my stash of starpoints @ 1/$ for the next few years before I can have enough to redeem for an award ticket with this new exciting transfer partner 😉

  4. @Jay – I used Korean Air miles for a business class RT award ticket on Korean Air from LA to Sao Paolo last year (2014) for the World Cup. I found the process to be quite simple. I booked the ticket online almost a year in advance (2013), when I barely had any miles in my account, then amassed the balance through a combination of Korean Air-branded rewards card sign-ups and UR transfers. I stopped by a local Korean Air office (thankfully they have one in Koreatown, which is near my home, and I didn’t have to go to LAX and deal with any airport hassles) to confirm that I was all set. I had printouts or copies of all pertinent documents, based on what I had read on Lucky’s blog and others, but the extremely pleasant agent didn’t even ask for any of it; my reservation was in the system and everything was ready to go. The flights were excellent too. In fact, the Korean national team was sitting with me on the return flight, which I’d say is a pretty good testament to the quality of their business class product and service.

  5. Thank you for the post Lucky.
    I looked at the link to your previous post about how to redeem SkyPass and the award chart.

    Do I read it right that North America to Europe in business class round trip is 80K miles with partner airlines? Is there a mileage limit or routing restrictions?

  6. @steven K — My SPG AMEX is not a recent acquisition. After I found out that I had a perpetual SPG GOLD status through my AMEX Biz Platinum a few years ago, I decided to get the SPG AMEX to use for those occasions when the venue of my business travel is a Starwood property. I used the sign up bonus I got from that on award stay at Sheraton Changsha (Hunan Province, PRC) in 2012. So that is what happened to my sign up bonus…

  7. “…you can redeem those miles for award travel in first class on many SkyTeam carriers…”

    Are there any SkyTeam airlines other than KE that offer aspirational F product awards? DL doesn’t have F, AF doesn’t offer F awards (except to their own elites), and the rest of SkyTeam is pretty uninspiring. Is maybe Garuda SkyTeam and do they have award F?

    I’d like to try redeeming SkyPass miles on KE itself because their J and F look nice on all those routes, but I wonder what you were thinking, Lucky, when you wrote that sentence.

  8. OMG – This is the best news I’ve seen in travel news since the Delta Global Upgrade Certificates!

  9. I tried to transfer my SPG points to Korean last night but there was an error. Anyone else try and get that?

  10. @ Owen — Korean Air first class is my favorite option, though you can also redeem the miles for China Southern and China Eastern first class.

  11. @ Bob — That’s correct, though they do impose fuel surcharges, so it’ll cost you a bit in cash as well.

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