Korean Air is one of two major South Korean airlines and is part of the SkyTeam alliance, which also includes members like Delta, Air France, KLM, and others. Unless you travel to Korea often you probably won’t make regular use of the Korean Air SKYPASS loyalty program.
Because you’re probably unfamiliar with SKYPASS, this post discusses how to use those miles to book an award once they’re in your account. There only are a few important things you need to know before getting started. First, you must book round-trip travel on partners. One-way awards are only possible on Korean Air.
Second, Korean Air has a narrow definition of eligible travelers, including yourself and certain family members. You can’t just book an award ticket for anyone using your miles. Take care of this in advance by completing the SKYPASS Family Registration Application, attach identification and proof of relationship, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, you can easily transfer miles to Korean Air from other loyalty programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, and some awards are cheaper to book through SKYPASS than through competing programs, even for travel on the same airline. It’s worth getting to know the program for those valuable situations when the above restrictions aren’t an issue.
What Partner Airlines Can Be Booked with SKYPASS Miles?
Korean Air primarily operates in Asia, but they are also partnered with all 20 members of SkyTeam, plus several other non-SkyTeam partners. Currently, you can use SKYPASS miles to book award tickets with all 20 SkyTeam members. These include:
- Air France
- China Southern Airlines
- Kenya Airways
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Czech Airlines
- China Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Korean Air
- Vietnam Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- MEA (Middle East Airlines)
- Xiamen Airlines
You can also book award travel on Korean’s non-SkyTeam partners, opening up a number of other possibilities. They include:
- Alaska Airlines
- Emirates Airline
- Etihad Airways
- GOL Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JAL (Japan Airlines)
- Jet Airways
Award Travel Costs
Korean Air lists several different award charts for flights that it operates itself, for flights operated by SkyTeam partners, and for flights operated by other partners. That can make it a little challenging to figure out the right price. Although the main Korean Air award chart is listed below, you can also look up other award costs using the Award Maximizer tool by entering your origin and destination. You’ll see that using SKYPASS miles can be particularly inexpensive for some trips, like traveling to Hawaii with Alaska Airlines.
How to Book Travel on Korean Air with SKYPASS
SKYPASS has a fairly intuitive process for booking awards online. Get started on the Korean Air booking page and log in with your SKYPASS number. (You can enroll in SKYPASS here if you haven’t already.) You can also log into your account first and find the award travel menu from the account dashboard.
Be sure to select the “Award Booking” button at the top and the type of award you want to search for. In this example, I’ll be searching for a first class award, one way, on Korean Air from Los Angeles to Seoul. Notice that I have to select the passengers who will be traveling from the very start.
Note: Non-alliance partners, such as Alaska Airlines, cannot be booked online at this time. You’ll need to search for award space elsewhere and then call Korean Air at 1-800-438-5000. You might want to book online anyway so that you can hold the award ticket before transferring miles from another program. (If you transfer first and the award space disappears, you’re out of luck.) You will also need to submit a form to confirm your redemption if you book by phone. See the end for more detail.
After beginning your search, the next step will show a calendar view with flights that have available award space, plus or minus a few days from the date you requested. You will also see the number of miles required for each person. But in my case, no flights were available for quite some time. Instead I was given the option to view a calendar if my dates were flexible.
I moved my flight from October 18 to October 25, when the calendar indicated a first class award was available. And, in fact, the next page did show me the flight I wanted. Remember that this is a one-way trip (only possible on Korean Air) so the right side is blank.
Once you have selected your flights, scroll down and you’ll see a summary window with the total number of miles as well as the taxes and fees for those flights. Fuel surcharges do apply sometimes, but many flights do not have them or they are very low. Keep an eye out. If the fees are particularly high, consider redeeming miles through a different program that may charge more miles but does not collect surcharges.
Personally, I think 80,000 miles and ~$100 is a great deal for a first class trip to Asia on an Airbus A380! You can expect to pay that much for a one-way business class flight if you use United miles on Korean Air’s competitor, Asiana. Transferring your Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air SKYPASS instead of United MileagePlus might be the better deal.
How to Book Travel on Partners with SKYPASS
For SkyTeam partner airlines, the booking process is pretty much identical as above. The only difference is that you select “SkyTeam Award” when you begin your search. In this case I’ll search for a round-trip flight in economy class between Seattle and Maui.
The flights I’m presented are all on Delta Air Lines. Remember, you can’t search for Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines on the SKYPASS website.
You might not see the total price right away after selecting your flights. If necessary, click on the “Calculate” button just after the flight options.
You’ll then see a summary of the award cost, including miles and fees. Again, this is an incredibly good price for a round-trip ticket to Hawaii. Most airlines charge 20,000 to 30,000 miles each way. To get both directions for the same price, it’s like you’re going to Hawaii for half-off.
Alaska Airlines also has more flights to Hawaii from the West Coast than any other airline, so it might be easier to find availability using your Ultimate Rewards points instead of transferring to United MileagePlus. But to book with non-SkyTeam partners like Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Etihad, you will need to call SKYPASS and book by phone. I recommend you search for award availability in advance. Star with the airline’s own website, but keep in mind that some airlines provide additional award space to their own customers.
Partners tend tend to get a more limited selection of awards, although fortunately all partners share that same limited selection. That means if you see an award on Alaska Airlines, for example, and aren’t sure if Korean Air can book it, you can check by searching for the same Alaska Airlines flight on the American Airlines or British Airways websites.
Featured image credit: Korean Air Lines