Man, I really screwed the pooch on this one. I’m such an idiot and I hope that you guys can learn from my mistake. If you guys have been following along, then you know that I’m booked on the Vietnam Airlines A350 inaugural flight to Paris. Because Vietnam Airlines is a SkyTeam partner airline, I searched on Delta’s website and found a business class award seat on the inaugural. To book my flight, I transferred 80,000 American Express Membership Rewards points Delta. The points transferred instantly and I booked the flight within 20 minutes of finding it online. I literally didn’t think twice about it.
Now, here’s where I wasn’t thinking (once, or twice for that matter) and screwed up. Because the inaugural flight is from Hanoi to Paris, I had to position myself to Hanoi. Again, searching Delta’s website for award space from Los Angeles to Hanoi, I found business class award space from Los Angeles to Hanoi on Korean Air (the A380, no less) for 70,000 miles. I was so happy to find award space and glad I didn’t have to pay for my positioning flight, I transferred more Amex MR points to Delta and booked the Korean Air A380 business class flight to Hanoi immediately.
Then it hit me.
WTF was I doing? Why was I booking a business class award when I could have booked a first class award? I was so mad at myself.
Anyone who follows the points and miles game knows that Delta doesn’t let you book SkyTeam partner airlines first class awards, so I settled for the business class award seat. But what I totally forgot was that Korean Air is a Chase Ultimate Rewards partner and I had a TON of UR points available. Instead of transferring my AMEX MR points to Delta, I should have transferred my UR points to Korean Air and booked directly with them instead.
The trick is that using Korean Air’s own Skypass program, you can book their first class awards. And because Delta’s SkyMiles can’t book Korean Air first class, there’s less competition for the award space and there’s an incredible amount of open first class award seats. But wait, don’t you have to book round-trip awards using Korean Air’s Skypass program? Well, yes and no. You do have to book round-trip awards for SkyTeam partner flights but with Korean Air’s own metal, you can book one-ways.
Now the worst part of all. . . Korean Air only charges 95,000 miles one way for a first class award from North America to Southeast Asia (75,000 miles for business class). That’s a premium of 25,000 additional miles that I would have had to use but we’re talking access to the first class side of the Korean Air SkyTeam lounge at LAX (it’s not amazing or anything but it is nicer than the business class side), a 13 hour flight from Los Angeles to Korea in their A380 Kosmo Suite, access to their First Class Lounge in Seoul and then another 4 hour flight in their Boeing 777 Kosmo Suite from Seoul to Hanoi (yes, they fly a 777 with first class to Hanoi). And I would have gotten a free stopever in Seoul! Idiot.
So basically this. . .
As opposed to this. . .
I don’t know about you guys but I think that’s a no brainer and totally worth the extra 25,000 UR points.
So the lesson to be learned here – don’t get suckered into the first award space you see. It may be tempting but it never hurts to know what your other options are before booking. If I would have taken a step back for a quick second, you guys would be reading a Korean Air first class award trip and not a business class trip report. Sigh.
And the second lesson here – diversify your points and miles. Different programs partner with different airlines and having different point currencies increase your chances of booking better award trips. In this case, UR points to Korean Air would have been the better choice but that won’t always be the case.
The other reviews in this series include:
- I’m booked on the Vietnam Airlines A350!
- Don’t be like me and screw up an award booking
- Korean Airlines SkyTeam Lounge at LAX
- Korean Airlines A380 business class from Los Angeles to Seoul
- Korean Airlines Prestige (business class) Lounge at Seoul
- KAL Lounge at Seoul Satellite Concourse
- Vietnam Airlines A330 business class Seoul to Hanoi
- Hilton Hanoi Opera
- Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge at Hanoi
- Vietnam Airlines A350 business class Hanoi to Paris