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Korean Airlines’ Skypass program is changing its award charts effective April 1st, 2014 though if you book before then, even with dates after April 1st the prior award levels still apply. Why would changes to a Korean frequent flyer program matter?
Because it is a point transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, so if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus® or Bold Business Card this is one of your options for using your points.
Skypass is a SkyTeam member, which gives you access to Delta, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, and other airlines with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
There are changes for most regions, but for trips that go to and from the U.S., the changes primarily increase the mileage cost for business and first class awards to Asia. These are for flights that involve SkyTeam partners like Delta and tickets that involve a mix of Korean Air flights with partner SkyTeam flights, such as Boston to New York (Delta) to Seoul (Korean).
Korean is also getting rid of discounted business and first class awards on flights that don’t have lie-flat seats, which isn’t much of a change since most flights to the U.S. on Korean already have lie-flat seats.
Here are the changes relevant to U.S. based tickets:
Northeast Asia (Korea, Taiwan, East Russia, Mongolia, Japan, China, Hong Kong)
Southeast Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Laos, Macau(MO), Malaysia(MY), Myanmar, Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Thai, Vietnam, Palau Islands)
Southwest Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Central Russia)
South Pacific (American Samoa, Australia, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Independent Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu)
Latin America South (Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay)
These coming changes eliminate a disconnect in the old reward chart where flights that involved a partner priced out cheaper than a Korean Airlines only itinerary, even if Korean was one of the segments. For example, at 120,000 miles the prior U.S. to North Asia partner award was less than the 125,000 for a Korean Airlines only award. Now it will be more expensive than the Korean-only option at 140,000 miles.
For Ultimate Rewards users Asia rewards on Korean weren’t the best deal – United has better availability overall. But Korean’s luxurious First Class availability is pretty generous so the increase does hurt if that’s what you were after.
And relations between Delta and Korean Airlines have become as rocky over the last year, with cuts to mileage earning on paid tickets, so these changes are all part of an overall distancing of Korean from its biggest SkyTeam partner. They were first unveiled last December without much fanfare.
The good news is flights to Europe involving Air France, Delta, and Alitalia are unaffected, so you still have a good option to use your Ultimate Rewards points on SkyTeam flights, albeit with fuel surcharges that United doesn’t impose.
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