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Korean Skypass Vs. Air France Flying Blue Program for Your Family Vacation to Hawaii

Korean Skypass mileage program has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve heard of the complexity of booking award tickets which would rival the bureaucracy I’ve witnessed while growing up in Soviet Union. Recently one of my readers had a first-hand experience with booking mileage tickets through Skypass, so I told her I would love for her to share a few details.

The whole thing started when she contacted me and asked what are  the best award ticket options from LAX to Hawaii. I wrote  a post on this topic and  ironically enough, Korean  program wasn’t even on the list.  But that’s what she ended up using for her Delta flights.

First things first. If you are looking to fly to Hawaii on Delta airlines, Delta program isn’t your best option because it will cost you at least 22,500 miles one-way at the lowest level. Most folks will be better off with Air France Flying Blue and Korean Skypass,  SkyTeam partners.

1) Air France Flying Blue

I’ve mentioned  Flying Blue program as  a great option for award flights to Hawaii. Even though the official price is 15,000 miles one-way, some flights to Kauai price out at 12,500 miles. It does depend on the airport, though. Florida-Kauai route returned a pricing of 15,000 miles when I checked it.  

Air France is a decent option because it allows one-way redemptions and you can book your Delta award tickets online.  Officially, you can’t put  your flights on hold, though I was able to convince Air France rep to do it for me. YMMV One-way business class redemption to Hawaii will set you back 37,500 miles. You can only book award tickets through Air France 10 months in advance.

You can transfer to Flying Blue miles insatntly on 1:1 basis  from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards. Transfers from Citi will take 2-5 days, and SPG can take a week or longer. Update: reader Sarah has pointed out that her last transfer from Citi went through instantly.

Warning! Air France sometimes displays phantom availability, so I recommend you first call them and make sure the flights are available before transferring any points. Read this post on Rapid Travel Chai that covers other quirks you may encounter.

2) Korean Skypass

This program charges flat 25,000 miles for roundtrip flights operated by Delta  to Hawaii, originating anywhere in US. You’ll pay just 45,000 miles in first class, which is a tremendous bargain.

In exchange you’ll have to go through some serious rigamarole (but more on that later). One-way tickets are not permitted, and you can only book flights for family members. A huge advantage of this program is the fact that you can put award flights on hold before you even have miles in your account.

You can transfer to Korean Skypass  from Chase Ultimate Rewards (instant) and from SPG program (takes a week or longer).

Which program is better for award flights to Hawaii? That really depends.

Consider Air France if:

1) You are someone who doesn’t like dealing with a lot of hassle.

2) You are able to find pricing of 25,000 miles roundtrip from your home airport.

3) You prefer to book one-way flights.

4) You don’t really care to redeem miles on first class and are mostly interested in economy.

5) You have a decent stash in Citi Thank You and Membership Rewards programs, and would prefer  to save your UR and SPG points  for something else.

Consider Korean Skypass if:

1) You need to book several tickets  and don’t mind spending few hours in order to save miles. Of course, I’m assuming that Air France search is returning a higher price for your particular destination.

2) You really want to reserve one or two seats in first class. Since you’ll be dealing with the hassle of booking award tickets anyway, might as well redeem miles for economy seats at the same time. And getting first class to Hawaii for 45,000 miles roundtrip sure is sweet, especially if you plan on flying from the East Coast.

This to me  is the biggest reason to consider Korean Skypass program in the first place. The easiest way to check award availability is via alaskaair.com What you are looking for is 40K pricing in each direction in first class, 22.5K miles in economy, operated by Delta. Those flights should be bookable via Korean Skypass.

delta-alaska

Remember, you can only book roundtrip award tickets via Korean program, but open-jaw is fine. For example, you can fly into Kauai and out of Maui as long as you find availability. You are also allowed a stopover, so this could come in handy if you want to visit a Delta hub. As you can see, using Skypass will let you book a first-class seat for only 45K miles, compared to 80K miles or more via Alaska or Delta programs.

3) There is a degree of uncertainty when it comes to your travel dates. From what I’ve understood, you can have award tickets on hold for months at a time. If for some reason you decide not to take the trip, you can simply cancel the booking. Since you haven’t yet transferred any miles, there shouldn’t be any penalty. I can’t vouch for this option, so do this one at your own risk.

Update: reader GCB shared his experience with Korean Skypass program:

I have 4 tickets booked using Korean Air on Delta for our family’s Xmas Hawaii travel. Delta had great availability when I booked the tickets, although the first class availability was all for flights that did not have flat bed seats. Skypass currently lets you make changes (or cancel) for no charge, so that’s a huge advantage (although they will institute a small change fee starting in August 2017.)

I’ve already tweaked the tickets a couple of times as different legs of travel became available. Delta did make a significant schedule change on our return flight (from a daytime to an overnight flight), and I don’t have a lot of recourse, since I booked with a partner airline. If the ticket were booked with Delta miles then Delta could open up availability on another flight for me. I’ve had this happen before when using Singapore to book United Hawaii flights. It’s always a risk.”

4) You value Membership Rewards points higher than UR and SPG points. It’s rare, but I’m certain there are some families who fall in that category. For example, if you are someone who likes to transfer points to Delta and Jet Blue,  MR currency will be preferable for your situation.

If you are a new reader, you may want to look at my page Best credit card deals for various bonuses that can give you the points you need. The best offer, of course, is Chase Sapphire Reserve that comes with 100K Ultimate Rewards points. That’s enough for 4 economy award tickets to Hawaii via Korean Skypass, as long as there is “saver” level availability.

Not quite in the “best deals” or even “OK deals” category, but there is an offer on US Bank Skypass Visa Signature. You will earn 15,000 miles after your first purchase, $80 annual fee is not waived. Direct non-affiliate link  Be aware, US Bank may approve you for lower version that comes with only 5,000 miles. Basically, the offer is weak sauce, but may be of interest to some.

On to  Korean Skypass redemption process experience  by reader Stephanie:

“I finally received my ticketed Delta Award flights that I booked through Korean Skypass for my family of 4.  Today is September 23rd, and I started this entire process around September 1st (calling Korean Air and asking to be transferred to Korean Skypass as they’re the only ones who can book award flights through partners @ 800-438-5000).  Sometimes you will be transferred and sometimes they’ll take your number down and will have a Skypass rep return your call within 24 hours (or more from my experience).  

I used these two articles to gather all the information I needed: one on Loophole Travel website  and How To Redeem Your Korean Air Skypass Miles | Noob Traveler I found Delta’s Award availability on the Alaska Airlines website (with the dates and times — write them all down and a few backups).

So this is how I booked my 4 Delta Award flights from LAX to Maui and from Kauai to LAX through Korean Skypass:

After my first call, I was advised that each person in my family needed to create a SKYPASS account because we all needed a SKYPASS Number.  So I created an account for myself, my husband, and 2 children (all of the names need to be identical to each person’s passport or you will need to send them an email to request a correction).  

They then directed me to their website and on the bottom is a link to Electronic Documents here   I filled out the SKYPASS Family Registration Application (attach copies of photo ID’s of everyone — yes, even the children need a photo ID and all I had were their expired passports so that worked for them — marriage certificate and birth certificate for each child).

 I also filled out the SKYPASS Award Application which confirmed that I wanted them to use the 100,000 Skypass Points. It took me a week to get all the points into the account but I transferred 25,000 UR points and 60,000 SPG  points, and SPG gave me 15,000 bonus miles.  

Then I emailed all forms and attachments to engskypass@koreanair.com.  There was a bit of back and forth as the first person only confirmed that my Family Application had been approved.  I had also asked that our names be corrected so I had to resend everything again.  Then a few days later I was notified after a few phone calls that I did need to send copies of the kids’ passports so I sent those in as well. 

I did have to make about 10 phone calls because several times it was over 24 hours and I was desperate to lock in my flights with a reservation number since my husband said only a few dates would work with his schedule. After all the back and forth, I did lose my award availability to my 1st choice of flight time from LAX to OGG (Maui). They still had the same date with a later time which worked for us (all our flights were non-stop).  Korean Air allows you to book a partner flight, but it has to be roundtrip and costs  25,000 miles, plus I could do an open-jaw (this meant we could Island hop for free!)  

A Skypass rep called me today to ticket my reservation in exchange for payment of  $44 and change in taxes for the flights.  We’re all booked!  Now I have to call Delta to have them select my seats for me – we’ll see how that goes. Just fyi…the flights were $750 each.

I’m expecting to shell out $111 each for our Hawaiian Air flights from Maui to Kauai, but that’s a small price to pay for us to enjoy a second island that we have never seen. This whole experience made me a little frazzled with all the calls and emails, but their Customer Service Reps are some of the best that I have worked with, and now that I have everything set, I wouldn’t hesitate to book Delta Award flights with them again.”

Huge thanks to Stephanie for sharing her experience!

Bottom line

While both Flying Blue and Skypass programs have their quirks, in certain circumstances, it would definitively be worth it to utilize them in order to save your precious points/miles. Yes, you may have to deal with rigamarole, but just think about extra trip you will now be able to enjoy with your family.

P.S. Nancy and I talked about it, and we’ve decided to add a small (and tasteful!) Creditcards.com affiliate banner to the top of each post. Any time you apply through it, we will receive a commission. The reason: to make it easier for readers to support the site if they choose to do so. Of course, if you prefer, you can use the links in “Support Me” and “Apply for credit cards” pages instead.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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18 thoughts on “Korean Skypass Vs. Air France Flying Blue Program for Your Family Vacation to Hawaii

  1. I’d love to get the first class tickets to Hawaii for 45,000 or economy for 25,000 round trip, but dang that’s complicated! I’m not opposed to doing work for a good deal, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck waiting to receive calls back and waiting on emails!

    • @Jennifer It’s definitely a ton of work, no question about it. But to get first-class to Hawaii for 45K miles is sweet and worth the effort imo. I’m not sure I would bother to do it for economy tickets when it’s just two people, I would probably go with Air France. For four awards, I would be tempted, though. The biggest advantage of Korean is that you can put awards on hold before even transferring the miles. And transfers from UR are instant. So, you can take your time gathering the documents and going through the rigamarole.

  2. I’m glad it worked out for Stephanie!

    My family had to go through that Korean Air family account paperwork about 6 years ago. It was a total pain!

    I love that there are so many miles and points options for Hawaii.

    • @Nancy It sounds like pain! But I would do it for first-class seat on Delta to Hawaii. That’s a long flight.

  3. I have 4 tickets booked using Korean Air on Delta for our family’s Xmas Hawaii travel. Delta had great availability when I booked the tickets, although the first class availability was all for flights that did not have flat bed seats. Skypass currently lets you make changes (or cancel) for no charge, so that’s a huge advantage (although they will institute a small change fee starting in August 2017.) I’ve already tweaked the tickets a couple of times as different legs of travel became available. Delta did make a significant schedule change on our return flight (from a daytime to an overnight flight), and I don’t have a lot of recourse, since I booked with a partner airline. If the ticket were booked with Delta miles then Delta could open up availability on another flight for me. I’ve had this happen before when using Singapore to book United Hawaii flights. It’s always a risk.

    • @GCB Thank you so much for sharing your experience. That’s a great point on free changes and cancellations via Skypass as of right now, and I should add that to the post. Flexibility is very important to families because plans can change. I find myself rebooking trips on a regular basis, and paying penalties for four people is a pain in the butt.
      You are also right about the drawback in case of schedule change. There are pluses and minuses when you book via partner programs. But to me, the savings are worth it.

  4. Your reader was lucky because she lived on the West Coast where there are many non-stop options to Hawaii to/from several cities. For everyone else, it will likely be very difficult finding low-level awards in economy or first class on Delta IF you are planning to travel during the traditional school calendar breaks (i.e. June, July, first half of August, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Spring break). It is not impossible to find award tickets for a family of 4, but Delta historically doesn’t release many seats during those peak travel periods. You’ll have better luck traveling outside of those times, or maybe doing something like one-way on DL and return on AA/UA, or perhaps taking an LCC to the West coast and booking the award flight from there. Just to set some realistic expectations.

    If you find seats and don’t live on the West Coast, I would recommend using FlyingBlue miles because it sounds like you can ticket itineraries quicker (and AF may hold it if you cannot instantly xfer miles). Due to scarcity of award seats, availability east of the Rockies can disappear fast. This is typically due to the seats on connecting flights. For example, if you find that MCO->ATL->LAX->HNL is available and then check again in 12-24 hours, it may no longer exist because someone has grabbed the open seats from MCO->ATL or ATL->LAX.

    I say this from experience as a Delta elite living in a hub city. Even when I was a Platinum/Diamond Medallion carrying the DL credit card (which, at the time, gave access to a larger award inventory), flights to Hawaii were tough to book during school breaks. On my last two trips, I had to use AA and UA miles because they had availability and DL had none at the low-level. It was easier to book a DL flight to Europe or the Caribbean than Hawaii.

    • @Erik You are absolutely right! Readers need to have realistic expectations because a lot can change in 12-24 hours. There is a ton of competition during high season.
      Like Stephanie said, her first choice of flights was gone by the time someone from Skypass finally called back. While you can put seats on hold, they have to be there to begin with.
      I probably wouldn’t recommend this option to someone who is flying over a major holiday. You almost have to have some flexibility in your plans.
      Air France is a decent option, and they did hold my seats for two weeks, though it depends on the agent. Obviously, if you have MR or UR points, it’s not an issue. You can just call and transfer points instantly. The ease and relative certainty (compared to Skypass) of dealing with Flying Blue makes a compelling case in its favor.

  5. I agree with GCB about Delta’s availability…there were many dates and times available during the high peak (summer) from LAX to Maui & Kauai and visa versa. I’ve been sitting on Avios points for 2 years now and can’t find more than 1 award seat (if at all) on American during the summer so I’ll be trying to use those Avios elsewhere. For a couple, sure there are many options, but for a family traveling during peak, I was pleasantly surprised that Delta could get us to Hawaii during the summer — all 4 of us. I wouldn’t hesitate to book through Skypass again for awards since all the initial paperwork is done.

  6. It’s funny, I typically don’t even look at Delta flights because I expect them not to have any availability, but in August, when my MR points were frozen and I couldn’t book the Hawaiian Air tickets that I had picked, I found several options for Christmas travel for 4 from Denver to Hawaii (through Seattle, LAX or San Francisco.) Skypass allows a stopover each way, so on the return I could book a daytime flight to LAX from Kona, then we could spend the night in LA, then grab a flight back to Denver the following morning. That is my preferred way to come home from Hawaii (I don’t like red eye flights) so, until they cancelled the daytime flight and rebooked us on an overnighter, it would have been perfect! The stopover option–if you have time–also makes it easier for you to find positioning flights from your home city to the departure city for your transpacific flight.

    • @Stephanie @GCB I think Delta’s past reputation makes many people ignore the program. And that’s a shame, because it has improved considerably over the last few years, plus one-ways are now allowed. I guess we shouldn’t praise Delta award availability too much, there will be more competition for those Korean seats to Hawaii! 🙂 But it’s probably still a bit risky to wait a day or two when we are talking about Christmas flights.

  7. I booked AA for 4 DFW-LIH for early January with no problem but there’s not an AA flight home to be had! (My plan was to use avios and SW companion pass home). Thankfully Delta had plenty! So I booked via flying blue to get us back. Price changed from 12,500 to 15,000 while I was booking. Ugh. My thank you points transfer was instant though. We are having to connect to HNL from LIH and have not decided how I’m paying for that flight. Orphaned AA miles? United miles? $300 chase reserve credit?

    • @Sarah If you have SPG points, you should look into transferring them 1:1 to Virgin America and redeeming on Hawaiian (a partner). It costs only 3,000 points for a one-way flight.
      I agree, AA availability can be hit or miss, mostly miss for me lately.

  8. This is great info! I live in a Delta hub, and I would love to take our family of 4 to Hawaii next Thanksgiving with our 100,000 CSR points. I was planning to use Avios from the west coast (or PHX) but was worried about finding 4 available seats on the same flight. This will give us an extra option. Thanks!

    • @Cynthia No problem! Since you live in a Delta hub, those are great options indeed. I recommend you sign up for Air France account right now. It’s free, so why not? Unlike Korean option, you can book Delta flights online via Air France website. Additionally, it sometimes returns higher priced options, which can come in handy if you need several tickets. For example, you might be able to book two tickets for 30K miles, and two for 35K miles. It’s still a good deal compared to Delta program. Of course, Korean option is overal cheapest out there,but as you can see, it involves a lot of hassle and some risk. Thanksgiving time will obviously be very popular. I suggest you book as soon as award seats open up. Speaking of, Air France only lets you book 10 months in advance, so Korean might actually be a better option in your case.

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