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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
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.
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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.