Korean Air is known among mileage junkies for having the best first class award space in the industry. They also have a generous award hold policy and their miles don’t expire for 10 years.
You can fly in a Kosmo 2.0 walled-in suite on a brand new 747-8 from JFK to Seoul for just 80K miles+$104. If you were paying cash for the flight it would you back over $10,000, so this is a value greater than 12 cents per mile:
And that’s the beauty of “hybrid points.” You can transfer Chase points from cards like Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Ink Plus, or Ink Business Preferred at a 1:1 ratio to Korean to get the flight for 80K points. It would make no sense to redeem it directly from the Ink Plus or even the Chase Sapphire Reserve which makes your points worth 1.5 cents each with direct redemption:
80K miles plus $23 is enough to fly in first class from Seoul to Tel Aviv:
But it was news to me that you can now search for SkyTeam awards on KoreanAir.com
View the rest of this post after the jump:
Until now you have had to call Korean to book partner award travel at 800-438-5000.
Just click here, click on “award booking,” login to a Korean mileage account, and click “SkyTeam Award.”
Korean also has an excellent Skyteam award chart with some phenomenal values to be had.
For example a nonstop flight from JFK to Honolulu is just 25K Korean miles plus $11.20 compared to 45K Delta miles plus $11.20 or $718 for a paid flight. That’s a value of 2.83 cents per mile.
The site even tells you how many saver award seats are left:
Just click “calculate” for it to display how many miles are required after you select flights.
The 25K coach award and 45K first class award within North America applies for any travel within “Mexico, United States (including Hawaii), US Virgin Islands, Canada, and Puerto Rico”
The catch is that Korean can only book Delta level 1 saver award space. Delta has 5 levels of award space. However Delta level 1 saver award space has become far better of late, significantly better than American’s saver award space for example.
Unfortunately Korean doesn’t have a flexible search option. If there is no Delta lavel 1 award space then it will return an error message.
The trick is to use Delta.com’s flexible search award calendar to find level 1 award space. I like searching for one-way award flights using the 5 week flexible search option to find award flights.
For example, here’s a search made on Delta.com for 9 passengers for nonstop flights only from JFK to Honolulu. The 22.5K dates are the dates with level 1 saver award space. You can tell that it’s level 1 space by clicking on my screenshot of the old Delta award chart for flights from the US and verifying that 22.5K is the lowest award level from the US49 to Hawaii.
Once you find level 1 award space on Delta.com just plugin those dates on KoreanAir.com. Korean can book JFK-Honolulu level 1 dates for just 12.5K miles each way.
Unfortunately the level 1 mileage requirement for some routes have gone up since I took those screenshots, so it can be hard to tell what is a level 1 award that would be bookable by Korean on those routes.
The best part about using Korean miles is that you can cancel and redeposit partner awards without paying any penalty. If you book with Delta miles the change or cancellation fee is $150 per person.
Korean miles also allow for a free stopover, but that has to be booked over the phone.
Korean also has great rates to Alaska or Hawaii on Alaska or Hawaiian Air. For example a flight to Alaska with a free stopover is just 20K miles.
Unfortunately non-SkyTeam partners like Alaska, Emirates, Etihad, GOL, Hawaiian, and JAL flights can still only be booked over the phone.