Korean Air has a great premium product that serves many international locations and Korean Air also has some great airline partners that you can use your miles on.
In this article, I will cover some of the best uses of Korean Air SKYPASS miles that include redemptions on Korean Air and also on different partners.
Table of Contents
Earning Korean Air miles
Korean Air used to be a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and so it was very easy to earn tons of Ultimate Rewards with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and simply transfer out your points to Korean Air SKYPASS at a one to one ratio.
However, they are no longer a transfer partner of Chase and the only transfer partner you can use is Marriott Bonvoy which transfers points out at a ratio of three Marriott points to one Korean Air mile. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott points over at a time, you can receive an additional 5,000 mile bonus so that 60,000 points equals 25,000 miles.
But, you can also earn Korean Air miles with one of the Korean Air credit cards, such as the SKYPASS Visa Signature Card. That card comes with the following perks:
- 2X on Korean Air ticket purchases
- 2X at gas stations and hotels
- 1X on everything else
- $50 Off coupon for Korean Air ticket purchases
- 2 KAL Lounge coupons each year
- $95 annual fee
The SKYPASS Visa Signature Card is a decent co-branded airline credit card, but if you are interested in one of the top travel rewards credit cards I would look at cards like the Platinum Card or Gold Card which earns 4X on dining and US supermarkets.
Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!
Things to know about Korean Air miles
Roundtrips on partners
The biggest thing to note is that when booking partners you will have to book a roundtrip.
Some of the roundtrip prices can be extremely competitive but being forced to book a round-trip makes it tougher to find open awards sometimes. Also, it doesn’t allow you to select routes that can minimize fees. So be prepared to deal with that when booking partners with Korean Air.
Booking partners online
You can book a lot of SkyTeam partners online but you will have to call in to book other partners and that can result in a cumbersome process.
A lot of Korean Air redemptions that I researched contained high fees of a few hundred bucks so be prepared to potentially deal with high fees on your awards.
You can only book award tickets in the name of certain family members like your spouse, children, parents, siblings, parents-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandparents and grandchildren. There is a process for adding family members and sometimes it can be cumbersome.
It can also take a couple of weeks to process so you want to be sure to get this done as soon as possible. Read more about the family plans here.
I’ve read online that you are not allowed to book mixed itineraries (different airlines together). However, I have been able to proceed to booking when mixing airlines together for partner bookings so I think it may be possible to book mixed itineraries?
Korean Air Partners
Here is a look at the main Korean Air SkyTeam partners:
- Aerolineas Argentina
- Air Europa
- Air France
- China Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Saudia Airlines
- TAROM Romanian Air Transport
- Vietnam Airlines
- Xiamen Airlines
All of these partners above use the following award chart for flights from North America.
In addition to the SkyTeam partners, there are also bonus partners which include:
- Alaska Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Japan Airlines
However, if you want to book with one of the bonus partners they will have different mileage requirements. Also, you likely will not be able to book bonus partners online and instead you will have to call the Korean reservations line at 1-800-438-5000.
Delta/Alaska/Hawaiian (US — Hawaii)
One of the great things about the Korean Air SkyTeam award chart is that they lump the state of Hawaii in with the rest of the mainland US. This means that you can fly a roundtrip in economy to Hawaii for only 25,000 miles on an airline like Delta. That’s a fantastic sweet spot.
If you choose to fly to Hawaii with other partners like Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines, you will need to shell out a little bit more miles but a round-trip will still only cost you 30,000 miles which is excellent. (With other legacy carriers like United or American Airlines, you likely would be paying around 45,000 miles.)
Therefore, Korean Air is one of the best ways to use miles and points to get to Hawaii.
The tricky part with flying to Hawaii will always be finding open awards. I’ve searched Korean Air’s website over the years for availability and rarely have I ever found more than one open award. It’s not impossible but just be prepared to work for it.
Delta (Domestic routes)
Korean Air miles can be a great way to get around the US via Delta.
The redemption rates for a round-trip flight in economy will be 25,000 miles which is on par with the standard redemption rate with many other programs. You can use the online search tool to locate Delta flights making it an easy process to book.
While the rates for economy are pretty standard, if you can find availability in business/first class on Delta you can redeem a round-trip for only 45,000 miles. The standard pricing for a roundtrip in business class on a domestic flight is 50,000 miles so this is a slightly discounted redemption price.
My issue with this is I had trouble finding availability for roundtrips in business class but that might just come down to your timing and route.
Tip: If you can find open awards, using Korean Air miles on Delta is a great way to avoid the unpredictable dynamic pricing found on Delta awards.
Alaska (Domestic and US/Canada routes)
If you want to fly Alaska around the US or to Canada, things are even sweeter when using Korean Air miles. Alaska has its own unique award chart for using Korean Air miles and you can get a round-trip in economy for only 20,000 miles or a roundtrip in business/first class for only 40,000 miles.
Most likely, you will need to call in to book Alaska with Korean Air miles.
Delta (US — South America)
If you want to head down from the US to South America or vice versa, Korean Air miles can be a fantastic choice. You can fly down to South America on Delta and other partners like Aeromexico if they also have routes to your liking.
One thing that is great about Korean Air is that they do not divide South America up into separate regions. This means that whenever you are flying down to the southern regions of South America such as Chile, you can get an extra bargain for your mileage.
Round-trip economy tickets to South America are only 50,000 miles, which is one of the most competitive rates for an economy redemption down to South America.
Business class redemptions will cost you 110,000 miles round-trip which aren’t the cheapest options out there but are still pretty solid.
Expect to pay very little on fees if you go with Delta. Check out the sample redemption below for economy on Delta Airlines which had fees at only $77 for the round-trip!
Etihad (US — Middle East)
A lot of people don’t even know that you can use Korean Air miles to book Etihad. In fact, you can fly the First Class Etihad Apartment for 210,000 miles round-trip between the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
There is a special award chart just for Etihad that you will want to study before using your miles. These prices tend to be expensive so you most likely won’t find a cheap bargain but Etihad is a bucket-list experience for many miles and points enthusiast so it could be worth the splurge in some cases.
The biggest thing to note is that if you use your miles for a connecting flight, you will have to pay for each segment separately so you really want to focus on nonstop flights for the best value.
Emirates (US — Europe)
Emirates is in the same boat as Etihad in terms of having its own unique award chart that also forces you to pay extra for connecting flights. One of the bucket list experiences is Emirates First Class which is bookable with Korean Air miles.
If you fly between Dubai and the US in Emirates First Class, it will cost you 210,000 miles which is nothing to scoff at. However, it is still cheaper than using Alaska miles to fly on Emirates which would run 300,000 miles round-trip between North America and the Middle East.
You could also fly a route between Europe and the US in Emirates First Class and it would only cost you 170,000 miles round-trip.
In fact, I have flown between Milan, Italy and New York on Emirates First Class and it was an extremely memorable experience. If you fly out of Milan you can also check out the Business/First Lounge which has direct access to the jet bridge which is pretty cool.
Etihad/Emirates (Singapore — Australia)
If you are looking for a way to get between a place like Singapore and Australia, a great redemption is using Korean miles on Etihad for a roundtrip in economy class. At 45,000 miles round-trip, it is one of the best prices on this route.
You might also be able to find Emirates flying between Singapore and Australia so you could potentially have two options, both of which have great redemption rates.
Emirates (New Zealand — Australia)
If you’re trying to get between Australia and New Zealand, using Korean Air miles on Emirates can be a great bargain. You can fly in business class for 50,000 points round-trip or in economy for 25,000 miles round-trip. Both redemptions are pretty good value. Emirates no longer flies its A380 on this route but if at some point it returns, look for this redemption.
KLM/Air France/Delta (US — Europe)
One of the best sweet spots for using miles and points to get to Europe is using Korean Air miles in business class.
You can get a round-trip for only 80,000 miles which is definitely one of the best rates you’ll find. The issue is that fees will add up and you can expect to be paying around $500 to $600 in fees in many cases.
If you want to explore the Netherlands or use it as a gateway city to Europe, using your Korean Air miles on KLM can be a decent redemption in terms of the miles required. For a round-trip in economy it will cost you 50,000 miles.
The problem is that once again the fees are going to be high as shown below. You may be expected to pay close to $500 in total fees for each passenger.
You could also use Delta Airlines to fly to Europe which will have the same mileage requirement at 50,000 miles roundtrip but I noticed that the fees were slightly higher with an all Delta flight as the fees came out to $498.
Delta/Partners (US — South Africa)
You can get down to Cape Town, South Africa to swim with sharks or take some extravagant helicopter rides for only 120,000 miles round-trip in business class. 120,000 miles for a round-trip all the way from North America to the tip of Africa is excellent.
Once again, the issues may be fees depending on which airline and route you take. I found availability with a combination of Delta Airlines and Air France and the fees came out to over $900.
Note: Atlanta has a direct flight to Johannesburg, South Africa and I found award seats open on that route and the fees were more manageable at around $500.
Korean Air (US — Korea)
If you were heading to Asia/Korea, Korean Air miles can be extremely valuable. I have used them to fly first class from LAX to ICN for 80,000 miles one-way. Fees will likely be around $135.
The first class product on Korean Air on the A380 is especially memorable because it has multiple onboard bars/lounges. It also is unique in that it has a duty-free shop on the plane.
In my personal experience, availability has always been pretty good so I am a big fan of using Korean Air miles for this first class redemption.
If you don’t want to shell out quite as many miles, you can redeem in business class for only 62,500 miles one way, which is a great rate.
Korean Air (Europe — Korea)
Korean Air also offers some decent rates when flying between Asia and Europe. Once again, you can fly first class one way for 80,000 miles which is a pretty good deal.
JAL (Korea to Japan)
Using Korean Air miles to fly on JAL between Korea and Japan can be a decent redemption. You can get a roundtrip in business class for 45,000 miles which is not bad. The economy price of 30,000 miles roundtrip is less competitive but at least it gives you another option to use your miles.
The route between Japan and Korea is the only route displayed on the JAL award chart so it’s possible that this may be the only possible use of your Korean Air miles on JAL. However, perhaps sometime in the future you will be able to use your miles on JAL and experience amazing products like first class on JAL.
Korean Air offers several lucrative ways to use your miles. They have some fantastic products that are reasonably priced when flying across the Pacific, especially their first class experience. But there are also many partners which are bucket list worthy like Emirates and Etihad.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.