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Update: As of April 2013, Chase Ultimate Rewards has added Virgin Atlantic as a new airline transfer partner.
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program is shaping up to be a formidable competitor to American Express’ Membership Rewards. While browsing their site since I recently became a Sapphire Preferred cardmember, I noticed that Korean Airlines Skypass is now a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards.
This is interesting, because now all three alliances are covered:
Star Alliance: Continental
Oneworld: British Airways
Skyteam: Korean Air
I’ve never given the Korean Air program much of a look because I bank all of my Skyteam miles to Delta. However, since I am currently racking up tons of Ultimate Rewards points, I am going to research the best ways to maximize Korean Air miles, so stay tuned for an upcoming deep dive into that subject.
In the meantime, there are some basics of the program you should understand:
1) For travel on Korean Air, there are many blackout dates, see chart below.
2) You cannot book awards online. You need to call, but you can search for certain Skyteam partner availability, like Air France, KLM and China Southern on Expertflyer or Airfrance.us or even Delta.com.
3) They allow one way awards
4) They allow first class Skyteam redemptions, unlike Delta which blocks them.
5) They have a family mileage pooling option
Their Skyteam partner award chart has some hidden gems:
For example, US to Europe roundtrip is 50,000 for coach, 80,000 for business and 100,000 for First (though the only first class product you could take is Air France and that is limited to it’s own elite members).
Even the domestic award options at 25,000 for coach and 45,000 for first mirror Delta’s levels for their low level awards.
Air France’s LAX- PPT (Papeete, Tahiti flight) is only 90,000 miles roundtrip for business vs. 150,000 for the same flight using Delta SkyMiles.
I tried transferring some of my Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air so I could start playing around with their online award engine, but I got errors – which leads me to believe they aren’t 100% set up in the system yet. I’ve inquired with Chase to learn more about the partnership and will report back once my research is done.
Overall, the more transfer partners the better. I’m excited to see competition in the transferable point space and I hope we as cardmembers benefit by American Express and Chase competing to build the most valuable loyalty points program for premium credit and charge card holders.