TPG reader Alex tweeted me @thepointsguy and asked:
“I am looking to fly ORD to ICN this summer on Chase points. Can you recommend ANA business or should I search for Asiana or United business flights?”
Alex tweeted me to say that he is flying from Chicago O’Hare to Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, next summer and he is interested in using Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book it. He wants to know if he should look for ANA, Asiana or United business class seats. I assume he is going to transfer his points to United and use them to book the tickets, which could be a good option here if he books before February 1, 2014, as United is drastically devaluing its partner redemption options and there are going to be some big changes there that make booking awards on partners like ANA and Asiana very expensive in terms of miles.
Of course, it is logical to consider United first if your main Star Alliance airline program, or if you have a Chase card like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus that earns Ultimate Rewards, since the program is a 1:1 transfer partner of United.
There is currently good United availability for flights next summer to Asia. An award flight from Chicago O’Hare to ICN Incheon in July will require 60,000 miles one way in business class for a Saver Award ticket and 150,000 miles for a Standard Award ticket, with both ringing up at just $2.50 in taxes and fees.
I would definitely prefer flying ANA or Asiana products over United even though they do not have totally horizontal lie-flat seats on many of the flights they use to serve the US, because with United are you are generally going to get worse food and worse service as a whole. The Asian carriers are just nicer overall experiences with better lounges and planes, though Asiana’s old business class is angled lie-flat, which is not as nice as United’s.
However, keep in mind that Chase Ultimate Rewards is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Korean Airlines, and there is currently very good availability for the Chicago O’Hare-Seoul/Incheon route in Prestige Class. I used Chase points last year to fly first class from Seoul to Madrid, which was a decent experience even though I was on their old first class product but it was still a nice way to go nonstop between two routes that I didn’t actually think would have nonstop service. Check out my review of my Korean Air First Class 777-200 ICN-MAD experience.
There are a bunch of other options to get from Chicago to Asia as well. You could use British Airways Avios to book a Japan Airlines award from Chicago to Tokyo – their first and business class products are pretty decent too (I actually flew JAL first class from ORD-NRT myself) – although their fuel surcharges are generally higher but do the cross-benefit analysis before you just assume that United is the way to go.
It will cost 75,000 Avios miles (60,000 mile for ORD-NRT, and 15,000 for NRT-ICN) for a one way trip from ORD-ICN booking through British Airways, as calculated using the British Airways Miles Calculator, totally 150,000 miles roundtrip.
I previously compiled a full list of the airline partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards – including their alliance and non-alliance partners you can use their miles on, as well as oneway and roundtrip routing rules, that could help you decide which route might be the best to go.
For more information, check out the following posts:
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