Korean Air is Limiting Partner Access to Award Seats

Oct 27, 2015

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There’s no question that Delta’s SkyMiles are the least valuable award currency of any of the major US airlines, but they do come in handy from time to time. One such saving grace is the ability to book business-class awards on Korean Air, for just 70,000 miles each way to North Asia or 80,000 miles each way to Southeast Asia, plus taxes and fees. And availability has generally been excellent, making it possible for multiple people to cross the Pacific in comfort — together.

Unfortunately, within the last few days, it appears that Korean Air has been limiting the number of award seats it releases to just two seats in economy and one seat in business class — on all flights, even those operating within Asia. So while you may have been able to book a half dozen business-class seats on an A380 from New York to Hong Kong via Seoul just a few days ago, you’re now able to book just one … at most.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

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First, here’s Delta’s pathetic availability calendar for ONE business-class award seat during a five-week period in January and February. Korean Air has multiple award seats available for its own SkyPass members nearly every day, however Delta can only access one seat, and only on a total of three days.

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Above is a specific flight with one business-class seat available to book using SkyMiles.

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And above is availability for SkyPass members — there are at least nine award seats open on the same flight that’s showing only one seat on Delta’s site.

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Think that’s bad? Well, check out availability for the two-hour flight from Seoul to Tokyo — just one seat’s open in business, with two available in coach.

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Again, here’s availability for SkyPass members. There are five open seats on each of the flights that Delta’s reporting as having just one seat available, and NINE (or more) seats showing on a flight that doesn’t even appear on Delta.com. Ouch!

So what can you do? Fortunately, it’s very easy to get Korean Air miles. The easiest way is to earn them using a card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus. Then, once you find availability and put your flights on hold (for free), you can transfer points instantly to Korean.

If you’re looking to redeem Korean miles, this availability change could end up working in your favor, since there will be more award seats to go around for SkyPass members. However, if you’re planning to redeem SkyMiles, you’re out of luck if this trend continues. What you can do is redeem SkyMiles for your first ticket, then, once that’s issued, you can book the second passenger (and any others) using SkyPass miles.

Ultimately, there’s a solid workaround here, so it is still possible to book multiple Korean Air award seats on the same flight. Still, it hurts to lose one of the few remaining strong SkyMiles redemption options, even if it only ends up being for a short time.

H/T: @nichojo

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