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South Korean airline Asiana is now selling passes that give travelers unlimited complimentary upgrades to first class. Called Asiana First Membership, this product is valid on select revenue business-class tickets between Seoul and Frankfurt (FRA), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK).

You can choose between a one-time pass (good for one round-trip flight) or an annual membership, which gets you an unlimited number of upgrades on eligible flights during your membership year. In addition to getting you a seat at the very front of the plane, both membership options entitle you to priority check-in and first-class lounge access.

The one-time pass will cost you about $611, while the annual membership goes for about $1,136. Given that a one-time pass costs just over half the price for a one-year membership, if you fly on an eligible ticket more than once, the year-long membership would make more sense. To purchase either option, you’ll need to call the carrier’s premium service center (number listed in the link above).


Unfortunately, the Asiana First Membership terms and conditions limit the usefulness of these upgrade passes quite a bit. In addition to only being valid on select international routes, they’ll only work on business-class fares booked in J, C or D class. On the JFK-ICN route, business class fares are available for as little as $3,300 round-trip (“U” class), but you can expect to pay almost twice that much for an upgradeable fare. Also, not only are cheaper business fares excluded, but business-class award bookings won’t be eligible for upgrades to first, either. The T&C also state that you’ll accrue miles based on the originally purchased fare class (so 125% to 135%).

Given the restrictions, this option will only make sense to a small subset of travelers. If you do frequently travel on one of the eligible routes to/from Seoul on a full-fare business ticket, though, the upgrade membership could represent a decent savings — and Asiana’s first-class product is top-notch; check out TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig’s recent review of ICN-JFK on the A380 for the full scoop.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

Would you consider purchasing this type of upgrade membership?

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