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Book now: Business-class awards for 4+ to Asia and beyond in the fall

Feb. 07, 2020
6 min read
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It can be challenging to find even a pair of business-class award tickets on many long-haul flights from the U.S. to Asia. If you're looking to take your entire family on a transpacific trip, the degree of difficulty is magnified. As a result, it's always notable when an airline opens up premium-class award space for four or more travelers. Today, we're seeing that very thing.

South Korean-based (and Star Alliance member) Asiana Airlines currently has dozens of dates with at least four business-class award seats available from multiple U.S. gateways to its hub in Seoul (ICN). Only a handful of dates are showing in the spring and summer, but availability really opens up in the fall.

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Here's a rundown of what we're finding at the time of writing.

Los Angeles (LAX) to/from Seoul (ICN)

Asiana operates twice-daily flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN), using a combination of Airbus A380s, A350s and Boeing 777-200LRs. At the time of writing, the following dates have at least four business-class seats available for award tickets:

LAX to ICN

  • February 10, 12 and 24
  • March 6
  • July 8-9, 13-16, 19-21, 23, 25 and 28
  • August 2, 11, 18-20, 22-27 and 29-30
  • September 1-3, 5-10, 12-24 and 26-30
  • October 7, 11, 13-15, 18-22, 24 and 26-30
  • November 1-9, 11-13, 15-18, 20 and 23-30
  • December 1-7, 29 and 31

ICN to LAX

  • February 11, 19 and 21-22
  • March 11
  • April 1
  • May 15-16, 18-20, 22-23 and 25-27
  • June 1-2, 4-6, 9-11, 15, 17, 19, 22-25 and 28
  • August 23, 25 and 30-31
  • September 1-3, 5-10, 12-18 and 20-21
  • October 6-7, 9-15, 17-22, 24-27 and 29-30
  • November 1-4, 8-11, 16-19, 23-26 and 30
  • December 1-17

Note that on some of these dates more than four seats are available on both of the daily nonstop flights:

Seattle (SEA) to/from Seoul (ICN)

The carrier's 5x-weekly service from Seattle (SEA) is operated by an Airbus A350 and it will shift to daily operation from March 27 through Oct. 24, 2020 — at which point it will shift back to 5x per week and change to a Boeing 777-200LR. Here are the dates that currently have at least four business-class awards:

SEA to ICN

  • February 18-19, 21-22 and 25
  • March 2-3, 9, 16, 18 and 23-24
  • April 21, 24, 26-27 and 29
  • July 14, 16, 22-23 and 26
  • August 5 and 30-31
  • September 1-4, 7, 13-17, 22, 24, 28 and 30
  • October 13-14, 18-21, 23 and 27-28
  • November 3, 10, 17-18 and 25
  • December 1-2 and 29-30

ICN to SEA

  • February 11, 14 and 26
  • March 6, 10-11, 13 and 24
  • May 13, 17, 20-21 and 26
  • June 3, 7, 16, 21 and 23
  • September 7, 9, 16-17 and 21
  • October 6-8, 11-16, 19-23 and 26-27
  • November 3-4, 9, 11, 16-17, 24 and 30
  • December 1, 7-9, 14-16 and 22-23

Other gateways

We're not seeing similar award space on the carrier's other nonstop flights from the U.S. There are just three dates with four or more business-class awards on Asiana's once-daily flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Seoul. However, there are roughly three dozen dates with at least four business-class seats on one of United's daily nonstops on this route — mainly in July, August and September 2020. This would allow you to still utilize Asiana's connecting flights to other destinations across Asia.

It's a similar story on flights from New York-JFK to Seoul (and back). There are a handful of dates in February and March with 4+ awards available in business class, but it's not nearly as widespread.

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However, if you only need two seats, the pool of available dates from JFK and SFO improves noticeably, so don't give up if you're just a pair of award travelers looking to fly into (or out of) either of those gateways.

Best ways to book

Since Asiana is a member of Star Alliance, you can use any participating airline's loyalty program to book these flights. For readers with transferable point currencies, there are likely four programs that would provide the best value:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • United MileagePlus

Here's a table that breaks down exactly how much you'd need for these flights, assuming you end your trip in Seoul:

ProgramMiles requiredCredit card transfer options
Air Canada Aeroplan

75,000 miles one-way

150,000 miles round-trip

Amex Membership Rewards (1:1), Capital One (2:1.5)
ANA Mileage Club

95,000 miles round-trip (one-way awards not allowed)

Amex Membership Rewards (1:1)
Avianca LifeMiles

75,000 miles one-way

150,000 miles round-trip

Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One (2:1.5), Citi ThankYou Rewards (1:1)
United MileagePlus

80,000 miles one-way*

160,00 miles round-trip

Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1)

*If you book the United flight from SFO-ICN, you'd only need 70,000 miles each way, but remember that booking awards through United within 30 days of departure will now require a 3,500-mile surcharge in each direction.

Aeroplan, Avianca and United will impose no fuel surcharges on these flights, but you'll still need to pay between $50 and $80 in taxes and fees. ANA Mileage Club will add roughly $350 in additional costs and force you to book round-trip, but for just 95,000 miles in total, that is probably the best option if you have Membership Rewards points to transfer. Just note that Amex transfers to ANA are not instant, so you may need to wait up to 48 hours for them to arrive.

RELATED: Redeeming Membership Rewards points for maximum value

If you do decide to connect — and are fine doing so in economy — you may find that Avianca LifeMiles would be best for a mixed-cabin award. The program will effectively discount your price for the fact that you aren't flying business class the entire way, so be sure to keep your eyes out for that when searching.

For more details on the best ways to use credit card points for these awards, check out the following guides:

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at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees