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Million Mile Secrets contributor Avery runs an award booking service. So I’ve asked him to talk about Korean Air miles and share expert tips and tricks.
Avery: While Korean Air miles may seem difficult to approach, if you’re patient and spend time doing research, you’ll see how wonderful they can be!
I’ll share the best aspects of Korean Air’s frequent flyer program, like how to make the most of stopovers and the most valuable sweet spots. I’ll also show you how to book round-the-world tickets, infant tickets, and explain their refund / change fees.
Ultimate Guide to Korean Air Miles Series Index
- Part 1 – Introduction to Korean Air Miles
- Part 2 – How to Book Award Flights on Korean Air
- Part 3 – How to Book Award Flights on Partner Airlines
- Part 4 – The Biggest Downside to Using Korean Air Miles
- Part 5 – 6 Expert Korean Air Tips and Tricks (#4 Saves a Ton of Money)
Expert Korean Air Miles Tips and Tricks
1. See More Destinations With Free Stopovers
One of the best things about Korean Air miles is their stopover policy. You’re allowed 1 stopover on a one-way award with Korean Air. For example, you could fly from New York City to Tokyo via Seoul, and spend a week in Seoul for no additional miles.
For most partner awards, you’re allowed:
- 1 stopover (period of 24 hours or more in a city)
- 1 open-jaw (flying into a city, leaving from another)
- 2 connections from your departure city to your destination (a stopover counts as a connection)
Partner awards have to be booked as a round-trip ticket.
Most award tickets, including stopovers and open-jaws, can be booked online with Korean Air. If you’re booking something complex, the website may fail, in which case you’ll need to call Korean Air to book. Make sure to have researched available award seats before the call so you can direct the agent easily.
2. Award Chart Exceptions / Sweet Spots
Korean Air has many exceptions in their award chart based on which airline and region you’re flying. For example, the Asia 2 partner award chart offers outstanding value for flights within China / Hong Kong.
You can fly round-trip in coach within China / Hong Kong for 20,000 Korean Air miles, 25,000 miles in Business Class, and 30,000 miles in First Class. If you take advantage of a free stopover and open jaw, you can do a full tour of China on the cheap!
Another amazing exception within the Asia 2 award chart is with Garuda Indonesia for domestic travel within Indonesia. For only 20,000 Korean Air miles in coach and 30,000 miles in Business Class for a round-trip ticket, you can do a tour of Indonesia!
Korean Air has an exception for the Air France route from Los Angeles to Papeete, French Polynesia. With Korean Air, this flight costs only 60,000 Korean Air miles round-trip in coach, or 90,000 miles for Business Class.
If you booked the same round-trip ticket in Business Class with Delta miles, it would cost 230,000 miles!
There are dozens of other exceptions and deals available. Take a look at the Korean Air partner award charts, paying particular attention to the exceptions for each chart.
Here’s a short list of example exceptions in Korean Air’s partner award charts:
- Vietnam domestic round-trip flights on Vietnam Airlines for 20,000 Korean Air miles in coach, 30,000 miles in Business Class. Other award programs, like Air France / KLM Flying Blue charge 50,000 or more miles for the same flights!
- Air France Caribbean hopper flights for 20,000 Korean Air miles in coach, 30,000 miles in Business Class. These flights often cost over $1,000, so using Korean Air miles is a phenomenal deal.
- Domestic African flights with Kenya Airways round-trip for 25,000 Korean Air miles in coach, 45,000 miles in Business Class. Using Delta miles, the same flights could cost almost 3X what Korean Air charges, depending on where in Africa you go!
3. Fly Round-the-World for a Flat Price
Korean Air lets you book round-the-world tickets for 140,000 Korean Air miles in coach, and 220,000 miles in Business Class. You can NOT book a First Class round-the-world ticket, and an infant-in-arms is charged the full cost of an adult ticket.
On a round-the-world ticket, you can book any SkyTeam alliance partner airline. You can mix airlines, including Korean Air, but there is no requirement that you have a Korean Air flight on your ticket.
You must travel in one direction, East or West, and you have to cross the Atlantic AND Pacific oceans at least once. And you must start and end your trip within the same award region.
Round-the-world award regions are defined:
- Area 1: North / South America
- Area 2: Europe / Africa / Middle East
- Area 3: Asia / Oceania
You are allowed up to 6 stopovers (staying in a city for 24 hours or more), with up to 2 stopovers in each award region. For example, you could book this itinerary in Business Class for only 220,000 Korean Air miles:
To book a round-the-world ticket, first plan your trip by searching for award seats. Once you’ve planned your flights, call Korean Air at 800-438-5000 and ask to book a round-the-world Bonus Ticket (that’s what Korean Air calls award tickets).
Once your Korean Air miles show up in your account, call Korean Air to finalize your ticket. While the Korean Air website says you have to visit a ticketing office to complete a round-the-world booking, I called Korean Air and they said they can finalize the ticket over the phone.
4. Relatively Cheap Refund and Change Fees
Korean Air has one of the most generous refund and change fees of any airline. You can change an award ticket for 30,000 South Korean Won (~$26) per person. Delta charges $150 to make the same change!
To refund an award ticket, Korean Air charges 3,000 miles if refunded within one year of the ticket first being booked, or 10,000 miles if refunded after one year. You’ll get all your points and taxes back, minus the refund fee.
5. A Better Deal on Infant Tickets
If you’re flying with an infant on your lap who is under 2 years old, Korean Air only charges 10% of the miles that an adult would pay. Many international airlines charge 10% of the cash price, which on a Business or First Class ticket can be significant.
For example, if you booked a round-trip ticket in coach to Asia from the US, which costs 70,000 Korean Air miles, an infant-in-arms ticket would only cost 7,000 miles!
To book an infant ticket, call Korean Air at 800-438-5000 and ask to book a Bonus Ticket with an infant-in-arms.
6. Spend Miles (NOT Cash) for Unaccompanied Minor Fees
Korean Air charges a 10,000 mile surcharge for an unaccompanied minor between 12 and 16 years old per flight on Korean Air. This covers the unaccompanied minor service, and there is no cash co-pay. This is an optional service.
For example, if your child flew New York City to Tokyo via Seoul, you would have to pay an additional 20,000 miles to pay for the unaccompanied minor fee for the 2 flights.
Unaccompanied minors between 5 years and 11 years will receive complimentary unaccompanied minor services. This only applies to Korean Air flights.
If your child is traveling alone on a partner airline booked using Korean Air, you’ll need to call that airline to confirm their policy. Many airlines have a similar unaccompanied minor policy as Korean Air.
For example, Delta only requires children 14 and under traveling alone to receive unaccompanied minor services.
Korean Air offers some of the best award deals around. However, it’s not an easy program. There’s lots to learn, from how you book family members, how to earn miles, and how to squeeze the most out of your miles with sweet spots.
If you’re patient and do research, you’ll see how Korean Air gives you Big Travel with Small Money!