Heads Up: Transfers To Korean Air No Longer Instant

Filed Under: Advice, Awards
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Korean Air SkyPass has a great program for using miles for premium cabin awards. They often make 2-4 first class award seats available in advance, fly to more U.S. destinations than any other Asian carrier, and have an excellent first class product.

Korean Air SkyPass also has very reasonable first class redemption rates, generous hold policies, allows stopovers even on one-way tickets, etc. For a bit of context, here are some of their one-way redemption rates:

  • North America to Japan, Korea, and China: 80,000 miles
  • North America to Southeast Asia: 95,000 miles
  • North America to Southwest Asia: 105,000 miles
  • North America to Oceania: 120,000 miles

You can also redeem points for many SkyTeam carriers on the SkyPass website, though you can still only book awards for yourself and immediate family members.

Given that Korean Air SkyPass is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner (meaning that Ultimate Rewards points can be converted to Korean Air at a 1:1 ratio), and since so many of you have those points, I wanted to give everyone a heads up about a slight change to the relationship.

Ultimate Rewards Cards

At present, and for the foreseeable future, transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air are not instant.

All other Ultimate Rewards partners have roughly instantaneous transfers, and Korean Air has been instant as well for the past few years, so this is a new development.

How long are transfers taking?

Depending on when you initiate the transfer from Ultimate Rewards, it seems to be taking two to seven business days for the points to appear in your SkyPass account.

We’ve confirmed this on both sides (with the Korean Air SkyPass desk and with a supervisor at Chase Ultimate Rewards), and “2-7 days” is the official timeline being given for all transfers between the two programs.

Apparently this is due to new internal policies at SkyPass, so while we were skeptical at first, this seems to be a thing. At least for now.

What if I have a pending award ticket?

The good news is that Korean Air already has a tremendously generous policy with holding award tickets, often allowing awards to be held for months at a time.

If your award is for flights exclusively on Korean Air, even a general reservations agent should be able to extend the hold, particularly if you’ve already initiated your points transfer.

If you have segments with partner carriers on your award, it could be more complicated. You’ll likely need to speak with someone at the SkyPass desk specifically, and they can hopefully extend the hold while the points are pending.

In either case, it doesn’t seem possible to expedite the transfer, unfortunately, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to predict whether it will take two days or the full seven.

So you’ll want to factor that in when determining your transfer and ticketing windows.

Is this a sign that the Korean Air / Chase Partnership is ending?

No, and I wouldn’t be too worried about that at this point. Back in November 2014, transfers to Korean Air were disabled entirely for a few months, while some systems and agreements were updated, then resumed two months later with instant transfers.

We haven’t received any notice that the relationship is changing, and I don’t think Korean Air would be removed as an Ultimate Rewards partner without warning.

Bottom line

If you’re expecting transfers to be instantaneous, suddenly discovering they can take up to a week could be quite frustrating. Having a longer transfer time certainly isn’t ideal, but at least SkyPass is able to hold award tickets, so you’re not at risk of losing award space while the points are pending.

So while this is a disappointing change, at least it’s a manageable one, and something that most people should be able to work around now that we know it’s an official change.

Have you transferred points to KE recently? How long did it take?

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  1. This sucks. My only use for UR has been transferring to Skypass. While I can still call and hold an award, that’s an extra step. I’m getting closer and closer to consolidating everything to AMEX and keeping it simple based on my redemption patterns.

  2. I did a chase transfer to korean this last Monday and it came through Wednesday. I also transferred to flying blue at the same time which took 7 or so hours

  3. Recently transferred from UR to Korean for an award, it was pretty much instant. As you stated, some awards seats can be held for a while until points post. For this redemption I had a mixed itinerary on DL and Alitalia metal. I was told if my itinerary was DL metal only, it could be held without ticketing for about a month. The Alitalia portion, however, needed to be ticketed within 24 hours of being held. It will be interesting if the Korean agents can do anything to extend that, my guess is not but maybe there’s some sort of special request they can put in to the operating carrier.

  4. Please note that KE has drastically cut J and F award availability as well. Don’t know what’s going on with this program, but it’s a major bummer as this was one of the last decent ones for premium cabin redemptions.

  5. Tiffany – thanks for this notice. Appreciate it. I used UR on KE in February to fly SIN-ICN-IAD in F, and it was great.
    Question – to hold awards, can I do that online, or do I have to call? I primarily care about this for KE only metal awards (such as the award I redeemed in February). Please advise. Thanks for this coverage.

  6. At least Gary Leff would give a hat tip to the flyertalkers who first uncovered this. OMAAT just rips it off as original content.

  7. @Geo: It’s possible that OMAAT staff discovered this themselves. They do award bookings for clients, after all.

  8. I held multiple DL metal awards for 30 days. With an instantaneous transfer this gave me a lot of time to keep exploring better options…this change will just reduce that amount of investigation time.

  9. I should say, also, that KE informed me that their rule was to hold only one award at a time for a single SkyPass account, though I had two on hold for about 2 weeks concurrently.

  10. I transferred to Korean three weeks ago and it was instant.

    Luckily Korean typically has great availability so it often wouldn’t matter (even if you dont want to call and put space on hold).

  11. If KE is gone as a transfer option, that does it for UR in my case. By far the most valuable partner for my redemption needs.

  12. Ha, NOW you tell me! I filed a transfer on Monday to two accounts (mine and an authorized user). My transfer came through this morning (72 hours) and hers hasn’t come through yet (hopefully today, since their generous hold policy doesn’t extend to all SkyTeam partners and my Vietnam Airlines hold will expire tonight).

  13. Interesting. When I transferred about two weeks ago, I had to call in (because hyphen issues in my last name) and was told 2-7 days. However, it was cleared within a few hours (NOT instant, but also NOT 2-7 days).

  14. I sent a batch on 4/9 (Monday) that transferred immediately. On April 12th (Thursday), I tried sending another batch so I could ticket a held reservation.

    I was in a loop where Chase said the transfer showed complete and to contact Korean Air. Meanwhile Korean said there wasn’t any new request and to contact Chase. Perhaps the new delayed process went into effect over the weekend because on Friday the Chase agent was surprised and said she would escalate to marketing. However on Monday, both an agent on the phone and a secure message said they would escalate if it had been over 7 business days.
    Well my mind was going nuts (Cho-style) for a few days.

    Fortunately the transfer posted on April 17th (a Tuesday). Now that I expect them to take time (like with Singapore Airlines), so I won’t worry especially given their generous hold policy.

  15. There’s a new thumb rule that for a longhaul flight, KE releases 2F and 380-9C 77W-4C 772-3C 787-2C. Depending on how full the flight is, KE releases more seats as the date approaches.

  16. I initiated a transfer on a Thursday night last week and didn’t see the points post until Monday after midnight. I thought it was a name issue as has been reported on flyertalk. But Chase assured me that the accounts had matched and points had transferred. Thank goodness for KE’s 30 day hold option!

  17. @ CJ — 10 days ago it was instant, this is new in the past few days. We noticed it last Thursday, but it’s taken time to confirm.

  18. @ snic — Thanks, that is indeed the situation here.

    @ Geo King — We make a point of crediting anything and everything we find elsewhere. When my team tells me about an issue they’re experiencing, and we confirm details directly with all parties involved, I’m not going to go looking to see if anyone else on the internet has ever mentioned it before sharing what we’ve found with readers.

  19. Another thing I’ve noticed recently about KE is that they are no longer releasing 4 F seats on their A380 routes to LAX & JFK. Recently my friends and I took advantage of that with all 4. Was hoping to take my parents sometime in the winter but couldn’t ever find any more than 2 seats. Anyone else noticed this? Or was i just looking at the wrong dates?

  20. Bummer. I read this twenty minutes after transferring UR points to SkyPass for a flight eight hours from now. Oh well.

  21. @JDN – That sucks. I submitted a transfer on Wednesday evening and it’s now Saturday morning, still nothing. Irritated.

  22. Submitted transfer on 4/23. No response on 4/29. Wait until 7 business days then call them again. Unhappy……

  23. @Jian @dixie Did your transfers go through and when? Mine was submitted on the evening of 4/24 and now it is past 7 days and no sign yet. Chase says nothing can be done until 7 business days and KE is no help.

  24. Mine posted on the 7th business day. This change devalues UR’s ability to book last-minute awards.

  25. The transfer time lag in tranferring UR points may be caused by KE’s Sky Team department being closed on weekend.

  26. My father transferred on Saturday and they posted Wednesday morning. My brother transferred on Monday, hoping they’ll post by Friday.

  27. How to I transfer points from Sky Pass Korean Air to Flying blue? I am to transfer all points as I will not be using Korean air for a few years being based in Kenya and Flying Blue is clearly the way to go in the region.

  28. @ Marc — You can’t transfer points between airline programs, unfortunately.

    You can use your Korean points for redemptions on other SkyTeam carriers, and can credit miles there as well. You can have a Flying Blue account simultaneously, just make sure you have the occasional activity to keep the points from expiring in the Sky Pass account.

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