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.
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.
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?