Korean Air Greatly Limiting Partner Award Availability

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

While Delta SkyMiles are the mileage currency we like to make fun of, I actually think they’re sort of undervalued (at least for now). No, you can’t redeem SkyMiles for international first class, and yes, SkyMiles award rates for travel on Delta flights are ridiculous. But there are some really good options for business class travel on partner airlines.

For example, it’s fairly easy to redeem SkyMiles for travel to Asia in business class, as Delta partners with China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Korean Air, etc.

Anyway, if you’ve been looking for Korean Air business class award space using partner miles, you may have noticed a lack of availability lately. While this isn’t brand new, as a general rule of thumb it seems like:

  • Korean Air is releasing no more than one business class award seat to partner airlines per flight
  • Korean Air is releasing no more than two economy class award seats to partner airlines per flight

Korean Air A380 business class

While Delta and Korean Air aren’t exactly the closest partners, this lack of availability isn’t limited to Delta. Rather, Korean Air is applying the same policy to all their partner airlines.

For example, looking directly through Korean Air’s SkyPass program, they have 13 business class seats between New York and Seoul Incheon on March 21, 2016 (four on the earlier flight, and nine on the later flight).


Meanwhile if you look through Delta SkyMiles, you’ll see that they have exactly one business class award seat on the earlier flight, and none on the later flight.


Again, this restriction isn’t limited to Delta SkyMiles. For example, Alaska Mileage Plan only has access to the same one seat as well.


If looking for space on Korean Air using partner airline miles, you’ll notice that a decent number of dates have availability, but in all cases it seems to be just for one business class seat per flight. This is true to the US, Europe, for short-haul flights, and just about anywhere else.



Bottom line

Ultimately you can’t fault Korean Air for wanting to preserve as much space as possible for their own members. Korean Air SkyPass is an excellent program, and also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner (although this unfortunately changed in 2017), so it’s not too difficult to accrue miles in their program directly.

That being said, Korean Air miles can also be redeemed for travel in Korean Air first class, so it’s sort of tough to justify redeeming those miles for business class when first class is so readily available.

Korean Air A380 first class

This is just something to be aware of if you’re trying to redeem partner airline miles for travel in Korean Air business class. If you’re looking for two seats, you might as well give up before even starting your search.

Fortunately China Airlines and China Eastern release a good amount of award space, and both have superior business class hard products on their 777s.

China Airlines 777-300ER business class

Have you experienced the lack of award availability when booking Korean Air using partner airline miles?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. Did you know that KE doesn’t allow any first class awards at all for booking through their only USA SkyTeam partner!? AF does the same to their only USA ST partner. It’s like a conspiracy.

  2. @ Owen:

    KE and AF make exactly the same number of three-class F seats on their airlines available to DL elites as DL makes available to DL or other ST elites: zero. It’s because DL doesn’t have three-class F…

  3. Good for KE. Too bad they don’t make zero seats available to DL members. In fact, it would be great if no partners made seats available using DL miles.

  4. Maybe DL is protecting their FF from having to endure a business class experience that is sub-par to the one delivered in their own metal. 🙂

    KE has impeccably trained crews, but serving the same bibimbap in economy and business doesn’t send the message the airline understands product differentiation. F class is full of upscale touches and good intentions. However, if a VIP is flying all one gets is a ring side seat to how the airline reserves their best pampering and attentiveness to their selected favorites. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth to see the FA’s devoting two hours to the VIP and all one gets is:” I don’t speak English. Point at what you want.” 🙁

  5. It’s interesting I just checked Flying Blue and couldn’t find any nonstop reward flights available JFK-ICN on KE. I have seen KE flights in the flying blue award calendar in the past.
    Thx for the tip. Each of the 3 major alliances have their own quirks yet I feel with skyteam, unequal partner airline award space is quite the norm. Of course, this can be a pro and con depending on the perspective.
    The KLM 787 inaugural is next month and sadly I don’t see any award space avialable using Delta Skymiles, but of course I see award space on flying blue (though at a hefty price.)

  6. Flying on KE0082 tomorrow – 2 award seats in business class. I guess I got them before they go stingy!

  7. Hey Mike Palmer! Congrats on the 2 seats– may I ask when you booked? I just booked 1 business ticket and am holding out hope that by next october when we travel, they will release another business ticket for my husband. Do you think that is a waste of a hope? thanks all!

  8. YES – Mike Palmer, how did you get 2 tickets? have been checking constantly and am not seeing 2 award tickets ever.

  9. Lucky,
    I’m trying to book KE BKK-ORD on 2/27/16 and finding no availability for the last 4 weeks. I am seeing all F seats available for revenue booking and also seeing reward availability on dates all around 2/27/16. Any idea if/when they will release these seats? Trying to book with KE Skypass Miles which I already transferred as I was going to travel on another available day.

  10. Since DLT stopped service to BKK, i am hosed for comfort+ type of seating. On Korean air, i heard next to impossible to use delta miles to upgrade but easier to use China southern/ Eastern, this travel from IAD to BKK,
    in past travel from ORF,RIC or PHF,, virginia to BKK was more convenient, any ideas??

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