Korean Air Raises Refund Fees Following K-Pop Incident

Filed Under: Korean Air

Yesterday I wrote about an incident that occurred on a Korean Air flight from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon over the weekend. Long story short, a K-pop band was flying Korean Air, and some crazed fans decided to book refundable tickets on the flight in first and business class so that they could swarm them during boarding.

After a while they calmed down, at which point they requested to get off the plane, and they demanded a refund for their tickets. They had booked refundable tickets, and it’s clear that they had no intent of actually flying. Because of this, all passengers had to deplane and go through security again.

I have to give the groupies credit for their creativity, though obviously what they did was wrong. I guess they should be happy they did this out of Hong Kong and not Singapore, because in Singapore trying to get past security (let alone board a plane) without the intent to fly can land you in jail.

Well, I guess Korean Air is scared that other people may have the same idea that these people did, so Korean Air has announced that they will charge an additional 200,000 won (~178USD) to passengers who cancel their international flights starting January 1, 2019.

These fans had booked refundable tickets, so this policy change got me to look at what Korean Air’s actual current policy is on this stuff.

For example, take the below flight from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon, where I’m pricing out the most expensive first class ticket.

As you’ll see based on the fare rules, this ticket is refundable.

However, when you look more closely at the fare conditions, you’ll see that while the ticket is refundable, there is a 30,000 won (~27USD) “refund service charge.” So that’s the fee that will be increasing significantly.

This policy is different than in the US, because here fully refundable tickets are fully refundable, with no fees to refund.

As a point of comparison, I was curious how Asiana’s policy differed, since they’re Korean Air’s biggest competitor. So I pulled up a fully flexible ticket on them from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon.

Their fees are similar, as they charge a 200HKD (~26USD) refund service charge, even on a refundable ticket.

Bottom line

Korean Air is taking drastic measures to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again. My guess is that they’re afraid this will become much more common, so they feel this is necessary.

This sure seems like a big way to penalize everyone (especially business travelers booking very expensive tickets) for the actions of a few.

(Tip of the hat to SINJim)

  1. Well often the actions of a few yuck it up for the rest of us. I’m sure the business folk can afford it and the rest of of us can have fewer delays such as this.

  2. SQ does the same already. They charge a 100 USD refund fee for their most flexible (premium) tickets.

    Another benefit for the airline is that some travellers won’t refund their ticket because of this fee, but use the value of the unused ticket to purchase a new ticket on the same airline later in the year.
    Good for the cash flow, and it keeps the traveller a bit more tied to the airline.
    And if the ticket expires, it’s even more beneficial.

  3. They should ban them from flying on Korean Air again and circulate their names and the incident to other airlines, telling them to let them fly on your airlines at your own risk. Ostracism works.

  4. A much more measured approach would be to charge the increased fee only for cancellations after check in or within 24 hours of departure. That would still prevent shenanigans like this, or anyone else just trying to get thru security or on the plane for fee, without affecting travelers who have honest (and not last minute) changes of plans. And an added benefit of discouraging last minute empty seats, allowing better load management and freeing up seats for irrop passengers sooner.

    Oh well.

  5. Why not just make the new policy that all tickets are nonrefundable once boarded? That would solve this issue without penalizing people who are not trying to take advantage.

  6. I am really surprised they didn’t change their rules to state once a passenger has boarded they have been deemed to have taken the flight. Then these passengers could have gotten off but not been eligible for a refund

  7. Are these fees avoidable if booked via a travel agent? In some similar instances, I have found that that is the case. (For instance, South African Airways charges a refund fee if booked directly, but not if booked through a travel agent). So when booking refundable tickets with them, I just use Expedia.

  8. “I have to give the groupies credit for their creativity”

    Typical. This is why the world sucks. A small group of idiots abuse the system, and fuck things up for everyone. People like you, Ben – you’re a greedly, entitled, spoiled child. Fuck you.

  9. @Nick seems to have a lot of pent up negativity stored up. People like him who lash out unprovoked at others really screw up the world for everyone. Please reevaluate your life, Nick.

  10. If it happened frequently… however it’s exceptional, so Korean’s response is bizarre. If you buy a refundable ticket it’s refundable. Ok charge a small admin fee but this one is disproportionate. What if someone is onboard and has to be offloaded in an emergency such as a sudden medical condition? This happens more frequently.

    I was at LAX recently at the same time as a group BTS were arriving It was as if I had arrived at incheon being greeeted by hundreds of KTeens

  11. Totally correct action on the part of Korean Airlines. What about the regular passengers who had to deplane and go through security again and possibly miss connecting flights or other important events at destination as a result of this stunt? They won’t be reimbursed for their losses.

    I’m sure the businesses buying refundable tickets can easily handle the refund fee.

  12. I’m in the ‘once on board it’s too late to get a refund even if you are able to deplane before doors close” camp and the rules shoukd be changed to say that.

    What Korean have done is punish everyone else other than these idiots who thought they were being clever.

    Have the band commented on their so called fans action and depreciated it saying ‘we don’t like this behaviour and inconvenienced other people ’ ?

  13. The simpler solution is to simply arrest them for interfering with a flight and harassment. The HKG police take a dim view on all crime and the Koreans are even tougher. Being hauled off sobbing in irons tends to have a deterrent effect on stalkers, especially if it gets posted on social media.

  14. I agree with everyone saying no refund after boarding. They could add an exception for a documented medical emergency, which is the only real justification I could see for obtaining a refund after boarding.

  15. Ridiculous. HK should have jailed these kids as a security threat (which they were). So now everyone else has to suffer due to out of control Korean and Chinese wacko fans…smh.

    I say if you access the lounge or especially board the aircraft then there is no refund period. Also banned from the airline for life and perhaps other carriers impose a year embargo to ground these brats and have them re-think their actions.

  16. What Korean did is absolutely not a drastic measure. A drastic measure would be a lifetime ban, hopefully in conjunction with passport revocation for a decade or two, if that could be arranged, and a couple hundred hours of community service. I wish that they had tried this in Singapore.

  17. To avoid this they could simply put in language that tickets for your first segment become non-refundable once you check in for the flight. No reason to penalize everyone, because of a small group engaged in some nonsense. This is a money grab that is all this is.

  18. You state an additional US 178. So in addition to what? Also, does this new fee apply to award tickets?
    Thank you for a great article.

  19. @Lucky please remove @Nick’s inappropriate comments. While I think that @Ray’s response is perfect, we really don’t need that level of disrespect here on the blog.

    I will add that I agree with @Lucky that they were creative and I am impressed. Personally, I’ve had people do really nasty political things to me at work and I’ve said more than once that I was furious about it, but at the same time impressed by the brilliance. We can be both angry/disapproving and impressed by the intelligence/creativity of someone’s actions. We can also wish they would channel that intellect for good rather than evil/mischief.

  20. If I board a plane and then get an emergency phone call and I want to get off the plane, then everyone has to get off and get back on? Why? What is the security reason for that?

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