Korean Air SkyPass Eliminates Holds On Award Tickets

Filed Under: Awards, Korean Air
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Korean Air SkyPass is probably my favorite SkyTeam frequent flyer program.

What makes Korean Air SkyPass a great program

What makes the program so great?

  • Korean Air SkyPass miles can be redeemed for first class on Korean Air, China Eastern, and Saudia, making it one of the few SkyTeam frequent flyer programs that allows first class redemptions
  • Historically first class award availability on all of these carriers is excellent, though lately Korean Air isn’t quite as good about making award seats available as they used to be
  • SkyPass allows stopovers on one-way awards on Korean Air metal
  • SkyPass’ redemption rates are quite reasonable; for example, a one-way first class ticket from New York to Hong Kong with a stopover in Seoul Incheon costs just 80,000 miles
  • SkyPass has reasonable change and cancellation fees on award tickets

Saudia’s 777-300ER first class

Not everything about the program is perfect, though:

  • SkyPass has off-peak and peak redemptions for flights on their own metal, so prices are significantly higher for several months per year
  • SkyPass only lets you redeem miles for direct family members, so you can’t book for friends or distant relatives

Korean Air’s 747-8 first class

Korean Air SkyPass changes award ticket hold policy

There’s one other thing that has historically been awesome about SkyPass, which has recently changed. Historically SkyPass has been the most generous frequent flyer program when it comes to allowing award ticket holds.

Back in the day Korean Air SkyPass would allow you to hold virtually any award ticket for travel on Korean Air up until two days before departure, even if you don’t have any miles in your account. Over time they became slightly less generous and started allowing holds “only” until about a month before departure.

It looks like the program has now gone to the other extreme. Korean Air SkyPass has eliminated the possibility to hold award tickets, both online and on the phone.

For example, back in the day when you’d visit Korean Air’s website, you’d be given the option to “Pay Now” or “Pay Later” when you find an award flight. Now you’ll just see the option to “Pay Now.”

If you click that but don’t have enough miles in your account, you’ll get a message indicating that you don’t have enough miles, and to try again when you have enough miles.

The same seems to be the case regardless of whether you’re booking an award on Korean Air metal, or on a partner airline, and holds also aren’t possible when booking by phone. I phoned up SkyPass and asked if I could hold a ticket while I transferred over Ultimate Rewards points, and they said it wasn’t possible.

Bottom line

On the surface this is a negative change to the Korean Air SkyPass program. They’re going from having the most generous hold policy of any frequent flyer program, to not offering holds at all.

Many people liked holding Korean Air award tickets as a backup when planning a trip, and waiting for other award seat options to open up. With how generous their policy was, why wouldn’t you?

At the same time, I know that a lot of award space ended up being held but never booked, and that greatly limited award availability for those who actually wanted to book these awards. So while it’s bad news in terms of the flexibility of the program, hopefully it’s good news in terms of the amount of confirmable award availability that Korean Air will have going forward.

(Tip of the hat to @RewardFlying)

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  1. Lucky, PLEASE hurry up with the strategy for how to redeem Marriott air+hotel… times running out. Thank you.

  2. @Lucky

    I called them last week and was able to place an award on a one month hold. I wonder when this change went into effect

  3. Friend of mine just put an award ticket on hold two days ago. This must be super fresh. How does it affect existing holds?

    I will reach out and see if they eliminated his hold or are grandfathering it in, as its for travel less than 30 days from now.

  4. Two thoughts – first, while skypass restricts award tickets to family, they allow miles to be pooled for tickets. As your error message suggests, if my husband has 10k miles and I have 115k, I can book tickets for both of us. Second, I never actually used holds on KE because UR xfers used to be instant. The fact that both are now gone is annoying.

  5. Maybe a silly question but on all these awards transfers do I actually need to be a member of SkyPass or other transfer partners? And then sign up to transfer the miles from ultimate rewards etc?

  6. If true this completely sucks, because neither Chase nor SPG transfers are anything close to instant – both take at least a couple of days.

    With this, and the drastic reduction in award space, SkyPass has gone from one of the best programs out there to just one of the many where they make it really hard to redeem.

  7. @Adam – yes, you sign up for the transfer partner program. Make sure the name you use to sign up is the same as on your chase account. Then note your account number, so you can enter it through the UR portal for transferring points.

  8. I ran into this change myself last night as I was calling to extend the hold on a res. They explained that not only is there a policy change on holds, but there is also a system change. They said it was literlly just a few days ago. I told them gee thanks for the heads up. lol! They had no way of extending a hold. The only option was to cancel the reservation and rebook, with the caveat that there’s always the possibility that while doing that you might lose the seat. They did that and it works this time…. So, your mileage may vary as far as short term holds if you are waiting for miles to transfer. This was an existing reservation so maybe it wont work for a new reservation.

  9. Count me in as someone who is glad this policy is coming into effect.

    Sick and tired of never finding any award space on KE because selfish people put holds on flights they either don’t have the points for or because they want backup.

  10. Nothing good lasts forever in the points game. I bet a few bad apples held the award seats and then cancelled at the last minute. This probably caused some frustrations between Korean Air and its partners

  11. Of course offering unlimited holds begs abuse. How about just limiting the holds – like AA does? Either that, or bring back instantaneous points transfers.

  12. While I agree with the people who object to others holding up award tickets just so they can have a backup, I do think its appropriate for airlines to allow holds for like a one or two week period so that people can transfer points over etc. People should be forced to book the flight or take their chances waiting for another redemption. No reason why others should be prevented from using their miles. If they want to book the award and eat the redeposit fee fine, but just holding tickets with no penalty and without a real desire to actually fly is uncool.

  13. This must be really new. I just successfully put an award flight on hold about a few hours ago.

  14. This is unfortunate. It took 7 calendar days to transfer Chase UR points to SkyPass (sent 07/19/18, received 07/26/18). Thankfully I had the award on hold for two weeks.

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