Korean Air SkyPass Eliminates Free Stopovers

Korean Air SkyPass is a fantastic frequent flyer program. There are many things that have historically made it unique:

  • They allow long award holds, so in many cases you can put your award tickets on hold for weeks (or even months) before having to ticket
  • SkyPass gives you access to Korean Air first class awards, which otherwise aren’t bookable with any partner programs, meaning that availability is excellent
  • Redemption rates are reasonable, especially in first class
  • Stopovers are allowed, even on one-way Korean Air awards, meaning you can have a free stopover in South Korea enroute to your final destination

I should also mention that historically Korean Air SkyPass has been transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is how the program became so accessible. Unfortunately that partnership ended last year, so it’s no longer possible to transfer points.

However, I know many people (including me) transferred points speculatively before the partnership ended, so still have SkyPass miles to redeem.

Well, now SkyPass is making a negative change to their program.

Korean Air’s 747-8 business class

Korean Air SkyPass eliminates free stopovers

For travel as of July 1, 2020, Korean Air SkyPass is eliminating free stopovers on award tickets. Currently you’re allowed a free stopover on each one-way trip, while going forward you won’t be allowed free stopovers on Korean Air metal awards. A stopover is defined as a stop of over 24 hours.

Now if you want a stopover in Korea, you’ll be charged for each individual portion of the trip. To give an example:

  • A one-way first class ticket from North America to Southeast Asia costs 95,000 miles, and currently you could do a free stopover in Seoul on such a ticket
  • If you wanted a stopover in Seoul on a similar ticket in the future, you’d have to book a ticket from North America to Korea (80,000 miles), and then Korea to Southeast Asia (45,000 miles), so you’d pay 125,000 miles rather than 95,000 miles

Interestingly it would appear that if you book SkyTeam partner awards through SkyPass, you’re still entitled to one stopover on a roundtrip. Note that these tickets follow a different award chart, and also require roundtrip travel, rather than allowing one-ways.


Korean Air’s 787-9 first class

Bottom line

It’s unfortunate to see Korean Air eliminate stopovers on one-way award tickets. This was also a benefit that differentiated the programs from others. Back in the day lots of programs would allow stopovers, but that has changed over time.

On the plus side, they still seem to be allowed on roundtrip SkyTeam awards, which is a good thing.

Will you be impacted by this SkyPass stopover policy change?

(Tip of the hat to Traveling For Miles)

Comments

  1. glad I already used up my miles…altho at least they’re giving everyone plenty of notice. The free stopover certainly encouraged me to spend tourist time in SK that I might not otherwise have done. I’ve got a trip planned this fall that stops for 10 days in SK before continuing to TPE. So the great thing about that was that it cost the same mileage as a trip to ICN only would have cost.

  2. I never understand why airlines don’t allow paid stopovers on award tickets.

    It’s great for passengers, local economies and could be an added revenue stream for airlines.

    They are so good at tacking on fees, puzzling as to why they don’t monetize stopovers.

  3. Has KE started limiting F inventory? Used to be able to easily find 4xF spread through the year but now I see one (!!!) day the entire year with 4xF LAX-ICN

  4. Lucky

    How do you see that state of the points market these days? Anecdotally it seems easier to accrue airline points, but harder to use them at Uber high reward levels vis-a-vis 10 years ago. However very easy to book lower end seats. I used to consistently book LH First from the west coast to Asia with a wonderful first class terminal stopover. Similarly on Swiss. Emirates first anywhere was easy and chesp through Alaska. Hotel programs seem similarly trashed via devaluations and/or more aggressive room blocking.

    This move just seems to be another piece of evidence confirming the trend.

  5. Won’t really impact me. I don’t do stopovers very often in the first place. And was unlikely to desire a stopover in Seoul for the KE awards I plan to use. I still find it a very valuable program for me personally.

  6. I couldn’t care less.
    This was something they should have eliminated long time ago and was way past due.

  7. It’s a benefit we’ve thought about but haven’t used, because we tend to go to Southeast Asia at different times of the year than to South Korea e.g. prefer SEA in the cooler, dry winters which would be COLD in South Korea. So technically not impacted, but looked at another way, this is a huge devaluation.

  8. WTF! What are they thinking? To allow stopover is good for Korea’s tourist related business.

  9. @ Chesterwilson
    Because they are greedy. For example, Lucky pointed “If you wanted a stopover in Seoul on a similar ticket in the future, you’d have to book a ticket from North America to Korea (80,000 miles), and then Korea to Southeast Asia (45,000 miles), so you’d pay 125,000 miles rather than 95,000 miles”. They want additional 30000 miles(values about $500) from you instead of the generous SQ that allows you to add a stopover for just $100.

  10. Most people who complained probably aren’t even trying to use this benefit or even have Skypass miles.

    July 2020 means we do have over a year to use the benefit. This is not like Delta who will suddenly say from today onwards you’re out of luck.

    KE gave you 16 month heads up. DL/AA/UA will just announce an “enhancement” with the same speed that WOW announce they are ceasing operations.

    Stop complaining and start booking.

  11. A puzzling decision. Many of my award booking clients have taken advantage of a stopover in Seoul when they would otherwise never have considered visiting Korea. I don’t use this program much anymore because only hotel points transfer to it, so I guess the tourism impact is sufficiently limited that Korean decided to go this route.

  12. If Chase is still a transfer partner I would not be happy about this. Since Chase is no longer a transfer partner, my reaction is: meh.

  13. Korean Air is not government owned. They do not care about whether they can improve inbound Korean tourism.

    But I think $100 stopover like SQ makes more sense then completely eliminating it.

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