New option to get to the Maldives on Korean Air!

The Maldives is about as “aspirational” as travel destinations get, and unfortunately it’s a royal pain to get there on points in most instances.

However, Korean Air will be launching service between Seoul Incheon and the Maldives starting March 9, 2013. The flight does route through Colombo, Sri Lanka, so it’s quite funny that yet another airline will be offering service between Colombo and Male (in addition to Sri Lankan, China Eastern, and Emirates).

Flying into the Maldives

The new service will be operated by an Airbus 330-300, and will have the following schedule:

Korean Air 473 Seoul Incheon to Male departing at 10:40PM and arriving at 6:40AM (+1 day)
Korean Air 474 Male to Seoul Incheon departing at 3:30PM and arriving at 6:10AM (+1 day)

There are a few things that make this service really unique.

First class service to the Maldives

The flight is being operated by a three cabin plane with first class. Admittedly it’s Korean Air’s regional first class, but still, it’s a first class product. Most airlines, like Singapore, Etihad, Qatar, British Airways, etc., don’t offer a first class cabin to the Maldives.

The ability to (eventually) redeem Delta SkyMiles for travel to the Maldives

Currently there aren’t any especially easy ways to get to the Maldives using Delta SkyMiles. You can fly Malaysian through Kuala Lumpur, though availability isn’t great and the fuel surcharges can be hefty. The other option is Aeroflot through Moscow, though I haven’t found availability to be good on the Moscow to Male segment. This will open up yet another option, probably the most direct between the US and the Maldive using SkyMiles. Now, I don’t see availability loaded onto yet, though I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Delta charges 80,000 SkyMiles for a roundtrip coach award between the US and Maldives, and 120,000 SkyMiles for a roundtrip business award.

The ability to redeem for multiple premium cabin seats through Korean Air SkyPass/Chase Ultimate Rewards

I love Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a few reasons. One is the ability to transfer them to United MileagePlus miles, which is among the most valuable points currencies out there.

But I also don’t think Korean Air’s SkyPass program gets enough credit. While I haven’t flown them, their first class product seems to be quite good. But what really makes the program awesome is just how many first class award seats they release. Nowadays it can be a real stretch to find two first class award seats between the US and Asia on a single flight at the “saver” level, while I find Korean Air to consistently have two to four first class award seats available on their own flights. So basically I’m finding space from just about any US gateway for at least two passengers for most dates that the service is operating.

You can’t argue with that amount of award space!

As far as the SkyPass award costs go, here’s their chart for travel to Southwest Asia:

So it’s 95,000 miles for coach, 170,000 miles for their premium (Prestige Sleeper) business class, and 210,000 miles for their premium (Kosmo Suite) first class product. You can also do a one-way for half the mileage. Keep in mind that Korean Air offers Airbus 380 service to many of their US destinations, so you can even incorporate an Airbus 380 into this trip.

(Tip of the hat to Points, Miles & Martinis)

Filed Under: Advice, Awards
  1. @ AK — I can’t imagine they don’t have the *rights* to do so (though I could be wrong), but rather I suspect they’re just not interested in the market yet. I’d guess that once their revenue/yield management team figures out how the flight performs they may load some space between CMB and MLE. But obviously they don’t want to sell seats on the short sector if that would prevent bookings for passengers on the through flight.

    Or I could be wrong, and they don’t have the rights at all…

  2. @ Levy Flight — They do, though they’re small compared to what’s charged by European airlines. Maybe $300-350 roundtrip.

  3. Good news for AS customers as well.. 140K miles r/t in Business. Like DL, we cannot book KE F, but that is what UR is for šŸ˜‰

  4. I’m tempted to do an LAX-ICN-MLE in KE First and CMB-HKG-LAX in CX First… too bad I already have 2 big trips planned for next year. Maybe for 2014? šŸ™‚

  5. I thought this was great news until I realized it’s 210k miles for F. Seems like 135k to CMB on CX plus $ on Sri Lanka or Emirates to MLE might be the better option if there is availability.

    Do you know what the stopover rules are? I’d like to stop in CMB in one direction.

    Are the “peak” days the same as their blackout days?

    Thanks for all the great 411!

  6. @ beachfan — You’re allowed a stopover on a roundtrip, though as of now Korean Air isn’t selling the tag flight between Colombo and Male, so you couldn’t have a stopover there. Maybe that will change.

    Yes, I believe the peak dates are the same as the blackout dates.

  7. Ben, in case you forgot…

    China Eastern is part of Skyteam, and (as you mentioned in this post!) flies to MLE.

    China Southern also flies to MLE, and is part of Skyteam.

    It’d have been nice if you could have listed the 2 easier current ways to use skymiles to get there rather than the 2 tougher ones.

    Also, coach on SU wasn’t to bad to find if my memory is accurate, but biz pretty much releases day of departure.

  8. […] so itā€™s quite funny that yet another airline will be offering service between Colombo and Male (in addition to Sri Lankan, China Eastern, and Emirates). […] Hey, and don’t forget BA. From 14 April 2013, they’ll be flying three times a week from London Gatwick to CMB via MLE.

  9. Here is my dilemma, I have a trip for two booked in February with CX in F from LAX to CMB for 135k miles each. We will spend one night in Hong Kong (which we have never done) and then continue on to CMB the next day. The CMB flight leaves HNG around 16:00 and arrives in CMB at 22:30, so we have to spend 1 night in the airport hotel in CMB before catching an early flight to MLE on Sri Lankan that costs $250 r/t. The return flight on CX is simple and has minimal layovers. I’m wondering if I should switch the outbound over to Korean, as it is more direct and only has a 5 hour layover in ICN before continuing on to MLE. The big downside is that it is a lot of UR points to burn for the two one way tickets that we would need. We also have way more AA miles than UR points. Anyone care to opine on what they would do?

  10. A few questions…
    1. If I’m reading things correctly (might be wrong), it appears Korean actually has two different business class options: one with true lie-flat beds, another with some sort of recliner seat. True?
    2. Can either of these be booked via Delta?
    3. Do they cost the same number of miles?
    4. Do you have to pay a fuel surcharge if book with skymiles via Deta’s website?

  11. @ Zaephod —

    1) Correct, they have different types of products on different aircraft.
    2) Both can be booked via DElta.
    3) Delta doesn’t differentiate in pricing between the two products.
    4) They seem to have changed the policy on this several times recently. A few months ago they started imposing fuel surcharges, then they stopped for a while, and now it looks like they’re charging them again on some routes.

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