Why do South Korean airlines hate us so much?

Have you ever tried to redeem an award ticket with Korean Air’s SkyPass program or Asiana’s Club program? If not, consider yourself lucky.

As much as both airlines have pretty good mileage programs, their policies make me want to proclaim miles worthless.

Gary has written about the process of redeeming Korean Air SkyPass miles, and what a pain it is. Basically you can only redeem miles for yourself and your family members out of your account, and they require proof of your family relationship to make a booking using your miles. So if you’re just traveling with a friend you have to ticket the reservations out of separate accounts. And that can be a challenge since Korean Air SkyPass is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, though technically you’re only allowed to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to a frequent flyer account in your name. So technically that means you can no longer even redeem Ultimate Rewards points for a Korean Air SkyPass award in the name of anyone except the account holder.

Even if you’re ticketing an award reservation for yourself you have to fax in a redemption form along with your ID, which will be processed within a couple of days. At that point you have to call back to find out what the taxes are and have the ticket issued. It’s ridiculous, and by far the most illogical system for redeeming awards I’ve ever seen. Or so I thought.

Then there’s Asiana Club, and I’ll let their policies speak for themselves.

Think you can redeem your miles online or over the phone? Fuggedaboutit:

  1. Bonus award tickets can only be ticketed through Asiana Airlines. When making reservations members should visit any local Asiana Airlines branch ticketing counter or airport ticketing counter and present your reservation number (PNR), membership card and identification card and issue bonus award and seat upgrade tickets within the advised ticket time limit. Tickets not issued until the advised ticket time limit reservation can be cancelled. Upon ticketing members are responsible for taxes, inspection charges, airport tax and all applicable tax and government charges & fees, fuel surcharges and war insurances and surcharges and commissions.
  2. Third parties requesting tickets on your behalf must be in possession of an authorization letter singed by you, Asiana Club card, your ID and third’ parties’ ID to pick up your tickets.

Wanna redeem your miles for a friend? better be a Diamond member:

Do you want to transfer your award ticket to family or friends? To make easier use of miles, Asiana Club members can transfer award tickets to certain family members as listed below. To do so, proof of family relationship (It is limited to a copy of the resident registration or a certificate of family relations that personal identification no. is verified and shows family relationships. The document should be issued within 6 months. and award transfer certificate. Members of Platinum, Diamond Plus (new), and Diamond can give his or her mileages to anyone with an award transfer certificate. However, people who get the mileage transfer should be a member of Asiana Club.

The best part is that not only does Asiana not display award space for Star Alliance partners online, but you can’t even call them to get the ticket on hold. You can call them and they’ll fill out the request form, which is then forwarded to the single Star Alliance award agent. Once the agent has a chance to review it they’ll call you back within a few days, at which point award space could be gone.

So the next time you think booking an award ticket with United or US Airways is a PITA, think again. Asiana and Korean Air make the “mail in rebate” industry look straightforward.

Filed Under: Asiana, Awards
  1. You don’t even know the half of it. Nearly 75% of Korean websites still require ActiveX (which only runs on Windows) to do anything. It would be comical if it weren’t so frustrating.

  2. Lucky, you’re doing far better with Asiana or at least equally worse than with Air India. This one may not be a prestige redemption, but to get an AI ticket you still need to go to the ticketing office and all that. They shut down online redemption at a whim and just brought it back online, though not stable!

  3. Did it change?
    I remember seeing some OZ flights in July between SIN and ICN using the MileagePlus award search tool, suddenly I can’t find them anymore.

  4. @ Zhong Liang Ong — This is only for award tickets issued through Asiana for travel on other airlines, and not the other way around (so you can still easily ticket award reservations for travel on Asiana through other programs).

  5. consider yourself very fortunate. Philippine Airlines require a personal appearance by the traveller to their ticketing office!

  6. I have done OZ tickets for *A travel family in Biz class without having to go to their LA office.
    Setting up the family account first was the key

  7. Hey Lucky, around the time of the United system conversion back in March I seem to recall hearing reports of Asiana canceling / not recognizing previously booked MileagePlus award tickets. Have you heard of any issues arising from booking Asiana awards through MileagePlus? Given the great availability they have in First out of Chicago (and your trip report on on them!) I was targeting them for a future award trip. Would you recommend booking MP awards on Asiana?

  8. @ ffi — Interesting, good to know.

    @ LincolnPark — I’d definitely go for them. They had a few issues during the transition, though everything seems to be working fine again, so I wouldn’t hesitate to book with them. Enjoy, as they seem to have a great product on the Chicago route!

  9. @Lucky
    If you don’t like the airlines’ policies, don’t use them.
    Plus, they’re not all that cumbersome anyway.
    Once you get verified, you can do the bookings online all the time.

  10. Having spent a lot of time working as a supplier to KAL and Asiana, this is very consistent with how they do business generally. It is extremely frustrating unless you can shed your western mindset, they are not easy business partners. KAL, for example, has been known to cancel return tickets when they are not happy with the progress of negotiations (meaning you haven’t caved in to their demands) and a KAL manager once threatened to kill our Client Manager over a spare parts issue. Crazy.

  11. @Sam
    Just guessing that Lucky probably ran into those issues as part of his booking service. If so, he would have had little choice over whether to use them or not; and his client(s) either never knew about the cumbersome policies, or, if they did, knowingly passed it on to Lucky to deal with precisely because of how cumbersome they are.

  12. @ Sam — The booking wasn’t for me but a client. But beyond that, Asiana *doesn’t* let yo make Star bookings online once you’re verified. They don’t even let you make them over the phone (they call you).

    @ Ryan — Wow!

  13. I just got off the phone with Asiana Club which actually prompted me to google how good they are with customer care. I stumbled into this page which reflect my experience. I have 170,000 + miles on my name which is good enough for 2 tickets. The woman told me that I have to use all points to redeem 1 ticket because its peak season. So I bite , out of desperation , I just need to pay for 3 more so I need the confirm immediately. The customer service said she can not give me my return trip because its peak season. After paying extra points for “blockout buster” , I still got “blocked” ..I have to wait for days in the waiting list .. That was bad because there are only 2 working days left before the trip and I need to book 3 more itteneraries for 3 more people. So basically , yes , its worthless.

  14. Try living there as a westerner and see how much they hate us. I did for over 7 years and you don’t know the half of it. If a Korean walks up, spits on you, and hits you…5 Koreans will appear to reverse roles. The only reason the world doesn’t know the truth about South Korea is because they are a key American ally and if you try to talk about them too much from the inside they will close ranks on you and shut you down (lost job, false criminal charges, eventual deportation)… šŸ™‚

  15. Of course a anon like you is believable.(Sarcasm)
    I have lived in Korea for 13 years, with a family now. I have never experienced any of that. I’m African American and my wife is Irish. But not a single Korean (unless it’s a mobster) spat on me or etc. I’m pretty sure you’re extending the truth a bit too much.
    Seems like you’re just a hater or racist of some sort.
    But ultimately, good people, bad Asiana Airline.

  16. Hi Daniel,
    I’m glad that you are happy there with your wife, but I am not extending the truth in the least. I lived in Korea from the period of 2003-2011 and lived in Seoul and Bundang and worked at various places. I have friends from all over the world including Korean Americans who live there. Even they know how racist Koreans are and how poorly they treat others. My American friend just had a Korean come up to him a few weeks ago and start yelling, “F-you!! American! Go home!!”, so my friend flipped him the bird. The Korean grabbed my friend by the throat and an altercation kicked off. In the end, the police said it was my friends fault because he flipped the bird. Then they said he should have run from the Korean! Ha! They extorted $400 usd for their fellow Koreans to drop the matter! If you don’t know the reality of Korea it’s okay, but dont lie to cover for them or spread your own ignorance of what the place is really like. Anyone who wants to know how racist Koreans really are can google daves esl cafe because it has a great forum that isn’t heavily moderated. The facts of the place are all in there. Most Koreans are not good people…and it’s not for their race but their poor character and how they treat others!

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *