Points, Miles, and Martinis wrote about Korean Air’s Houston flight and how new routes are often an opportunity for award booking.
Korean is a partner of Delta Skymiles (in the loosest sense of the term).
But there are many misconceptions about booking Korean Air space using Delta miles, so I thought I’d try to clear some of those up.
You need to call Delta to look up availability
The Points, Miles, and Martinis blog notes that searching for award space on Korean at Expertflyer.com find “plenty of days where you can pick up 2 award seats in First Class.”
However Delta does not allow mileage redemption in international first class. Business class is the top cabin permitted.
He goes on to say, “Business Class is harder to find. I couldn’t find it on Expert Flyer”
But that’s because Expertflyer does not show Korean business class long haul, availability displays only on a handful of predominantly intra-Asia routes.
Delta’s website has displayed Korean Air award space in the past, but it’s glitchy at best. Failing to see Korean Air award space there does not mean that space is unavailable.
You can search for award space on the Korean Air website if you have miles in your account, and if you don’t see award space there it won’t be available to Delta. But just because you find the space on the Korean site doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get Delta to book it.
That means you need to call Delta. And you may need to play call center agent roulette (“Hang Up, Call Back“) until you find an agent who knows that Korean Air is a partner, and knows how to search for the space.
Plenty of Flight Opportunities
In the mainland U.S. they fly to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington Dulles. In addition they fly from Honolulu, Vancouver, and Toronto as well. With that many gateways there are many opportunities — although availability for business class tends to appear in spurts with Delta.
In addition to flying from those cities to Seoul, they fly from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo three days a week as well.
But Delta Imposes ‘Nonexistent’ Blackout Dates
Korean Air has blackout dates in its frequent flyer program. Or – more precisely they have ‘peak dates’ where they charge more miles for their members to redeem seats.
Peak dates vary by region. Here are the 2014 blackout dates (the first column of dates) and 2015 blackout dates (the second column).
Delta considers ‘peak’ dates to be blackout dates. But they go one step further.
Delta blacks out travel on Korean for EVERY ROUTE on ANY dates that Korean says is a peak date for ANY route.
As a result, about a third of the year is blacked out for redemption by Delta.
Redeeming Korean Flights With Korean Miles Instead
Korean Air has fantastic first class award availability, possibly the best availability in the world if you want to redeem for international first.
You can’t redeem Delta miles for it, but you can redeem Korean miles for it.
The easiest way to get Korean Air points is transferring them in instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Less good for earning points, but a generous signup bonus, I recently picked up the Korean Air Visa Signature with a 40,000 point signup bonus. I had an account with them from a previous points transfer, but a balance of 0 in the account and no status. Another account that has never had points in it got offered that as well.
Korean does add fuel surcharges to awards, though. And you can only redeem points from your own account for family members (they ask for proof). See “The Strange Process of Redeeming Awards Through Korean Air Skypass”