Korean Air says they’re making significant changes to their frequent flyer program, but only giving us the briefest sketches of what that might be. A new distance-based award chart is available in Korean and pricing for premium cabin awards, especially long distance premium cabin awards, because much more expensive.
Korean says they’ll be testing cash and miles awards, shifting to more revenue-based mileage-earning and distance-based redemptions, and revamping the elite program. That distance-based redemption chart is what I’m disappointed in.
Cash & Miles Will Be Tested Starting November 2020
Paying part cash part miles will be offered as a ‘test’ rather than a permanent feature of the program. There’s nothing negative here to the extent that it’s an option, but we don’t know whether this is valuable or not until we know the tradeoff between miles and money. It could be a decent deal or a poor one.
More Revenue-Based Mileage-Earning Starting April 2021
Earning miles will still be based on distance, but more miles rewarded for premium tickets and presumably fewer for coach tickets. The nod to ‘global standards and airfare levels’ seem to point in this direction.
[N]ew mileage accrual rates that correspond to airfares will be implemented. Taking global standards and airfare levels into consideration, passengers taking first or prestige classes will be able to enjoy increased accrual rates of up to 300% and 200%, respectively. Economy class ticket accrual rates will be reorganized into four categories based on booking class.
New Distance-Based Award Chart Coming April 2021
Korean is going to be adopting new distance-based award pricing starting with tickets issued in April 2021. Redemption rates will be “based on zones categorized by flight distance” rather than by region. There will be a “significant markdown of mileage redemption on short-distance routes” such that “economy class awards for one-way tickets to Qingdao and Taipei with only 20,000 and 25,000 miles respectively, compared to the previous 30,000 miles.”
Here’s the new chart. Prices are one-way and each segment is priced separately.
|Domestic S. Korea||5,000||10,000||15,000||5,000|
|Less Thank 500 mi||10,000||20,000||30,000||10,000|
|500 – 999||12,500||25,000||37,500||12,500|
|1000 – 1499||15,000||30,000||45,000||15,000|
|1500 – 1999||17,500||35,000||52,500||22,500|
|2000 – 2999||22,500||45,000||67,500||30,000|
|3000 – 3999||27,500||55,000||82,500||37,500|
|4000 – 4999||32,500||65,000||97,500||45,000|
|5000 – 6499||40,000||80,000||120,000||55,000|
|6500 – 9999||45,000||90,000||135,000||62,500|
High season redemptions come at a 50% premium to the distance-based chart above.
Flying one way New York JFK in first class and on to Singapore in business class should cost 180,000 miles (when not in high season), nearly doubling the current price. As in all distance-based charts there will be some values, as you find flights whose distance is at the top of each distance band.
The partner award chart will become more expensive as well. Flights will be priced one way, and structured the same way, with slightly higher mileage pricing for travel on partners than on Korean (ranging from an extra 1000 miles for the shortest coach flights to an extra 15,000 miles for the longest first class flights) as detailed here.
New Elite Levels Coming February 2022
A fourth elite level will be added (silver, gold, platinum and diamond). The lowest elite level will be achievable with just 10,000 miles or 10 flights. There will be mileage bonuses between 20% – 80%, elite upgrades, and Diamonds will be able to nominate a silver.
Time To Bail Out of Korean Air SKypass?
Full details of the changes in Korean are available. Google translate does a pretty good job deciphering what’s going on.
With Korean Air a Delta joint venture partner, and Delta a part owner of the airline, this seems like Delta’s influence. Perhaps it’s influenced as well by weakness at Asiana, Korean feels they don’t need to offer as lucrative a mileage program.
I should be burning the miles I transferred in from Chase before Korean dropped out as an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, or I’ll regret it (since the only reason I transferred was for long distance premium cabin awards).