Korean Air Eliminates Award Holds

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@RewardFlying pointed out that Korean Air has eliminated the ability to put award tickets on hold, with or without points in your account. This applies to awards for Korean Air travel (which could generally be held a month, and used to be able to be held nearly indefinitely) as well as to partner awards (which could be held ~ 5 days).

This news seems to be accurate based on a check of the Korean Air website and a call to their call center. One Mile at a Time confirms it as well.

Korean Air has one of my favorite frequent flyer programs.

  • Award prices are reasonable I’ve most often booked 80,000 mile first class one way awards between the US and North Asia (e.g. Hong Kong). Korean Air one ways allow a stopover, generally in Seoul. SkyTeam awards must be roundtrip.
  • Great availability. While not as good as it used to be, when first class awards were nearly always available (remember that most US members have points redeemable for Korean Air via SkyMiles, and Delta doesn’t allow first class redemptions), Korean Air flies to more US destinations than any other Asian airline and has first class not just long haul but intra-Asia as well. More flights, less competition for award seats, has made them a go-to for me in a pinch. You can use their miles for Saudia and China Eastern first class as well.
  • Great partner awards. They offer some of the best deals to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Air, and Europe business class awards on SkyTeam partners for 80,000 miles roundtrip (albeit with fuel surcharges).
  • Chase transfer partner I’ve been using them to great effect since I first got a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

One downside to Korean Air is that you can only redeem from your own account for direct family member, you cannot redeem awards for friends.

For most readers the elimination of award holds does not matter.

  • Chase points generally transfer to Korean Air instantly. This is not always true.
  • If you’re concerned about space disappearing and seats being gone, you can call Korean Air and have an agent set up the reservation. Then transfer points, and the agent can move forward once they see points in the account.

What goes away is the ability to lock in award flights as an option that you might or might not use.

  • Perhaps you wanted to make sure you could get to a destination and then still need to secure tough-to-get lodging reservations like a specific safari or remote resort villa.

  • Or you didn’t even really want your Korean Air Sky Pass booking at all, it was a hedge in case the flights you did want opened up.

The ability to lock in a flight component option as you continue to plan your trip goes away. The ability to ensure seats are available before transferring points isn’t (most of the time).

I’m still grateful for the programs that do allow award holds because I find I often set up an award segment and then play with the itinerary. I may grab something online and then change the domestic segments. I may not even know where my final destination is, I just want to ensure I have the long haul pieces locked in. So for me this is bad news, even if many members will experience the program in mostly the same manner.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Good news if it results in more award availability, but I’m not holding my breath on that front.

    It seems to me they are reducing award availability in anticipation of the Delta JV.

  2. Did I not read a few months ago that Chase transfers to Korean were no longer immediate?

  3. This is 1000% completely wrong. I have created 4 holds on korean skyteam awards within the last week. Unless this is just for korean airlines own metal, there are definitely still award holds…

  4. I created a hold on KE metal a week ago, I was told the hold was good for a month. And Chase transfers to KE are not instant, it took me at least two days.

  5. All these interesting loopholes will be weeded out as they appear in the blogs unfortunately.

  6. I put a Korean air LAX to Hong Kong on hold for 30 days and then extended it for another 30 days to allow for moving UR points (which took about a week). The rest of the time was for moving miles from one Korean air account to another KA account. The reps at Korean air are very nice people to deal with.

  7. I put an award (Korean flights only) on hold for 30 days after seeing the blog post yesterday. I tiptoed around the issue a bit in checking on this “new” policy with the CSR. But from what I gathered, it sounds like if there is any change at all it’s that you can’t renew a hold past 30 days without making a whole new reservation…though even @Joel’s experience sounds counter to that.

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