How to use Korean Air’s SKYPASS programme to get to South Korea

In this guide, we look at how you can use Korean Air’s SKYPASS frequent flyer programme to fly to South Korea from New Zealand, including methods for acquiring the miles that are required to make a redemption.

While Korean Air is no longer the only airline to fly direct from Auckland to Seoul—Air New Zealand will compete on the route from November this year—there are a number of reasons why the programme may be of interest to local travellers, including stellar award availability, and a quality in-flight product.

Why should I know about SKYPASS?

SKYPASS offer an abundance of award availability in all classes on Korean Air’s flights to Seoul from Auckland.

The airline is one of the few airlines to offer a First Class cabin to New Zealand, on their Boeing 787 aircraft:

Korean Air 787 First Class

First Class (and Prestige Class) product on the Korean Air Boeing 797-9

Interestingly, the seat product is exactly the same as that offered in Business Class—also known as Prestige Class—with service being the key differentiator.

While Korean Air are eliminating First Class on many of their routes, Auckland is not hit by these changes until the aircraft swap to the 777 from November 2019. Its unclear whether First Class will return to the route after, but we will keep an eye on the schedule and update this guide with any changes.

The Korean Air Prestige Class product remains top-notch, with all seats offering direct aisle access, fully-flat beds, and high-class Korean hospitality.

To get started, create your free SKYPASS account here.

Korean Air SKYPASS is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner

For Kiwis there is only one way to earn SKYPASS miles from credit card spend – points earn from American Express Membership Rewards cards, and then transfers over to SKYPASS via Marriott Bonvoy.

If you’re not sure how transfers work using Marriott as an intermediary, have a read of our guide to using American Express Membership Rewards to transfer points to American Airlines AAdvantage via Marriott.

Here’s how the two Membership Rewards cards stack up in terms of effective SKYPASS mile earn rates.

The American Express Platinum Edge earns 3 Membership Rewards points per $ at supermarkets, 2 points per $ on fuel, and 1 point per $ everywhere else.

The American Express Platinum Charge earns 2 points per $ everywhere.

For comparison purposes, I’ve assumed that you will want to maximise your SKYPASS miles properly by only transferring Marriott points out in 60,000 point chunks:

Membership Rewards CardSpend categoryMembership Rewards earned per $Marriott points earned per $SKYPASS miles earned per $ (maximised)
Platinum EdgeSupermarkets331.25
Platinum EdgeFuel220.83
Platinum EdgeAll other110.42
Platinum ChargeEverywhere220.83

As you can see, it’s possible to earn an effective 1.25 SKYPASS miles per $ at Supermarkets with the Platinum Edge.

And of course, if you purchase gift cards at the supermarket for other retailers, this will extend your earning reach. You can read more about this in our gift card guide.

Redemption figures when using SKYPASS miles on Korean Air

The table below shows the off-peak redemption costs between New Zealand and South Korea using SKYPASS miles. All point/mile figures are on the assumption that you are taking advantage of the 5,000 mile bonus that Marriott give you for every 60,000 points that are transferred to SKYPASS.

Travel ClassNumber of miles one-wayAmex Membership Reward Points (MRP) requiredMarriott Bonvoy points required
Economy35,00090,09090,000
Prestige62,500157,740157,500
First80,000195,030195,000

Note that despite the 1 MRP : 1 Marriott point conversion ratio, the former need to be transferred to Marriott in 330 point increments. This explains why the rates above for American Express Membership Rewards are slightly higher than the Marriott point rate.

Once you have them – the basics of redeeming SKYPASS miles for travel on Korean Air

Korean Air SKYPASS have different rules for award tickets based on whether you’re traveling on Korean Air, or traveling on a combination of Korean Air and their SkyTeam partners.

As this article is focusing on how to use SKYPASS to redeem for travel on Korean Air, we’ll only focus on the key rules that you need to know:

  • One-way awards are permitted for half the mileage of a roundtrip award
  • As with most programmes, award tickets require payment of government-imposed taxes and fees and carrier-imposed charges, which are calculated at the time of redemption. These will only come to about $77 USD on a return flight between Auckland and Seoul
  • Date and route changes will cost 30,000 Korean won (~$35 NZD)
  • Refunding of an award ticket is free if 91 days or more before departure, or otherwise will cost 3,000-10,000 miles (deducted from the amount returned to you)
  • Korean Air has a “peak season” calendar, so additional miles will be required if traveling during those dates

The Korean Air award chart can be found here.

How to find Korean Air SKYPASS award availability

You can search for award availability even without having a SKYPASS account.

SkyPass

Once you’ve input your proposed route, award availability will be shown on a calendar. Select your preferred date, and click ‘Booking’.

SkyPass

A new tab should open, and you will be prompted to enter your SKYPASS login details:

SkyPass

After you login, the route details entered for your calendar search will automatically be input into the award booking search form, along with your preferred date. Select the correct cabin class, and then click ‘Find Flights’:

SkyPass

Voila! Your preferred flight details will be shown, along with the cash amount for taxes/fees:

SkyPass

Summing up

A redemption on Korean Air with SKYPASS is suited to travellers who:

  • want good First Class and Business Class award availability
  • want to visit South Korea flying their national airline, instead of our own (cultural experience starts in the air)
  • want to enjoy a First Class cabin (when offered) that is unlikely to be full

Earning Marriott Bonvoy points and transferring them to SKYPASS represents the best value for redeeming an award on Korean Air from New Zealand.

The Membership Rewards → Marriott Bonvoy → SKYPASS transfer route takes a bit of work, but once you understand how the earn and transfer rates work for your specific card and each programme, that can help make a better call on how you redeem your points.

Also an eye out for Marriott Bonvoy point sales—these could let you purchase the required miles at a significant discount should you not have enough American Express Membership Rewards Points to make an outright redemption.

Have you made a redemption on Korean Air with SKYPASS? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Korean Air

How to use Korean Air’s SKYPASS programme to get to South Korea was last modified: May 10th, 2019 by Daniel Kinnoch