Korean Air announces major frequent flyer revamp

December 16, 2019
Korean Air
Photo: Korean Air

Korean Air is undertaking a major revamp of its SKYPASS frequent flyer program it says will bring it into line with global standards and increase customer benefits.

The changes will be introduced progressively and include the option of combining miles and cash or credit card to buy a seat, a change to frequent flyer accruals and a new elite membership system.

Korean Air’s new mileage redemption rates will be based on eleven segment zones — one domestic zone and 10 international zones categorized according to flight distance.  It replaces a five-region system.

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Zone 1 is made up of routes that are less than 500 miles, such as Incheon-Qingdao, while zone 9 is composed of routes that are between 6,500 and 10,000 miles, such as Incheon-New York.

The airline said the change would mean redemptions on some routes would require less mileage while others will call for more.

“For example, an economy class award ticket for the Incheon-Fukuoka route during (the) off-season, which currently requires 15,000 miles, will be categorized as a zone 1 flight and require only 10,000 miles,’’ it said.

“Mileage required to travel from Incheon to Hawaii will also be reduced to 32,500 miles from the current 35,000 miles.

“On the other hand, the redemption amount to travel from Incheon to Singapore will increase from 20,000 to 22,500 miles, and the Incheon-Paris route, from 35,000 to 40,000 miles.“

Criteria for mileage deductions for partner airlines will also change to correspond to Korean Air’s new system of ten international segment zones and the airline said previously unavailable one-way redemptions, partial refunds and a family plan would now be possible.

The ability to combine cash and miles to buy a ticket will start from November 2020 on a trial basis and will allow passengers to use miles for up to 20 percent of their basic airfare excluding fuel surcharges and tax.

There are restrictions: Passengers will be required to use at least 500 miles and the option is only available for payments in Korean won on Korean Air’s website.

The airline notes the option is similar to those offered by airlines such as Delta Air Lines, British Airways, Lufthansa Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

“Korean Air plans to offer the mixed payment option for a test-run period from November 2020 to December 31, 2022, and make improvements afterwards based on its experience,’’ it said.

The new elite membership system will be introduced from 2022 and will have four elite levels — Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond — which will be valid for a year.

The new levels replace three levels currently: Morning Calm, Morning Calm Premium and Million Miler.

Silver members will need to travel at least  10,000 miles on Korean Air or 10 qualifying flights on the airline.

To go for Gold, passengers will need to travel 40, 000 miles or 40 qualifying flights on Korean while Platinum will be 70,000 miles and 70 flights.

The top tier will require 100,000 miles or more on Korean Air.

The new tiers will retain existing SKYPASS elite benefits and add others such as the ability to earn additional frequent flyer miles and round-trip upgrade vouchers for the top two tiers.

“Morning Calm Premium and Million Miler members, whose status is permanent, will keep their lifetime membership as gold and platinum levels, respectively,’’ the airline said.

-“Meanwhile, those who meet current qualifications for Morning Calm membership between February 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023, will be given a silver status for two years.

“And, those who meet current qualifications for Morning Calm Premium and Million Miler membership between February 1, 2022, and December 31, 2024, will be provided gold and platinum status, respectively, for three years.”