Korean Air’s Skypass program is perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the world of miles and points. Korea’s national airline connects key hubs in the United States and Europe with many destinations throughout China, Japan and southeast Asia, and, unlike most other programs which have incredibly limited award availability, Korean Air opens up free seats on just about every flight, even in the coveted First Class cabin, along with Business Class on the A380, which includes access to a very unique staffed bar.
Until recently, however, Korean Air made it very difficult to find award seats. If there was a scheduled flight, it was safe to assume there would be at least a few seats available to book with miles, but the only way to confirm availability unless you had enough miles in your account to complete a booking was to phone the airline’s call center or search using a paid tool called ExpertFlyer, which, while a fantastic resource for finding available seats across programs, isn’t worth the fee just to search for a single Korean Air award.
Following the airline’s latest round of website updates, however, it’s now possible (and quite easy, even) to search for award seats online even if you don’t have any miles in your account. The logic before was that you wouldn’t be searching for a flight that you wouldn’t be able to “afford,” but given that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Korean Air instantly (1 point = 1 Skypass mile), there was no reason to build up a mileage balance before you could confirm flight availability.
To search for award seats using the new site, log in to your Korean Air Skypass account (you can create one for free if you haven’t already) then head over to the regular booking tool. There, you can select a one-way flight search, tick the “book with miles” box and hit next to select your cabin class.
After you move on from that step, you’ll see a list of available flights for the day you selected, along with several days that follow over in the left sidebar, making it easy to view availability on alternative dates as well.
Unfortunately the site will only display availability for one cabin at a time, but it’s easy enough to switch to a new class of service — just click to modify your original search at the top bar and make any adjustments you need to. In addition to availability, you’ll also see the total number of miles and the amount of cash co-payment required for your booking (including taxes and fuel surcharges in Korean Won, about 1,000 Won to 1 USD).
If you have the required miles and you’ve already sent Korean Air the required documentation to activate award bookings on your account, you can complete the booking then. Otherwise, you can call up the Skypass call center to have an agent put the itinerary on hold for you — you can request that the hold remain until just two days before departure, even if you’re booking months out. Then, you only need to complete the booking process before the hold expires, and, once you're ticketed and confirmed on the flight, you'll be able to select your seats.