Booking Award Tickets Through Korean Airlines

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Though the summer feels a long way away, I realized I needed to start booking flights for my trip to Koh Samui. Because I have strong preferences for what countries I wanted to visit and I refuse to depart Bangkok in anything other than Thai Airways First, there weren’t a lot of options in my date range.

So the friends who usually help me with my award travel suggested I consider Korean. I’ve seen good reviews of Korean Airlines’ First Class and always thought they had interesting uniforms, but for some inexplicable reason I didn’t want to fly them. It’s irrational and I have no idea why. Perhaps because their awards are much more expensive — 95,000 miles for a one way first class award– and can’t possibly be worth that many points? Or maybe it was the horror stories about having to fax in proof of identity, etc.

But they were the one airline that could get me to my destination with minimal layovers and inconvenience and even allowed free stopovers in Seoul on a one-way award! So I got over my dislike and started the process.

Korean Airlines’ frequent flyer programs has a few unusual quirks. All passengers must have a (free) SkyPass account and SkyPass miles can only be redeemed for designated family members. So when traveling with a friend, like I am, you can’t fund both tickets from one account. So we both created accounts and then I transferred the needed 95,000 miles from our Chase Sapphire accounts (ouch).

I first tried to book via the Korean website. But though availability in First for two people was showing for each leg, it wouldn’t allow me to book both via the website.

Korean Airlines Availbility by legKorean Airlines Award Availability both legs

That meant a phone call, which I dread. I know to “hang up and call back” if I don’t get the answer I want, but who actually wants to go through that?

I waited on hold for about 5-10 minutes for an agent. I told her my desired destination and dates, and unlike most award tickets I’ve booked over the phone, she had no trouble seeing availability and securing the flights. After taking down all our basic information, she asked me if I was familiar with the rest of the process.

Since my memory of the reviews I’d read was hazy, I asked her to go through it.

  1. Each passenger would need to complete the form on their website. (After much hunting, I finally found it under SkyPass > Forms > SKYPASS Family Mileage Pooling Plan / Bonus Award Redemption Form
  2. Once the forms were completed and signed, I should email it with scanned copies of our passports  to (Whew! Thank goodness no faxing was needed!)
  3. Once the itinerary was ready to be ticketed, they would call me to collect payment information for the taxes and fees.

I followed the instructions, emailing everything in the next day, which happened to be Sunday. On Thursday night, I got an email back telling me they needed my signature. Apparently I’d sent in the version before I’d signed it. Ooops.

I fixed that in a hurry and sent it back in. Less than 24 hours later I received confirmation it had been received and our itinerary had been placed in the ticketing queue. The last part of the sentence rather worried me though:

“we will be giving you a call back before the ticketing time limit expires which is …”

The date they list is 3 days before my departure. I’m sure they will call me before then, but the potential for several months in limbo isn’t calming.

I still have mixed feelings about my experience. It was by far the easiest ticket I’ve ever booked by phone, and the fact that my preferred dates, destinations, and class of service were wide open is amazing. On the other hand, you have extra hoops to jump through with filling out forms, etc, and for someone like me, the uncertainty of when your ticket will be issued or if someone might grab the seats before you can really get to you.

So here’s hoping I get a call next week!


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