One reason I love having an Award Booking Service is it gives me the chance to book award travel. I’d love to book my own award travel, but I don’t get to do that as regularly anymore! One thing I’ve noticed though is that it’s easy for me to keep going back to the same well. One thing I find myself using for clients again and again is the generous Korean Air award hold policy.
Back in the day using Korean Air involved using a fax machine. Now that those bad boys have reached the verge of extinction, it’s much simpler to execute an award hold for yourself and your family. Let me tell you a tale of why you might want to hold an award and how to execute it.
Why hold an award?
Most people can probably skip this section, but just in case. Holding any award obviously provides a degree of flexibility. You can search for alternate flights, you can bug your wife about letting you book the tickets, etc. etc.
For Korean Air, the best and most legitimate reason to hold an award is to allow yourself time to transfer miles into your Korean Air account. You can transfer both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest points into Korean Air. Ultimate Rewards transfer instantly but SPG takes a couple days, so you really need the ability to hold these awards for peace of mind. I’m always stressed transferring to Singapore from SPG, for example.
Creating a Family Plan
If you want to book awards for someone besides yourself (aka your family), you need to create a family plan. Luckily this has become much more straightforward now that you can do this online.
First, create a Skypass account for every member of your family. This took me about 45 seconds per person – the registration process for kids and adults is identical. Unlike some US carriers (ahem Delta!), you don’t even have to call in or send in a separate form – thank goodness!
Then, log in as the user whose miles you plan to use (or the person you plan the transfer the miles to). Go to “My Dashboard” => “Family Plan” => “Add a Member”. Then select apply online, the easiest method.
Just fill in the information of your family member and upload a document for proof of relationship (Tip from commenter Melanie: make sure name matches passport exactly!). For immediate family members this is a piece of cake – marriage certificate or birth certificate should do the trick. Also as long as your documents have both members birthdays you really only need to upload one document (if not, add secondary documents with your birthdays visible).
Note Korean Air really wants you to add family members to the family plan. So if you want to fly with a friend, they’ll probably need to book with their own account. Here’s a list of family members as defined by Korean Air (they use a dropdown list):
- Maternal grandparent
- Parent of spouse
- Daughter/Son in law
- Child of daughter
If anyone’s gotten past these feel free to add to the comments. I do have one thought: why only child of daughter but not child of son? Come on, now!
Searching Korean Air award space
Korean Air has some pretty generous award space, especially in premium cabins. A paid Expertflyer subscription provides the easiest and fastest way to search for award space, but you can also search for it online using the Korean Air website. A bit slower but good enough! I’d recommend creating your family plan first because you can only search for as many seats as you have family members.
You don’t need to do this before you call but I always find it useful to have an idea of what flights have space before I call so I can feed the agents flights. I did find some discrepancies between what the agents saw and what Expertflyer showed me (some positive, some negative), so bear that in mind as well.
Creating a Korean Air award hold
Once you’ve created your family and found the flights you want, creating the Korean Air award hold is pretty painless. Call up Korean Air at 1-800-438-5000 and feed the agent your dates and flights. I’ve called a couple times in the last few days (middle of the day) and haven’t waited longer than five minutes. You probably will end up using the word “hold” but I think Korean agents call it a “reservation.” Regardless, after you feed them your flights and the confirm the availability, you get put on a brief hold and then they come back with your reservation held and a confirmation number.
At this point, ask how long the reservation will be held for. I made a couple of holds and they all will last for 14 days – shorter than in the past. Not sure if that’s the new timeline but it’s still better than the next most famous hold policy out there (AA – 5 days).
Things of note for family awards
At this point, you can complete the reservation online once you have transferred your miles over. Note you will have to submit an online form to do this. You can also complete the reservation over the phone, but this will necessitate the fax shenanigans of yore. If you no longer live in the 1990s and have since gotten rid of your fax machine, stick to booking online.
I saved the very best Korean Air feature for last: lap infants only cost 10% of the mileage, not 10% of the cash price. So if you fly in a premium cabin, instead of looking at a $1000 round trip charge you’re looking at something on the order of 6000-12000 miles. Great stuff.
Korean Air is great for travel to Asia on Korean Air metal, not so great on partner carriers. Europe SHOULD be a sweetspot (80,000 RT in business) but they charge significant fuel charges on transatlantic routes. Still, especially for families needing to get to Asia to visit relatives, Korean Air award holds are clutch and should be part of your arsenal.