Best Ways to Book Korean Air First Class Using Points [Step-by-Step]

Korean Air first class

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If you’re flying to South Korea or Southeast Asia, you could try a number of fantastic first class products such as Singapore Airlines first class (including Suites class) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) first class.

When you are looking into options for your next trip abroad, give Korean Air first class a look as well. While Korean Air might not provide a first class experience quite like you’d get with the Etihad First Apartments, it provides a great product and often releases plenty of award space. Plus, if you end up flying on the Kosmos Suites 2.0 product, you’ll be flying on one of the best international first class flights, according to our rankings.

A Look Inside Korean Air First Class

Unlike some airlines that have standardized first class cabins across their fleet, Korean Air first class has a few different cabin layouts you should be aware of before booking.

Hot Tip: Did you know that we put together a definitive guide on all of Korean Air’s nonstop U.S. routes? You can discover the different cities it flies to, the planes used for each flight, as well as the best planes to fly in each class.

While none of them are bad experiences, if you’re flying first class, you want to make sure you have the best experience possible!

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Seat 1A - Cherag Dubash
Korean Air 777-300ER first class. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Korean Air first class gets its solid reputation for its soft product offerings, instead of its hard product. Still, Korean Air’s most private first class seats, known as Kosmo Suites 2.0, contain sliding doors and larger seat partitions to insulate you from the cabin.

Korean Air Kosmo Suites 2.0
Korean Air’s newest first class product is the Kosmo Suites 2.0. Image Credit: Korean Air.

The 3 aircraft you should consider for your first class trip on Korean Air are the Boeing 747-8 (78H), some Boeing 777-300ER (77W) planes, and the Airbus A380-800 (388). These seats are considerably more private and comfortable.

If you’re flying on the Boeing 777-300ER, be aware that some have the new Kosmo Suites 2.0, which is a closed suite (with sliding doors), while others have open suites (with privacy partitions). All Airbus A380-800 aircraft have open suites in the first class cabin.

The first class cabin on the Boeing 747-8 is located on the lower deck of the aircraft and set up in 1-1 layout with only a single aisle. The Boeing 777-300ER and the Airbus A380-800 are both set up in a 1-2-1 cabin layout (lower deck of the A380).

Now that you have an idea of what to expect from the cabin and seat, let’s talk about what perks you can expect when flying Korean Air first class.

When flying from the U.S., you will receive an amenity kit complete with luxury items provided by DAVI, such as eye gel, eye mask, hand and face lotion, and more. It’s these little touches that make the experience so enjoyable.

Korean Air first class amenities
Korean Air first class amenities. Image Credit: Stephen Au

Korean Air also provides a duvet service that makes your seat very comfortable when in the bed position. Top that off with a set of pajamas provided by Gianfranco Ferre (which are some of the most comfortable pajamas in the world), and you’ll rest peacefully on your long-haul journey.

Korean Air A380 Celestial Bar
When you fly first class on the A380, make sure you visit the Celestial Bar. Image Credit: Korean Air

If you are flying on the Airbus A380, you should take some time to check out the Celestial Bar that’s open to first class and business class passengers. There aren’t many inflight bars, so take advantage of this fun opportunity to enjoy a cocktail with other premium cabin passengers.

How to Fly Korean Air First Class Using Miles

Just like booking Singapore Airlines first class, Korean Air requires travelers to use Korean SKYPASS miles to book first class. This means redeeming Delta SkyMiles and Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles won’t be an option for this experience.

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air SKYPASS can be an interesting airline loyalty program to use for award flights. It’s great in some ways, but it can be frustrating in others. Before we dive into those details, let’s discuss what the award chart looks like:

FromToSeasonalityFirst Class Miles Cost One-Way
South KoreaSouth KoreaOff-peakN/A
PeakN/A
Japan, China, Northeast AsiaOff-peak32,500
Peak47,500
Southeast AsiaOff-peak95,000
Peak67,500
Southwest AsiaOff-peak57,500
Peak87,500
North America, Oceania, Europe, Middle East, AfricaOff-peak80,000
Peak120,000
South AmericaOff-peak110,000
Peak165,000

You can book Korean Air first class by following these simple steps:

  1. Go to Korean Air’s website
  2. Select Redeem Miles
  3. Log in with your user ID or SKYPASS number
  4. Select your origin and destination
  5. Select your travel dates
  6. Select First Class
  7. Select your flights
  8. Click Continue to enter your information to complete the booking

Korean Air discontinued award holds officially in July 2018, but they can still be requested and approved on a case-by-case basis by mentioning that you’re “waiting on your points to transfer.”

One of the frustrating aspects of the Korean Air SKYPASS program is that it will only allow you to book award flights for yourself and direct family members. To book an award ticket for a family member, you will be required to submit the SKYPASS Family Registration Application.

Korean Air’s sole transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy. You’ll transfer at a 3:1 ratio, plus earn 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

Hot Tip: Check out our transfer partner calculator to see how long you can expect transfers to take for any airline partner.

Great Korean Air First Class Redemptions

When booking a flight, remember that Korean Air has peak season and off-season award rates. Make sure to check what season your travel dates fall under so you can get the best deal. The table below shows which dates are in peak season so you can avoid them.

Korean Air Seasonality Chart
OriginDestination2020 Dates2021 Dates
South KoreaSouth Korea1/1
1/23 – 1/28
2/22 – 2/29
4/30 – 5/5
7/25 – 8/22
9/29 – 10/5
10/8 – 10/11
12/25 – 12/27
12/31
1/1 – 1/3
2/10 – 2/15
2/20 – 3/1
5/1 – 5/5
5/15 – 5/19
7/24 – 8/21
9/18 – 9/23
12/31
South Korea, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Africa, OceaniaSouth Korea, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Oceania, Africa, North America, South America1/1
1/22 – 1/28
7/12 – 8/16
9/25 – 10/5
12/20 – 12/31
1/1 – 1/10
2/5 – 2/6
2/10 – 2/14
7/9 – 8/15
9/17 – 9/25
12/29 – 12/31
North America, South AmericaSouth Korea, Asia, Oceania, North America, South America5/14 – 7/10
12/10 – 12/23
5/17 – 6/29
8/1 – 8/14
12/9 – 12/22

Booking Korean Air first class (in the off-season) from the U.S. to South Korea is only 80,000 Korean SKYPASS miles — a very good redemption rate! Unfortunately, if you add a flight on SkyTeam airlines such as Delta, you’ll have to book a SkyTeam award, which requires round-trip award bookings. You’ll therefore have to follow the below award chart:

Korean Air SkyTeam Award Chart (North America Routes)
DepartureArrivalFirst Class Miles Cost (Round-Trip)
North AmericaNorth America45,000
Central America75,000
South America110,000
Europe100,000
Middle East, Africa160,000
Asia 1180,000
Asia 2200,000
Asia 3230,000
Oceania260,000

Korean Air operates out of many U.S. airports, giving you ample opportunity to book these flights. Keep in mind that if you have to connect with SkyTeam partner Delta, you will be required to book a SkyTeam award, which is governed by a different award chart and requires round-trip bookings.

You can also fly to Hong Kong (HKG) for no extra miles. In fact, you can book a stopover* in Seoul (ICN) before continuing onto Hong Kong — that’s 80,000 miles in first class to see 2 amazing cities in Asia.

Korean Air will even allow you to include an open-jaw in your booking… so you could fly to Hong Kong, get to Beijing (PEK) another way, and fly through Seoul on your way back to the U.S. That’s 3 cities thanks to a round-trip booking for 160,000 Korean SKYPASS miles.

You could pick different cities to visit as well — just keep in mind that Korean Air will allow you to book 1 stopover* on one-way bookings and 2 stopovers on round-trip bookings as well as an open jaw.

* Free stopovers will be eliminated for travel from July 1, 2020.

How to Earn Enough Miles for First Class

You can earn Marriott points and transfer those to Korean Air at a rate of 3:1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer, you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 SKYPASS miles.

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When Should You Search for First Class Award Space?

As with any award booking, begin your search as soon as you know when you want to travel. If you can search and book 360 days from departure, do so.

However, even just days before departure, you can sometimes find 3 first class award seats available for booking. The great news is that Korean Air is relatively generous with award availability, particularly on West Coast routes like Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO), and even Seattle (SEA)!

What Makes Korean Air First Class a Great Redemption?

Korean Air 747
The Korean Air experience is a dream for travelers! Image Credit: Markus Schmal via Shutterstock

While Korean Air first class doesn’t have the glamour that you’ll find when flying Emirates first class, they provide a solid product and very nice service.

Great First Class Option for Families

If you’re traveling as a family, it can be tough to find enough premium cabin award space for everyone. This is true for business class and even more so for first class award bookings.

One of the best parts of Korean Air is that it actually releases enough first class award space for several people on some of its flights — you can even see how many first class seats are available when you run a search for flights to Seoul.

Inflight Bar on the Airbus A380

Not many airlines can say they have an inflight bar, but Korean Air is one of them. It is particularly nice on flights from the U.S. that can be as long as 14.5 hours from New York City (JFK).

Even if you get some sleep, you might not want to be in your seat the whole time or just pacing the aisles. On Korean Air’s Airbus A380, you can change things up by visiting the Celestial Bar to mingle with other first class and business class passengers.

Fantastic Service From Cabin Crew

The flight crews on Korean Air flights are particularly good. They’re always happy and willing to help make your flight as enjoyable as possible. If you need something, just ring the call button and they will be right there to help. They’ll even help set up your bed when you’d like to take a nap or just rest your eyes.

Final Thoughts

Korean Air first class has a lot going for it. While the seat and the cabin won’t blow you away the way some other first class products might, you can count on having a very nice experience all the way through.

With its generous first class award availability, it really shines when it comes to access for families. Furthermore, Korean Air operates out of many U.S. airports, making it much easier to find a flight that works for you.

If you’re looking for a great way to fly first class between the U.S. and Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, or China, give Korean Air a look. This might be just the booking you need to send your whole family on a first class adventure.


Frequently asked questions

What is the best way to book Korean Air first class?

Korean SKYPASS is the only airline loyalty program able to book Korean Air first class. Unlike many other first class products, you cannot book Korean Air first class with a partner program.

What credit cards can help me fly Korean first class?

Marriott cards from Chase and American Express earn Marriott points that transfer directly to Korean Air SKYPASS. You’ll earn 1 Korean Air mile for every 3 Marriott points transferred. Plus, if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points in a single transaction, you’ll earn a 5,000-mile bonus on top of the standard 20,000 Korean Air miles.

If you want a co-branded card that earns airline miles directly, U.S. Bank provides co-branded cards that earn Korean SKYPASS miles. You can get really into the weeds with our guide on the best ways to earn lots of Korean Air SKYPASS miles, as well.

What do I get when flying Korean Air first class?

You can expect a nice lie-flat seat with direct aisle access on your long-haul flights from the U.S. The seat is particularly comfortable when set-up as a bed.

Besides this, you’ll get some fantastic pajamas to keep, a fully-loaded amenity kit, and a marvelous food and beverage program.

Lastly, the service in Korean Air first class is friendly and attentive to ensure you have a wonderful flight.

Spencer Howard

About Spencer Howard

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience. Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class! Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal).

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

4 comments

  1. Does Korean Airlines consistently open up more biz or first class seats a few days before departure? How do you suggest a family of 3 go about booking business or first class seats? Right now I don’t find more than one biz class seat open for next March-May for example, for YVR to ICN. Would it be safe to book two economies & one biz and then expect them to open up more business class seats closer in? What about for first class? They only have 2 seats open on most dates I scanned. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Hi Michelle

      The general trend that I’m seeing from my award searches are the you’ll see at max 2 first class seats and 1-9 business class seats. I used the LAX-ICN route as my basis and searched each way, in each class, both close-in (next 4 weeks) and far out (10-11 months). I had no problem finding 2 first class seats and 1-9 business class seats in each direction. Generally, the farther out that you look, the better chance you’ll have for first and business class availability.

      I also searched the YVR-ICN route in both first and business on random dates in Mar/Apr. You’re right. Availability is more limited during these months on this route. My recommendation, assuming you’re unable to find availability in Mar-May, is to position yourself at another Korean Air departure airport. Korean flies from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington. For example, I would search SEA-ICN in May-Mar and see if you can find availability for 3 in business. If you can, which you should be able to, I believe you can add a connecting flight from YVR to that airport at no additional cost. I did this when I flew Delta to Italy in April. Korean added my positioning flight from DCA-JFK and from DTW-DCA at no additional cost. My long-haul flights were from JFK-VCE (Venice) and FCO (Rome)-DTW (Detroit).

      Reply

  2. Hi Michael, I know this is an older post but I found you while searching for more info on Korean Air Awards. I am hoping to redeem for 2 business class award from CLE to SIN with a stop over. Would like to check if the portion from CLE to ATL or JFK or any of their departure cities be included in the award? Or do I have to buy my own way to the their departure gateway? And do I have to call to take advantage of the stopover as I cant see how I can do it online when I tried. Thank you!

    Reply

    • Hi Kay,

      You’ll need to find availability, but including the domestic segments should be allowed. Yes, you need to call Korean Air to book partner awards with any complexity. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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