The Best Ways to Fly to South Korea with Points and Miles

South Korea

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South Korea is a small peninsula that’s full of fantastic culture, delicious street food, and beautiful nature.

South Korea is a dense country, known for K-Pop, Korean barbecue, economic growth, and legendary gamers. If South Korea is not already on your bucket list, be sure to add this amazing country right to the top!

In this guide, we’ll be diving into the best ways to fly to Korea with points and miles. There are 7 airlines that fly nonstop to South Korea from North America and 6 airlines from the U.S.

With so many options, it’s important to focus on the best value for your points.

Since South Korea is such an accessible country from North America, we’ll talk about nonstop flight options only. Let’s get to it!

Most Affordable Airlines to Book Flights to South Korea

South Korea is the second-closest Asian country to America, behind only Japan. Furthermore, South Korea represents an important business hub for many Americans. Luckily, there are many ways to fly to South Korea with points and miles.

Generally speaking, award availability on Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, the two largest airlines headquartered in South Korea, is generous both with far-in-advance and close-in booking.

We’re going to be analyzing other nonstop options too, including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and even Hawaiian Airlines. Award availability on these U.S. airlines is difficult to come by, but is not impossible, especially when booking near your departure date.

All three of the main alliances are represented in this guide: Star Alliance, Oneworld, and SkyTeam. There’s going to be more representation from Star Alliance and SkyTeam, due to the fact that Asiana is a member of Star Alliance and Korean Air is a member of SkyTeam.

Let’s get down to the analysis.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

asiana airlines business class
Enjoy Asiana Airlines Business Class like I did with my fiancee! Image courtesy of Stephen Au.

It’s no secret that ANA is arguably the best frequent flyer program in the world. The plentiful airline partners, stellar redemption rates, and awesome open-jaw/stopover allowances make this our first place winner.

With ANA, you have the option to fly Asiana Airlines or United Airlines to South Korea. While both of these options are valid, you’ll generally want to stick with Asiana due to their superior hard and soft product.

Asiana Airlines flies from a variety of different cities. Their best business class product is known as Smartium, we recommend choosing it if it’s available.

While there are some restrictions with using ANA miles, it may be worth it if you can get the best deals. ANA doesn’t allow one-way redemptions and they generally pass on fuel surcharges. However, their round-trip award prices are phenomenal, particularly in economy and business class.

That being said, ANA employs 2 separate award charts:

  1. Flights on ANA partners
  2. Flights on ANA

In our case, we’re going to be looking primarily at award chart number 1, since Asiana and United are ANA partners. Here’s how much ANA charges for round-trip flights between the U.S. and South Korea on airline partners:

Cabin ClassANA Mileage CostTaxes & Fees
Economy60,000~$317
Business95,000~$317
First180,000~$317

The value of ANA miles is optimized primarily with business class redemptions. A lot of the value in economy is diminished by the cost of taxes and fees.

Hot Tip: Want to get a better idea on taxes and fees? Check out our guide to Airline Fuel Surcharges.

Here are some examples of routes you can take:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip for 95,000 ANA miles + $317 in taxes and fees for Asiana Business Smartium Class
  • New York City (JFK) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip for 95,000 ANA miles + $317 in taxes and fees for Asiana Business Smartium Class
  • San Francisco (SFO) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip for 95,000 ANA miles + $317 in taxes and fees for United Airlines Business Class

Your only nonstop option flying on United Airlines to Korea is the San Francisco (SFO) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) service.

ANA’s website enables for bookings to be completed online. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Go to ANA’s website.
  2. Click ANA Mileage Club on the top-right side of the homepage.
  3. Click International then Award Reservation. Log in with your ANA Mileage Club number and password.
  4. Type in the desired cities, dates of travel, number of passengers, and cabin class. After that information is filled out, click Search.
    • ANA transfer times are not instant. Be sure to account for this when booking awards flights.
  5. Finish your booking by paying for any taxes and fees.

Earning ANA Mileage Plan Miles

ANA is currently transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $2,700+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a HUGE welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 after you spend an additional $15,000, on purchases within the first 3 months.

We get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks. This excludes getting one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork, up to $2,700 in value.

This is the best business card for lounge access as you'll get into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a simple card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year! The card has no annual fee. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

American Express Membership Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner with ANA and is one of the easiest ways to earn a lot of ANA miles. Keep in mind that transfers aren’t instant, as it typically takes 2 – 3 business days for transfers to execute.

Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio. You’ll also receive an additional 5,000 ANA miles for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred, which brings your total up to 25,000 ANA miles. Transfers can take up to 7 business days to fulfill with Marriott Bonvoy.

Bottom Line: There are a ton of ways to use ANA miles for loads of value. The best sweet spot in our opinion is business class redemptions. You can book round-trip business class on any partner for 95,000 ANA miles and ~$300 in taxes and fees. There are 2 transfer partners, and this makes it easy to earn ANA miles.

Emirates Skywards

korean air business class
Korean Air’s Apex Suite in business class is excellent. Image courtesy of KoreanAir.com.

The following award redemption method is one that’s not well known, but extremely effective. If you want to book Korean Air business class and have a ton of flexibility, but you don’t have a lot of Marriott points, utilizing Emirates can be your saving grace.

Korean Air and Emirates are partners, which means that you can use Emirates Skywards miles to book flights on Korean Air.

Although Emirates is known for offering a phenomenal first class product, their frequent flyer program leaves a lot to be desired for booking Emirates flights. If you want to fly to South Korea, it can offer a great redemption opportunity.

Currently, Emirates Skywards charges these prices for flights between North America and South Korea on Korean Air:

Cabin ClassEmirates Mileage CostTaxes & Fees
Economy70,000~$317
Business105,000~$317
FirstN/AN/A

For travel on Korean Air, this is one of the cheapest ways to attain business class awards, as long as you’re open to paying for fuel surcharges. The only “drawback” is that stopovers, open-jaws, and one-way flights aren’t allowed.

Hot Tip: Need some ideas of cities to fly out of with Korean Air? Check out our definitive guide to Korean Air U.S. Routes.

The best way to book this type of award flight is to search availability on Alaska Airlines and call Emirates to confirm the booking:

  1. Visit Alaska Airlines’ booking portal.
  2. Select Round-trip, type in your cities, number of passengers, and departure and return dates. Be sure that Miles only is elected in the Award type and Use miles is checked under Flight type & travelers.
    • If you want to use a flexible search, check the box that says Award calendar.
  3. Korean Air doesn’t make a lot of award flights available to partners like Emirates and Delta. You’ll probably need to play with the dates. When you find do find some availability, write down all the information including flight numbers, dates, class of travel, and the number of passengers.
  4. Call Emirates Skywards at +1-800-777-3999 and feed the flight information to the representative. Complete the award booking by providing your credit card information to pay for taxes and fees and pay the appropriate mileage cost.

Here are some examples of routes you can take:

  • Washington D.C. (IAD) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip for 105,000 Emirates miles and $317 in taxes and fees for Korean Air Apex Suites business class
  • Atlanta (ATL) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip for 70,000 Emirates miles and $317 in taxes and fees for Korean Air economy class

Earning Emirates Skywards Miles

American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy are transfer partners with Emirates Skywards. This is a crucial strength for booking Korean Air awards. Korean Air is transfer partners with only Marriott, so the ability to earn Emirates miles further boosts the strength of this redemption.

American Express Membership Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner. Transfers are typically instant.

Capital One Rewards is a 2:1 transfer partner. Transfers are typically instant.

Marriott Bonvoy is a 3:1 transfer partner. Transfers typically take around 6 days. For every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer to Emirates, you’ll receive 20,000 Emirates miles plus a 5,000-mile bonus.

American Express and Capital One have both been known to offer transfer bonuses, so be sure to hold out for those to make your points go further.

Recommended Capital One Cards (Personal)

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card - The big brother of the VentureOne and it's packed with a lot more benefits and perks. Earn a 50,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening — and 10X miles per $1 spent across thousands of hotels. We recommend this as a no-brainer card if you even semi regularly stay at hotels.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card - This is an excellent card for those looking to earn 10x miles per $1 across thousands of hotels. With a 20,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $200) after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months and no annual fee, it's a strong choice.

Etihad Guest

American Airlines Dreamliner Business Class
AmericanAirlines’s 787 Dreamliner business class is great! Image courtesy of luxurytraveldiary.com.

Etihad Guest is yet another unexpected frequent flyer program for flights to South Korea. And, Etihad isn’t in just any alliance, it partners with American Airlines.

Etihad Guest’s award chart for American Airlines is better than American Airlines’ own award chart. Round-trip economy tickets cost 50,000 miles, while business class tickets cost 100,000 miles. One-way tickets are half the cost.

If 50,000 miles for a one-way business class flight sounds good to you, you’ll be pleased to find out it gets even better. American Airlines operates the 787-9 Dreamliner, which is a great product.

Unfortunately, they only operate one route to Korea:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN)

Award availability is difficult to find, but those who want to fly on American Airlines and save a bundle on points may be willing to put in the extra effort to get this outsized value.

Here’s the process you’ll need to follow to book AA business class using Etihad Guest miles:

  1. Go to British Airways’ website, and log in with your Executive Club ID and Password.
  2. Type in the desired route, dates of travel, and business or economy class.
  3. Once you’ve located availability, write down your flight numbers, dates, and times.
  4. Etihad Guest’s Serbia Call Center is the best for booking flight awards. Call them at +1-877-690-0767. Press 1 for English, and then press 4 (don’t press 2 for “first and business class”). Press 1 to book or change a flight. Then press 1 again to book or change a flight with Etihad Guest miles.
  5. Feed the representatives your flight information.
  6. Ticket the reservation and pay for taxes and fees.

Earning Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad Guest is transfer partners with 4 award currencies: American Express Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Hot Tip: For more ideas to get miles, check out our best ways to earn lots of Etihad Guest miles.

American Express and Citi transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Capital One transfers at a 2:1.5 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000 Etihad Guest mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.

American Express transfers are instant, Citi transfers take up to 7 days, Capital One transfers take up to 36 hours, and Marriott takes around 5 days.

Recommended Citi Cards (Personal)

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air Kosmo Suite 2.0 First Class
Want huge, private suites in first class? Check out Korean Air. Image Courtesy of Korean Air.

Korean Air’s frequent flyer program is called SKYPASS. It used to be a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, but this is no longer the case.

Korean Air SKYPASS is great because they offer one of the only ways to book first class on Korean Air with points and miles. Additionally, one-way flights on Korean Air are bookable, instead of just round-trip, when spending Korean Air miles.

Keep in mind that Korean Air redemptions with SKYPASS are subject to seasonality. Korean Air charges the following mileage prices for one-way flights between the U.S. and South Korea:

Cabin ClassKorean Air Mileage CostTaxes & Fees
Economy (off-peak)35,000~$159.60
Economy (peak)52,500~$159.60
Business (off-peak)62,500~$159.60
Business (peak)92,500~$159.60
First (off-peak)80,000~$159.60
First (peak)120,000~$159.60

Round-trip flights are simply double the mileage and fees. Korean Air first class is an excellent product, and using SKYPASS is the only practical way to book it.

Best of all, you can book Korean Air first class completely online. If you’re open to booking over the phone, you can actually request an award hold of up to 30 days while transferring Marriott points to Korean Air.

Hot Tip: Need help booking? Check out our step-by-step guide on booking Korean Air first class.

Here are some great redemptions you can make:

  • Chicago (ORD) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season for 80,000 Korean Air miles and $159 in taxes and fees for Korean Air first class
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season for 62,500 Korean Air miles and $159 in taxes and fees for Korean Air business class
  • New York City (JFK) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip, during off-peak season for 160,000 Korean Air miles and $317 in taxes and fees for Korean Air first class

Earning Korean Air SKYPASS Miles

The only transfer partner of Korean Air is Marriott Bonvoy. As a result, the best way to earn Korean Air SKYPASS miles is by transferring Marriott points.

Recommended Marriott Cards (Personal)

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - for a limited time, earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Both Chase and American Express offer co-branded Marriott credit cards with huge sign-up bonuses.

Marriott points transfer at a 3:1 ratio. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to Korean Air, you’ll earn another 5,000 bonus miles to bring your total up to 25,000 miles. Transfer times take quite a while, sometimes as long as 7 business days. 

Hot Tip: Need some more inspiration on earning miles? Check out our guide on the best ways to earn lots of Korean Air miles.

Avianca LifeMiles

Asiana Airlines First Class A380
Image courtesy of YouTube / The Filipino Traveler

Avianca LifeMiles is one of the most underrated booking programs. It used to be difficult to accrue any appreciable number of LifeMiles due to the lack of viable transfer partners. However, ever since American Express was introduced as a transfer partner, the situation has greatly improved.

Avianca LifeMiles enable you to book on any Star Alliance airline, which means you can leverage both Asiana Airlines and United Airlines flights. Best of all, they don’t pass on fuel surcharges on award flights. They’ve recently removed their award chart, but they currently use a region-based award chart.

Here’s how much awards cost on one-way flights to South Korea:

Cabin ClassAvianca LifeMiles CostTaxes & Fees
Economy35,000~$30.60
Business75,000~$30.60
First90,000~$30.60

On the surface, this might not seem terribly attractive. However, LifeMiles is known to offer promos of up to 20% off, even in first class! This could bring a one-way first class flight down to 72,000 LifeMiles.

Additionally, there are often transfer bonuses from American Express and Citi. If you’re able to stack these transfer bonuses with the LifeMiles promos, you can secure first class for as little as 54,000 miles. To make things even better, fuel surcharges aren’t charged.

To book award travel on Avianca LifeMiles, follow these directions:

  1. Visit LifeMiles.
  2. Log into your LifeMiles account by entering your LifeMiles number and password.
  3. Change the language as necessary by clicking the flag icon in the top-right corner.
  4. Click Fly on the top banner of the landing page.
  5. Type in your flight information, including airports, number of passengers, and class of booking.
  6. Select your flights and pay with your miles along with any taxes and fees to complete your reservation. A $25 award booking fee is charged for each way. This means round-trip flights are charged a $50 award booking fee.

Here are some great redemptions you can make:

  • Chicago (ORD) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip in business class for 150,000 LifeMiles + $61 in taxes and fees for Asiana Airlines business class {ending as of October 27, 2019}
  • Seattle (SEA) — Seoul-Incheon (ICN) one-way in first class for 90,000 LifeMiles + $61 in taxes and fees for Asiana Airlines first class

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles are very easy to earn. In fact, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. Sometimes, LifeMiles even offers generous transfer bonuses of up to 30%.

You can also transfer from Capital One Rewards at a 2:1.5 ratio. If you have a bunch of Marriott points, you can transfer at a 3:1 ratio. Transferring 60,000 Marriott points gets you a 5,000 LifeMiles bonus.

Besides these transfer partners, you can earn lots of miles from the co-branded Banco Popular Avianca Vuela LifeMiles credit card.

Lastly, LifeMiles routinely offers huge sales of up to 125 to 150% more miles. Buying LifeMiles outright can make for some cheap first and business class redemptions.

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Airlines Polaris Business Class
United Airlines business class to Korea is not true Polaris, but it’s a solid option. Image courtesy of United.com.

United offers some decent opportunities to fly to Korea with points and miles. Specifically, the most attractive redemptions are on United’s own flights, as they’re cheaper than partner flights.

United Airlines features an extremely easy award booking process, no fuel surcharges, and the ability to transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards. These are the main strengths of United MileagePlus.

Here’s how much it would cost to redeem for one-way United flights to South Korea:

Cabin ClassUnited Miles CostTaxes & Fees
Economy35,000$5.60-$81
Business70,000$5.60-$81
FirstN/A$5.60-$81

Here’s how much it would cost to redeem for one-way partner flights to South Korea:

Cabin ClassUnited Miles CostTaxes & Fees
Economy35,000$5.60-$81
Business80,000$5.60-$81
First120,000$5.60-$81

As you can see, using United miles for partner flights is significantly more expensive in business and first class, so you may want to avoid that, unless you have a bunch of United miles sitting around.

We give mention to United because the booking process is extremely easy. The search engine on United.com is excellent and you can take care of your booking completely online.

To do so, follow this process:

  1. Go to United’s website.
  2. Click either One-way or Roundtrip
  3. Check Book with miles
  4. Enter your flight information, which includes booking class, number of travelers, flight dates, and origin and destination cities.
  5. Pick your flights and ticket the reservation.

That it!

Hot Tip: If you’re a United Airlines elite member, you may have access to additional award availability for United flights. 

Earning United Airlines MileagePlus Miles

United Airlines is the first frequent flyer program in this guide that’s a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. Along with Chase, United MileagePlus is transfer partners with Marriott Bonvoy.

Chase transfers at a 1:1 ratio instantly while Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1.1 ratio instantly. Furthermore, you’ll receive a 15,000 Marriott point transfer bonus if 60,000 Marriott points are transferred. This will bring the miles up to 27,500 miles for every 60,000 Marriott points.

Additionally, Chase offers a bunch of co-branded United credit cards to earn lots of United Airlines miles directly.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $450 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Easy earning at 1.5% on all purchases. Just know that you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and comes with a whopping 80,000 sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Also, if you pay for your cell phone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. In addition, get up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services. This is one of the best no annual fee business cards.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Delta A350 Suite
Delta One Suites are available on select routes to Korea. Image courtesy of news.delta.com.

Although Virgin Atlantic isn’t in any airline alliances, it partners with Delta Airlines to offer award travel with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award chart is very attractive. In fact, where Delta charges up to 300,000 miles for a one-way, international business class flight, Virgin Atlantic only charges 60,000 miles.

Additionally, fuel surcharges on Delta are never passed on to Virgin Atlantic.

You can book Delta One Suites on the A350 and 777 with Virgin Atlantic miles. Here are the routes on which Delta One Suites are offered to Korea:

Delta One Suites routes to South Korea
Detroit (DTW) Seoul-Incheon (ICN)
Atlanta (ATL) Seoul-Incheon (ICN)
Minneapolis (MSP) Seoul-Incheon (ICN)

There’s also a Delta One route, which does not offer the newest Delta One Suites offering:

Delta One routes to South Korea
Seattle (SEA) Seoul-Incheon (ICN)

The main difficulty lies not in Virgin Atlantic, but in Delta. Delta doesn’t release much award availability in Delta One Suites. However, Virgin Atlantic does allow for 5-week award searches, which is great. Unfortunately, you can’t search for flights to South Korea on their website, which complicates things.

However, it may be worth doing the extra legwork to locate award availability if you can secure Delta One Suites for 60,000 miles one-way and $10 in taxes and fees.

Here’s how you can book Delta One Suites to Korea with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club:

  1. Visit Delta Airlines.
  2. Enter your travel dates, airports, and number of passengers. Click Advanced Search right under the number of passengers.
  3. Select Show Price in Miles. Choose Best Fares for Delta One if flying in business class or Main Cabin if in economy.
  4. Click on the red return arrow.
  5. Search for flights that are at the lowest level business class award. In this case, it’s currently 100,000 Delta miles. Disregard the Delta miles, but find the flights that cost 100,000 Delta miles each way. Write down the flight numbers, dates, and times.
  6. Call Virgin Atlantic at +1-800-365-9500.
  7. Feed them the flight numbers and other information from the Delta search.
  8. Confirm award availability and complete your award reservation.

Bottom Line: The process to book Delta awards on Virgin Atlantic is normally able to be completed online. However, flights to Korea are currently an exception due to IT issues with Virgin Atlantic. If you do your homework, you can fly in business class for 60,000 miles and $10 in taxes and fees one-way. Best of all, Virgin Atlantic is transfer partners with all flexible currencies.

Earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles

You can earn Virgin Atlantic miles by transferring from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Other Options to Fly to Korea

We analyzed a slew of different booking options for award flights to Korea. However, we didn’t include them due to unfavorable redemption rates, convoluted booking processes, or even a lack of viable transfer partners.

Some of the airlines we analyzed included Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Virgin Australia, Singapore KrisFlyer, Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa Miles & More, Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, JetBlue, and Delta SkyMiles.

Final Thoughts

There are tons of ways to book award travel to South Korea as there are many airlines that operate nonstop flights to Korea due to its geographic location near the U.S.

We went over a variety of booking options for the three major alliances. In addition, we discussed the pros and cons of each method, so now you have the inside scoop on the best ways to fly to South Korea with points and miles.


Featured Image Credit: 

FAQ

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to South Korea?

Pretty much all of the airlines levy a fuel surcharge.

Asiana, United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Korean Air all levy around $158-$160 for one-way flights, regardless of cabin class.

The booking programs that don’t pass on fuel surcharges on flights to Korea are Avianca LifeMiles, United MileagePlus, and Delta SkyMiles.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to South Korea?

ANA is one of the best frequent flyer programs in the world, and for good reason. For 60,000 ANA miles, you can book a round-trip economy ticket on any Star Alliance partner, which includes Asiana Airlines and United Airlines.

Otherwise, United Airlines charges 70,000 miles and Avianca LifeMiles charges 70,000 miles. Delta and American Airlines both charge 70,000 miles for round-trip flights.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book a business class award flight to South Korea?

One of the best deals is using 95,000 ANA miles for round-trip business class. Your options would be either Asiana Airlines or United Airlines.

If you can find sAAver availability on American Airlines, Etihad Guest only charges 50,000 miles each way to fly on AA business class. Etihad Guest is transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and Capital One Rewards, so there are tons of opportunities to earn miles.

To fly on Korean Air business class, you can spend 105,000 Emirates miles for round-trip flights, which is another hidden sweet spot.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book a first class award flight to South Korea?

Both Asiana Airlines and Korean Air charges 80,000 miles for one-way first class. Unfortunately, the lack of transfer partners may be a deal-breaker for these particular redemptions.

Luckily, Avianca LifeMiles only charges 90,000 for one-way first class from the U.S. to Korea. On top of that, you won’t be paying any surcharges.

Other options include 120,000 United miles for Asiana first class one-way and 180,000 ANA miles for round-trip first class.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Bonus Valuation*: $1,150+

Why We Like It: This card is our #1 recommended rewards card (especially for those getting into points and miles) because it’s easy to earn points, they’re extremely valuable and the bonus is worth $1,150 in our valuations!

*Our bonus valuation is calculated internally by experts at Upgraded Points, not the card issuer. See our latest valuations here.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

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.

11 comments

  1. I looked into booking via ANA and Alaska for May 2020 and they both came back with nothing available.

    • Stephen Au · June 27, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Steve,

      Award availability is subject to the inventory of airlines, and this is something that is out of our control. Keep looking and trying! Thanks for reading.

  2. Hi Stephen – is it possible for me to use Chase ultimate rewards to book ANA flights on ANA’s website? The only star alliance travel partner is United, but Mileageplus points can’t be transferred at all. I was wondering how I could take advantage of the Mileageplus points to book directly on ANA for the 95k business flight from North America to Korea.

    • Stephen Au · August 6, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Paul,

      There’s no easy or cost-effective way to do so. Unless you transfer Amex to Marriott and then to United, you won’t be ale to transfer Amex points directly to United.

  3. Hi Stephen,

    This is very helpful as I have quite a bit of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. I’m leaning towards ANA business or Delta One suite to fly to ICN later this year. However, availability is very tough find. One quick question though: when searching for a Delta One flight to Korea (on Delta’s website) from either Detroit, Seattle or Atlanta, do I need to pick the dates that has 100,000 miles (lowest cost) one way? Or is it possible to pick dates with maybe 125,000 miles and still use 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to book that exact flight?

    Thanks in advance,

    Sam

    • Andrew Kunesh · August 8, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Sam, good question!

      We’ve found that Delta’s award pricing and the saver award space (bookable by Virgin Atlantic, etc) it releases to partners do not go hand-in-hand. This means that an expensive Delta SkyMiles award ticket may still be bookable for 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. With this in mind, we recommend calling Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and working with a representative to find dates bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. Hope this helps—thanks!

      • I thought I’d just follow up to provide what happened when I called the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club customer service. Good thing I hadn’t transferred the points in advance because I almost did so that I didn’t lose Amex 30% transfer bonus to flying club miles which ended back in June 30th? or July 31st.

        Virgin Atlantic representative was actually very delight to work with and helpful. However, there were pretty much 0 availability from August to December 2019 from all four airports that fly to ICN (Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis) in delta one suite. It looked like delta really doesn’t allocate any delta one seats to Virgin Atlantic. However, I was able to locate very spotty economy seats (even these weren’t very available) which may have been a great deal for someone looking to fly economy who’s also flexible with travel time.

        Anyhow, I was determined to fly first class or at least business SEP/OCT/NOV time frame! looked at every single method listed on this blog post and came to a conclusion that availability is just not an easy find. You really have to do your due diligence and search way in advance to score business/first class seats. (tip: Asiana’s 777 no longer has first class seats)

        Ended up transferring points to ANA and found Asiana business class going at an awkward date mid November and coming back on late Nov (wanted to get 3 weekends with 2 weeks of vacation, i.e. leave friday, come back sunday two weeks later). Oh and it definitely wasn’t fun looking for availability too because ANA’s website is the worst for finding business availability!

        At this point, I’m tempted to open korean air’s skypass credit card because they dropped chase as their transfer partner. It was nice flying first class back in 2017.

  4. I was just checking Chase Ultimate rewards and I see that you can transfer points to Emirates Skywards now?

    • Stephen Au · August 26, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Ben,

      Yes, Emirates is now a Chase transfer partner. We’re working on updating our entire site to reflect this.

  5. Hi Stephen, I currently have about 200,000 citi points (on prestige) and about 160,000 amex points. I’m trying to send my retired parents from LAX to ICN on Business Class around Feb – Mar – Apr. What do you think would be the best transfer option based on your experience.

    I also currently have over 1 million Avios points, but I can’t find anything for less than 570k avios points and another $3.8k cash. Thanks in advance for your answer!

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