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Korean Air Won’t Be Changing Its Frequent Flyer Program After All

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James Larounis

James Larounis

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 30U.S. States Visited: 35

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...

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Korean Air announced some significant changes to its SkyPass program back in December 2019, just a few short months before the world essentially shut down from COVID-19. The changes were far-reaching, from a mileage devaluation to changes in elite status requirements.

Then, the carrier delayed the implementation of these changes by more than three years due to the pandemic — supposedly taking effect on April 1, 2023.

In a recent move that’s great news for award travelers, Korean has just announced it will no longer be pursuing these changes altogether. Here’s what you need to know!

Korean Air No Longer Changing SkyPass Program

For unknown reasons, Korean has suspended the implementation of its new SkyPass program, which was slated to start on April 1, 2023.

Most of these changes were negative toward flyers trying to redeem their miles, so it’s likely there was major pushback that put a stop to these loyalty program changes.

What Were the Changes?

While Korean has announced that there will no longer be changes to the program, it’s worth taking a look at what changes were on the table for SkyPass.

First, Korean was set to go from a region-based award chart to a distance-based award chart, essentially penalizing travelers who redeem their miles for tickets on longer flights. For example, redeeming a ticket from Korea to the U.S. would charge different amounts depending if you were flying to Los Angeles or New York.

Korean has stopped its new SkyPass changes that were scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2023. Image Credit: Korean Air

With the new changes, there was a significant increase to mileage redemptions. While it’s not worth going into every example, there were many flights that increased by more than 30% — including partner awards on SkyTeam airlines.

Furthermore, the airline was set to introduce new requirements to earning elite status, utilizing the following tiers:

  • Silver: 10,000 tier-qualifying miles
  • Gold: 40,000 tier-qualifying miles
  • Platinum: 70,000 tier-qualifying miles
  • Diamond: 100,000 tier-qualifying miles

Earning miles was also going to take a hit, as Korean planned to reduce the number of miles you’d earn on an economy class ticket, but increase the number of miles you’d earn on a premium class ticket.

One slightly positive change was the introduction of the ability to use cash and miles for your ticket, allowing you to reduce the amount of cash you’d need for the total cost. Interestingly, this change will still go into effect, and U.S. dollars will be added as a payment currency in March.

Hot Tip: Korean Air doesn’t partner with a major U.S. bank as a transferable currency, so you’ll need to earn SkyPass miles mostly by flying with the carrier or utilizing other SkyTeam partners.

Final Thoughts

Korean will no longer be implementing its negative changes to SkyPass on April 1, which would have devalued the loyalty program altogether. If you have SkyPass miles or status, you’ll continue to use the terms of the old program. As Korean Air and Asiana are merging in the near future, we’ll keep you updated on any other changes to come.

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.


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Ray Y

February 23, 2023

Just to add to why this change isn’t happening as of know (as a Korean), Korean Air was hit with an unfavorable public opinion / pressure from the government & legislators as more people became aware that they’re making changes to the program in April. The new change would require more miles for direct, long-distance flights which lack alternative carriers for Koreans initiating their trip from Korea. While Korean Air argued that it would cost less miles for short-distance routes, people thought there are already enough low cost carriers and alternatives that cost a lot less than Korean Air for short-distance flights.
+ the government had supported Korean Air during the pandemic with tax-payers money so they also put pressure on the airline to reconsider the plan.

Joshua H.

March 12, 2023

If you were traveling to/ from Honolulu the miles needed would have been less for the new program same with other shorter distance long haul flights. It was the Europe trips and the continental US trips that were going to cost more miles which was no bueno for me. I’m glad they suspended it.

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