Korean Air has announced its plans to renew its frequent flyer programme, dubbed “Skypass”.

The revamp will include a “cash and miles” payment option, new mileage accrual and redemption rates based on airfares and distances flown respectively, as well as a new membership system consisting of four tier levels.

All the new measures will be rolled out in phases from November 2020 to February 2022.

‘Cash and miles’ payment option

Starting November 2020, Korean Air will introduce the option to use a combination of miles and cash or credit card to purchase flight tickets for a test-run period from November 2020 to December 31, 2022.

Members of the airline’s frequent flyer programme will be able to use their accrued mileage to pay for up to 20 per cent of the basic airfare excluding fuel surchanges and taxes through the “cash and miles” payment option, while a minimum of 500 miles will need to be used.

The number of miles required will differ depending on the route, departure date and ticket purchase date. What’s more, the “cash and miles” option can only used for payments in South Korea’s currency won on the airline’s website or mobile app.

Korean Air said it would make improvements afterwards based on its experience during the test-run period.

Currently, Delta, British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines are offering similar “cash and miles” payment options to their respective customers.

New mileage accrual and redemption rates

In April 2021, the airline will implement “a more rational and segmented system” for mileage accrual and redemption based on airfares and distances flown.

The airline said the new mileage accrual rates will be based on airfares, while accrual rates of major international airlines will also be taken into consideration.

Basically, passengers will be able to earn more mileage when they are travelling in first class or prestige class (the airline’s take on business class), while they will only gain the same or less mileage when travelling in economy class, depending on their booking class. Please refer to the table below:

Class Booking class Current accrual rate Future accrual rate
First P 200% 300%
F 165% 250%
Prestige (Business) J 135% 200%
C 125% 175%
D 125% 150%
I/R 125% 125%
Economy Y/B/M/S/H/E 100% 100%
K/L/U 100% 75%
G 80% 50%
Q/N/T 70% 25%

Earlier this year, Korean Air adjusted miles accrual rates for some of its partner airlines, including Delta, Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas and Aeroflot.

At the same time, Korean Air’s new mileage redemption rates will be based on eleven segment zones, including one domestic zone and 10 international zones, which are categorised based on the flight distance.

This new system will replace the current classification of five regions, including 1) Japan, China, Northeast Asia; 2) Southeast Asia; 3) Southwest Asia; 4) North America, Oceania, Europe, Middle East, Africa; and 5) South America.

The table below shows the new international zones and the corresponding routes:

Zone Flight distance (miles) Routes
1 1-499 Incheon Dalian, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Oita, Okayama, Qingdao, Shenyang, Vladivostok, Weihai, Yanji
Busan Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka
Daegu Shenyang
Colombo Male
2 500-599 Incheon Aomori, Asahikawa, Beijing, Hefei, Jinan, Komatsu, Mudanjiang, Nagoya, Niigata, Okinawa, Osaka, Sapporo, Shanghai, Taipei, Tianjin, Tokyo, Tunxi, Wuhan, Zhengzhou
Gimpo Beijing, Osaka, Shanghai, Tokyo
Busan Beijing, Nanjing, Qingdao, Sapporo, Shanghai, Taipei, Tokyo
Jeju Beijing, Osaka, Tokyo
Cheongju Hangzhou
3 1,000-1,499 Incheon Changsha, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Hong Kong, Irkutsk, Jiangjiaje, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Ulaanbaatar, Xiamen, Xian
Jeju Guiyang
4 1,500-1,999 Incheon Cebu, Clark, Da Nang, Hanoi, Kunming, Manila
Busan Da Nang, Guam
5 2,000-2,999 Incheon Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Delhi, Guam, Ho Chi Minh City, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Nha Trang, Palau, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Singapore, Urumqi, Yangon
Busan Bangkok
6 3,000-3,999 Incheon Colombo, Denpasar Bali, Jakarta, Mumbai, Tashkent
Tokyo Honolulu
7 4,000-4,999 Incheon Brisbane, Dubai, Honolulu, Male, Moscow, St. Petersburg
8 5,000-6,499 Incheon Amsterdam, Auckland, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, Nadi, Paris, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Vienna, Zagreb, Zurich
9 6,500-9,999 Incheon Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Toronto, Washington D.C.
10 10,000+ N/A N/A (no destinations at the moment)

Korean Air said some routes will require less mileage while others will call for more according to the new mileage redemption system.

The airline gave some examples: An economy class award ticket for the Incheon-Fukuoka route during off season currently requires 15,000 miles. In the new redemption system, this route will be categorised as a Zone 1 flight and will require only 10,000 miles. On the other hand, the redemption amount to travel from Incheon to Singapore will increase from 20,000 to 22,500 miles.

It added that the criteria for mileage deductions for its partner airlines will also change to correspond to its new system of 10 international zones, and the previously unavailable one-way redemptions, partial refunds and family plan will also be possible.

The table below shows the new mileage redemption rates:

Type Zone Flight distance (miles) Award tickets Seat upgrade
Economy Prestige First
Domestic 5,000 10,000 5,000
International 1 1-500 10,000 20,000 30,000 10,000
2 500-999 12,500 25,000 37,500 12,500
3 1,000-1,499 15,000 30,000 45,000 15,000
4 1,500-1,999 17,500 35,000 52,500 22,500
5 2,000-2,999 22,500 45,000 67,500 30,000
6 3,000-3,999 27,500 55,000 82,500 37,500
7 4,000-4,999 32,500 65,000 97,500 45,000
8 5,000-6,499 40,000 80,000 120,000 55,000
9 6,500-9,999 45,000 90,000 135,000 62,500
10 10,000+ 60,000 120,000 180,000 85,000

New membership system

In February 2022, the airline will introduce a new Skypass elite membership system consisting of four levels: silver, gold, platinum and diamond.

The membership status will be valid for one year, and the tier levels will be granted based on the number of miles accrued during the previous year. Under the new system, members will also be able to earn additional miles whenever they fly.

The table below shows the airline’s new membership system:

Membership Silver Gold Platinum Diamond
Qualifications 10,000 miles or more on Korean Air, or 10 qualifying flights on Korean Air 40,000 miles or more on Korean Air, or 40 qualifying flights on Korean Air 70,000 miles or more on Korean Air, or 70 qualifying flights on Korean Air 100,000 miles or more on Korean Air
Additional miles accrual 20% 40% 60% 80%
Period Valid for one year

The airline added that one Korea domestic segment will be counted as a 0.5 qualifying flight.

New elite members meeting the requirements in 2021 will be eligible as an elite member for one year from February 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023.

Members acquiring a platinum membership based on their annual record will be awarded a voucher for round-trip upgrades, which can be used on international routes in zones 1-6. Diamond members will receive a voucher for round-trip upgrades on all routes, as well as an invitation to appoint a family member as a silver elite member.

Currently, Korean Air’s Skypass membership consists of three levels: Morning Calm, Morning Calm Premium and Million Miler.

According to the airline, to achieve the basic Morning Calm Club membership, one needs to meet one of the following requirements: obtain over 50,000 miles, fly on at least 40 international flights, or earn 50,000 miles on Korean Air and Skypass partner airlines combined (though one needs to accumulate at least 30,000 miles flown on Korean Air).

The new system will lower the entry barrier to 10,000 miles or 10 flights per year. The airline said this will enable more passengers to enjoy the benefits of its Skypass membership.

Morning Calm Premium and Million Miler members, whose status is permanent, will keep their lifetime membership as gold and platinum levels, respectively. Currently, one needs to accumulate at least 500,000 and one million miles on Korean Air and/or on other Skyteam Alliance airlines to achieve the two membership status, respectively.

The airline added that customers meeting current qualifications for Morning Calm membership between February 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023 will be given a silver status for two years; while those meeting current qualifications for Morning Calm Premium and Million Miler membership between February 1, 2022 and December 31, 2024 will be provided gold and platinum status, respectively, for three years.