Update (Oct. 8, 2018): Korean Air Skypass is no longer a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.
One of the toughest parts of getting to Asia for Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort, and Tokyo Disney Resort is the flight. From the U.S., you're looking at between 10 and 16 hours, possibly with multiple connections. Luckily, we're here to show you how we flew to Asia on Korean Air's "Prestige Class" (their version of business class) using points so that you can too!
Your Options for Using Points to Fly to Asia
We're going to use Shanghai as our example in this post since it was the destination we used this hack to get to, but the strategy could be applied to Hong Kong and Tokyo as well.
Flying round-trip on economy to Shanghai is going to cost a rough minimum of 45,000 points with most options between 60,000 and 70,000. Compare that to flying to Paris, where you're looking at a floor of 32,500 with many good options under 50,000 points.
Why does this matter? Because you're almost certainly going to want to fly business class at least one leg of your flight to Asia. And business class? You're looking at roughly 100,000 to 200,000 points roundtrip.
In light of this, planning a flight to Asia can be a tricky endeavor. Luckily, there are a few straightforward options, and we're here to share the one we used!
Korean Air Business Class Is a Great Option for Getting to Asia in Style
This post covers booking a one-way flight. You options might actually expand flying round-trip, but it will cost more points. Personally, we recommend using points to fly overnight from the U.S. to Asia and booking a cheap economy ticket with cash on the daytime flight home. Plan not to sleep on the economy flight home, and you'll arrive tired and get a good night of sleep.
According to AwardAce, one of our favorite tools, our best option for getting to Shanghai from JFK round-trip would have been ANA for 80,000 points. Unfortunately, ANA doesn't do one-way awards, so that option was off the table. For one-way awards, the best options are: Mileage Plan (50,000), JAL Mileage Bank (50,000), and Skypass (62,500).
When it came to picking one, the choice was easy. Mileage Plan and JAL Mileage Bank, which could be good options if you could find availability, are both only transfer partners of SPG Starpoints. We have a small stash of Starpoints, but we didn't want to spend them unless we had to. Skypass, which we can use to book Korean Air Business Class, on the other hand, is a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and SPG Starpoints. We had a much larger stash of Ultimate Rewards points, mostly due to getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 100,000 point signup bonus. Korean Air business class (or "Prestige Class" as Korean Air calls it) also has good availability from JFK to Shanghai.
Korean Air doesn't fly nonstop from JFK (or anywhere in the US) to Shanghai. It flies through its hub in Seoul. We hate connecting flights, so to avoid any headaches (and because we had the time) we decided to do a week in Seoul on our way to Shanghai.
Booking Korean Air Skypass Flights for Family Members Requires You to Register Them
If you think you might want to fly to Asia on points in the future, you'll need to make sure your family members are registered to your Skypass account. You can only book award flights via Skypass for yourself and registered family members. The registration process itself is straightforward in most cases—just submit the requested proof of relationship and wait a few business days.
First, the family member needs to set up their own Skypass account. Then, to get started registering them as a member, just head to your Korean Air Skypass "Dashboard," click "My Family," and then "Add a Member."Even though Korean's availability tends to be ample, you'll want this step done ahead of time.
Booking Korean Air Skypass Business Class Awards
Booking was simple. We transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points from one of our accounts to the other and then into our Korean Air Skypass account. Skypass transfers from Ultimate Rewards are "instant", meaning they take only a few minutes to show in your online account. The whole process of getting 125,000 points into our Skypass account took less than 15 minutes.
To search for your Korean Air flight, you'll visit KoreanAir.com and click "Redeem Miles." If you're flying round-trip, you can click "SkyTeam Award" after you click "Redeem Miles." This will show you availability including Korean Air's partners. If you're flying one way, you won't be able to book SkyTeam awards via Skypass. One notable perk of the SkyTeam award is that you might find non-stop options. Here's a nonstop, round-trip business class flight in February on China Eastern. It costs 155,000 Skypass Miles and $500 per person.
Flying one-way, we were required to book on Korean Air if we wanted to use Skypass Miles. Since we were planning a stopover on Seoul, we clicked "Multi-City" and input our choice cities (dates are for examples only). The trip wound up costing us 125,000 miles and $450. We put the flight on our Ritz Visa. We would have preferred the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but we're targeting $10,000 on the Ritz Visa this year to maintain gold status with Marriott, Ritz, and Starwood.
Onboard Korean Air's A380 Business Class
This isn't going to be a full flight review, but we wanted to give you some idea of what to expect on this flight.
We were served two multi-course meals: lunch and a late dinner. The seats were plenty spacious and could be converted to lie-flat if you wanted to sleep. We found the service to be excellent.
The highlight of Korean Air's A380, and the reason we chose that particular plane, is its onboard bar and lounge. We spent a few hours hanging out there, working and trying the Absolut cocktails.
Overall our experience was quite excellent. Flying the noon (New York) to 4PM (Seoul) flight is a little tough because it makes sleeping near impossible. But we'd highly recommend Korean Air's Prestige product for a flight to Asia!
Getting the Points to Fly to Asia In Business Class
If you're brand new to travel hacking, we've got a handy series for starters that will explain the basics to you. If any Asian Disney resort is in your plans, we'd suggest you start earning Chase Ultimate Rewards and SPG Starpoints as soon as possible. The best way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points is with a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred. Our referral links for those card are here:
The best way to earn SPG Starpoints is with the co-branded American Express card:
Finally, you can also earn SPG Starpoints with Chase's Marriott cards by converting Marriott points into Starpoints (three Marriott points for one Starpoint).
|Mouse Hacking Tip: Even if you're not considering flying to Asia, or you're not sure, both of these points can be used to book hotels at Walt Disney World. You can read more about booking Disney hotels with Chase Ultimate Rewards points and booking your Disney trip with SPG Starpoints|