A few years ago, Korean Air has announced that there will be major changes to its frequent flyer program – SKYPASS. Well, the public did not welcome these new changes and as the issue became quite big, the South Korean government put pressure on Korean Air to suspend the changes.
Basis Of Korean Air Skypass Changes
In 2019, Korean Air’s Skypass announced that it will be overhauling the existing zone-based mileage system to a distance-based and also devaluate some of the award prices. The program changes were scheduled to take effect on April 2021 however due to the pandemic, the change was delayed for over two years. And finally, it was finalized to take effect on April 1, 2023.
With the announcement of the changes, loyal Skypass customers started to criticize the devaluation for over 4 years and there were signs of movement for customers to leave the program. This is because Korean Air currently offers lifetime status for those who reach 500,000 miles when flying Korean Air or Skyteam partners. (This excludes credit card spending).
As most of the Skypass frequent flyers target lifetime status, the new changes will scrap the lifetime status and make fury to those who spend thousands of dollars to reach 500,000 miles. In the end, the airline surrendered and practically canceled the changes as the government put pressure on it following consumer complaints.
Other changes coming were the devaluation of award tickets. While the airline decreased the award mileage cost for short-haul routes, the mileage needed for award tickets for long-haul haul flights increased by a whopping 70%.
- For example, a round-trip award ticket to US east coast on first class increased from 160,000 miles to 270,000 miles. That’s a 68.8% increase.
- An award upgrade from prestige class to first to US east coast increased from 80,000 miles to 125,000 miles. Which is a 56.3% increase.
What Made Korean Suspend The New Skypass Changes?
Earlier, Korean Air announced that it would implement a reorganization of the mileage system, which divides the mileage deduction criteria, by region, into 10 different sections by distance.
However, as a result of this, the mileage required for long-distance flights such as the US and award upgrades increased significantly compared to the previous one, and hence, there were widespread complaints among consumers that it was not a reorganization but a devaluation.
As the new date approached and the criticism did not seem to fade away, South Korea’s Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) minister, equivalent of US DOT, Mr. Won Hee-ryong and the ruling party stepped up to put a brake on Korean Air’s program devaluation.
Minister Won has posted a Facebook post that says:
“The Korean Air mileage reform plan aims to drastically reduce the value of mileage that customers have worked hard to accumulate. Even with all-time performance, customers are left behind. As the Minister of State, it is difficult to agree to the new plan.”
With the minister showing how unhappy he is, South Korea’s ruling party also made a statement:
“It is making fun of consumers.”
Korean Air Suspends Skypass Changes Indefinitely
In response to public backlash, Korean Air took a step back this week, issuing a notice:
“We are carefully considering overall improvement measures by collecting opinions from customers currently raised about mileage, and will review of the mileage reform plan on the February 22, 2023.
The industry expects that Korean Air will maintain the framework of the existing Skypass change plan, which will subdivide mileage deduction standards by mileage, plus an adjustment plan to lower the devaluation rates.
As of now, Korean Air has removed the online page where there were details of the now-suspended program changes.
Korean Air has indefinitely suspended the implementation of the new Skypass program after facing criticism from both the public and the government. This is very great news for those who were loyal to Korean Air as they will have a chance to redeem miles at the normal rate and also reach the Morning Calm Premium (Lifetime SkyTeam Elite Plus) status without a rush.
It is also rumored that Korean Air is waiting for the Aisana merger to complete so the airline can make changes to the program.