Miles can be used for more than free flights

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Miles can be used for more than free flights

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Kim Myun-soo, 47, has 360,000 miles in Asiana Airlines’ frequent flyer program. He wasn’t able to book one flight using his points this year because Asiana reserves such few seats for frequent flyer awards.

Both Asiana and Korean Air limit the number of seats for frequent flyer awards to around 5 percent of the total on each flight, according to industry sources.

Customer complaints are rising on that issue and also the expiring of frequent flyer miles. Points used to last forever. But in 2008, Korea’s two full service carriers changed the rules to allow points to expire after 10 years.

The new rule was implemented on July 1, 2008, by Korean Air and October 1, 2008, by Asiana Airlines.

In response to growing complaints, Korea’s two largest air carriers are adding ways to use up points beyond getting free tickets or upgrading paid-for tickets.

Asiana announced Monday that its frequent flyers can use mileage to purchase all-day passes for Everland amusement park in Yongin, Gyeonggi, starting in November. Asiana and Everland are currently setting up computer systems to make that work.

The airline said an all-day pass will cost 5,400 points in the off-season - from November through February - and 6,000 points in other months. Only weekday adult tickets can be bought with points. Tickets for children or for weekends cannot be.

Until Oct. 10, Asiana frequent flyers can get 600,000 won discounts on Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note9, S9 and S9+ smartphones using 50,000 mileage points. The deal is being offered to the first 5,000 people who apply, and they must be LG U+ customers.

The airline teamed up with CGV so frequent flyers can purchase movie tickets for 1,300 points during the week and 1,400 points on weekends. The company also offers weekly deals in partnership with different coffee shop chains.

Korean Air is focused on expanding mileage usage with its own affiliates like Hanjin Travel and KAL Hotel.

Hanjin Travel is offering frequent flyer tour packages. For instance, a six-day package to Sydney, including flights and accommodation, will cost around 187,500 points. Fuel surcharges and airport taxes need to be paid separately in cash. There are cheaper tour programs to domestic destinations like Jeju Island and Southeast Asian countries.

One night stay at the KAL Hotel in Jeju costs 15,000 points on weekdays.

The airline also offers discount on additional charges incurred during flights. For instance, carrying pets on international flights can be done for 10,000 to 20,000 points as long as the pet and the cage weigh less than 32 kilograms (70.5 pounds).

“We are trying to offer a wider range of options for customers so they don’t waste their remaining mileage,” a spokesperson for Korean Air said.

Industry insiders advise frequent flyers to log into their membership accounts to check expiration dates for points.


BY KIM JEE-HEE, HAM JONG-SUN [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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