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I am considering an airline credit card. I currently live in the U.S. and frequently fly domestic, say once a month. I also annually fly to Korea.

  1. If I use The Korean Airlines' mileage program and it's credit card, what are pros and cons?

  2. Can I use the Korean Airlines' mileage for free Delta domestic flights? Both are Sky Team.

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As a general rule, you should join the mileage program for the airline that you want to fly when you redeem your miles. While it is possible to redeem miles on partner airlines, there are several disadvantages:

  1. Availability is typically much more limited when trying redeem miles on partner flights. Also, it's often impossible to check availability on partner airlines using the online site and you will have to have an agent assist you.
  2. Mileage "prices" are not always symmetrical. It is sometimes more expensive to reserve a reward flight on a partner airline than it would be to use miles on the same airline. For example, reserving a Delta flight using Korean miles might be more expensive than booking the same flight using Delta miles.
  3. Frequent flyer programs are usually targeted to the airlines home-market. Mileage credit card offers and other partner promotions are typically targeted to those customers. For example, credit cards that are only issued in Korea, hotel partners only in Korea, etc.
  4. Finally, it may be more complicated to book reward tickets outside of the home-market (no local phone number, website that takes foreign credit cards etc.)

That being said, in some cases when it is possible to earn miles faster on the "other" airline, you could consider using their program. For example, if you have an elite status, use a mileage credit card or the airline is offering other promotions. In this case, you should consider the trade-off of earning miles faster versus the problems mentioned above.

EDIT Just noticed, for example, the Delta offers a special "Low" economy class reward for only 12,500 miles whereas the cheapest reward using Korea miles for a USA domestic flight is 25,000.

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With regards to the edit: The issue is that you're seeing that Delta says they have 12,500 low tickets, but they only allow you to purchase roundtrip reward tickets. Therefore, the fares are the same, 25,000 for a round trip domestic US ticket. This is because the different legs of a ticket may be priced differently and are either 12,500, 20,000, or 30,000 miles. –  Pridkett Apr 18 '12 at 1:21
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From the SkyTeam site:

Redeem miles

As a member of a SkyTeam Member airline’s frequent flyer program you can easily redeem your Miles for an award ticket on any SkyTeam-operated flight worldwide.

The miles required will be set by Korean Airlines, along with any fees/taxes, but I think you'll only be able to book onto Delta flights with spare reward space. You should be able to get more details from the Korean Airlines SkyPass site. They provide general guidance but it looks like you'll need to actually speak to them to get the full details and availability.

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