Old Feb 20, 10, 5:04 am
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: IND
Posts: 1,889
Strategy for KE award flights using DL miles

As of Feb 2010, DL gives no more low tier (i.e. 60k in Y) transpacific award chance to us anymore, now everyone's looking for KE. There are some catches should be known first, and I'd like to share.

US-bound: from ICN to US (and Canada).
ICN-bound: from US/Canada to ICN

Blackout dates: Korean air (and Asiana) has longest blackout dates in the world with different periods for US-bound and ICN-bound. BUT DL somehow blocks KE award whenever the date is in any of KE blackout periods no matter what direction it is. For example, August is not blackout for ICN-bound flights, but DL blocks it anyway because August is blackout for US-bound. That makes in remaining 2010, blackout dates are: 5/22-7/11, 7/16-9/5, 9/17-9/26 (Thanksgiving in Korea), 12/11-1/9/2011, and similar afterwards, for all KE flights. That's already 4.5~5 months out of only 12.

That makes leftovers low season, and should be easy to grab, but still hard. It is good to know which routes are easier than others. Note that I'm interested only on coach class. If you need business class, prepare to spend more time and energy as you may have to call them in a daily basis since you have much lower chance.

KE's own award availability and what DL sees are a lot different, so don't bother trying to search on KE website. You can't search anyway if you don't have enough miles for the trip. And there's no place you can search KE award on-line. We all miss nwa.com therefore.

These are all based on my experience, not a strict one.

1. Awesome availability: mostly over-capacity except LAX. High chance even for the last minute (I mean, 1 month)
- LAX: 3+ daily flights. Amongst 3pm LAX-bound one has the highest chance.
- YYZ: it's been only 1.5 years since KE increased from 2-3 weeklies to daily. KE has trouble filling up the seats, and we get great award chance. Terrible timing for YYZ-bound flight with no DL connection at all as it arrives past 9pm.
- LAS: low load factor, but KE upgrades to 747 from late March anyway. LAS-bound is nonstop but ICN-bound goes via LAX, and the flight becomes full from LAX. Still both ways show generous availability. Not daily, though. We less mind long layover or forced overnight in vegas than elsewhere.

2. Good availability: still higher chance in the last minute
- DFW: watch out that KE still uses old configuration (no personal TV in Y, no flat or lie-flat C) occasionally until early April

3. Medium availability: if book long before, very high chance. Not that much in the last minute

4. Bad availability: if you book 6 months+ before, still high chance
- SFO: used to good, but currently under-capacity with only 4 weeklies 772. Will be better later this year when upgrades to 5 747 a week.

5. Never-even-dream-about-it availability
ATL and JFK: somehow KE opens a lot for its own award program, but very rare item for DL award. If ATL or JFK is decently opened, we could go with less number of connections, but we're out of luck. From August, ATL increases to 10 weekly from 1 daily, we'll see (I doubt, though).

Intra Asia: much better than US-ICN-US chance. Most routes are over-capacity status due to competition. But the sooner, the better, of course.

Call and ask specifically for Korean air XXX-ICN nonstop flight availability and make route accordingly. Otherwise DL agents will give you something like 135k results. Please share your know-hows and experiences that are worth we all know. I hope delta.com shows KE availability as soon as possible.

Good luck with your reservation. I was fed up yesterday and so did DL agents who helped me.
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