Korean Air Adds Fees For Award & Upgrade Cancellations


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Back in December Korean Air responded to an increase in the number of passengers cancelling fares at the very last minute (sometimes when already on the departing aircraft) by increasing the penalties for cancelling a ticket once in an airport’s departure area.

Now the airline has gone a step further by adding penalties for award ticket and upgrade cancellations which occur within three months of departure.

It seems that Korean Air has been having quite a bit of trouble with star-struck K-Pop fans buying fares for flights on aircraft carrying their favorite artists, using their tickets to get airside (or even to board the aircraft) and grabbing a selfie with these artists and then cancelling their reservations in the minutes leading up to departure.

That’s more than a little nuts.

In response to this Korean announced that, effective from 1 January 2019, there would be an increased cancellation penalty for cancelling tickets after “entering the departure area“.

Here’s a chart of the new no-show/cancellation fees:

The new rule actually goes further than it may seem as, per Korean:

No-Show Penalty will be imposed on passengers who do not cancel their reservations and do not show up for their flights. Also, the penalty will be imposed on passengers who do not board their flights after completion of the check-in process.

So you don’t really actually have to enter a departure area to get hit with the new fees, you just have to cancel after check-in…which is something that can be done 24 hours in advance and from the comfort of your home/hotel.

Still, apparently Korean has decided that this measure wasn’t enough as it has now announced that, from 21 January 2019, new cancellation penalties will also apply to Skypass award bookings and upgrades.

Here’s the table outlining the new fees:

Award/mileage upgrade cancellations outside of the 90-day window before departure will still be free of charge but cancellations within the window will incur a 3,000 mile penalty and no-shows will incur a 10,000 mile penalty going forward.

It’s important to note that the fees kick in for refunds requested from 21 January 2019 and not just for awards/upgrades booked from this date – existing awards and upgrades will also be liable to these fees from 21 January.

No mention has been made of any exemptions so it doesn’t look like elite flyers will be able to avoid these fees.

Bottom Line

I’m not sure if these new fees have anything to do with the K-Pop debacles that led to the cash fare cancellation fees but it’s probably fair to assume that there’s some correlation.

In fairness to Korean the 3,000 miles refund fee isn’t exactly heinous and it can still be far cheaper to cancel a Korean Air award than an American Airlines award ($150 for the first passenger without elite status) or a United MileagePlus award ($50 – $125)….but at least the US legacy carriers make exceptions for select elite tiers.

In a nutshell the news is this: be aware that you have 5 days left to cancel a Korean Air award/upgrade without fee if you’re within 90 days of travel – from 21 January 2019 there will be a price to pay.

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