Award Ch-ch-changes

I recently blogged about booking business class award flights for my upcoming trip to Japan. A few months after booking, we have to change our travel dates – so I had to do the whole process all over again.


Except we had less flexibility since we had already transferred points from Chase to both United and Korean Air. So we had to keep one leg of the trip on Korean Air, and the other leg on United or another Star Alliance airline.

Our original schedule was to fly SFO – ICN – KIX on Korean Air and fly ANA and Air Canada HND – YVR – SFO on the way back. I was excited to fly two new airlines, but the layover on YVR was not exactly ideal.

After poring over flight schedules and award availability, I changed our flights to be


United 787-9: SFO – KIX



Korean Air

A330-200 NRT – ICN

747-8I: ICN – SFO


Do you think the sparkle is included?

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to try United’s new Polaris class, but it should still be a comfortable ride. We also get to try out both Korean Air’s Prestige Sleeper and Prestige Suite business class, which should be very enjoyable.

Making the Changes

First, I changed our United flight. This turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. I found the award availability online, and placed a FareLock for $15 to place a hold on the seats.

As you can see, I didn’t have enough miles because I had not yet cancelled my first reservation. I could have just cancelled my first reservation online, but it’s cheaper to change an award ticket than to cancel it:

So I called the United customer service line. It should be easy to just change my reservation, right? Wrong! I ended up spending ~40 minutes on the phone with the representative. Eventually she cancelled my original reservation (waived the cancel fee) and then ticketed the FareLock.

Around the same time I placed a FareLock on the United flight, I also called Korean Air to place an award hold on our return flight. After resolving my reservation with United, I logged onto the Korean Air website to see my current reservation and the reservation I put on hold.

It was extremely easy to make the change on Korean Air, since they don’t charge cancel or change fees for award travel. I simply pressed the Cancel Reservation/Refund button in the upper right corner; the miles were instantly redeposited back in my account and I was able to pay for the reservation I had on hold.

Bottom Line

The Korean Air website makes award changes extremely easy, and their lack of change-fee is great for travelers who desire flexibility in their travel plans.

Though United charges change fees for award travel, you might be able to get around paying the fee by calling.

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