Skyteam* allow members of one airline’s Frequent Flyer program to use Miles from that airline to upgrade from Economy to Business Class on international flight itineraries of most of the other airlines in the alliance.
I thought I would test this out travelling from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles on Korean Air‘s A380. I wanted to do it in Business Class- without paying Business Fare! I planned to use my hard earned Delta Skymiles to get the upgrade.
The catch is that to be eligible for an upgrade, my ticket would have to be a certain fare code. Fair enough.
(While an airline may have two, three or four “classes” on a plane (First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy), they will have myriad of booking codes. In Economy you may be booked in V Class which is a very discounted fare. Other examples of discount economy include M, N, Q, T. Each fare comes with different penalties, benefits and restrictions. For example, many discount economy fares don’t attract frequent flyer points. I am always very careful to check which fare codes I am booking so I can get my points. For example, have a look at this link for Delta’s codes)
The Skyteam miles upgrade website says that for an upgrade from Economy to Business with Korean, the fare code needs to be Y, an unrestricted economy ticket. Just to double check I contacted Delta Skymiles to make sure I was doing it right. The first agent told me that it could not be done at all. I explained that Skyteam said it could be done and then rang off. Agent two also told me it could not be done but looked it up. Thats when she discovered it coud be done. She then told me that a booking code of U was needed. The third time I got a helpful agent who confirmed it was Y. (Surely it should not be this hard?)
Now for Korean Air. Initially, they offerred me an S Fare, which is a cheaper form of economy ticket. I explained what I wanted – and why. The agent was bemused that someone would offer to pay more for an airline seat but checked with her supervisor. Back she came and offerred me a Y Fare Code that would be upgradeable. Jackpot! This fare cost me an extra $180 over the “S fare”. She also told me there were plenty of seats I could upgrade to in Business Class. Now I was excited.
With the fare booked and paid for, I rang Delta back again. I explained what I wanted. The agent found my booking and confirmed that there were plenty of seats available and that I was indeed on a Y fare. She then contacted her supervisor to organise the upgrade. I sat on hold with her checking in with me every few minutes for 26 minutes. At that point she said “Thank you for your patience. We are almost there. Its looking good” and put me back on hold. I was then disconnected! I called Delta yet again. And of course the next agent knew nothing about Skyteam Upgrades but looked it up and found it. She then transferred me to another agent who knew all about the scheme. She checked my fare, and confirmed (again) that Korean had plenty of business class seats.
The bad news though. It turns out that not all Y fares are created equal. Of the four types of Y Fare, three are eligible for upgrade and one (the type I had been sold) is not eligible. So I don’t get my upgrade. I don’t get business class on the Korean A380. I will just go and sulk in the corner!
Can we please have:
- clearer information on the Skyteam website about exactly what Y Fares are accepted and which are not?
- better training for Delta staff?
- my upgrade?
- my $180 back?
*SkyTeam Member airlines are: Aeroflot, Aeroméxico, Air France, Alitalia, AirEuropa, China, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Tarom