Frequent flyer points aren’t only useful for booking business class flights: they’re also great for upgrading yourself from economy, such as when your employer or client will only purchase the lowest-priced ticket for your journey.
Travelling on Star Alliance member Asiana Airlines is no exception, and you don’t even need to have frequent flyer points in the airline’s Asiana Club program: you can upgrade with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus and United MileagePlus miles, too.
Wherever your points are warehoused, here’s how you can use them to swap your economy ticket for a business class bed on your next Asiana flight.
Asiana Airlines business class upgrades: the basics
There are two key ways to upgrade to Asiana Airlines business class: either by redeeming Asiana Club miles, or by using frequent flyer points or miles from a host of other Star Alliance Frequent Flyer programs.
Included on that roster, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Air New Zealand Airpoints, United MileagePlus and more.
Each program adopts different upgrade rules and rates, but regardless of the program you use, all Asiana business class upgrades are subject to availability – so just because a business class seat is still being sold on the flight doesn’t necessarily mean you can use miles to upgrade.
You’ll also earn frequent flyer points and tier miles/status credits in line with the economy class ticket you originally purchased, not as would usually be awarded in business class, even if you snag a business class upgrade.
Asiana Airlines business class upgrades: using Asiana Club miles
If you often fly with Asiana Airlines, you may have built up a stash of Asiana Club miles to fund your upgrade.
The number of miles needed depends on whether you’re travelling during what the airline classes as the ‘low season’ or the ‘peak season’. The following dates correspond to the peak season in the remainder of 2017 and in 2018, while all other dates outside these windows resemble the low season:
- September 30 to October 8 2017
- December 24 2017 to January 7 2018
- February 14 to February 19 2018
- July 14 to August 19 2018
- September 21 to September 26 2018
- December 22 to December 31 2018
On a return journey between Sydney and Seoul, 80,000 miles are enough for a round-trip business class upgrade during the low season, while a return peak season upgrade sets you back 120,000 miles.
Jetting all the way from Australia to the likes of New York or London with Asiana? Prepare to part with 140,000 Asiana Club miles during the low season and 210,000 miles during the peak season.
Asiana’s top-level Platinum and Diamond Plus frequent flyers are exempted from the higher peak season upgrade rates, always being charged the lower number of miles regardless of when their journey departs: including during those ‘peak’ dates.
Upgrades are possible from most economy fares, except for group fares (G), the lowest-cost tickets (L, X and N) and on journeys which were initially booked using frequent flyer points.
If your travels were booked through another airline but Asiana is operating the flight, you won’t be able to upgrade from U, Q, K, S, V, L, W, T, or G fare types.
These upgrades can be requested via the Asiana Airlines website (after logging in to your Asiana Club membership account), or via the Asiana Airlines mobile app: also after signing in as an Asiana Club member.
Should an upgrade be available on your flight, you’ll be able to confirm this instantly – and if not, there’s no harm in trying again after a few days or weeks have passed, just in case an upgrade becomes available!
Asiana Airlines business class upgrades: using Star Alliance miles
Your second path to business class is to use miles from other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs.
Unlike the Asiana Club scheme, the number of miles needed for these upgrades doesn’t change throughout the year, although it must be said that it’s rare for Asiana to permit Star Alliance frequent flyer upgrades during the ‘peak season’ dates above.
That means you may not be able to upgrade during what’s often the busy travel periods like school holidays and Chinese New Year, even if you’d be willing to use more miles than normal for that upgrade.
When upgrades are allowed, here’s how many miles you’d burn on a one-way business class upgrade between Sydney and Seoul, the cut-off times for securing that upgrade and the fare types you can upgrade from with each frequent flyer program:
- Air New Zealand Airpoints: $1,660 Airpoints Dollars from Y and B fares only, when upgrading at least 7 days before departure
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 65,000 KrisFlyer miles from Y and B fares only, up to 24 hours before departure
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus: 60,000 ROP miles from Y and B fares only, up to 24 hours before departure
- United MileagePlus: 30,000 miles from Y and B fares only (now and following United’s November changes), up to 24 hours before departure
Note that Y and B economy fares tend to be the most expensive, that Star Alliance upgrades aren’t possible on any lower-priced Asiana economy tickets, and that the number of miles needed for these upgrades can be comparable to booking a business class flight outright on the same route.
It makes this move one more for business travellers flying on flexible, company-funded tickets rather than leisure travellers taking a family holiday, who could use a similar number of miles to book business class reward flights from the beginning.
Provided you’re still keen for your business class upgrade, you can secure it by contacting your frequent flyer program – not Asiana Airlines – to request a ‘Star Alliance upgrade using miles’.
Have your Asiana Airlines booking information handy, including your confirmation number and flight details, but remember that as mileage-based upgrades are subject to availability, your request may or may not be successful.
If being able to upgrade is important to you, we’d suggest calling your frequent flyer program before booking your paid ticket to confirm whether an upgrade is available on your chosen flight.
Need more Asiana Club or Star Alliance frequent flyer miles?
Asiana Airlines doesn’t offer paid business class upgrades – unless you’re willing to fork out for the full fare difference between economy and business class – so if you don’t have enough miles for your upgrade, you might be able to transfer some across from your Australian credit card.
For instance, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Air New Zealand Airpoints are attached to a number of Australian credit card rewards programs including AMEX Membership Rewards, among others, which means you can earn points for your upgrade through cards like American Express Explorer and the American Express Platinum Charge Card.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus is also an American Express transfer partner, although Asiana’s own Asiana Club lacks any Aussie credit card ties.
The only way to earn Asiana Club miles on your plastic would be to first convert your eligible credit card points into Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, and then from Starpoints into Asiana Club miles.
For instance, the American Express Explorer credit card provides two Membership Rewards Gateway points per dollar spent on most purchases, which can be converted into Starpoints on a 2:1 basis (giving one Starpoint per dollar spent).
From there, Starpoints can be converted into Asiana Club miles on a 1:1 rate, plus a 25% bonus every time you transfer 20,000 Starpoints – essentially giving you 1.25 Asiana miles per 1 Starpoint, or 1.25 Asiana Club miles per dollar spent on your AMEX Explorer card.
Even though you could be earning more miles in number when converting you credit card points across to other programs (like KrisFlyer), the lower number of miles needed for your upgrade through Asiana Club, plus the larger number of upgradeable airfares, could make this move a go-to option for regular Asiana flyers.