November 28, 2017

Flight Review: South African Airways SA204 Business Class A340 New York JFK to Johannesburg

South African Airways: SA204 Airbus 340
Flight Route: JFK - Johannesburg
Flight Time: 10:40 A.M - 8:20 A.M (14+ hours)
Seat: 6D

South African Airways Business Class Seat Turns Into Flat Bed
Booking
I had three options to get from USA to South Africa using airline miles. My first option was Cathay Pacific airline. I could use 70k Alaska Airlines miles to fly from United States to Hong Kong then to Johannesburg in Cathay Pacific's First Class. But the distance is too far having to stop in Asia continent first. Cathay Pacific First Class’s hard product was tempting though. My second option was United but United requires a lot of miles to fly Business class from JFK to Johannesburg with South African Airways. Then I realized that United, South African Airways and Air Canada’s Aeroplan miles program are all members of Star Alliance. This means that if United could see South African Airways’s award flights, so could Aeroplan. While checking with Aeroplan, sure enough the exact same flight to South Africa was available. Aeroplan requires 75k miles to book Star Alliance's partnered flight + about $20.90 in tax. $21 for a 14+ hours flights, yes please! Thankfully Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards Program, so I could transfer Amex points to Aeroplan at 1:1 ratio.

Boarding
I found the boarding process is little bit strange. They allowed both Economy Class that sits at row above 60 and Business Class boarded at the same time. It was a little bit of a mess. The Business Class cabin is up front and is separated from the Economy Class so the only passengers you will see in the Business Class cabin are Business Class passengers.

Service
I also found service of crews on South African Airways a little bit disappointing. The service was just okay. Before our flight took off, they offered sparkling wine or orange juice. Flight attendants did not smile very often nor did they introduce themselves to Business Class passengers like other airlines that I have flown with in the past. Perhaps they were just focusing on professionalism and less chit-chat. The overall service is just okay, but when our flight touched down in Johannesburg, the head of the flight attendants came out and shook each passenger's hand and thanked us for flying with South African Airways.

Seats
The seats are 2-2-2 configuration. I specifically picked one of the seats in the middle that each side has aisle access, so no one climbs on top of the other during flight time. Each seat has a shape like a pod with plenty of leg room. However, it’s very lack of privacy. Bags can be stored in the spacious overhead bin.

South African Airways Business Class Seats

A Lot of Leg Room
The seat has seat control in between seats that turns the seat into a cradle or flat bed. Pillow and pad are provided. You will have to prepare the bed on your own. Overall, I love the idea of having the seat pad to make the bed because that provides more comfort for a good sleep or just lay down to watch TV. Privacy wise, I’m not a fan.

Seat Controls for Cradle or Flat Bed
Drinks & Food
I did not try any wines. I only ordered the Smirnoff Vodka and mixed it with coke. After the flight took off for a little bit, the flight attendant came and handed the warm towels. Then they gave out the menu for the flight that on the back there’s a selection of drinks.

As far as food menu goes, they served both lunch and breakfast. Lunch includes appetizer, main course and dessert. While the flight attendants served drinks, they also gave this little snacks that have cucumber with chicken and small vegetables, mushroom with couscous, and one good size shrimp. Sorry it’s hard to explain what it is, but take a look at the picture.

Interesting Snacks and Smirnoff Vodka + Coke
For appetizer I ordered the Smoke Salmon Rosette. I ordered Sous-Vide Beef Rib for lunch and I skipped the cheese plate as I was full already, but instead I chose to have one cheesecake as dessert. They also provide 3 kinds of bread and I chose the garlic bread. As a side note, I remember other airlines serve bread during entire meal time, but my experience with South African Airways was different. They served bread only once during the appetizer time. So if you like bread, be sure to get more while you can. For breakfast, I picked Yogurt, Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata with a glass of Orange Juice.

Appetizer

Main Course

Dessert
Breakfast
If I have to rank the South African Airways's food for Business Class, I'd give it 3 out of 5 with 5 being the best. Here are the menu:



Amenities
In each seat, a small pouch is provided. Inside the pouch there are socks, eye mask, lotion, comb, toothbrush along with too paste and floss. Headphone is not Bose and is not noise cancelling type.


TV monitor is really tiny and accessible only from the seat. The resolution is also pretty low so I did not watch any movies or shows because the image quality was really poor. There’s no USB plugin for charging mobile devices and no WiFi on-board.

Lousy TV Monitor
Bathroom for Business Class passengers is mediocre, but they have disposable hand towels which are probably not cheap.


Overall Impression
Although the South African Airways's 2-2-2 seats configuration with less privacy did not impress me much, the idea of having a seat pad to use as a cushion for sleeping or laying down when the seat turns into a flat bed is something that I liked. Flight crews appear to be a little bit out of reach but it is definitely not a major thing. Food and beverages are alright compared to competitors. Pretty basic amenities items but the TV monitor though is just too small with really bad resolution. All in all, It is still very nice to be able to travel 14+ hours from New York to South Africa in Business Class.

South African Airways Business Class Cabin

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November 26, 2017

Lounge Review: SWISS (LX) Lounge at New York JFK Terminal 4

If you are flying premium class with Star Alliance for an International trip, you are most likely going to be invited to enjoy the SWISS Lounge at JFK Terminal 4. Before proceeding with my personal review and experience, I want to say that this is not my favorite lounge and by far one of the lounges that I don't think it should be for premium class passengers.

Getting In
I was flying Business Class with South African Airways from JFK to Johannsburg. South African Airways is a member of Start Alliance and thus I was told to use the SWISS Lounge when checked in to get my boarding pass at the terminal 4.

Food & Drinks
I was flying out in the morning so it was breakfast time. But the food buffet style at the SWISS Lounge was very disappointing. All they had just fruits, yogurt, cereal, milk, bagels, bread, cold waffles, pastry, etc. with a toaster on the side. That's pretty much it. The bar is self-serving with coffee and there's a mini fridge that contains soda, juices, etc. That's about it. So if you are looking for a full hot breakfast, don't count on getting it at SWISS Lounge.

Not My Favorite Breakfast Items
Self-serving Beverages
Seats & Rooms
There are plenty comfortable seats in the SWISS Lounge that I found good. They also have bar stools for those that want to spot planes on the runway. There is a section that has two computers for guests to use. The bathroom is a real bathroom, but no shower and it is small.


The single thing I love about SWISS Lounge is the Quiet Room. In fact, I spend most of my time in there. The room has recliner chairs with a huge glass window that overlooks airplanes. I literally could see South African Airways aircraft right in front of me from there. If you are looking to take a nap or re-charge, this is the room to be at.
Quiet Room With Recliner Chairs
I could see my South African Airways aircraft from the Quiet Room
Conclusion
I found the SWISS (LX) Lounge at JFK Terminal 4 for Star Alliance's Business Class passengers to be very disappointing. The breakfast items are not that great and very limited. If you have Priority Pass membership, you better off walk to the next door Wingtips lounge as the breakfast there contain more variety such as eggs, sausage, fruits, and soup. For relaxing and waiting on your flight, SWISS Lounge is good for that as there are several seats available and it's not too crowded. Make sure to check out the Quite Room and I am sure you will enjoy it there.

SWISS Lounge's Comfortable Seats

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November 22, 2017

Lounge Review: American Express Centurion Lounge Seattle Airport

American Express Centurion Lounge is one of the best lounges out there that I have visited frequently. The quality of food and open bar are what I value the most. As an American Express Business Platinum credit card holder, I am able to get into the lounge and can take up to two guests with me into the lounge for free.


Location & Hours
The American Express Centurion Lounge in SEA airport is located after security checkpoint and in B terminal, opposite of gate B3. Hours of operation is from 5 A.M to 10 P.M.

I am not going to say much about the seats in this lounge. There are several of them and all are comfortable. What I think people find useful would be how is the food and whether there's a bar for cocktails and beers.



Food & Drinks
The food at the American Express Centurion Lounge in SEA airport is pretty good. They always have two types of soups that change frequently. Food items typically are salad, sandwiches, chips & salsa and some desserts such as lemon bars, danish pastry, etc. in a buffet style. If I have to rank the quality of the food, I'd give it 4/5. By the food area, there are beverages from ice tea to sodas and coffee.

Buffet Style Food Bar
In another area of the lounge, there's an open bar. A bartender is there and ready o serve alcoholic drinks to those that are over 21 years old. They also have cocktails menu if you are not sure what you want, the bartender will be happy to make suggestion.

Open Bar With Complimentary Adult Drinks
Bathroom & Shower
The only complain I have about the American Express Centurion Lounge in SEA airport is the bathroom. they only have two upfront and one at the back by the shower room. Very often time, bathrooms are always occupied. During busy lounge time, you are better off go outside the lounge and use the nearby public restroom instead. The bathroom inside the lounge is very nice and more private though. Shower room is also available but you need to let the lounge attendant know before entering.

Overall Impression
I personally enjoy each of my visits to the American Express Centurion Lounge in SEA airport. I find the lounge is one of the best lounges in SEA airport. The qualify of food is excellent and the access to the open bar with complimentary drinks are very valuable for me as an American Express Business Platinum credit card member. The Wi-Fi in the lounge is also pretty fast along with comfortable seats and modern decor. Overall, I'd recommend this lounge if you can enter it.



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November 21, 2017

Resort Review: Aeolos Studios and Suites in Imerovigli Santorini

Sanotrini is a heaven! While we enjoyed the opportunity to get to the Santorini island, we also wanted to splurge ourselves while we stayed there to get the most memorable experience inside one of those Cyclades architectural places to bring home with us. Throughout my research on Where To Stay In Santorin Greece, we decided to stay at Aeolos Studios and Suites in Imerovigli.

Paradise Santorini at Aeolos Studios and Suites
Introduction
First, Santorini is not cheap. If you are looking for places that provide incredible view of the Aegean Sea, Caldera (volcano) and Sunset view, you will have to be willing to pay a little bit extra. If you can afford it, I personally think it's really worth it. You will go back home with a wonderful memory of Santorini.

You Really Pay For The View In Santorini
Neighbors
Booking & Price
The reason we picked Aeolos Studios and Suites in Imerovigli because we found the price reasonable with breakfast and balcony with great view. We stayed there for a total of 3 nights and I booked it through Orbitz. I have some Orbucks to use to help reducing the price of the night stays and plus this property accepts the Orbitz 15% off discount code that Orbitz has going on from time to time. Check out Current Travel Promotions for that 15% off code if it's available under "Travel Sites" section. That 15% alone saved us $120. With my accrued Orbucks, it knocked down another $100. If you need help finding the 15% off code, let me know.

Money Saving Tip: If you decide to stay with Aeolos Studio and Suites, it is available to book through third party travel sites such as Orbitz, Hotels.com, Expedia, etc. These sites are available on cash-back shopping portal. You will get cash back and earn their rewards program instead of booking directly with those two hotels. Also, don't forget to use a credit card that earns the best points with travel. Orbitz often time also has 15% off discount code that you can use. For more information:

Check-In
We arrived in Santorini via the Blue Star Ferry. I pre-arranged our transportation from the Santorini port to Aeolos Studios and Suites with Hoppa. You can check out my review on this transportation optioin here. It's worth mentioning that the staff at Aeolos Studios and Suites can arrange transportation for guests as well if you contact them in advanced. We had them arrange our transportation to the airport when we left Santorini.

Santorini's hotels and resorts are located on the cliff side. In order to get to each property, you have to go through the main entrance and onto the pedestrian path way and go down the steps to get to the property. Our van stopped by the main entrance and yelled out "Aeolos!" A guy in the white uniform came and greeted us. He took our bags and guided us through the pedestrian walkway and down to our unit. It was a short walk, but the view was breathtaking on the way down. We looked at each other and were like "wow!" The friendly guy talked and showed us information about the property, how to contact staff, breakfast time, things to do etc. We tipped him and off he went. So that's how we got checked in.


Steps To Get Down To The Oasis
Junior Suite "Cave"
Our room type is a Junior Suite, Jetted Tub, Sea View (Meltemi), which appears to be inside a "cave" so that was quite interesting. The room comes with a complimentary wine on the dinning table in the living room. Wifi is also complimentary and it worked better in the balcony area.

The furniture were mediocre with traditional decor. Bedroom has a wardrobe. Beds and pillows are comfortable enough for a good night sleep. Inside the living room, there's a bathroom with toilet and the shower is actually out in the living room in the Jacuzzi tub. Overall, we were pleased with our "cave." The balcony though is stunning. There are recliner chairs for sunbathing or relaxing. On the right hand side, there's another water tub, but the water is cold and we were there in May, so the weather was cool making it not fun to soak in that tub. We did leave them a feedback to have that water cold/warm depending on the season.

The view from the balcony was incredible and we felt like we were in paradise oasis indeed! Our balcony is a great place to enjoy sunset every night as well. We spend most of our time on the balcony than in the suite, no surprise.

Bedroom
The "Cave" Oasis
Jacuzzi Tub (a.k.a Shower Tub)
The Balcony
Sunset View From Balcony

Breakfast With Amazing View
As mentioned, our room rate comes with breakfast every morning. If you have been used to breakfast buffet that you go down to the lobby to eat along with others, then you will find breakfast in Santorini quite special and definitely different. When we were ready for breakfast, all we had to do is to call the front desk using the phone inside our suite. We could pick either to eat inside the living room where the dining table is or took the dining table out on the balcony. We chose balcony the entire time because the view is just amazing to pass. The staff brought items and placed them on the table ready for us. We felt super VIP to say the least.

Breakfast Can't Get Better Than This!
Simple Breakfast But Taste Delicious
Video is worth more than thousand words. So to sum this all up, check out my video below that shows our suite and the view off our balcony.




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November 18, 2017

Where To Stay In Santorini Greece

If you are a first time visitor to Santorini in Greece, you are mostly likely going to want to stay in Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, or Oia. Each area provides different tourism feel and depends on the type of budget you are willing to save or splurge. Most people that goes to Santorini are either on honeymoon or special occasion such as wedding. Santorini is truly a paradise with incredibly beautiful caldera (volcano) view and Cyclades (white caves) architecture. Regardless what you are there for whether solo or with significant other, here are my thoughts on each town on Santorni for first time visitors.
Beautiful Aegean Sea and Caldera View
Fira
This is the most touristy area among all. If you are into partying and crowds, this is the location to be. It is the capital of Santorini and therefore everything you possibly need can be found here such as attractions, restaurants, clubs, bars, hospitals, etc. It is also the closest town to the Santorini port and a main public transportation's hub on the island. Accommodations are a lot cheaper than the rest. If you are watching your budget, Fira will do.

Cable Car Ride in Fira
Firostefani
Firostefani is the second town after Fira. It's within walking distance about 10-15 minutes walk, but it's a lot quieter than Fira. Given that it is not far from all the actions in Fira yet provides tranquility, for these two reasons visitors prefer Firostefani over Fira. Accommodations can be little bit more expensive than Fira but not too expensive compared to Imerovigli and Oia. If you want to splurge, you sure can find expensive overlooking Aegean sea's view resort there as well.

Amazing Cyclades View Walking From Firostenfai to Fira
Imerovigli
We personally stayed at this location. Personally, I feel that Imerovigli's location is wonderful because it's strategically located in the middle of both busy Fira town and sunset town of Oia. It's the best of both worlds. The view of the caldera and sunset there is also breathtaking. It is not within walking distance by any means to Oia, but it's doable to stroll from Imerovigli to Fira with amazing view of the caldera volcano and white Cyclades buildings on the way. If you are into a long hiking, you can hike from Imerovigli to Oia. For those that are not fan of hiking, there's a bus stop in Imerovigli that can take you to either Fira's direction or Oia's direction. Oia is just one stop away. Imerovigli location is far away enough from all the noise and chaos. You mostly like find honeymooners and love birds there. Accommodations tend to be on the expensive side if you are looking for places to stay that has the view.

Incredible Breakfast With An Obstructed View In Imerovigli
Oia
Oia is known as the best place to watch sunset without any obstructed views. Because of that, it's known as the most romantic location on the Santorni island. Several weddings are taken place over there. It's at the end of the island and thus it's really far from Fira. Oia has its own village that provides visitors with entertainment from shopping to restaurants. Personally, I think too many people are staying in Oia, making the town become almost as touristy as Fira nowadays. Accommodations in Oia are also more expensive than the rest.

Beautiful Cyclades View of Oia
Memorable Mention: Karmari
Santorini does have beaches, but it's on the other side of the island. All the towns that are mentioned above are located on the cliff, so you will need to hike down to get close to the water. It is pretty interesting that once you drive away from Fira towards the other side of the island, you hardly see any Cyclades architecture anymore. If you are a beach lover, you will appreciate Karmari. However, don't expect white sandy beach. Due to the volcano, the beach is actually black. Karmari town though is pretty neat beach town. You will find several beachfront restaurants to eat and drink. There are several beach umbrellas available fro those that just want to relax.

Relaxing Beach in Karmari
Bet You Didn't Know: The fancy Cyclades (white) resorts you see on Santorini used to be donkey caves :-)

The Cave
Conclusion
Based on my traveling style, Firostefani and Imerovigli are definitely the top choices that I would stay at. My experience with Imerovigli was awesome. If I ever go back, I might stay there again or go to Firostefani. Fira might be more suitable to those that are traveling alone and want to save money. Whereas Oia has become too touristy as more and more people start looking to stay up there. For beach lovers and those that want to be close to the water, Karmari will do.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Add Free Hulu Service With Sprint

If you are existing or new Sprint customer with Sprint Unlimited Freedom Plan, you can add Hulu’s Limited Commercials service to your plan for FREE. This is worth $7.99/month. I'm all about money savings when it comes to taking advantages of free services. Hulu provides on-demand TV streaming service to thousands of TV shows, movies, and Hulu’s original programming making it a perfect way to pass time when I travel. So kudos to Sprint for introducing this to their new and existing customers.

I'll show you the easy step-by-step instruction below to add Hulu to your Sprint account so that you can start watching your favorite TV shows free of charge:

Step 1. Go to Sprint.com and sign into your account.
Step 2. Navigate to Sprint.com/hulu
Step 3. Click Get it now button.
Step 4. Select the mobile phone number you want to add Hulu service to.
Step 5. Scroll down until you see the Services you can add, check the "Hulu" and click Continue
Add Hulu Services to Sprint Account
Step 6. Confirm your selection.
Step 7. You should receive a text that says "You're so close to streaming the TV you love. Finish your Hulu registration at https://www.hulu.com/sprint"
  • Please note that you cannot go to that site on Wi-Fi you must be using cell data. Otherwise, you will receive an error saying "Creating a Hulu account through Sprint can only be done on a mobile phone not connected to Wi-Fi. Please visit Hulu.com/Sprint on your mobile phone." If your mobile phone is connected to Wi-Fi, Hulu will instruct you to turn it off. 
Step 8. Once you are on the https://www.hulu.com/sprint site, simply follow the instruction to create an account with Hulu. 
  • Existing subscribers billed through Hulu? All you need to do on that page is to input your existing account's email address and Hulu will instruct you to login instead of sign up for a new account. Once you are logged in then you can activate the Hulu service with Sprint. You will no longer be charged by Hulu because Hulu will bill it to Sprint and Sprint pays for the service on behalf of you.
  • Existing subscribers billed through iTunes? You must cancel subscription through iTunes first then continue using the service until the end date of the subscription. That's when you will be able to activate the Hulu with Sprint. 
Fore more information, you can also read Sprint's FAQs section here.

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November 17, 2017

How To Book Award Flights To Hawaii With Korean Air SkyPass

Introduction
One of the best uses of Korean Air miles is the ability to redeem flights from the mainland United States to Hawaii. Korean Air is a member of SkyTeam and so is Delta Airlines. Therefore, you can use Korean Air miles to redeem Delta flights to Hawaii for a round-trip ticket that requires only 25,000 Korean Air miles in Economy or 45,000 Korean Air miles in business/first class on Delta planes!

Other U.S. airlines such as Alaska requires at least 17,500 miles one-way to Hawaii, United requires 22,500 miles one-way for saver award to Hawaii, and Delta does not have award chart anymore but from my recent search the lowest miles required is 25,000 miles one-way to Hawaii. This is because U.S. airlines define Hawaii and mainland United States are two different regions, whereas Korean Air puts Hawaii in the same region as North America.

Fly to Hawaii Using Korean Air Miles For Just 25,000 Miles Round-Trip
Picture: Kauai Island

Getting Korean Air Miles
Korean Air is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. This means that if you have Chase credit card that earns points and can transfer to airline miles, you can transfer Chase points to Korean Air miles at 1:1 ratio. The time it takes to transfer is instantaneously.

Korean Air is also a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program. SPG is not just a hotel's rewards program, but it also has ability to transfer SPG Starpoints to airline miles. For each 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you will receive additional 5,000 miles so 25,000 miles total after the transfer. The transfer time takes around 7 days.

All said and done, don't get too excited yet to initiate the transfer to Korean Air. You need to make sure the award seat is available first, then transfer because once you transfer the points to Korean Air miles, you cannot transfer those points back.

Finding Award Availability
Thankfully, Korean Air now allows online award booking for SkyTeam members such as Delta. This means that you no longer need to call Korean Air up to book Delta flights using Korean Air miles. Below is a step-by-step guide to successfully redeem Korean Air miles for Delta flights to Hawaii for only 25,000 Korean Air miles round-trip in Economy.

First, you need to find award seats availability. Korean Air website is not a very powerful search engine and believe it not, neither is Delta. I find Delta is pretty inconsistent with Korean Air as far as finding award availability goes. So I am ruling out these two airlines websites. The one that we need to focus on is actually the Air France website. Air France is also a member of the SkyTeam and therefore you are able to see Delta flights as well.

First, you need to register with Air France program, which is completely free. Once that's completed, you will be able to search for flight ticket using their miles program FlyingBlue. You do not need to have miles in your account to do a search.

Step 1: Register with Air France program to create an account for free.
Step 2: Go to https://www.airfrance.co.uk/
Step 3: Click on Purchase A Ticket on the top.
Step 4: Select Use Your Miles, then click Sign In and log in.
Step 5: It's best that you search one-way at a time. For example, I search from Seattle to Honolulu one-way and make sure the box "You are looking for a flight around these dates" is checked. Simply follow the booking interface, select Economy cabin and click Find A Flight.
Using Air France to Search Delta's Award Availability
Step 6: You will be presented with a calendar that shows what date is available and how many miles are required. The dates that show "15,000 Miles" are the ones that you are looking for as those are Delta's lowest Economy seats and are available for booking using Korean Air miles on Korean Air website. Keep in mind that the 15,000 Miles you see is if you were to use Air France's FlyingBlue miles program to redeem the flight to Hawaii, Korean Air requires only 12,500 miles one-way to Hawaii; however, you must book round-trip when it comes to booking SkyTeam with Korean Air miles, so 25,000 Korean Air miles round-trip.

15,000 Miles Is What You Are Looking For
Step 7: Note down the date and flight information. Then do a one-way return trip search by repeating the step 5-7. In this case, Honolulu to Seattle. Once again, you are looking for the dates that show "15,000 Miles." Note the date that you want down.


Booking On Korean Air Website
Step 1: Head over to Korean Air website and if you have not registered with Korean Air, you must create an account with them first. Joining is completely free. Skip this step if you have already joined.
Step 2: Log into your Korean Air's account and then Book a Flight. Click Award Booking. Alternatively, you can go directly to the award booking site here.
Step 3: Follow the booking interface. Make sure "SkyTeam Award" is checked. Pick the departure and return dates that you have noted down from the above steps in Finding Award Availability, and ensure the Economy cabin is selected (see screenshot below). Then click Find Flights.


Step 4: You should see a list of Delta flights that are available corresponding to the flight information that you have noted down in Finding Award Availability section above. Select desired flights and click Calculate. The total 25,000 Korean Air miles will appear on the right hand side with a very small reasonable tax fees. Once you have enough miles in your Korean Air's account, you can simply continue the booking process.

Finally
There you have it. This is how you use Korean Air miles to redeem for Delta flights to Hawaii from the mainland United States. This is considered one of the best uses of Korean Air miles as it requires only 25,000 miles to Hawaii compared to U.S. domestic airlines.

It is worth mentioning also that, one of the things that I don't like about Korean Air is the fact that you can only book an award ticket for yourself and family member(s) including spouse. You will need to send in documents to Korean Air to prove that relationship. With that being said, you cannot book an award ticket for your best friend, girlfriend or boyfriend. They have to be family related.

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