New US Routes On Etihad, Korean Air, And Virgin Atlantic And How To Use Your Miles to Book Them

Over the past week there have been some exciting announcements from Etihad, Korean Air, and Virgin Atlantic on new and improved route changes to the US. Here’s a summary of the changes, and a reminder on how to use miles to book them:


Etihad recently announced plans for daily flights from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco starting November 18th, which will be operated by a three-class Boeing 777-300ER leased from Jet Airways.  Each flight will have capacity for 8 seats in First Class, 30 seats in Business Class, and 308 seats in Economy.

San Francisco is the 5th US destination serviced by Etihad, which already flies daily to Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, and twice-daily to New York. Dallas will be joining the list as the 6th destination starting December 3rd. As InsideFlyer outlines, there is a promotion offering double Etihad Guest miles across many of the new worldwide routes.

How to use your miles to book: The best option is to use your American Airlines miles which unfortunately can’t be done online and will require calling in to book. One-way tickets from North America to Abu Dhabi cost 45,000 miles in Economy, 67,500 in Business Class, and 90,000 for First Class. While you can’t search for award space on the AA website, the best options are either through Expertflyer or directly through the Etihad website.

I have yet to fly Etihad, but have been in the early stages of planning a trip to Africa and along with Emirates which also flies from San Francisco, using either of these carriers yields the most efficient routing with just one connection in the Middle East en route to Africa. Anecdotally, I have been seeing pretty good First Class award space both close-in and several months out, and imagine that it will only improve with the additional routes to San Francisco and Dallas.

Korean Air

Korean Air announced an increase in the frequency of flights to Hawaii from July 24th to September 10th, where the current 17x a week frequency will be increased to 21x a week to handle additional demand. Also worth noting that Korean Air will be increasing flight frequencies to Guam (although with recent LifeMiles changes, I suspect that traffic to Guam among us won’t be as high) and Southeast Asia.

How to use your miles to book: Korean Air is a SkyTeam member, so Economy and Business Class tickets can be booked both with Korean Air Skymiles as well as through other SkyTeam partners. However, First Class bookings are only available using Korean Air Skymiles.

Korean Air Skymiles is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, which was the source for the miles used on my recent booking. Using Korean Air Skymiles, the one-way cost from Korea to North American locations is 35,000 in Economy, 62,500 in Business Class, and 80,000 in First Class during off-peak times. It’s worth noting that there are peak times which cost 50% more.

We recently flew Korean Air First Class from San Francisco to the Maldives, and were able to take advantage of the free stopover in Seoul to stay for a few days. As I outlined here, the booking process isn’t as seamless as with other airlines, but I estimate the sum total of time spent making the reservation (which included calling in since I wanted a stopover), filling out the redemption forms which included creation of a family account for myself/spouse, and lastly paying for the ticket via the phone system at approximately 30 minutes. Certainly time well spent to get access to the amazing premium cabin availability offered by Korean Air.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic announced two new routes from the UK: Belfast to Orlando and Glasgow to Las Vegas which will both be operated by a Boeing 747-400 and codeshared with Delta. Virgin is the only airline out there that offers these routes which will depart weekly on Thursdays, and each flight will hold 14 Upper Class, 66 Premium Economy, and 375 Economy seats.

The Belfast to Orlando route will begin operation on June 25th, 2015 during the months of June and July, and the Glasgow to Las Vegas route will being September 10th, 2015 for operation during the months of September and October. While both the limited number of months the routes will be offered and the 1x weekly frequency aren’t earth-shattering, they do coincide with peak/holiday travel season and the added capacity and additional routes are certainly still an enhancement.

How to use miles to book: While I haven’t had experience flying Virgin Atlantic, trying out the Upper Class product is high up there on my flying bucket list. Tickets from the UK to the US start at 35,000 in Economy and 80,000 in Upper Class, but come with hefty fuel surcharges that are tacked on. Virgin Atlantic is also partners with Hawaiian Air and a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, which often offers promotions beyond the standard 1:1 ratio.

Anyone planning to take advantage of these new routes?

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