Asiana Selling Memberships to Upgrade Select Business Fares to First Class

Nov 3, 2016

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South Korean airline Asiana is now selling passes that give travelers unlimited complimentary upgrades to first class. Called Asiana First Membership, this product is valid on select revenue business-class tickets between Seoul and Frankfurt (FRA), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK).

You can choose between a one-time pass (good for one round-trip flight) or an annual membership, which gets you an unlimited number of upgrades on eligible flights during your membership year. In addition to getting you a seat at the very front of the plane, both membership options entitle you to priority check-in and first-class lounge access.

The one-time pass will cost you about $611, while the annual membership goes for about $1,136. Given that a one-time pass costs just over half the price for a one-year membership, if you fly on an eligible ticket more than once, the year-long membership would make more sense. To purchase either option, you’ll need to call the carrier’s premium service center (number listed in the link above).

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Unfortunately, the Asiana First Membership terms and conditions limit the usefulness of these upgrade passes quite a bit. In addition to only being valid on select international routes, they’ll only work on business-class fares booked in J, C or D class. On the JFK-ICN route, business class fares are available for as little as $3,300 round-trip (“U” class), but you can expect to pay almost twice that much for an upgradeable fare. Also, not only are cheaper business fares excluded, but business-class award bookings won’t be eligible for upgrades to first, either. The T&C also state that you’ll accrue miles based on the originally purchased fare class (so 125% to 135%).

Given the restrictions, this option will only make sense to a small subset of travelers. If you do frequently travel on one of the eligible routes to/from Seoul on a full-fare business ticket, though, the upgrade membership could represent a decent savings — and Asiana’s first-class product is top-notch; check out TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig’s recent review of ICN-JFK on the A380 for the full scoop.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

Would you consider purchasing this type of upgrade membership?

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