Asiana has the best award chart in the Star Alliance. That means that you can book any of the 27 Star Alliance airlines, including United, for fewer miles on many routes with Asiana miles than with better known programs like United, Lufthansa, LifeMiles, Singapore, and Air Canada.

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Asiana is a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. As usual with Starpoints transfers, you get 5,000 bonus Asiana miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

If you can get your hands on Asiana miles, you can book insanely cheap awards like:

  • Lufthansa First Class between the United States and Europe for 50,000 Asiana miles one way vs. 110,000 United miles
  • United First Class between the continental United States and Hawaii for 27,500 Asiana miles one way vs. 40,000 United miles
  • United Global First between the United States and Southern South America for 45,000 Asiana miles one way vs. 70,000 United miles

Unfortunately some Asiana awards have fuel surcharges, and it took 17 days for my transfer of Starpoints to reach Asiana miles. Continue reading for:

  • Comparison tables of United award chart versus Asiana award chart
  • Fuel surcharge info on Asiana awards

Comparison Tables

Roundtrip award prices are shown in thousands of miles. Both programs allow one ways to be booked for half the listed price.

Remember that these comparisons are being made because Asiana and United miles have access to all the exact same award space on the 27 Star Alliance airlines.

Slashes (/) on the United chart refer to the United price and the partner price. Remember that United charges extra miles to fly partner business and first classes compared to flying United.

Economy Class

In economy, United has cheaper awards to Asia and the Pacific. Asiana has cheaper awards to Alaska, Hawaii, South America, and Europe.

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Business Class

For Business Class awards, Asiana is cheaper everywhere in the world except to Central Asia, like India, and the Pacific Islands.

To Hawaii and South America, Asiana miles are way cheaper than United miles in Business Class. Remember that on flights to Hawaii, what United calls “First Class” on its planes codes as a Business Class award with both programs. This is true even on flat bed routes.

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First Class

Asiana’s First Class award prices to South America and Europe are insanely cheap. United charges 110,000 miles one way for Lufthansa First Class. Asiana charges less than half of that at 50,000 miles one way.

Asiana’s First Class award prices to the rest of the world aren’t such a bargain, occasionally exceeding United’s prices.

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Fuel Surcharges

Asiana collects fuel surcharges on some award tickets. I haven’t tested all partners.

What I do know:

  • United flights on Asiana awards do NOT have fuel surcharges. This is huge since United flies to every continent.
  • Lufthansa flights on Asiana awards DO have fuel surcharges.

What I suspect:

  • Other than United flights, Asiana collects fuel surcharges on awards equal to the fuel surcharge on an equivalent cash flight.

Why didn’t I exhaustively check every airline? The agent with whom I spoke had very little experience searching and booking award tickets. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, so I plan to continue investigating in the coming days with a few searches at a time.

If I’m right, that would mean fuel surcharges on almost every Star Alliance partner. Exceptions:

  • United flights
  • Avianca/TACA flights
  • Flights departing Brazil (no fuel surcharges by law)

I priced out several awards by calling Asiana. To price out an award, I was required to have enough miles in my account to book the award. Once you have miles in your account, you can price/book awards by calling 800-227-4262 and then 2-5-your Asiana Club number-*.

Awards:

  • Newark to Honolulu in United economy: 17,500 Asiana miles + $5.60. This same award would 22,500 United miles + $5.60.
  • Denver to Anchorage in United First: 22,500 Asiana miles + $5.60. This same award would 30,000 United miles + $5.60.
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United wants 30,000 miles. Asiana wants 22,500 for the same flight.
  • Chicago to Frankfurt in United economy: 25,000 Asiana miles + $23.10. This same award would 30,000 United miles + $5.60.
  • Chicago to Frankfurt in Lufthansa economy: 25,000 Asiana miles + $281.10. This same award would 30,000 United miles + $5.60.

The pattern was that United award flights didn’t have fuel surcharges even when they do on cash tickets. (United cash tickets to Europe have fuel surcharges.) Lufthansa tickets had fuel surcharges equal to the equivalent cash ticket. Asiana collects the $17.50 US International Departure Tax that United and other American airlines don’t collect on awards.

Lufthansa Premium Cabins

Estimates of other award prices based on these patterns:

  • Chicago to Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business: 40,000 Asiana miles + $451.10. This same award would 70,000 United miles + $5.60.
  • Chicago to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First: 50,000 Asiana miles + $451.10. This same award would 110,000 United miles + $5.60.
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You’d have to pay the $451 in taxes and fuel surcharges to book Lufthansa Business or First Class with Asiana miles.

I would happily book Lufthansa First Class for 50,000 miles (40,000 Starpoints) + $450 all day. That’s a fantastic price.

United to Southern South America

  • Washington to Sao Paulo in United economy: 25,000 Asiana miles + $23.10. This same award would 30,000 United miles + $5.60.
  • Washington to Sao Paulo in United BusinesFirst: 35,000 Asiana miles + $23.10. This same award would 55,000 United miles + $5.60.
  • Washington to Sao Paulo in United Global First: 45,000 Asiana miles + $23.10. This same award would 70,000 United miles + $5.60.

I flew this flight in United Global First this year. It would be a steal for 45,000 Asiana miles (40,000 Starpoints, with 5,000 Asiana miles left over).

United to Hawaii in a Flat Bed

  • Newark/Washington/San Francisco to Honolulu in United First (flat bed): 27,500 Asiana miles + $5.60. This same award would 40,000 United miles + $5.60.

When you can get a flat bed on United flights to Hawaii for 22,500 Starpoints, that’s outrageously cheap.

Holds

The first award I checked was Newark to Honolulu. The agent asked if I wanted to hold it or book it, and I said hold it. I searched on a Monday, and she offered to hold it until 5 PM PT on Wednesday.

She gave me a United confirmation number, which I searched on united.com. It said the hold expired that day. This made me skeptical that the award would be held 2+ days.

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The next day, the award was still on hold, and the expiration had moved back a day. This makes me believe that the award will be held 2+ days, and the expiration on united.com will continue to be pushed back 24 hours at a time.

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Bottom Line

Asiana has the best Star Alliance charts to a ton of places and collects zero fuel surcharges on United awards.

I’m especially intrigued by the dirt cheap prices on United flights to South America and Lufthansa flights to Europe.

Unfortunately my transfer of Starpoints to Asiana miles took 17 days, and I couldn’t price out awards until the miles arrives.

If you know what Star Alliance award you want to book, if Asiana miles are the best way to book it, and if the route has plentiful award space that is likely to still be there in three weeks, you should take advantage of this gem of a program.

You can get 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 on both the SPG personal and business credit cards. One person can get both on the same day. After meeting the spending requirements on both, you’d have 60,000 Starpoints, which can transfer to 75,000 Asiana miles. Both the SPG personal and business credit cards are some of the best travel rewards cards.

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