Korean Air re-did their award chart and is a transfer of Chase Ultimate Rewards. But mostly due to fuel surcharges, it’s not really a program I’ve paid attention to that much. However, I was doing a post researching Korean Air’s program and they actually have some cool things I’ll talk about soon. However I got completely derailed when I saw the pricing for Indonesia.
Here’s the deal, and 5 reasons it’s amazing.
1) Korean Air awards are only in roundtrips and normally charge 40,000 miles for trips within Southeast Asia. However, I noticed that if you fly on the SkyTeam partner Garuda within Indonesia it’s 20,000 miles roundtrip.
2) Indonesia is stinkin’ huge. It’s the largest country in SE Asia and the 4th most populated country in the world with 28,000 islands! Ridiculous to charge 35k for a tiny flight from KL to Singapore and then 20k for Jakarta to West Papua. And the price of tickets from Jakarta (the Capital) to east Indonesia (without stopovers) are often $1,000+.
3) They allow a stopover and open-jaw on roundtrips.
4) It’s super hard to get to East Indonesia otherwise. Garuda is one of the only airlines that flies to most areas in Indonesia east of Bali.
5) Easy(ish) adventure. Despite Indonesia being one of the most populated countries, it is probably the least discovered country in the world. So much land untouched. We still consistently discover animals in Papua completely new to people.
Bonus: 6) Garuda has no fuel surcharges. Garuda is one of the few SkyTeam partners to have no fuel surcharges. Thus, you’ll only be paying VAT, which should be about ~100.
I can’t stress enough the value and awesomeness of this ticket. I wish I didn’t post the Lufthansa Trans-Pacific Hopper as it pales in comparison to this ticket in every way possible. This ticket is much more straight forward and a better value.
Again, $1,000 tickets, but that’s the value for a regular roundtrip. Let’s say we fit in two destinations, that greatly increases the value given how expensive oneways are in east Indonesia. And I’m thinking you could squeeze 3 or 4 destinations out of this ticket not including the starting point (which could be Bali).
This really is an adventure, although the only person I know that’s sane enough to possibly convince to do this trip with us is Stefan from Rapid Travel Chai. He has the best points for going to “places less traveled”. And let me put it how I imagine Stefan would put it…
You can go to Phuket:
Or you can go to Raja Ampat (and snorkel off beach):
Please, just try to find me a picture of a crowded Raja Ampat. But also, it’s suppose to be the best snorkeling/diving in the world. I’m told that you can see more types of fish in one dive in East Indonesia that even exist in the Caribbean.
Generally the reason not to go to these places is because it’s difficult or expensive. And this changes the price of a relatively short ticket from $1,000 to 20,000 miles for at least 2 destinations. And for ease, I’ll try to exemplify some routes that take you to beautiful places without travel. I know that some of the most beautiful places, especially in Kalimantan (Borneo), aren’t actually anywhere near the airport. But there are some great examples of easier travels.
Use 20,000 miles and fly from Bali to some of the most beautiful and rarely discovered islands on earth and kick it there. An adventure right off the plane. This is real travel in the works right here. Even just looking at some of the cities, it reminds me of the beauty and bizarreness of Bali multiplied by ten, and minus all of the tourists.
Getting to the Actual Flying
Where to start
Basically, I’m trying to pick a place I can get to cheaply to start that is in Indonesia. The cheapest way of doing this is starting in western Indonesia. I would fly in with a real alliance (OneWorld and Star Alliance) via AA, United or something to avoid fuel surcharges on the longhaul to Southeast Asia. You can basically fly into Bali, or Jakarta (or Surabaya if you’re interested). It’s very limited but that’s why we’re doing this.
The other more epic option is to start in Sumatra. Air Asia has a few super cheap destinations that overlap with Garuda. In Sumatra you have Banda Aceh, Medan, Pekanbaru, Padang. All of these have flights from Kuala Lumpur and Medan has a route from Bangkok on AirAsia, and one flight from KL to Balikpapan (Borneo).
The one route from East Indonesia that could be incredibly relevant is UPG. As we’ll discuss soon, you can fly from Makassar to KL for $55, which will be helpful and worth it if you want a stop in Makassar.
Now the ticket you book has to return to the same airport you fly out of. Assuming we don’t start in Sumatra and start in Bali or something, you’d fly out of Bali, do Sulawasi and West Papua and then return to Bali.
However, one may be able to just get off the plane and skip the last leg to Bali or Jakarta. The problem is, why would you want to get off the plane in West Papua and not be able to get back to Bali? Well you wouldn’t. But you could start in Jakarta and end in Bali via this method. Or perhaps, start in Bali and end in Lombok via this method, then take the ferry back to Bali (and enjoy the SPG Category 1 Sheraton in Lombok for 2,000 – 3,000 points).
Again, it’s 20,000 miles on Garuda and within Indonesia, you get 1 stopover as well as the destination. Because these flights within Indonesia often stop at multiple islands, finding a destination to stop at on the way is incredibly easy. A flight from a western city in Indonesia to a city in east Indonesia for example, will likely have options to layover in a city along the way, and you can make that city a stopover. And a stopover is as long as you want.
And just for clarification, an open-jaw is when you fly into one airport and out of another. In other words, it’s a gap in a ticket where the airline isn’t responsible for your transport.
While I am using the slightly dated map on their site, I made sure routes were valid by actually searching for bookable flights. And it gave me the following routes naturally. Why are the routes so generous? It’s just how you route a flight? How many people are actually flying to West Papua? Not a lot, so they combine it with other low-demand flights.
The West Papua Hopper
A number of flights showed an option for “3 stops” on the way to Jayapura including Sorong (which will be important later). There are a few options to and from Jayapura. For example, you can fly back one of two ways:
- Jayapura – Biak/Tembagapura – Makassar – Bali
- Jayapura – Manokwari – Sorong – Makassar – Bali
Same routes work both ways. Thus you could do something that looks like this:
Biak/Tembagapura means that you could do either/ or. Can’t say I’m an expert on towns in the middle of mountains in the middle of West Papua, but apparently it is a town solely because there is a enormous mine there. Which, a mining town doesn’t appeal to me, but I basically know nothing about it. But I’m more inclined to research a stop in Biak, not that you have to stop in either.
You wouldn’t actually have to fly the route above. Starting Bali and making the destination Jayapura, you get one stopover. If I were to choose one stop on this route I’d make a stopover in Sorong.
Now we’ve got Bali, Sorong, Jayapura. Although you could do it a number of ways, you could do Jakarta, Makassar, Sorong as your route. (And the problem of course is that it would get even more confusing if I just listed every single route possible, and hopefully the concept is taught).
Another small detour away from the details of miles to say that it should be on everyone’s bucket list to see Raja Ampat. I asked my Balienese friend, if he could travel anywhere, where would he go and the first thing he said was that he lived in such a beautiful place that he doesn’t have to travel. But then he quickly changed his mind and said that his one dream has been Raja Ampat. That doesn’t mean much, but I mean, it’s paradise for even those who live in paradise.
I’ll go over the Raja Ampat details in a minute, but the point is that this should probably be your destination or stopover. Just make sure you include it.
Increasing the stops
If you’re willing to pay another $100 and see another destination in West Papua you can open-jaw. Now with Korean Air miles it is important to know that you can not open-jaw on the stopover (much like Lufthansa miles and United miles routing rules). This means that the only place that you can open-jaw from is the furthest destination. In the example above, you can clearly see that Jayapura (DJJ) is the furthest point. You can open-jaw here and you can open-jaw to any of the other destinations you can get to (make sure you look that up first).
For example, you could pay for a Garuda flight or use another SkyTeam mileage program to fill in the gap. You could open-jaw in this case any of the two destinations in West Papua, which are: Jayapura, Biak, Sorong, Manokwari. Check the flights between the two or if there is a ferry. I’m really doubting the roads are existent or reliable in many cases.
The example I’ll use is to fly into Jayapura and out of Biak for $136 on that date.
Now we’re looking at Bali – Sorong (Stopover) – Jayapura (Destination and openjaw) / Biak – Makassar (layover) – Bali
One more trick
Now, if you’re willing to pay another $55 you can fly Air Asia from Makassar to Kuala Lumpur. Then, you just get off the plane there. Now, we’re looking at:
Bali – Sorong (Stopover) – Jayapura (Destination and openjaw) / Biak – Makassar
The Ternate or Ambon “Hopper”
If you’re skipping Sorong/Raja Ampat it’s probably to see Ternate or Ambon, so we’ll focus on one of those as our “destination”. Although there isn’t a ton of info on either, at all, there are some amazing beaches, diving and snorkeling to explore nearby.
I’ll try to quickly show how I would route each.
It’s a little more basic as the only natural connection for getting to either of these two islands is via Makassar. There are some routings through Java, like Jogyakarta, but I’m focusing on east Indonesia. This means that Makassar is really our only stopover. Therefore, it’s either Bali or Jakarta to Makassar (stopover) and then to Ternate or Ambon.
There aren’t any great options unless you take a ferry from Ternate to Ambon, which is actually doable, although I may not be smart enough to figure out the website or contact them/use a travel agent. The good news is that you could go through a travel agency and book for as little as $16, and double for first class. The bad news is that it’s 16 hours going from Ambon to Ternate, and longer going the other way. Wowza.
Let’s say you do it.
Now we’ve got Bali/Jakarta to Makassar (stopover) and then to Ambon and return from Ternate.
I guess you can open-jaw to anywhere as long as you can figure out how to get there… which isn’t as easy on islands.
Trick it again?
Geez, well, you could try making your stopover in Borneo, especially starting in Jakarta. I noticed that there is a flight from Balikpapan to Makassar. They will likely let you start in Bali, although it won’t naturally route you through Balikpapan, but if it’s your stopover, it should/may let you.
So let’s say you do a stopover in Balikpapan and then do Ternate. On the way back you could get off in Makassar.
However, on Kayak I can’t actually book a ticket from Balikpapan to Ambon, but can to Ternate. So you can’t go into Ambon and open-jaw to fly out of Ternate.
Do it anywhere?
You can do it from anywhere in Suluwasi, not just to Ambon or Ternate. So instead of those two, you could do the exact same routes to Manado, Gorontalo, Palu, Kendari.
The Borneo Hopper
Perhaps it’s a little less valuable than flights to east Indonesia, but you could do the same thing to a couple places in Borneo, Tarakan and Berau. Very similar to the last hopper but we must start in Bali.
Start in Bali, stopover in Makassar, layover in Balikpapan and then onto Tarakan or Berau.
I’d say you can open-jaw from Tarakan and Berau since it’s “not that far away”, but that could be terrible advice in Kalimantan, a place with almost surely terrible roads.
Either way you can do the same route and reverse and get out of the plane in Balikpapan, if that’s your thing.
According to this post, you can get flights to Sorong on Susi Air for less than $20, which is awesome. I’ve yet to research the full costs of getting around Raja Ampat and hotels. I’ve not much idea of what to expect, but I do know nicer/ish hotels can be quite expensive and there aren’t points hotels.
The thing to do in Raja Ampat (besides boat) is Dive. I would have fun free-driving and snorkeling.
Contact numbers for bookings:
- Susi Air Sorong: +628114806709, +628114806710
- Susi Air Manokwari: +628112123932, +628114806705
Seating and Business Class
Believe it or not, they fly 737-800 on all these routes, in case you were expecting tiny puddle jumpers. It’s true you’re going island to island, but Indonesia is bigger and wider than you would expect. 12 seats in business class and 144 in economy.
Now the discount with Korean Miles when flying on the SkyTeam partner Garuda within Indonesia- the discount is 20,000 miles in economy or 30,000 miles in Business class.
Is business class worth the extra 10,000 miles?
Just looking at Kayak for Jakarta to Jayapura, which is the longest route (if you don’t stop in Borneo and you don’t start in Sumatra), it would be at least 6 hours of flying each direction. From Bali it’s an hour less. So is 10,000 miles worth Business Class on really short segments for a cumulative 10+ hours? Up to you, but it can’t be justified by business class food. Flights are short, probably come with food, and I’d almost rather pay the $1 for a decent meal in town before the flight.
If it were me, I would start from Sumatra or Bali and not Jakarta. Bali would be the easy choice as we spend a bit of time there anyways, and Sumatra would require another Air Asia flight.
Starting from Sumatra is the same process just not starting from Jakarta.
Now that is an awesome route. Seeing northern Sumatra is a super cheap flight from KL. Then a stopover in Sorong. Then destination in Biak. Open-jaw so you fly out of Jayapura. Then just get off the plane in Makassar or possibly Balikpapan instead of returning all the way to Sumatra (as required for booking).
But my case for why this is an amazing route isn’t just that it sells for $1,000 and it’s only 20,000 miles. It’s partly because this is the cheapest way to see even one of the West Papua islands, and I figured out how to squeeze at least another stop out of it for no extra cost. And then another destination for as little as $50.
Also, the bonus for the Chase Ink Plus is now 70,000 points! With this one card, you would have enough points to do US to Bali with a stopover in Europe with United miles. That would cost 40,000 United miles (which is also a 1:1 transfer of Chase Ultimate Rewards). Then you could do 20,000 miles to Korean Air and do this route. You would see multiple islands in east Indonesia, wherever you start (Bali, KL, wherever), and a stopover with United on the way nearly anywhere.
This is truly a once in a life thing. Doing this would set you apart. Doing this would make you my hero. Doing this would allow you to see parts of the earth that barely any non-natives have gotten to see.
So when are we doing it Stefan? I’m getting the Ink Plus and will save 40,000 (for the two of us). :-p