Using Frequent Flyer Miles to Fly to Thailand

By @ 09/26/16 in Asia, Bangkok, Thailand
The early morning sun bathes the karst (rock formation) behind a long-tail boat at Railay West Beach in Krabi, Thailand.

Long-tail boats in Krabi, Thailand.

Did someone say (almost) free tickets?

There’s no better redemption option for using your frequent flyer miles than business and first class seats to Asia. And no better destination than Thailand. And there’s great availability to redeem miles to fly to Thailand from now through April, Thailand’s peak season. Read on for maximizing your miles and read our free Thailand guide for information about this great country. Download the app or the PDF.

Here’s a guide to the best options. All redemption levels are based on one-way travel, and do not include taxes and fees, which can run from $25-800, depending on the carrier and connection points. Note that the credit card and Starwood Preferred Guest program offer the best options, as they allow you to convert your points directly to many of the Asian carriers’ own programs. This is the key to greater availability, especially for coveted seats like the Singapore Airlines Suite, and the Korean Airlines Kosmo Suite 2.0.

If you have DELTA miles

The saver level Skymiles business class award from the US to Asia is 80,000 miles, and Delta does not allow you to use their miles for first class travel on their Skymiles partners. While this lowest level redemption is rarely available on Delta, there’s lots of availability on China Eastern and China Southern. Their new 777 planes offer new lie-flat seats, but the food and service leave much to be desired. Your best option is Korean Air. Unfortunately, Korean saves most of its free award seats for it’s own Skypass members. China Air (the Taiwanese airline) is somewhere between the two – you’ll need to call Delta to book those seats.

If you have UNITED Miles

Star Alliance has the best partner choices to Asia, including Singapore Airlines, ANA (Japan), Asiana thaland 3(Korea) and EVA Airlines (Taiwan). If you can score a business class seat on any of these carriers, go for it – it’s the best 80,000 Mileage Plus miles you’ll ever spend. Unlike American, United allows you to fly to asia over the Pacific or Atlantic, so you can also find very good availability on Turkish Airlines. It’s a little longer over Europe (Singapore flies this way from NYC as well), but Turkish offers an outstanding business class. You’ll sometimes find Lufthansa and Austrian airlines flights to asia as well, and connections with a variety of StarAlliance european carriers, providing lots of options.

First class runs 130,000 miles, but you’ll likely only find it on Air China. If you’re flying their new 777 planes, it’s a great seat, but like the other mainland Chinese airlines, service is not up to par with the other asian carriers. If you’ve got your heart set on a Singapore Airlines Suite, you’re out of luck. They’re only available with Singapore Krisflyer miles.

If you have AMERICAN miles

OneWorld’s Asian partners are limited to Japan Air Lines, Malaysian and Cathay Pacific. Despite routings for Etihad and Qatar, AAdvantage awards only allow trips from the US to Asia over the Pacific. Flights over the Atlantic require two awards. The good news is that Cathay Pacific is among the very best, and AAdvantage members have access to liberal availability in business class at 70,000 miles, and first class at 110,000 miles. You have to call AAdvantage to book Cathay and Japan Air Lines award flights – they’re not bookable at AA.com.

If you have STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST points

Starwood’s generous airline transfer program allows you to convert 20,000 points into 25,000 airline miles on a wide range of partners. There’s one big hitch: Transfers can take 3-15 days, and award seats have a funny way of disappearing while you wait. But these are the best points if you want to book a Singapore Airlines First Class or Suite. You could turn 80,000 Starpoints into 100,000 Singapore Krisflyer miles – enough for a flight from JFK to Bangkok via Frankfurt and Singapore in a Suite. This routing has to be booked by phone — just make sure to ask for the 15% online booking discount. They’ll apply it since it can’t be booked online. You can also transfer Starpoints to ANA, Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific), Korean Air, Japan Air Lines, Asiana, China Eastern, China Southern and Air China — listed in the order of our preference.

If you have AMERICAN EXPRESS MEMBERSHIP REWARDS points

Membership Rewards points offer fewer transfer partners than Starwood, but transfers go through much faster. Many are even instantaneous. You can transfer to Singapore, ANA, Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific), which also gives you access to OneWorld and StarAlliance partners. You can transfer to Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) and Delta for Skyteam redemptions, but you’re limited to partner inventory and business class on Delta.

If you have CITI THANK YOU points

Thank You points can be transferred to Singapore, Asia Miles (Cathay), EVA Air (Taiwan), Thai Airways, Malaysia and Garuda (Indonesia). EVA Air’s Royal Laurel Business Class features a Rimowa amenity kit, pajamas, and the best food we’ve ever had in the air. You’ll find Royal Laurel Business Class on EVA’s flights  f from New York, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto. From Houston it’s the older/lesser Premium Laurel, but their Hello Kitty plane – where everything onboard is themed for the beloved carrier. From Vancouver, it’s just Premium Laurel, no Hello Kitty, but at least the added comfort in knowing you’re flying from the country with the most gay-friendly Prime Minister.

If you have CHASE REWARDS points

Chase has only 2 Asian carrier partners. Transfer to Singapore Krismiles, and you can book a First Class Suite for 93,000 points. Transfer your points to Korean Air, and enjoy their business class seats for 75,000 miles o/w, or first class for 95,000. Once your points are converted to Korean Air Skypass miles, you’ll have access to lots of award availability — much more than Korean releases to their partner programs, and much more than Singapore releases.

ManAboutWorld’s new guide to Thailand—available for free in the ManAboutWorld app on the App Store, in Google Play and as a PDF — is an expert-sourced, exhaustive look into the Land of Smiles.  From the cities to the rural northern countryside to the stunning southern beaches, it delves into every facet of traveling, from suggested itineraries, transportation advice, where to eat and sleep, and even how to get laid.

To read the full guide download the app or the PDF. And yes there’s more than only frequent flyer tickets!

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