Deep Discount Award Tickets For Flying Around Southeast Asia

Reader Troy R. passes along a tip that I think I noticed back in November but never fully internalized the significance of.

He was reading my trip report on burning Hilton HHonors points at the Conrad Koh Samui — one of the really aspirational properties in the Hilton portfolio, and a great redemption value at 50,000 points per night through March 28 when the bottom falls out of the best redemptions in the Hilton program (this property becomes 95,000 points per night for 10 months of the year).

All the rooms at the resort are standalone ocean villas with private pools. The food and service are good. The two downsides I note are that the hills are such that you have to take golf carts pretty much everywhere (golf carts are always at the ready there, but there’s no meandering around the property) and food and spa treatments are rather pricey for Thailand. I was grateful for my Diamond breakfast benefit when I was there because breakfast for two each morning would otherwise have run about US$70.

Getting to Koh Samui can be a challenge, though, at least at a low price or as part of an award ticket. Thai Airways flies two daily 737s and award seats are sparse. Most of the flights in and out of the private Koh Samui airport are operated by Bangkok Airways. They have a few mileage partners but most people find themselves buying tickets. And Bangkok – Koh Samui is pricey for intra-Thailand travel. I’ve seen coach running about $300 per person roundtrip, with business class about an extra $50 each way. (Bangkok Airways is often incrementally cheaper than Thai Aiwrays, too and they offer a good product.. their domestic flights aren’t dry, and they offered a tarmac transfer to even economy passengers transferring to international flights in Bangkok).

Troy points out that Bangkok Airways is a new partner of Japan Airline. And JAL has a promotion for discounted redemptions on Bangkok Airways for travel through December 31st that are a really good deal.

The promotion applies to economy redemptions only but…

  • Any trip up to 1000 miles total flown normally runs 15,000 miles. But with this promotion it’s just 5000 miles. That’s 2/3rds off.
  • Travel between 1001 and 2000 miles are normally 20,000 miles. Through December 31 they are just 8000 miles. That’s 60% off.
  • Travel from 2001 to 4000 miles normally runs 21,000 miles, but with this discount is 18,000 miles. That’s about a 14% discount.

Starwood points transfer to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. Of course 20,000 Starpoints transfer to 25,000 JAL points. And JAL is also especially good for redemptions on Emirates, many Emirates awards are cheaper through JAL than through Alaska Airlines (which has just introduced Emirates awards).

JAL points don’t transfer instantly, plan on about a week. Bookings need to be made by phone with no award holds available. In general after a few calls to query availability it seems like things are pretty wide open (but I didn’t proactively check the highest season dates).

If you’re going to be traveling around Southeast Asia in 2013, have a look at the Bangkok Airways route map. This award sale certainly offers some bargains. They offer service to some interesting, underserved markets as well such as Luang Prabang and Ventiane, Yangon, Dhaka, Siem Reap, and Male.

And if you do travel on Bangkok Airways, join their FlyerBonus program because membership alone entitles you to an extra 10kg baggage allowance.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very nice catch, Gary, as Bangkok Airways is good but can be on the expensive side for relatively short flights. Wish I’d known about this before we completed our recent trip to Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang and (the Conrad) Koh Samui! Oh well.

  2. Thanks Gary! I lost out not booking my EK Suite to BKK before the inventory dried up and they decided to implement fuel surcharges next week.. Looks like I am going to try Cathay to BKK now. Anyways this looks like a no brainer.. TYVM

  3. Wow, this is super amazingly useful. Thank you so much for pointing this out. I am actually planning a trip to Thailand and December and this is good research for options to go to Koh Samui. I would also like to point out that actually Bangkok airways has direct flights between Chiang Mai and Koh Samui also. Chiang Mai is also a beautiful location that many of us are likely to visit.

  4. Tickets to koh samui hard to find under this promo-if even available. To siem reap from/to bkk was wide open for me early march.

  5. Worth noting that this appears to be the round trip price as JAL does not allow one way bookings according to their website. 5k miles in any program for round trip is amazing!

    I am all over this for my trip later this year.

    Thank you!

  6. I flew Bangkok Airways from BKK to Siem Reap a few years ago, and they were FANTASTIC!
    Not only did they serve a very good box lunch on the short flight, but everyone who has a ticket is allowed into their lounge at BKK.
    It was hot outside and everyone kept going to the machine that made instant hot cocoa. YUK! Instant is always awful.
    People kept getting seconds and thirds so I finally tried it. It was the first of four cups I had!
    I wish I could fly Bangkok Airways all the time.

  7. @Bobby – Award Booking Service – it’s actually better than that, it isn’t just ’roundtrip’ it’s total trip mileage…

  8. This is a great deal, and I was really excited when I heard about this on the blogs last fall, since I was going to Conrad Koh Samui and Siem Reap in early spring and flights to both tourist destinations were very pricey.

    A few notes from my experience in case they help others: I couldn’t get award availability on Bangkok to and from Koh Samui most days when I was looking to travel, and when there was award availability it was on the first flight of the day, departing around 6am (getting up at 4 is not my idea of “aspirational travel”). So I ended up paying for the Koh Samui legs out of pocket.

    I did, however, have much better luck finding availability to Siem Reap (also expensive from Thailand), and was able to book BKK-Siem Reap (stop)-Bkk(layover but coded as direct flight)-Chiang Mai for 5,000 starpoints + $83 in taxes and fees (starpoints transferred to JAL — took about a week for transfer to go through). Cheapest revenue alternative was about $500, so got about 8 cents value per point.

  9. Inventory changes EVERY DAY. Literally. We ended up with stranded miles because the SPG transfer doesn’t hit instantaneously and by the time it did, inventory had changed. We tried right up to the dates of departure and it didn’t work.


  10. I’ve loved Bangkok Air ever since I booked a Discovery Airpass that included Siem Reap a few years ago. It is easy to earn a domestic award ticket through their FlyerBonus program, as they offer bonus points for your birthday and for completing on-line surveys. They also offer hotel Deals. We did one at the Marriott Vacation Club last Nov for $199 for 3 nights in a 2bd/2ba suite with breakfast (had to listen to the timeshare spiel, however). We’ve redeemed Flyerbonus points for 2 or 3 free tickets.
    Check out

  11. Gary thanks for the answer on my last question. Now can anyone say the easiest routing if we are try to travel to Hong Kong, koh samui and Maldives. We wouldn’t mind going to Bangkok as well. Where should we fly into and how could we use the JAL to make it the most efficient? Thanks in advance.

  12. Good find. I just flew Bangkok to Koh Samui on Bangkok Airways and I liked the experience. I have another trip planned so i will try this.

  13. Thanks you for this post! I stumbled upon this promotion a few days ago when searching for PG’s partners, but I misread it, thought it was just until the end of 2012…

  14. If you’re flying domestic China segments, don’t buy on Orbitz or other US travel sites. Check out for 50% or bigger discounts. (Little or no advance booking required; search Milepoint/Flyertalk for for other alternatives.)

  15. What are the taxes like? I was looking at flights on Bangkok Airways from Siem Reap to BKK and they are about $200 a ticket. If I could get that flight for 5k Starpoints, that would be a good deal, but if it’s 5k points + $50-100 in taxes, then it changes the calculations.

  16. What’s going on with that third tier? Seems way overpriced given that it is more than double (e.g., why not do 2 one-ways?) and that the margin on the standard chart is virtually nothing (1K).

  17. Gary — as far as I know, JAL requires round trips on partners. That being the case, would I not be able to route CNX-USM-SIN using this promo?

    What about CNX-USM-BKK?

  18. I noticed the 600 mile from Bangkok to Krabi is only $89 on Kayak. Seems like it is cheaper just to buy that (also I am traveling after Dec 31).

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