Should I Bother Collecting Miles on this Flight?

I’ve long advocated, nay, begged people to sign up for frequent flyer programs even when they don’t fly very much or when they’re flying a carrier that they don’t normally travel with. I tell them that they might eventually get something from the simple act of joining and submitting their account number, if not right away then it’ll eventually accumulate. Goodness knows I don’t stay with Marriott often but surprisingly enough registering for their current stay twice get a free night promo meant that I received a free night, which I’ve already redeemed for an upcoming stay…

… on a trip where I find myself questioning the very lesson of “always claim the miles.”

I need to buy a flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui. Sure, I could fly Thai Airways and earn miles on another Star Alliance carrier, but Bangkok Airways is cheaper and has many more flights and so more convenient flight times.

Despite my mental model of Bangkok Airways, they’re really not a low cost carrier in the model of Air Asia. They describe themselves as a ’boutique’ airline and they offer a ‘lounge’ for coach passengers even at the Bangkok airport. Business class is about $30 more each way for my journey, so I don’t mind so much not flying Thai where I’d avail myself of Star Alliance Gold check-in, lounge, and baggage benefits.

I was hungry for Thai food when I read that the airline is promoting top-end chef/restaurant tie-ins (HT: Milepoint), even on the short Bangkok-Samui route.

Bangkok Airways has joined hands with the Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai, the Pavilions at Phuket Relais & Chateaux and Greyhound Cafe to create “carte du mois” for “blue ribbon class” passengers over a six-month period starting next month.

… For instance, between July and August business-class passengers will be treated to the choice of: minced pork and smoked bacon balls served with steamed rice, fusili Phad Thai, shrimp-fried rice with old style chili paste, and grilled chicken with green curry sauce and steamed rice. All hail from Greyhound Cafe.

Now, some of the worst airline food I’ve eaten in years has been in Thai Airways domestic business class so my hopes for Bangkok Airways business class meals on a one hour flight are quite low. Still, the description sounded great.

But my real question is, if I’m to fly Bangkok Airways, what do I do about the miles? I could credit to their own program, but I’m really not likely to add to my stash. After a cursory look it appears I could credit the miles to Air Berlin topbonus or to Etihad Guest. But as far as I can tell miles in both of those programs expire after three years, regardless of additional activity, and I don’t even have accounts with them, will I ever get close to an award within three years?

So the question is, do I even bother with the miles? In the end I’m sure I’m credit somewhere even though I doubt that decision will ultimately pay off. But where: should I credit to Air Berlin, Etihad, or to Bangkok Airways’ own program?

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. Is there a way to donate the miles? I saw a healthcare option with FlyerBonus, but I think that is for the individual. Thus, I don’t think you can donate to help others with healthcare. Last week, I had to fly Airtran. I don’t fly them, but I still sign up and donate the miles/credits. Mine went to the Children’s Miracle Network.

  2. There’s no reason to deviate from your general principles here. As John said, even if you don’t think you’ll ever use the miles, you may be able to donate them.

    On the other hand, if you hold onto the miles, I’d keep them in Bangkok. We’ve seen Asia rise as a destination, and it now seems to be what Europe was to college students in the 60s and 70s. We’re all a bit older than that now, but I think that when you have miles in a program, it makes you consider that program and the destinations it serves more frequently. You may not think you’ll ever use the miles, but as with any long-term strategy that’s proven successful, you can sometimes overthink your actions. Just do what you know has worked.

  3. Go for Etihad and stand a chance to win 750,000 miles for crediting your next IHG stay to them, as part of their 5th anniversary promotions.

    Etihad is also your best bet to credit your stay with some obscure hotel chains; or your next splurge in a Montblanc Boutique in Muscat, Oman. 😉

  4. I had the same dilemma with Cyprus Airlines – and went ahead and joined anyways. I read their inflight magazine thinking “has anyone really earned status with them”?

  5. @Jason when I flew Cyprus Airlines it was as an Alitalia codeshare, which posted successfully to my Delta Skymiles account.

  6. With Air Berlin joining oneworld, either you’ll often have the opportunity to credit to Air Berlin (useful if their policy would be any activity preserves the miles), or you’ll never need an Air Berlin account since you can credit to another oneworld member. So probably Etihad or Bangkok make more sense

  7. I had issues to credit my PG flights to AB. However, I actually signed up for PG FFP since you have 10kg addl luggage allowance and there is a ‘member’ lounge in BKK – better than nothing.

    As for my miles on tge PG FFP: they usually expire eventually (flying with them 1-2x every few years).



  8. I’m going to take the opposite tack here and say just don’t worry about the miles.

    I know all of us here have a miles addiction, but every once in a while, I think it’s okay to just not worry about it. The flight is 288 miles long…I would just enjoy your trip and forget about it.

  9. I love reading the comments from these first name “known” famous travelers…with trip #2 (NEWBIE) under my belt, I love reading these guys advice.

  10. I had the same problem with Air Tahiti Nui, and wonder why I bothered. I got 8,000 miles (which is a pretty good chunk of miles), but most likely if I ever fly to French Polynesia again it will be on Air France so I can get Alaska miles. At least I got a pretty blue card for my collection!

  11. If you sign up for Air Berlin, you’ll also get 500 free miles for opening an account- at least that would marginally increase the size of your stash….

  12. Miles, Smiles, Tiles- who cares? If you join Flyer Bonus, you get 10KG of extra baggage allowance for free. I have flown PG 6 times and that is the biggest benefit.
    It used to be that you could collect Air France miles for PG but i don’t think that is possible any more, but you should check. You still may be able to use Air France miles to book an award ticket.

  13. Sorry I apologize for the second post but I thought I should also add this. PG has a virtual monopoly on travel from BKK to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat). For this 45 minute trip you have the pleasure of paying over $300 which is a highly disproportionate fare than flying to other destinations. If you have aspirations of someday going to Angkor Wat, perhaps getting some miles with PG is not a bad idea.

  14. I remember I joined their FFP as flying in economy it automatically gave us an additional 10kg per person luggage simply from being a member of their FFP.

  15. You have given crystal clear advice to others, why has your thinking fogged up in your own case? 🙂 Follow your own advice. Get the miles. If you are able to use them or donate them, fine. If not, you’d be no worse off than never getting them.

  16. I’d say credit them to Air Berlin. Perhaps you could credit other small amounts such in the next 3 years and have enough for discounted ticket (3,000 miles + taxes and fees) or a one way Europe ticket? Not sure what those taxes and fees add up to (so don’t know if this is worthwhile), but it may be a possibility.

    As others have mentioned, there is a 500 point bonus for signing up!

  17. FWIW, if you want to Angkor Wat, VN has (had?) some reasonably priced options from HAN. You can also burn DL miles to get there.

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