Thai Airways has transferred a lot of its domestic and regional flying to THAI Smile, its lower cost subsidiary which operates 20 Airbus A320 aircraft. That makes award travel to many Thai cities problematic, because THAI Smile isn’t a Star Alliance member so miles from United, Aeroplan, LifeMiles and other Star programs don’t allow redemption on THAI Smile flights.
Thai Airways itself no longer operates any narrowbody aircraft.
THAI Smile will be joining Star Alliance as a Connecting Partner in 2020. This will not help with award booking. Instead it will provide benefits when flying THAI Smile in conjunction with another Star Alliance airline on the same itinerary.
Star Alliance Gold members flying an itinerary including THAI Smile will be eligible for priority check-in, lounge access, and priority baggage delivery. No additional benefits have been announced at this time.
Star Alliance announced its connecting partner model in 2015 with South African Airways’ low cost carrier Mango as the first member, but that never happened due to financial challenges at the parent company. Instead the first Star Alliance connecting partner became Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines. oneworld has since copied the idea with the ‘connect partner’.