Will the Thai Airways Mileage Program Be a Savior for United Passengers?

yosithezet responds to my post suggesting that the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program is a good place to credit miles for United flights (because it earns full miles flown and you can top off accounts with points transferred from Citi, Chase, Amex, and Starwood) by asking, “What about Thai?

And that’s such a good question!

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus offers full mileage earning on all paid United fares.

Here’s the earning chart:

And for avoidance of doubt:

However, like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai:

  • Adds fuel surcharges to awards
  • Expires miles after 3 years (not 3 years of inactivity — unused miles expire after 3 years)

And unlike Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways is not a transfer partner of American Express or Chase.

They are, however, a transfer partner of Citibank and Diners Club and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Unfortunately, some of their awards are crazy expensive. For instance, North America to much of Asia is 192,000 miles roundtrip in business class. Europe – New Zealand is 140,000 miles roundtrip in coach.

Devaluation risk: Last summer they announced double the mileage cost of business and first class awards. Although they did back off of those changes, and committed to giving advance notice of future changes.

I don’t see the upside of the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus program, compared to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, as a place to credit United flights.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Gary – DEN based United flyer here. Has anyone considered that it’s a PITA to book awards with these other programs? I value my time so will continue to credit my flights to United because burning miles (even if they are harder to earn by flying) with them is so much easier than calling Thai or Singapore. Perhaps all will not feel that way…just my $.02.

  2. Actually, booking awards with Krisflyer is painless over the phone. The award chart also has some gems in it. Used multiple times.

  3. Thai’s GUP, 2 years of gold for 50k miles (or 80k in 2 years) and once a year 50% redemption seem to trump SQ.

  4. I dunno, despite UAs devaluation last year (and their new earn rates) biz seats are still reasonable, products, particularly partners, are great for the most part, and award space is ample. SQ miles are certainly valuable for niche purposes, but with limited uses, fuel surcharges, and 3 year expiration policy, I think UA remains the safe bet for most flyers.

    Delta shenanigans aside, UA treats mileageplus far more as a marketing tool than DL treats skymiles, which makes me think UA actually values their program, at least a little bit.

    I’m no UA elite, and don’t particularly like to fly them, but I’ll stick with UA for banking miles th e few times I fly them and transfer into SQ when I need to book a flight on their metal.

  5. Thai also offers Star Alliance silver status for 2 years with 10,000 miles. If nothing else that would ease baggage fees on UA.

  6. @J actually I have, the award chart is pretty good although issuing star alliance award tickets is a huge pain (need to deal with a ticketing office to pay taxes), they offer 100% earning with united on most but not all fares.. and it’s hard to earn their miles in the US other than flying with united et al

  7. @Gary I don’t think it is reasonable to take elite status out of the equation. After all, where we credit our miles is also where we will redeem our miles and where we will work to maintain status. Thai has online upgrade awards for Star Alliance as well. There may be a better program out there, but Thai certainly beats Singapore on the overall gold-level package. Why credit the same 50k miles to a program that will give you status for half the time, won’t guarantee you a round trip upgrade, and doesn’t give a half price redemption once a year? That half price redemption certainly makes the aspirational award reasonably priced.

  8. @yosithezet I take elite status out of the equation because when i raised the discussion of where to credit united flights it was explicitly for those not seeking status [as many of those folks will still credit to union for the benefits of united status when flying united]

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