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Full review: Thai Airways 747 first class

We value United MileagePlus miles at 1.5 cents each and Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which transfer instantly to United at a 1:1 ratio) at 2.1 cents, but you can get far more value out these top loyalty currencies than that.

Take, for example, my recent first-class flight from Sydney to Bangkok on Thai’s 747-400. Had I paid cash, the one-way flight would have run me about $3,550 AUD (about $2,715).

However, I was able to book this flight (and you can, too!) for just 40,000 MileagePlus miles. Factoring in the award taxes and fees of $66 (for just the Sydney-Bangkok leg), I managed to get a whopping 6.62 cents in value per mile redeemed. It’s hard to do much better than that!

Oh, but I did…

The itinerary also included a flight from Auckland to Sydney and one from Bangkok to Hanoi, both in business class. Total cost? The same 40,000 miles, plus an additional $50 in taxes.

(Advanced hobbyists may notice that the itinerary above technically violates United’s award routing rules, given that there’s a stop of more than 23 hours and 59 minutes in Sydney. However, a supervisor made an exception and added this leg at no additional cost, perhaps taking into consideration my Premier 1K status, since there wasn’t any other business-class award availability that day.)

I originally booked the flight for me and a friend a couple months before departure, at which point I saw 2+ first-class award seats a couple days each week, including the day we needed to travel. Two more award seats opened up within 24 hours of the flight (for a total of four), though there were seven seats still for sale. So, if you’re willing to wait until just before departure (perhaps by booking business class initially and “upgrading” before departure), it’s possible to book an entire family of four in Thai first class for just 160,000 miles. In our case, those other seats never ended up being sold, so we had the first-class cabin all to ourselves!

After booking, I was issued a Thai confirmation number, so I called the airline’s LA office at (800) 767-3598 and requested seats. (Note that while it may not be possible to select seats online at booking, you can move around during the web check-in process, at which point I selected seats 1A and 1K.)

While this flight is clearly an incredible deal at 40,000 United miles, it’s quite possible that you don’t have that many sitting around. Fortunately, as I mentioned above, you can transfer points instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United at a 1:1 ratio — simply find the flights you’d like to book then head over to Chase to move your points over. They should appear in your United account right away (or you may need to log out and log back in before they pop up).

You can transfer points earned with the following cards:

Or, if you have one of the cards above, you can also transfer points earned with:

Considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is currently offering 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, it’s possible to book nine hours in Thai first class using the points you earn from a single credit card sign-up bonus. That’s pretty nuts!

See this post for details on how to book United awards, and stay tuned for the full review, coming later this week.

What’s the best award redemption you’ve managed to book?

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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