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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?

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.