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9 Hours in Thai Airways First Class for Just 40,000 Points

April 03, 2017
4 min read
9 Hours in Thai Airways First Class for Just 40,000 Points
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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.

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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:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred

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

  • Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants)
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Chase Ink Business Cash

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?

Featured image by Thai's fantastic 747 first class is currently unavailable via United MileagePlus. Photo by Zach Honig.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Rewards

1 - 3X points
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases