The Best Ways to Get to Thailand Using Points and Miles

Apr 22, 2019

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Thailand is a traveler’s paradise, offering ancient history, delicious street food, warm hospitality and bustling city life all rolled into one. From the picturesque islands in the south to Chang Mai in the north, it’s an absolute must-see for almost every serious traveler out there.

(Photo by Evan Krause via Unsplash)
(Photo by Evan Krause via Unsplash)

Thankfully, Thailand is also one of the most frequent targets of major fare sales. It’s not uncommon to see flights from the US to Bangkok (BKK) for as little as $500-$600 round-trip. Still, if you aren’t able to catch one of these discounts or you’re looking to travel in a premium cabin, today we’ll take a look at the best ways to fly to Thailand using points and miles. While there are dozens of airports across the country, including some that let you fly directly into beach getaways like Phuket (HKT) and Koh Samui (USM), this guide will focus primarily on flights to and from the capital city of Bangkok.

Note that Bangkok itself actually has two airports: Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Muang (DMK). BKK is the country’s main international gateway, so unless I specifically mention Don Muang you can assume I’m referring to BKK.

Once you arrive in Bangkok, it’s relatively easy (and inexpensive) to fly around the rest of the country, as many carriers offer extensive domestic service. You also may be able to snag even lower prices by booking through an airline’s Thailand site. For more information on this strategy, check out TPG Travel Analyst Zach Griff’s post on the subject.

Airlines That Fly to Thailand

In order to keep this list manageable, I’m only including airlines that make sense for a US-based traveler. This means no European airlines, for example, as most programs won’t let you route east to Asia on award tickets. I’ve also grouped the options by alliance to help you organize your planning.

There are currently no nonstop flights from the US to Thailand, and unless a US carrier decides to start one, there won’t be any time soon. That’s because the Thai Civil Aviation Authority wasn’t able to earn a category 1 safety rating in its latest FAA audit, which is a necessary prerequisite for airlines based in the country from launching flights to the US.

Star Alliance

  • Air China flies from Beijing (PEK), Shanghai (PVG), Chengdu (CTU) and Hangzhou (HGH) to Bangkok
  • Air India flies from Delhi (DEL) and Mumbai (BOM) to Bangkok
  • ANA flies from Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Bangkok
  • Asiana flies from Seoul (ICN) to Bangkok
  • Ethiopian Airlines flies from Addis Ababa (ADD) to Bangkok
  • EVA Air flies from Taipei (TPE) to Bangkok
  • Singapore Airlines flies from Singapore (SIN) to Bangkok
  • Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul (IST) to Bangkok

Thai flag carrier Thai Airways flies from Bangkok to a number of international destinations in Europe and Asia, which means if you’re booking a Star Alliance award ticket you may have the option to connect on Thai for your final leg (or initial leg if booking an award that starts in BKK).

Oneworld

  • Cathay Pacific flies from Hong Kong (HKG) to Bangkok
  • JAL flies from Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Bangkok
  • Malaysia Airlines flies from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Bangkok
  • Qatar flies from Doha (DOH) to Bangkok
  • Royal Jordanian flies from Amman (AMM) to Bangkok

SkyTeam

  • China Airlines flies from Taipei (TPE) to Bangkok
  • China Eastern flies from Shanghai (PVG), Beijing (PEK), Chengdu (CTU), Guangzhou (CAN), Changsha (CSX) and Nanjing (NKG) to Bangkok
  • Garuda Indonesia flies from Jakarta (CGK) to Bangkok
  • Korean Air flies from Seoul (ICN) to Bangkok

Non Alliance Airlines

  • Emirates flies from Dubai (DXB) and Hong Kong (HKG) to Bangkok
  • Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Bangkok

Mileage Options

Now that we know which airlines fly to Bangkok, the next question is which airline you should book with. The table below shows an overview of the points programs, transfer partners and round-trip award costs for some of the best options on this list:

Points Program Transfer Partner(s) Airline Partners Round-Trip Award Cost
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Marriott Cathay Pacific, JAL
  • Economy: 60,000-80,000 miles
  • Business: 100,000-130,00-000 miles
  • First: 140,000-150,000 miles
ANA Mileage Club Amex Membership Rewards, Marriott ANA, Air China, Asiana, EVA, Singapore
  • Economy: 55,000-80,000 miles
  • Business: 100,000-136,000 miles
  • First: 195,000-240,000 mile
Avianca LifeMiles Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou Points, Marriott ANA, Air China, Asiana, EVA, Singapore
  • Economy: 78,000 miles
  • Business: 156,000 miles
  • First: 198,000 miles
American Airlines AAdvantage Marriott Cathay Pacific, JAL
  • Economy: 75,000 miles
  • Business: 140,000 miles
  • First: 220,000 miles

Best Redemption Choices

1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

While Alaska miles aren’t the easiest to earn, they’re one of the best ways to book award tickets to Asia, especially if you’re looking to travel in a premium cabin. Alaska isn’t a member of one of the major alliances, but it’s built a valuable loyalty program through partnerships with individual airlines. However, these agreements with individual carriers mean individual award charts for each one. As a result, when you book awards with Alaska, your price will vary depending not only on your destination but also what airline you choose to fly.

Alaska has about a half-dozen partners that you can fly from the US to Asia, but only two are worth mentioning: Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Cathay Pacific can best be described as “too-good-to-be-true,” with one-way awards going for 30,000 miles in economy, 50,000 miles in business class or 70,000 miles in first.

Cathay Pacific first class is one of the most spacious products on a 777 and a consistently excellent treat any time you get to fly it. Note that you can’t book these awards on the Alaska website, so you’ll need to search on a different Oneworld tool like British Airways or Qantas and call to book.

As an added bonus, you might be lucky enough to snag an A350 for the connection from Hong Kong to Bangkok. While none of the planes operating these short regional flights feature first class, the A350 is the newest plane in Cathay’s fleet and features the carrier’s top-notch, lie-flat international business class product.

JAL is not a bad option to consider, though it does have a more limited US route network and marginally higher award rates. Still, JAL first class was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in the air or on the ground, and I’d happily pay 75,000 miles to fly it again.

For both Cathay Pacific and JAL, the premium from business class to first class is tiny relative to the difference in the experience, so you should absolutely splurge if you can find the award space. Alaska is incredibly generous and will even let you build in a free stopover in Hong Kong or Tokyo on one-way award tickets, no matter what cabin you’re flying in.

However, keep in mind that you can’t combine partners on Alaska award tickets. While you can include a connecting Alaska flight within the US to get to your international gateway, you can’t have more than one international partner on a singe ticket. For complete details on this and other restrictions, be sure to check out our complete guide to Alaska routing rules.

Earning Alaska Miles

There are many ways to earn Alaska miles for your award ticket to Thailand, including opening the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, which is currently offering a welcome bonus of 40,000 miles plus a Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. You could also take advantage of one of the carrier’s regular promotions for buying miles. It rarely makes sense to purchase miles without a bonus, but Alaska has offered these bonuses of up to 50% in the past (check out this post for any currently available offers). Finally, you could transfer Marriott Bonvoy points directly to Alaska Mileage Plan, but that should only be used under specific circumstances.

2. ANA Mileage Club

ANA flies a total of five daily non-stop flights between Tokyo’s two airports (Narita and Haneda) and Bangkok, which is good news for award travelers, as ANA Mileage Club will give you a significant discount for sticking to ANA-operated flights instead of Star Alliance partners.

You’re only allowed to book round-trip awards, but those start at just 65,000 miles in economy or 110,000 miles in business class. ANA even allows a stopover on award tickets, meaning you can spend some time in Tokyo before continuing onto Thailand.

Note that many ANA awards have high fuel surcharges, so you might be better off looking at partner flights that cost more miles but less cash. The partner award chart is still very generous, allowing you to fly round-trip business class from the US to Bangkok for only 136,000 miles. If you pick a partner like EVA Air that has low fuel surcharges, you can get a top notch flight, a cheap redemption, and save your hard earned dollars to spend on vacation.

Again though, ANA only allows you to book round-trip award tickets, so if you’re hoping to snag a one-way flight on ANA, your best bet is to utilize another Star Alliance program.

Earning ANA Miles

Unfortunately, ANA Mileage Club only partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy when it comes to transferable rewards. This allows you to transfer points earned on cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Marriott Bonvoy™ Brilliant American Express® Card directly to ANA.

3. Avianca LifeMiles

ANA’s low rates and free stopovers are hard to beat, but Avianca LifeMiles offers much more flexibility for Star Alliance travelers. You’re allowed to book one-way awards on your choice of Star Alliance partner airline (ANA, Asiana, EVA, Thai and United, to name a few) at the following rates:

  • Economy: 39,000 miles
  • Business: 78,000 miles
  • First: 99,000 miles

If you choose to fly in a premium cabin, you might have to connect to Thailand in a lower class of service (since most airlines don’t fly first class cabins on shorter regional flights). This is another great benefit of booking your award ticket through Avianca, as the LifeMiles program discounts these “mixed-cabin” awards based on the class of your connection. Unfortunately, the LifeMiles website is still not 100% reliable at showing partner award availability and Avianca’s customer service leaves something to be desired.

The ability to book two one-way awards instead of a single round-trip may seem small, but it adds a ton of flexibility to your travel planning. You can mix and match partners without worrying about paying more for a partner award chart, and you can even book your outbound and return trips in two different classes of service depending on what award space is available.

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles are some of the easiest to earn, as you can transfer from American Express, Capital One, Citi or Marriott. Avianca also frequently sells miles at steep discounts if you need to top up your account balance after a transfer.

4. American Airlines AAdvantage

Booking through American Airlines AAdvantage will give you access to the same top-notch Oneworld airlines as Alaska, namely Cathay Pacific and JAL. While awards are noticeably more expensive and don’t include a free stopover, American miles are much easier to earn for the average traveler. In addition, you can leverage more flexibility with partners (like flying American from the US to Asia and then connecting on JAL or Cathay Pacific to Bangkok, routings that aren’t available using Alaska miles).

One-way awards booked through AAdvantage cost the following amount:

  • Economy: 37,500 miles
  • Business: 70,000 miles
  • First: 110,000 miles

Unfortunately, neither Cathay Pacific nor JAL awards can be booked on the American app or website, so you’ll need to search for award space on a Oneworld search engine like British Airways or Qantas and call in to book. You might have a hard time finding premium cabin Cathay Pacific award availability after the incredibly generous mistake fare from January, but with Cathay flying multiple daily frequencies from major airports like New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX), economy space is still easy to find.

Earning AAdvantage Miles

In addition to earning AAdvantage miles on American flights, you can also take advantage of current offers on a couple of the carrier’s cobranded credit cards. New cardholders of the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard can earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 within the first 3 months of account opening, while opening the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® can snag you a bonus of 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. Unfortunately the program only partners with Marriott Bonvoy when it comes to transferable rewards. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

5. Book a Cash Ticket and Pay With Points

As I mentioned at the beginning, Bangkok is a very frequent target of fare sales from many major airlines. You might be able to come out ahead leveraging one of these fare sales and stacking it with a pay with points bonus or rebate on one of the following credit cards:

Card Pay With Points Point Value
Chase Sapphire Reserve 50% bonus when redeeming through the Chase portal 1.5 cents
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

or

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

25% bonus when redeeming through the Chase portal 1.25 cents
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express 35% rebate when redeeming points through Amex Travel, terms apply ~1.54 cents
American Express® Business Gold Card 25% rebate when redeeming points through Amex Travel, terms apply 1.33 cents

Note that when utilizing the Amex Pay With Points bonus, you need to have the full number of points in your account, and your rebate will post several weeks later. This bonus is only available with your designated airline if booking economy awards, though it extends to any airline if you’re booking premium cabin flights. You can read our full guide to the program here.

When looking at transfer options, ANA’s 55,000-mile economy round-trip was about the cheapest rate you’re going to find. However, Sapphire Reserve cardholders could book a ticket on China Southern Airlines for only 34,127 points round-trip. Instead of methodically searching for award availability, you can simply check Google Flights and see that these low prices are available for weeks at a time.

You can even score some decent deals on business class fares this way. ~150,000 miles round-trip isn’t the best deal we’ve seen but it’s not bad either, especially when you consider that these are booked as revenue tickets, meaning you earn both redeemable and elite qualifying miles on them.

Just be sure to check the paid rates for flights on your desired travel dates before jumping to transfer your points, as it may make more sense to utilize a fixed-value reward option.

What About SkyTeam?

At this point, some of you may be wondering why SkyTeam wasn’t shown any love. Sadly, this is due to the shift to variable pricing with the most popular loyalty programs of its carriers. Since Delta removed its award charts back in 2015 and Flying Blue shifted to dynamic award pricing in 2018, it’s become impossible to say with certainty what a given award will cost. However, Delta does partner with Amex Membership Rewards, and Flying Blue is a transfer partner of all of the major transferable point currencies, so if you’re dead-set on traveling to Thailand with a SkyTeam airline, be sure to check award rates through those two programs.

Bottom Line

So many different airlines fly to Bangkok that no matter what miles you have in your wallet, you should be able to find at least one decent way to get there. Depending on award availability, you’ll have to decide whether you want the cheapest mileage rates, the lowest taxes and surcharges, a free stopover or some combination. And don’t forget to keep an eye on cash prices before you book. While you typically won’t be able to get any high-value redemptions using a fixed value redemption, you might end up finding the cheapest tickets this way, saving yourself some serious effort along the way.

Featured photo by SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images.

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