Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Program Review

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Thai Airways, the flag carrier of Thailand, is based at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. The airline flies to 78 destinations in 35 countries. In the United States, it only flies to Los Angeles, but that route will be eliminated in October 2015.

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Thai Airways’ loyalty program, Royal Orchid Plus, is well-rounded, offering members decent redemptions and benefits. The carrier is one of the founding members of the Star Alliance, so you can redeem your miles with a large number of partner airlines. The airline adds fuel surcharges to its own flights, as well as those of some of its partners. These fees can be significant for long-haul international flights, but are typically more modest on flights within Asia, ranging from $50 to $212 per roundtrip.

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Hub:

  • Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok)

How Can You Use Royal Orchid Plus Miles?

Thai Airways has separate redemption charts for its own flights and for flights on Star Alliance partners. A domestic round-trip flight on Thai Airways costs 15,000 miles, except between Phuket and Chiang Mai, which costs 25,000 miles. International award flights are distance-based. The Star Alliance award chart is region-based. While redemptions are generally conservatively valued, there are some deals, including flights between North America and Australia. Royal Orchid Plus also has a generous stopover and open-jaw policy. You can use one stopover per direction on round-trip flights, and one open jaw at either the origin or destination. In 2014, Thai Airways announced a drastic 100 percent devaluation of its Star Alliance award chart. The airline scrapped those plans after customers protested, but be on the lookout for future devaluations.

Thai Airways flies to 78 destinations
Thai Airways flies to 78 destinations

Program Perks:

  • Excellent service in all classes
  • Generous stopover and open-jaw policy
  • Miles can be used to pay for excess baggage and access to lounges

Booking Quirks:

  • Fuel surcharges on most award flights
  • One-way award tickets cost 60 percent of a roundtrip
  • Only some award tickets are bookable online

Best Value Awards:

Domestic economy class tickets are a good value at 15,000 miles, but the real bargains are domestic economy plus and business class awards. At 17,500 miles, economy plus costs only 2,500 more. Or you could fly business class for only 20,000 miles. That deal extends to short-haul international flights under 1,000 miles. Economy costs 25,000 miles, but for only 5,000 more miles, you could fly economy plus.

Award chart for flights on Thai Airways
Award chart for flights on Thai Airways

Using stopovers on international routes can add even more value to your award redemptions, and you can use up to one in each direction. However, Thai Airways charges $95 for each stopover when Thailand is either the origin or destination. The award chart for flights on Star Alliance members has some good redemptions, too. Most airlines put Australia, New Zealand and Oceania into one region, but Royal Orchid Plus lists Australia separately. Because of that, a round-trip business class seat between North America and New Zealand costs only 130,000 miles. Business class redemptions to Australia are good, too, priced at 150,000 miles. Another excellent redemption opportunity is for flights from Hawaii. A round-trip business seat between Hawaii and New Zealand is only 60,000 miles; between Hawaii and Australia, 75,000 miles. You could easily find a cheap ticket or an award on another airline between the continental U.S. and Hawaii, and then combine a trip to Hawaii with a trip to New Zealand.

Worst Value Awards:

Among the most expensive Royal Orchid Plus redemptions are economy tickets between Europe and New Zealand for 140,000 miles, business class tickets between Europe and Hawaii for 220,000 miles and first class tickets between North America and Thailand for 264,000 miles.

The Good Stuff: Upgrades and Elite Status

You can upgrade cash tickets from economy to premium economy or business, from premium economy to business and from business to first. The amount of miles needed for an upgrade is determined by your ticket class, and some promotional fares do not qualify.

Thai Airways offers excellent service in all classes
Thai Airways offers excellent service in all classes

This is the cost to upgrade a one-way ticket between Los Angeles and Bangkok:

  • From economy to premium economy: 30,000 to 52,000 miles
  • Economy to business: 46,000 to 81,000 miles
  • Premium economy to business: 35,000 miles
  • Business to first: 69,000 miles

Royal Orchid Plus Elite Levels and Perks

Each level includes the perks of the previous level. Silver:

  • On Thai Airways: Priority baggage handling; 10 kg excess baggage allowance
  • On Star Alliance members: Priority reservations, wait-listing and standby

Gold:

  • On Thai Airways: 5,000-mile annual bonus; two complimentary upgrades; guaranteed seating in economy; complimentary access to lounges
  • On Star Alliance members: Priority boarding and baggage handling; check-in at Gold counters; 20 kg or 1 piece excess baggage allowance; access to Gold airport lounges for member and one guest

Platinum:

  • On Thai Airways: Free upgrade every 50,000 miles; service fees waived; miles don’t expire; dedicated Platinum check-in at Suvarnabhumi Airport; 30 kg excess baggage allowance; immigration fast-track at Suvarnabhumi Airport; access to first class lounges for member and one guest
  • On Star Alliance members: Top priority wait-listing and standby on fully booked flights

Associated Credit Cards

Thai Airways does not offer a co-branded credit card to U.S. residents.