The Best Ways to Use Miles and Points to Get to Thailand

Thailand is a top destination amongst miles and points enthusiasts. That’s because it’s beautiful country, full of good food and culture to explore but most of all it’s known for being a cheap place to visit and even live in, as it’s somewhat of a digital-nomad capital. When it comes to using your rewards to get to Thailand, there are a lot of different types of redemption possibilities for getting there. So here are some of the best ways to get to Thailand with miles and points.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

Top airports in Thailand

There are a few airports to fly into when flying into Thailand. Most likely you’ll be looking at BKK or DMK but here’s a list of the top four airports in Thailand that you might be arriving in.

  • Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)
  • Don Mueang Airport (DMK) (Also in/near Bangkok)
  • Phuket Airport (HKT)
  • Chiang Mai Airport (CNX).
Wat by Night - Chiangmai Thailand
Photo by Keith Cuddeback

No direct flights

If you’ve already done some research you might have noticed that there are no direct flights to Thailand from the US. Why not? Well, it’s an ultra-long haul flight with low yield and thus presents logistical and profitability issues, which is why Thai Airways stopped servicing direct flights on its A340 back in 2012.

Also, Thailand’s Civil Aviation Department was downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a category 2 in 2015 after it was found that the country was not complying with international safety standards. So that didn’t exactly help the cause.

Still, Thai Airways Airways is hoping to bring back direct flights to the US sometime this year or in the near future and will likely do so by flying to SFO or SEA.

But have no fear, because while there are currently no direct flights to Thailand there are still many ways to get there with a connection or two and here are some of the best ways to do so.

1. Alaska Airlines

  • Alliance: Select partners
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG and Bank of America Alaskan credit cards

Alaska Airlines is consistently one of the most valuable currencies to use to get to destinations and Thailand/South East Asia is no different. Alaska offers rates that differ depending on the partner, so here are a few of the best ways to use Alaska miles to get to Thailand with a few of the best partners.

Cathay Pacific

  • Economy: 60,000
  • Business class: 100,000
  • First class: 140,000

Using Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific may be one of the best ways to get to South East Asia from anywhere in the US in business class and/or first class.

You’ll need to search for award availability with British Airways or Japan Airlines since Alaska doesn’t show Cathay Pacific award availability. Searching for availability about 4 months out and more, I found several flights with 2 to 4 open spots in business between HKG and BKK. Availability from US airports can be a bit hit or miss but with enough searching it shouldn’t be too difficult to find (I found several seats in business class from SFO to HKG just 4 to 5 months out).

Also, the business class product on Cathay typically receives pretty solid reviews, while the first class product is known for being one of the most comfortable beds in the sky. Overall fees with Cathay Pacific using Alaska miles should be fairly reasonable although Alaska does like to stack up random fees, such as “partner booking fees” and “phone booking” fees.

Cathay Pacific flies to a number of cities in the US, including the following:

  • BOS
  • ORD
  • LAX
  • JFK
  • EWR
  • SFO

Korean Air

  • Economy: 85,000
  • Business class: 120,000
  • First class: Not available w/Alaska miles 

Japan Airlines

  • Economy: 80,000
  • Business class: 130,000
  • First class: 150,000

2. Japan Airlines

  • Alliance: One World
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 70,000
  • Business class: 140,000
  • First: 170,000

Japan Airlines is the flag carrier airline of Japan and the second largest in the country behind ANA. JAL offers a number of tremendous rates for redemptions to places and the rates from the US to Thailand are great as well. The problem with JAL is that the only major transfer partner is SPG. This makes it very difficult to accumulate lots of miles compared to programs like ANA that is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.

To find award availability with JAL you can search on their own website or use British Airways’ search function. Availability in business class was somewhat of an issue from some of the cities, so you might have to try a little harder to find open seats for business class. However, I came across tons of open economy awards.

JAL flies to the following destinations:

  • BOS
  • DFW
  • JFK
  • LAX
  • HNL
  • ORD
  • SAN
  • SFO

Partners

  • Economy: 60,000+
  • Business class: 100,000+
  • First: 155,000+

JAL awards on partner airlines operate on a distance-based award chart. For business class routes to BKK, you’re going to be looking at 100,000 miles, which is right in line with using Alaska miles and is thus one of the cheapest ways you can get to Thailand.

JAL distance-based award chart.

The surcharges listed (at the bottom of the award chart) for Cathay Pacific are below $100, so if you’re looking to book with a partner, I’d consider booking with Cathay Pacific to limit fees. Another good thing about JAL is that you’re allowed to book one-way flights, making it very easy to piece together itineraries.

3. ANA

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 55,000+
  • Business class: 100,000+
  • First class: 195,000+

ANA

Booking ANA flights to Bangkok from the United States in business class will cost your 105,000+ miles depending on what season you’re departing in.

Unfortunately, the fees can be quite high when flying with ANA (over $500) as seen below. So while the 100,000 low season redemption is one of the lowest redemption requirements for getting to South East Asia that you’ll find, you’ve got to factor in that you’ll be paying half a grand in fees for premium cabins.

Availability is generally pretty decent with ANA to BKK; however, you’ll need to plan in advance. For searches that were about 6+ months out, I didn’t have much trouble finding award seats in business class. For months sooner than that, I saw quite a few waitlist bookings.

Business Class, ANA B787 Dreamliner
ANA business class on 787. Photo by Jason Lawton.

ANA (plus Asian airline partners)

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 80,000
  • Business class: 136,000
  • First class: 240,000

Using ANA to book ANA plus Asian airline partner airlines to get to Thailand is another option, although it is more expensive than flying with ANA. A lot of the routing through Asia includes partners: EVA, Singapore Airlines, Asiana, Air China, Thai Airways, and Turkish. It’s not hard to get the total fees under $200 with some of these partners like ANA + Thai Airways, although others like Air China might be double that amount or even more.

I recommend just playing around with the ANA search feature to see what fees you’re able find. If you’re searching about 6 plus months out, you really shouldn’t have many issued finding an all business class itinerary.

One thing to keep in mind is that ANA won’t always show you the partners available for booking, so you sometimes you’ll need to search United and Aeroplan for flights to Bangkok and then call up ANA to locate the partner award seats.

4. Asiana Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG, co-branded credit card

Asiana Airlines is the other major Korean airline and can be used as a great gateway for getting into Asia. They serve a handful of the largest airports in the US including the following:

On the A380, their first class suites look really nice while their business class product doesn’t look too bad either.

Miles needed on Asiana

  • Economy: 85,000
  • Business class: 155,000
  • First class: 170,000 (non-suite), 200,000 (suite)

Total fees for a roundtrip ticket on Asiana to Thailand should be around $300, so the drawback to flying with Asiana is that fuel surcharges can be somewhat of an issue. Still, with the quality level of the product, it might be worth it to shell out some on fees.

Miles needed on partners:

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business class: 135,000
  • First class: 180,000

Although Asiana miles are difficult to acquire since your options are limited, they do offer some decent options to get to Thailand with Star Alliance partners, such as EVA Air, Turkish, etc. While the economy rate is on the higher side, the business class and first class rates are pretty competitive. Keep in mind that Asiana also partners with Etihad and they don’t pass on fuel surcharges on those flights.

5. Cathay Pacific

  • Alliance: oneworld Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed for oneworld partners:

  • Economy: 90,000+
  • Business class: 135,000+
  • First Class: 190,000+

As discussed above, Cathay Pacific can get you to Thailand via Hong Kong, although if you used Alaska Airline miles you could get there roundtrip for much cheaper as shown above. Total fees with taxes and surcharges look to be around $200 for a round trip so I would say that’s fairly reasonable, especially given the product level of Cathay Pacific.

Phuket, Thailand
Photo by Jeff Gunn.

6. American Airlines

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles: SPG, Citi credit cards

Miles needed on partners:

  • Economy: 75,000
  • Business class: 140,000
  • First Class: 220,000

Since American doesn’t fly directly to Thailand you’ll need to use your AAdvantage miles on partners like Cathay Pacific and JAL.

7. Korean Air

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG, Korean Air credit cards

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 85,000
  • Business class: 150,000
  • First Class: 190,000

Korean Air offers a great rate to get to Thailand in business class for only 150,000. And fees aren’t that bad at $312. If you book Korean’s own metal, you can also book one way awards (this isn’t allowed on partners).

Korean Air has a great product and they fly their A380 out of LAX which comes complete with a bar and even an in-flight duty free shop.

Miles needed on SkyTeam partners:

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business class: 155,000
  • First Class: 200,000

With Korean Air you can utilize Asian SkyTeam partners, such as China Eastern and China Southern to get to Thailand. The good news about these partners is that I found availability to be pretty good. The bad news is that the fees can be very high. I found tickets with China eastern and the fees were $520 for a round trip business class ticket. 

China Eastern fees to Thailand with Korean Air miles.

Because Korean Air is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, it’s not very difficult to accumulate a lot of their miles. Also, some people get lucky and receive targeted mailers for Korean Air cards with sign-up bonuses as high as 40,000 or 50,000 miles, so these awards on Korean Air can be very achievable.

James Bond Felsen (Thailand)Phang Nga Bay. Photo by Lutz.

8. United Airlines

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles:  Chase Ultimate Rewards, Chase cards, SPG (2:1)

Just like American, United does not fly to Thailand but plenty of their Star Alliance partners do.

Miles needed on partners:

  • Economy: 80,000
  • Business class: 160,000
  • First class: 280,000

When searching on United, EVA had great availability and if you book through United you may only have to pay around $45 in total fees for a roundtrip business class award which is pretty great. Other Star Alliance  partners you might consider booking with are Turkish Airlines, ANA, Singapore, and Thai Airways.

9. Aeroplan (Air Canada)

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business class: 155,000
  • First class: 215,000

Aeroplan has a decent redemption rate for getting to Thailand and if you want you can even book one way awards. The key to booking with Aeroplan miles to try to make your bookings on the airlines that don’t require you to pay fuel surcharges. The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
  • LOT (has small surcharges)*

EVA Air can be a great choice to use for getting from the US to Thailand because availability isn’t bad and they are one of the airlines that Aeroplan does not pass fuel surcharges on, so I would definitely consider EVA to be one of my top choices. I found a roundtrip in business class to Thailand with EVA and total fees came out to only about $45 USD!

One Star Alliance partner that you don’t see on the list above is Asiana, an airline that offers a lot of availability. If you do decide to use Aeroplan miles for Asiana to Thailand, fees will be around $287, so that’s still not prohibitively expensive.

Final word

While there are no direct flights to Thailand currently offered there are still a multitude of ways to get there if you’re okay with making a connection or two. And while fees can be an issue with some of these airlines like ANA and Korean, there are other options you can use to mitigate the damage done by fees.

Cover photo by Mikhail Koninin via Flickr



Booking.com

UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses 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.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *