Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Award Chart Devaluation

Filed Under: Thai

I’m a big fan of Thai Airways. I love their first class experience, how much award space they release, and the fact that every flight with them is a lottery as far as aircraft type goes (they love substituting planes at the last minute).

Thai Airways A380 first class

Nowadays it can make sense to credit miles to foreign airline frequent flyer programs, given how many devaluations we’ve seen with US airlines. In the Star Alliance, Aegean, Air Canada, ANA, Asiana, and Turkish all offer fairly lucrative programs, just to name a few. Which program makes the most sense for you really depends on your redemption goals.

I can’t say I’ve ever considered crediting miles to Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Plus program, and especially won’t consider it after today.

Thai Airways has just announced a massive devaluation to award redemptions made through their Royal Orchid Plus program, which kicks in for bookings made as of September 1, 2014.


Here are the old and new Royal Orchid Plus award charts:

How drastic are the changes? As y’all know, I like to redeem miles for international first class, and my single favorite award redemption is probably for travel between the US and Southeast Asia. While I’ve never personally redeemed miles through the Royal Orchid Plus program, I was curious how much my favorite award went up in cost.

I looked at the award chart, and the cost for rondtrip first class award travel between “Asia 1” (which includes Thailand) and North America is currently 264,000 miles.

So then I looked at the new award chart, which kicks in a couple of months from now. For travel between “Asia 1” and North America it listed a cost of 264,000 miles. See, this devaluation can’t be that bad if they’re not raising the cost of my favorite award… right? 😉

And then I read the terms and realized that they switched the award chart from displaying roundtrip costs to displaying one-way costs. That means the cost of a first class redemption between Asia and North America went up by 100%!

That’s not the only region, either. The cost for business class travel between “Asia” 1 and Europe went from 144,000 miles roundtrip to 144,000 miles one-way. First class in the same region went from 207,000 miles roundtrip to 207,000 miles one-way.

Ouch, ouch, ouch. And we thought the Hilton and United devaluations were bad…

Bottom line on Thai Royal Orchid Plus changes

While I appreciate that they’re giving advance notice here, I think Thai has completely lost it with these changes:

  • I can’t imagine they have anywhere close to as many frequent flyer program members or redemptions as the major US airlines or even the “top” Asian airlines, so I highly doubt they were dealing with more redemptions than they could handle
  • If we’re being honest, their product isn’t really competitive with the top Asian airlines, so you’d think they wouldn’t want to make their program substantially worse than the competition, to give people even less of an incentive to fly with them

Just wow…

  1. Wow! Maybe the methamphetamine craze in Thailand has infiltrated the decision makers at Thai. Either that, or for some strange reason they want every one of their Royal Orchid members to drop out of the program, and want no new people to join.

  2. I love Thai Airways. Nothing better than arriving in BKK in F, being whisked through the airport in a golf cart and through the diplomat/monk line at immigration/customs, having your bags retrieved for you, all with your own private escort. And the Thai lounge at BKK with the awesome massages and decent food is the best.

    I’ve always used Star Alliance redemptions through UA or US to go to BKK. We’ve lost US from *A, and United screwed us on their new chart (and UA cancelled their NRT-BKK service too, making award travel to BKK that much harder to find)

    When will the carnage end?

  3. “First class in the same region went from 207,000 miles one-way to 207,000 miles roundtrip.” You mean roundtrip to one-way?

  4. A 100% increase in redemption cost is unprecedented – has any other carrier ever done anything so drastic?

    Is it possible that it’s a mistake?

  5. I’m speechless. Their chart was bad before, but now I’m looking at the new ones, and even the chart for traveling on Thai metal is mental; the chart for Star Alliance flights is…is…is…I’m at a loss for words…

    One of my favorite award routes, Japan to Europe will be 346,000 points in business? Japan to Thailand will be 108,000 in business? Thai must be pissed at someone, but who? United almost looks “cheap” now…

  6. @ snic — I can’t imagine it is, because some redemption rates didn’t quite double, and I can’t imagine they’re *lowering* redemption costs, so…

  7. This reinforces my gratitude for your UA devaluation warning, as I got tickets from FRA-BKK-SYD on Thai with UA miles last December. I have a feeling I won’t be flying Thai again after this trip!

  8. Insider friends at Thai tell me that the forecasted costs of award redemptions became too high with the number of both *A miles and other award points that can become available to use. To be frank, they tell me, this is why almost all airlines have raised their redemption levels.

    The real culprit? As more and more credit card bonuses and credit card spend has allowed big spenders to procure more and more miles/points, the big spenders who otherwise might have SPENT MONEY to get premium class flights are now more likely than ever to REDEEM MILES/POINTS to get those premium class flights. While the USA offers the most and largest credit card bonuses, big spenders in every country can now build up quite large portfolios of miles/points in any number of mileage currencies. THAT is causing the airlines to devalue their miles/award charts faster than ever.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the airlines are not about rewarding loyalty for those who FLY the most; they are rewarding loyalty for those who SPEND the most on vehicles in which the airlines earn more profit. Today, that spend is mostly on business passengers traveling via corporate accounts and from co-branded credit cards, from which the airlines make significant money.

    This is the new era. Everyone had better adjust to it, because it isn’t likely to change any time soon.

  9. If I read you correctly, Bill, what this means is that the airlines and banks are getting locked in an inflationary cycle: the airlines profit handsomely from selling miles to banks, who offer them to their customers, driving up demand for premium class award tickets. When the airlines notice that premium fare purchases decline as a result of this activity, they raise their miles redemption prices – but that will just cause banks to have to offer even more miles and bonuses to keep their customers happy. So then the airlines will increase their redemption prices again… rinse & repeat ad nauseam.

    Maybe the era of 1 million point awards is not far off!

  10. I used to accrue miles on TG back when I flew them before *A started in ’97, and it got me a biz. class ticket on UA to EZE in ’97 (earned by revenue TG first class tix).

    Then I did a couple of RTW trips in ’98 and ’99; I didn’t pay much attention to UA back then when I was flying internationally, and since I was on TG for these I just banked the miles to ROP. This allowed me to get *A silver status, which was actually a benefit to me because when I started permanent travel I had access to E+ on UA (UA used to offer E+ to all *A silvers at the time, back when, you know, it was an alliance).

    TG’s service degradation over the years has been deeply disappointing (they used to rank up there with CX and SQ for my money), and that they’ve just made a joke of ROP is disappointing but hardly surprising.

  11. I’ve flown TG J and F many times and I’ve always found the airline to be a bit of a private joke. They don’t seem to realise what the rest of the aviation world is doing (or perhaps don’t care?). The only reason anyone flies them is because they have more premium availability than any other *A carrier and they’re the default option for using miles through programs that actually offer value (such as AV and US). I’ve always held the view ‘we’ll try and get seats on a decent carrier, if we can’t there’s always TG’. You don’t even really need to check if there is J availability on TG – there just always is.

    I read somewhere that the only reason TG exists is to ferry members of the Thai royal family around the world, which makes sense. I doubt the airline makes any profit with such an outdated product – the fact that they give away so much award inventory backs up this theory. I don’t know anyone who is even a member of TROP let alone anyone who would waste their miles with these absurd redemption levels! If they were not a member of *A I doubt anyone would even know who they are.

  12. I’m Thai, and on the Thai forums people are equally mad. Some said this is the final straw and they will quit flying TG. I’m worried abou the future of this airline.

  13. This changes affects much on Star Alliance redemption, but to redeem flights on Thai it’s even cheaper.

    one-way trip is currently charged at 60% of miles, will be reduced to half. You can get one-way domestic at 50% of round trip, and international flights, they didn’t change it much, i noticed 70% of their destinations remain the same. And they rearranged categories based on distance, making long-haul routes to be significant lower than current chart. Round trip Bangkok to LA decreased to 98,000 from 120,000, and to many European cities to 84,000 from 90,000.

    Their new chart may reflect changes in UA.

  14. I bet UA is now feeling like good guys compared to what TG did (sky high increases)and what AA/US did without any notice. Not that they should – it’s just that it could always be worse.

  15. Bill,

    I have a comment on your statement below:

    “This is the new era. Everyone had better adjust to it, because it isn’t likely to change any time soon.”

    We had better adjust to it? Bill, most of us cannot “adjust to it” because we are not even allowed to play the game. The insane credit card offers, and points earning possibilities that exist for U.S.-based people are in a whole different universe from that which most of us live in. Those insane credit card offers to not exist in Canada or Asia; not even big spenders can accumulate with ease the sickening number of miles that people in the U.S. can, by “adjusting to” and playing this new game.

    Bill, please tell your “insider” buddies to move their butts and prod the banks and card companies around the world to make points earning as lucrative for the rest of us, as it is for U.S.-based people, because at them moment, we quite frankly feel shut of the game, which makes their award chart devaluations a more intense, repeated kick in the ball sack.

  16. I’m writing from the U.S. No wonder Thai continues to lose money, market share, and customer loyalty. Count me as a former Thai flyer. Their annoying expiration rules were bad enough. So were the non-existing promotions to actually make us want to choose Thai versus anyone else. My ROP award miles are virtually worthless now. This dramatic devaluation of our miles will further send TG into the toilet. Who do they think they’re kidding? After well publicized declines in service both on the aircraft and from the call centers, which now borders on disdainful, and outdated equipment and after completely abandoning the U.S. market (remember the A340-500 nonstops? Long gone), this insulting slap in the face to ROP members is the last straw. I’ll use my Star Alliance and One World miles as fast as I can, and if I’m going to pay for a trip, it won’t be on Thai.

  17. Pardon the late post, but wouldn’t Thai still be an option for travel within Thailand, especially BKK to Koh Samui which has artificially high prices? United has limited availability to travel from BKK to USM from what I’m seeing and I’m hoping that at 15k RT, this will be a reasonable alternative.

  18. @ Jon — It could still be a great option, though at times award space is limited in the market, unfortunately.

  19. I often fly Thai and I have enrolled onto the Royal Orchid plus frequent flyer program. The frequent flyer program is brilliant as I used to fly Thai as a child now I have enough miles for an upgrade to business class for a long haul flight! Now there have been changes in the system but it’s still good. And where this review is wrong is where it says Thais product is not competitive to as Asias “top” airlines. Well Thai is actually Asias top airline and for about 20 years was the worlds best airline. It has fallen but it is still one of the “top” airlines like it or not. I would like the author of this review to watch the rise of Thai Airways to unfold over the next couple of years.

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