Why Thai Airways only releases two award seats at a time…

Thai Airways remains one of the best airline options when it comes to first and business class award space on Star Alliance carriers. As a matter of fact, they’re one of the few Star Alliance carriers that releases first class award space in advance nowadays.

That being said, you may notice that Thai Airways never releases more than two first and business class award seats or four coach award seats at a time. What most people don’t realize, however, is that they do. You see, historically some airlines intentionally only released one seat at a time for reasons I can only speculate about (maybe they hope if two people are traveling together and one gets an award ticket, the other will pay). However, as soon as you booked the first seat, another one opened up. Singapore did this for years back when they actually released first class award seats to Star Alliance airlines, so the key was to put one ticket on hold, and then often just seconds later another one opened up.

Thai Airways is kind of similar, though I don’t think what they do is necessarily intentional. Take a look at the revenue buckets for their flights:

As you can see, the most seats they’re loading in any first or business class bucket is two, while the most seats they’re loading in any coach bucket is four.

And the same thing applies to award tickets. Despite being one of the most generous airlines with award seats, they’ll only display two seats at a time in first or business class. That being said, it’s a near sure bet they’ll have more than two seats actually available, especially for intra-Asia business class.

The way to work the system if you have a group larger than two is to only hold or book two seats at a time. As soon as the seats are in the reservation, more may very well appear.

To put this in the form of an example, I had a client a couple of weeks ago that needed eight business class tickets on Thai. As usual Thai was only releasing two seats at a time, so I called US Airways to put the first ticket on hold for two passengers. Once the ticket was on hold I asked the agent to build another record for two people. And again. And again. Each time the space “mysteriously” appeared. The reaction on the part of the agent was priceless, since she literally thought by total coincidence that Thai Airways was manually loading award space into their system the exact second we were on the phone, when in fact the space was there and just hidden.

So anyway, just figured I’d throw in the mention, since many people have the notion that three business or first class award seats are impossible to get on Thai. The reality is quite the opposite.

Filed Under: Awards, Thai
  1. Lucky…you are awesome. always share a lot of good info.

    Although I have never used it till date. I have a lot of miles but have not flown using them yet unfortunately.

    – naroowal

  2. You should be able to acquire all seats you want on a single PNR (usually subject to a limit of 9 in most systems) by long-selling the seats with NN status. The system will then process and return with an HK message if seats are available, despite any AVS limitations that may be in place.

  3. I’ve done this with TG F CDG-BKK, 2 seats available, grabbed them, two more available… it’s often the case that only two would really be available on days that there’s only a single flight, but four would be available (on the night flight) on days that there are two flights.

    @Sean M – beautiful advice as always.

  4. @ Sean — Absolutely true in theory, though in practice getting US Airways agents to do that is near impossible.

  5. Yep, I have twice gotten 3 C seats LAX-BKK-DPS by booking for 2 first then request another immediately after. It worked every time.

  6. Does Thai have any lie flat seats from the U.S.? My understanding is that they are all angled.

  7. Lucky, your advice is always good, but you have (most likely, and) inadvertently closed award loopholes before.

  8. just a question about this. I need 4 tickets on thai to travel from N. Asia to Europe. On UA.com it shows availability on both Business Class and First Class if i do a search for 2 passengers. So does this mean 2 award space is available for each F and Business? I would prefer 4 F seats, but not trying to press my luck, 2 F and 2 C would be awesome, thanks

  9. @ babypuwet — That’s correct, at least two business and two first class seats are available. However, if you book two seats in either class there’s a decent shot two more seats will open up in that class.

  10. I’ve noticed the LAX-ICN thai business route doesn’t open up until a couple weeks or so beforehand. Is that true in your experience? I can’t seem to find any 6+ months out either.


  11. @ E — Yep, I’ve definitely found that to be the case. They only seem to open up availability a couple of weeks before departure on that route for the most part.

  12. Does this still hold true as of late? I’ve got 3 usdm business awards already ticketed, but would like to change it to the lax-icn routes (currently see 2 business open).

    How should I go about grabbing the 3rd seat without cancelling and re-booking? Would a 3rd seat pop up as the 1st award ticket change is being handled?

  13. @ E — That’s a real toughie. You could hold a new record, but then there’s no way you could get those flights into the record you currently have. The best I can recommend is to call and have them try and make the changes all at the same time. So when you call ask them to place the new segment in the itinerary, and then you’ll see if more space opens up or not. Make sure you don’t pay the change fee and confirm the change till the space is in all records.

  14. Hey Lucky,

    Is it possible to have a United agent hold one TG first award, in hopes another one opens up, if I currently have a reservation for 2? I want to change from a different flight into the TG first award, but only one first seat is available right now. If possible, how to I phrase this so they understand how to do it? Thanks!

  15. @ Jeremy — It’s possible to hold awards, but in your case it sounds like you’d also need to split the record, which very few agents know how to do anymore. That being said, if you’re only seeing one seat my guess is they won’t release another one automatically.

  16. Hello Lucky!
    Do you think that this article is still valid (published in 2012)??
    I am trying to book 4 business class seats (using Aeroplan miles) from Montreal to Bangkok and the segment Mun-Bkk only shows 2 business class and 1 first. Should I book for 2 passengers and wait for 2 more seats to show up or book 2 biz and 1 first and hope that 1 more first will appear? The best option for us would be to get 4 biz seats but 2 b and 2 f would be fine too.
    Thank you and I really like to read your articles. You are doing an excellent job. You should come visit Montreal some day!!

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