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The ROP newsletter just issued (Sept) sets out two interesting changes. The first relates to a changed policy on points upgrades - easier and I believe the 21-day limit goes. The second is that you can now nominate up to 5 people (don't have to be family members) for whom you can purchase a ticket using your points. These can also be changed annually. More frequent changes incur a penalty (although not applicable to Gold ROP members apparently)
One change that came in last January but doesn't appear to have been publicised much relates to Gold members only. If you fly 50K miles a year you now get a system-wide upgrade. Previously you only got one on renewal of status (which occurs every two years with ROP)
Of course, everyone knows that FF programs are horses for courses. Which one suits you best, depends on typical routes, class of service flown, frequency of travel etc. Thai program features include:
1. Flexibility in qualifying. One can qualify for Gold over a "rolling" 12 month period, like Hilton, OR on a standard calendar period till 31/12, OR over a two year period until 31/12/ the following year (for 90,000miles).
2. Once qualified, status is for 2 years.
3. After Gold, members get 2 return SWUs per year (4 SWUs), fantastic if you regularly fly BKK-JFK. One return SWU is for the 50K bonus, the other is a birthday present received with other discount coupons.
4. Generous and frequent bonus promotions (for an asian carrier)
5. Ease of award redemption (say compared with QF or UA), though the redemption rates are much more attractive on UA or AC.
6. Award nominee system for 5 people. Especially useful for using as presents to friends, girlfriends etc.
7. Apparently a generous ugrade policy for elites.
8. Famous customer service, as evidenced by Freddie award accolations.
9. A negative is that elites receive no bonuses except COS bonus.
BKK is an excellent asian hub. And for people flying Australia - Asia or Europe, or intra asia, TG has more services. TG has IMHO younger, more attentive and customer orientated flight crews. And on some routes, excellent metal such as the new A340-600 being introduced for the KIX-BKK service from January.
But for me, the true beauty lies in the size of it's program. AFAIK, the TG program has less than 30,000 Gold elite members, whereas there are probably more UA premier in LA alone. This translates as true priority waitlisting and award stock availability.
TG is not for everyone, as AC offers lowever elite qualification levels and UA greater bonuses and cheaper award redemption. But although I'm not a member of either UA or TG, I'd join TG over UA. The qualifying flexibility, 4SWUs/ year I'd use for BKK-JFK return (twice), ability to present award tickets to friends, the superb customer service, the 2 year status and the ease of award redemption for me are more important than frequent UA bonuses and cheap award redemption.
The bottom line is I suppose I'd prefer to be a big fish in a small sea than a small fish in a big one. Hope this makes sense.