Note: Thai Airways is making significant changes to its Royal Orchid Plus program from 1 October 2019.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus is a frequent flyer program that’s often overlooked. While it does have some limitations, there are some great sweet spots for Australian travellers. And, if you have an Amex Membership Rewards account, you can easily transfer points directly to Thai Airways.
There are some niche benefits to using the Royal Orchid Plus program, including access to some very good value Star Alliance award redemptions to Europe and North America, and free stopovers are also allowed. But there are also some limitations. Thai Airways does pass on fuel surcharges when redeeming points. In addition, it’s not possible to book one-way awards on partner airlines.
New to Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus? We’ve put together this guide to redeeming miles and the Royal Orchid Plus sweet spots of interest to Australians.
The first thing you need to know about redeeming Royal Orchid Plus miles is the difference between Thai Air Awards and Star Alliance Awards…
Thai Air Awards with Royal Orchid Plus
If you’re travelling only on Thai Airways aircraft (i.e. none of your itinerary includes flights with any Star Alliance partner airlines), you’ll be using a Thai Air Award. Pricing for Thai Air Awards is based on the distance travelled, with the award chart comprising of distance-based zones.
It is possible to book one-way Thai Air Awards. But round-trip award tickets are better value, costing less than double the one-way price.
As with all Royal Orchid Plus awards, one free stopover is allowed in each direction. Also, one open-jaw is allowed within the same country at either the origin or destination. That is reasonably generous.
Star Alliance Awards with Royal Orchid Plus
Star Alliance Awards use a region-based award chart, meaning there can be some subtle differences in pricing. A Star Alliance Award is any award booking that includes travel on a Star Alliance partner other than Thai Airways. It is possible to include travel on both Thai and other Star Alliance partners on a single Star Alliance Award.
Star Alliance Awards must be round-trip, and you must return to the country of origin (although you don’t necessarily have to return to the same airport). In addition, mixed-class travel is not allowed. There may be an exception here for First Class awards, where First Class is not available on some aircraft. In this case, the First Class pricing still applies to the entire journey.
In some cases, redeeming for Star Alliance awards through Royal Orchid Plus is better value than using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which is also an Amex transfer partner. But with Singapore Airlines, you’re able to book one-way awards. You’ll also get much better access to premium cabin awards on Singapore Airlines, which are not generally made available to members of other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs (including Thai Royal Orchid Plus). So, even though it costs more KrisFlyer miles to fly to Europe in Business Class, you’ll have a higher chance of finding award availability via KrisFlyer.
Royal Orchid Plus sweet spots for Australians
The Royal Orchid Plus award charts have some surprising sweet spots of interest to Australians. It’s worth noting that Business and First Class awards typically cost less than double an Economy award, so this is where the value really lies.
Here are some Royal Orchid Plus sweet spots that we found:
- Business Class from Australia to Europe is good value at just 170,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles, round-trip. By comparison, Singapore Airlines charges 210,000 KrisFlyer miles, Qantas charges 256,000 Qantas points and Virgin Australia prices this at 278,000 Velocity points.
- First Class from Australia to Europe is an unbeatable 210,000 miles round-trip as a Star Alliance Award, or 230,000 miles for travel on Thai Airways. (However, it’s very unlikely you’ll find award availability on an airline other than Thai Airways.)
- Australia to Central Asia and the Middle East (including Georgia, Israel, Jordan and Kazakhstan) is only 140,000 miles round-trip in Business Class.
- Australia to India in Business Class is 130,000 miles round-trip on Thai Airways, or just 127,000 miles round-trip on Star Alliance partners such as Air India.
- Australia to North America in Business Class is only 150,000 miles round-trip, and you can often find off-peak award availability from Australia on United Airlines these days. This is significantly cheaper than KrisFlyer, which charges 234,000 KrisFlyer miles round-trip for Business to the United States. It’s also cheaper than United itself, which charges 160,000 MileagePlus miles for the same redemption.
Thai Airways Star Alliance Round The World Award
Thai Airways also offers a “Star Alliance Round The World Award”, with up to 10 stopovers allowed. However, this is quite expensive and definitely not as good value as the equivalent Singapore Airlines round-the-world award. Prices are as follows:
- Economy Class – 220,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles
- Business Class – 340,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles
- First Class – 480,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles
How to redeem Royal Orchid Plus miles
Most Royal Orchid Plus awards can be booked on the Thai Airways website. However, frustratingly, Thai Airways won’t let you search for award availability unless you have enough miles in your account to make a booking. This is particularly annoying if you’re planning to transfer Amex points across to your Royal Orchid Plus account in order to make a booking.
If you’re unable to search or book on the Thai Airways website, you can use the United Airlines website to search for Star Alliance award availability before calling Thai Airways to confirm availability and pricing. From Australia, you can contact the Thai Airways Sydney office on 1300 651 960 or call the Bangkok-based Royal Orchid Plus member service centre on +66 023 561 111.
Would you like help using your frequent flyer points?
Frequent Flyer Solutions offers a personalised service that’s designed to take the hard work out of redeeming your frequent flyer points!
Award Flight Assist can help you to find the perfect flights using your points. Just let the team know how many points you have and where you would like to go, and they’ll prepare an itinerary for you.