Thai Airways has announced a significant devaluation to its Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyer program. The airline is selling the changes as rewarding customers with “more miles” and “more award flexibility”. But, make no mistake – the value in this frequent flyer program is being gutted.
The changes will take effect from 1 October 2019, so at least Thai Airways has given plenty of notice.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus is a transfer partner in Australia for Amex Membership Rewards, Diners Club Rewards and the Citibank Prestige credit card.
The Royal Orchid Plus changes affect the rates at which miles are earned and redeemed, including for Thai Airways awards, Star Alliance awards, round-the-world awards and upgrades. Here’s what you need to know…
Changes to Thai Airways earning rates
Thai Airways is making some improvements to mileage earning rates for Royal Orchid Plus members when travelling on Thai Airways or Thai Smiles. Earn rates are slightly increasing for passengers booked on more expensive tickets. Thai is also introducing new tier status bonus miles to reward Silver, Gold and Platinum members with 5%, 10% and 20% more miles for Thai flights, respectively. This bonus will not apply to qualifying miles, which counts towards status attainment.
On their own, these changes would be perfectly reasonable. However, Thai is drastically increasing the cost of reward flights and upgrades. This means that any potential benefits for Thai’s frequent flyers or premium cabin passengers will be offset by the higher cost of rewards. And for everyone else using Royal Orchid Plus miles, the increased prices for redemptions are not offset at all.
Here’s what Thai Airways says:
Mileage requirements have remained the same for many years and in certain zones there are increases in all Award Charts. With the ability to earn more class of service bonus miles and tier bonus miles, this will help to offset Award increases for many members.
Higher redemption prices
There are currently three Royal Orchid Plus award charts:
- One-way Thai Airways awards
- Round-trip Thai Airways awards
- Star Alliance awards (only available as round-trip awards)
As is stands, round-trip awards are better value than one-way awards. Read more: Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Redemption Guide
But from 1 October, all awards will use one-way pricing with round-trip awards costing twice the number of miles. There will be three new award charts:
- Thai Airways awards to/from Bangkok
- Thai Airways awards to/from Thailand via Bangkok
- All other awards (Beyond Bangkok Thai and Star Alliance awards)
If we take a closer look at what these changes mean, the numbers are not pretty. As an example, it currently costs 52,500 miles one-way or 75,000 miles round-trip to fly from Perth to Bangkok in Thai Airways Business class. From 1 October, the price will become 65,000 miles one-way or double that – 130,000 miles – for a return trip.
As another example, it currently costs 170,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles for a round-trip Star Alliance award in Business class from Australia to Europe. This will increase to 175,000 miles one-way from 1 October. Although one-way Star Alliance awards are not currently available, the introduction of one-way awards is not a benefit when they’re more expensive than current round-trip rates!
Star Alliance round-the-world prices are also increasing dramatically. Economy tickets are being raised from 220,000 to 350,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles. Meanwhile, Business Class increases from 340,000 to 725,000 miles and First Class goes from 480,000 to 950,000 miles.
These price increases are simply absurd! Thai says that “changes to mileage accrual and redemption have been designed to continue rewarding and recognizing members, and to align with other leading frequent flyer programs.” But Singapore Airlines continues to offer a Star Alliance round-the-world award in Business class for just 240,000 KrisFlyer miles. After the October changes, you could book three round-the-world awards in Business with KrisFlyer miles and still spend fewer miles overall.
Upgrade award prices are also increasing
The bad news doesn’t end there. Thai is also increasing the cost of upgrading with miles on Thai Airways and Star Alliance partner airline flights. It will also no longer be possible to upgrade from Economy fare classes S, T, K, G, V and W. So you’ll not only pay more miles to upgrade, but you’ll also need to buy a more expensive ticket just to be eligible to upgrade.
It currently costs 34,000 to upgrade a fully-flexible Thai Airways Economy ticket between Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and Bangkok with Royal Orchid Plus miles. From 1 October 2019, the same upgrade would cost 52,000 miles. Meanwhile, upgrades from Business to First Class on flights from Bangkok to Europe will increase from 58,000 to 112,500 miles.
It is hard to see any good reason to continue using the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus program after the October 2019 devaluation. There are other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs, such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer or Asiana Club, that continue to offer much better value.
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