Just because you’re booked in economy with Thai Airways doesn’t mean you can’t fly in business class instead!
That’s because Thailand’s national carrier lets you upgrade using Thai Royal Orchid Plus (ROP) miles, along with points or miles from other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and United MileagePlus.
You can also use cold hard cash for an upgrade at check-in, while Thai’s top Gold and Platinum flyers receive completely free upgrades each year they maintain their membership, with even more upgrades thrown their way if they travel more often.
Whatever your circumstances, here’s how to turn your economy class ticket into a perch at the pointy end.
Thai Airways business class upgrades: the basics
Whether using miles from Thai ROP or any other Star Alliance program, upgrades to business class can be confirmed from the moment your flight is booked up until 24 hours before departure, although some Star Alliance programs may have an earlier cut-off window for those requests.
Those upgrades are also subject to availability – just because business class seats are for sale on the same flight doesn’t mean upgrades are necessarily available too.
As a rule, if you can use miles to book a business class seat outright on your flight (not as an upgrade), you should also be able to upgrade from a paid economy ticket using miles: but when a flight can’t be booked outright using miles, you won’t be able to upgrade using miles, either.
You’ll also need to be travelling on a Thai Airways flight with a TG flight number in order to upgrade – so if you book your Thai Airways journey under a codeshare flight number (such as with SQ but where Thai is the airline running the flight), your upgrade chances are between zip and zero.
Thai business class upgrades using ROP miles
Thai Airways allows most paying passengers to upgrade from economy and premium economy (where available) to business class using miles, except those booked on the lowest-priced sale fares and those travelling on tickets which were already booked using frequent flyer points.
The number of miles needed for your upgrade also varies based on the type of paid fare you booked, with lower-priced tickets requiring more miles and higher-cost itineraries commanding less miles for the same upgrade.
From Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Bangkok, you’d part with 34,000 ROP miles to upgrade from the highest Y, B and M economy fares; 44,000 ROP miles when upgrading from mid-range H, Q, S, T and K tickets; and 56,000 ROP miles from the lower G, V and W fare types.
Fewer miles are needed to upgrade between Perth and Bangkok, with 24,000 ROP miles required on Y, B and M tickets; 30,000 ROP miles from H, Q, S, T and K fares; and 35,000 ROP miles from flights booked in the G, V and W fares.
Upgrades using Royal Orchid Plus miles can only be requested over the phone – in Australia, you can call 1300 651 960, and if you’re already in Bangkok, the local number is 02 356 1111.
Business class upgrades for Gold, Platinum flyers
Gold- and Platinum-grade members of Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus program enjoy a complimentary return business class upgrade each year from a paid economy ticket to a destination of their choice, including when reaching these tiers for the first time.
Further, every 50,000 ‘qualifying miles’ earned in the ROP program also returns one free return upgrade, while taking 40 Thai Airways international flights within a year will also do the trick.
These upgrades again must be requested over the phone, but unlike upgrades using miles, you can’t use a complimentary upgrade on the lower G, V or W fares – nor can you use them on any sale/promotional tickets or on flights booked using miles.
Instead, you’ll need to book a higher-priced economy ticket – that’s any Y, B, M, H, Q, S, T, or K fare – to be eligible for an upgrade.
Thai upgrades using Star Alliance miles
In addition to using miles from other Star Alliance programs to book your Thai Airways flight, you could also use Star Alliance miles to upgrade from economy to business class when travelling on a paid Thai Airways fare.
But take note that this option is only available from the absolute highest-priced economy tickets – represented under the Y and B fare types – so it’s better-suited to business travellers on company-funded flexible economy tickets than travellers booking their own holidays.
Each frequent flyer program also sets the rates as to how many miles are needed for each upgrade.
For Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer members, an even 50,000 miles is enough to get you bumped up on all Thai Airways flights between Australia and Bangkok.
Alternatively, a lower 30,000 United miles could secure that same upgrade, but bear in mind that you could also book the same business class flight outright for 30,000 United miles and a moderate payment in taxes and charges, without having to buy a flexible economy fare first.
As always, upgrade are subject to availability and can be requested (and confirmed) as early as your frequent flyer program allows – with KrisFlyer that’s from the moment you’ve booked and with United it’s 331 days before departure – up until 24 hours before the flight.
Paying for Thai Airways business class upgrades
No miles in your account? No worries – as a last resort, you can also ask for a ‘Thai Standby Upgrade’ at the check-in desk for your next onward flight, secured using real money rather than points.
From Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Bangkok, the asking price is usually $800 per person for travellers on higher-priced fares and $980 for those on lower-cost tickets.
Slightly different rates apply on the return flight departing Bangkok, being 21,460 THB (A$818) from the more expensive fares and 26,225 THB (A$1,000) from many cheaper tickets.
Rates are reduced on the shorter Perth-Bangkok services being $730 from the more flexible economy fares and $890 from lower-level tickets, clocking in at 19,565 THB (A$746) and 23,910 THB (A$912) on the return leg, respectively.
These upgrades are subject to both seats and catering being available on your flight – so even if you weren’t able to use miles for your business class bump, it won’t hurt to ask for a paid upgrade at check-in.
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