If you're already flying with Thai Airways in business class, you may be able to upgrade your journey to the even-more-comfortable surroundings of first class, either by using miles, purchasing an upgrade at the airport, or swinging a free return first class upgrade as a Gold or Platinum frequent flyer.
As a member of the Star Alliance family, passengers aboard Thai Airways can also use miles from other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs for their upgrades: so you don't even need to have miles in a Thai Airways account to get upgraded.
However, Thai Airways doesn't offer first class service on all flights: only aboard its Airbus A380s and Boeing 747s.
That covers Sydney-Bangkok which is served using the jumbo, although not the airline's other Australian flights, such as between Bangkok and Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Instead, these travellers may have the opportunity to upgrade to first class on an onward Thai Airways flight, such as between Bangkok and Europe, when flying Melbourne-Bangkok-London, for example.
But whatever your circumstances and wherever you're headed, here’s how you can turn your business class seat into a first class suite with Thai Airways.
Thai Airways first class upgrades: the basics
Thai Airways provides four key ways to snag a first class upgrade: you can use miles through the airline's own Royal Orchid Plus scheme, you can use miles from other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, you can pay for your better seat, or you can enjoy it as a complimentary benefit as a Gold or Platinum frequent flyer.
In any case, all upgrades are subject to availability – so just because a first class seat is still for sale on the same flight doesn’t mean upgrades are necessarily available too.
As a rule, if you can use miles to make an outright first class booking on your desired flight, you should also be able to upgrade from a paid business class ticket using miles: but when a flight can’t be booked outright using miles, you won’t be able to upgrade using miles, either.
Thai Airways upgrades are also only one-class, so while you can upgrade from economy to business class, you can't upgrade from economy straight to first class – nor can you 'double upgrade' from economy to business class and then from business class to first class on the same flight.
That means you'll already need to be flying business class to have a chance at a first class upgrade.
Booked to fly in economy instead? Read: Thai Airways business class upgrade guide
Finally, upgrades are only possible when travelling on a Thai Airways flight with a TG flight number, so if you book your Thai Airways journey as a codeshare flight (such as with an SQ code, but where Thai is the airline running the flight), your won't be able to upgrade.
Thai Airways first class upgrades using Royal Orchid Plus miles
Upgrades to Thai Airways first class using miles are possible from most paid business class fares – including those belonging to the C, D and J fare letters – although not from the lowest-priced Z fares, other 'promotional fares', or on flights which were already booked using frequent flyer points (ticketed as I class).
If you've booked an upgradeable fare, you'd need 52,000 ROP miles for a one-way first class upgrade between Sydney and Bangkok, or 58,000 ROP miles for a one-way first class upgrade between Bangkok and London.
Flying from Sydney right through to London, or stopping over in Bangkok before continuing the journey? Just add those rates together, with 110,000 ROP miles getting an entire one-way Australia-Europe journey upgraded to first class.
Unlike similar upgrades from economy to business class, the number of miles needed for a first class upgrade remains the same regardless of the business class fare type booked: so there's no reduction in the miles needed if you're on a fully-flexible C-type fare compared to a lower-priced D-type ticket, for example.
In Australia, Thai Airways only offers first class on its Sydney-Bangkok flights, but you can of course upgrade to first class on any other route where Thai offers this service (subject to availability), with the number of miles needed for a one-way upgrade being based on the distance of each individual flight:
- Flights of 1,001-2,000 miles in length (e.g. Bangkok-Hong Kong): 35,000 ROP miles
- Flights of 2,001-3,600 miles in length (e.g. Bangkok-Tokyo): 40,000 ROP miles
- Flights of 3,601-4,800 miles in length (e.g. Bangkok-Sydney): 52,000 ROP miles
- Flights of 4,801-8,000 miles in length (e.g. Bangkok-Europe): 58,000 ROP miles
If you're ready to upgrade, you can call 1300 651 960 with Australia to check availability and secure your seat, or if you’re already in Bangkok, the local number is 02 356 1111. Upgrades must be processed at least 24 hours before departure.
Thai Airways first class upgrades using Star Alliance miles
Your second path to business class is to use miles from other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs. Each program sets its own upgrade rates and time restrictions, and the types of fares you can upgrade from aren't the same as when using Thai Royal Orchid Plus miles.
Here's how many points you'd need for a one-way first class upgrade between Sydney and Bangkok across a few key Star Alliance programs for Aussie travellers, along with the paid fare types you can upgrade from:
- Air New Zealand Airpoints: $1,950 Airpoints Dollars from C and D fares only, when upgrading at least 7 days before departure
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 55,000 KrisFlyer miles from C and D fares only, up to 24 hours before departure
- United MileagePlus: 40,000 miles from C and D fares only (now and following United’s November changes), up to 24 hours before departure
Note that none of these schemes offers upgrades on J-type fares – an upgrade only possible using Royal Orchid Plus miles – or on the lowest-cost Z-type tickets, which also can't be upgraded using ROP miles.
To process your upgrade, you'll need to contact your frequent flyer program, not Thai Airways, to request a 'Star Alliance first class upgrade using miles'.
As always, those upgrades 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 your Thai Airways flights, and with United, it’s 331 days before departure.
Purchasing a Thai Airways first class upgrade
No miles in your account? You may instead be able to purchase a ‘Thai Standby Upgrade’ at the airport check-in counter for your next onward flight with cold hard cash (or, preferably, a credit card to earn extra miles for next time).
From Sydney to Bangkok, the usual asking price is a precise A$1,832 for a one-way upgrade, while on the return journey, you're normally asked to pay 47,970THB (A$1,837).
That's a hefty price to pay, and could actually make the overall cost of your journey more expensive than simply booking first class to begin with, but if your company normally books business class or you decide to splurge on a first class upgrade for a special occasion, it's one way of flying up the very front without rebooking your entire trip.
Oddly enough, on the longer journey between Bangkok and London, the asking price is a lower 35,750THB (A$1,370) out of Bangkok or £807 (A$1,365) out of London.
So, if flying first class remains on your bucket list and you're making the long journey through to Europe anyway, you'd spend less money and get more hours in first class by upgrading the Bangkok-London leg rather than Sydney-Bangkok: not to mention a visit to Thai's Royal First Lounge in between flights.
In any case, 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 first class bump, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a paid upgrade at check-in.
Complimentary first class upgrades for Thai's Gold, Platinum flyers
Gold- and Platinum-grade members of the Royal Orchid Plus program can also enjoy a free return first class upgrade each year from a paid business 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 within a single membership year also unlocks a further complimentary 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 there's another upside here: travellers can upgrade from any paid Thai Airways business class fare type, regardless of whether they've booked a C, D J or Z ticket.
By comparison, upgrades using ROP miles aren't possible from Z fares, and upgrades using other Star Alliance miles aren't possible from J or Z fares: yet these tickets are both eligible for complimentary upgrades.
But, there's always a catch: complimentary upgrades aren't available on flights which were already booked using miles, or in conjunction with a separate mileage upgrade – so you can't use miles to upgrade from economy to business class, and then use a complimentary upgrade to move forward again into first class on the same flight.
These same complimentary upgrades can also be used to transform an economy class trip into a business class booking: so if you're not in a position to purchase a paid business class fare to use this 'free' upgrade, you can book an economy ticket and use it for a business class bump-up instead.