This is understandable, given its large presence within Australia and its close relationship with Velocity Frequent Flyer.
While there are many Star Alliance alternatives — including those popular with many in the Point Hacks community such as United Airlines MileagePlus, Avianca LifeMiles, or Air New Zealand Airpoints — this guide takes a look at the Thai Royal Orchid Plus program.
While Orchid Plus used to hold its own against others, a major devaluation in October 2019 severely impacted the program’s usefulness, with the miles needed for certain reward seats increasing by more than double.
How do I join Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus?
Signing up to the Royal Orchid Plus program is free. You can sign up using this link.
- Go to the Royal Orchid Plus enrolment page and accept the T&Cs first
- Enter your name and other personal details
- Enter your contact details
- Create an account password and select your mailing preferences
- Review and complete your registration
How do I earn Royal Orchid Plus miles?
There are a few ways to earn Royal Orchid Plus miles from Australia, including through banking, air and hotel partners. Do note that miles usually have a hard expiry of 3 years after being earned.
Through credit cards
Whilst there is no dedicated Thai Airways card in Australia, Royal Orchid Plus miles can be earned through a number of schemes that count it as a transfer partner, including:
- American Express Membership Rewards, including the Platinum Edge Card, Platinum Card and Explorer Card.
- Citi Prestige Mastercard
- Diners Club
Whilst transfers from American Express to KrisFlyer can take up to three business days, transfers to Royal Orchid Plus can take up to five business days (but is usually 48 hours in practice).
You could earn Royal Orchid Plus miles by adding your membership number to the booking on Thai Airways and partner airline flights, including those of United, Singapore Airlines and more.
Make sure to compare the potential earn rate through Thai Airways against other Star Alliance programs, as some programs could offer you more miles for the same flight than others.
Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points
Marriott Bonvoy points can be easily picked up through regular buy miles promotions or by transferring from American Express Membership Rewards.
You’ll get 1 Royal Orchid Plus mile for every 3 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred. They’ll also throw in 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 Marriott Points transferred.
For example, transferring 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to Royal Orchid Plus will net you a total of 50,000 miles including the bonus.
How do I use Royal Orchid Plus miles?
COVID-19 update: At the time of writing, you are unable to use Royal Orchid Plus miles for flights and upgrade rewards with Star Alliance airlines. Consult the Thai Airways website for more information.
As we mentioned at the start, Royal Orchid Plus underwent a significant devaluation in late 2019 which seriously eroded the value from the program. You can still use miles for flights and upgrades, but with major increases over the previous rates.
Example Royal Orchid Plus award chart
|Royal Orchid Miles one-way travel from Sydney||Economy||Premium Economy||Business||First|
|to North America||90,000||135,000||200,000||250,000|
|to Bangkok only||27,500||–||65,000||90,000|
|to Asia Zone 4 (inc. Japan, South Korea) via Bangkok||20,000||25,000||30,000||40,000|
For example, an Australia-Europe return Business Class reward flight with any Star Alliance carrier used to be 170,000 miles return. It’s now 140,000 miles one-way, which is a serious loss of value!
Note that Thai Airways flights to/from Bangkok only are priced a bit lower than partner Star Alliance flights and Thai Airways flights that use Bangkok as an intermediate transit point.
One stopover and one open-jaw (land in one city and depart from another in the same country) are permitted on Thai and Star Alliance international reward bookings. Taxes and surcharges also apply to all bookings.
As an alternative to Royal Orchid Plus, consider using miles from United MileagePlus or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, both of which have different sweet spots (for example, KrisFlyer is great for round-the-world bookings).
If you have a balance of Royal Orchid Miles, you could also:
- Access the Royal Silk Lounge in Bangkok for 6,500 miles per person
- Use your miles for excess baggage upgrades on Thai Airways
- Redeem hotel reward nights, such as Pullman Melbourne for 24,000 miles per night
- Upgrade on Thai Airways or Star Alliance partners
How do I search for and book an award seat with Royal Orchid Plus?
One annoying thing is that Thai Airways does not allow you to search for award flights unless you have the required miles in your account. That means that it is best to search on the United website and then phone THAI to confirm the seats are available for booking.
Then you can transfer the points over, but do be aware that you run the risk of someone else snapping up that seat in the meantime. It’s all part of the ‘points game’ that you’re taking part in.
Once the miles are in your account, you can book online or via phone. Some trips can’t be booked online when originating from several countries (including the US) due to currency restrictions. In this case, you’ll need to call up.
How do I earn Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus elite status?
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus has three main status levels above the basic membership: Silver, Gold and Platinum.
These tiers are earned by flying a number of qualifying miles or eligible international sectors within a 12 or 24 month period. Each status tier then lasts for 24 months, during which you have the opportunity to retain that status again or upgrade further.
If you’re looking to gain status through flying eligible Thai Airways and Thai Smile international flights, note that booking classes G, V, W, L, T, K and S are not counted as eligible sectors.
Star Alliance Silver benefits apply to Royal Orchid Plus Silver tier, while Star Alliance Gold and lounge access perks come with Royal Orchid Gold and Platinum tiers.
Royal Orchid Plus Silver
Achieve/Maintain (12 months): 10,000 qualifying miles
Achieve/Maintain (24 months): 15,000 qualifying miles
Star Alliance equivalent: Silver
Some major benefits of Royal Orchid Plus Silver status include:
- Priority waitlist and standby on fully-booked flights
- 10kg extra baggage allowance
- Priority baggage handling
- 5% bonus miles on international Thai Airways flights
- 3,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles bonus for every time you attain or retain Silver status
Royal Orchid Plus Gold
Achieve/Maintain (12 months): 50,000 qualifying miles or 40 eligible sectors
Achieve/Maintain (24 months): 80,000 qualifying miles
Star Alliance equivalent: Gold
You’ll get some pretty neat perks with Gold including:
- Priority (Business Class) check-in, boarding and luggage with Thai Airways and Star Alliance partners
- 20kg extra baggage allowance
- Access to Royal Silk and Star Alliance partner lounges before Thai and Star Alliance flights
- 10% bonus miles on international Thai Airways flights
- Dedicated phone and email assistance
- 1x complimentary roundtrip one-class upgrade on Thai Airways and Thai Smile international routes, excluding discount Economy fares T, K, S, G, V, W and L.
- Complimentary yearly discount on a reward seat booking
- 5,000 Royal Orchid Plus miles bonus for every time you attain or retain Silver status
Royal Orchid Plus Platinum
Achieve/Maintain (24 months): 80,000 qualifying miles per year, for two consecutive years. Qualifying miles for Platinum can only be earned on Thai Airways paid Business and First Class flights.
Star Alliance equivalent: Gold
Royal Orchid Plus Platinum status has unusually strict entry rules, including needed to accumulate 80,000 qualifying miles from Thai Airways’ Business and First Class flights within 12 consecutive months, and over two consecutive periods (i.e. two years).
For all the effort, you’ll get these perks in addition to Gold status:
- Fast track immigration and security clearance at Bangkok
- 30kg extra baggage allowance
- Access to Royal First Class lounges where available
- 20% bonus miles on international Thai Airways flights
- Waived Royal Orchid Plus service fees
- Extra complimentary round-trip upgrades for every 50,000 qualifying miles earned on Thai Airways’ Business and First Class flights
- Your miles don’t expire
- Unlimited changes to your award nominee list, with five complimentary changes per membership year
How do I contact Royal Orchid Plus?
To get in touch with Royal Orchid Plus about a membership enquiry or flight redemption, try:
- calling +66 0 2356 1111 from Thailand/overseas or 1300 651 960 from Australia (charges may apply)
- sending them a direct message on Twitter or Facebook
While the call centre might be the quickest way to resolve your issue, try the social media channels if the line is busy or you’re not able to call overseas numbers.
It is a shame that Thai Airways has made such negative changes to their Star Alliance and own-flight rewards. In most cases, you’re better off redeeming flights with other partners such as KrisFlyer, MileagePlus and Avianca LifeMiles.
Supplementary images courtesy Thai Airways. This article was originally written by Daniel Scibberas.