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Ultimate Honeymoon: Thailand with Delta Skymiles
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Ultimate Honeymoon: Thailand with Delta Skymiles

by jeffreyApril 9, 2013
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Ultimate Honeymoon

Why Thailand?

Ok, so I picked an easy one for our 1st installment: Thailand.

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Thailand can be an awesome honeymoon pick for a few reasons:

  1. It is home to some of the most exotic beaches and landscape in the world.
    Gallery from our trip in 2011:

  2. You can split your time between beaches and exploring bustling Bangkok or Chiang Mai in the interior. You’ll get a good mix of beach, city and tranquil mountains.
    Gallery from our trip in 2011:

  3. Situated in central Asia, it’s easy to  use Delta miles and do a stopover in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Guangzhou, Taipei, or Kuala Lumpur.
  4. Bangkok is a relatively cheap hub to fly into/out of.

How to Get There

Pay for Airfare

From the East Coast, this will ding you for around $1,300 to $1,700 in economy, but who wants to fly economy–especially if you’re on a honeymoon?! Departing from the West Coast should shave a few hundred off those figures.

Use Delta Skymiles

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If you have at least 80k Delta Skymiles (or American Express Membership Rewards points), you can book a roundtrip ticket from North American to Thailand in economy. Booking in business will cost you 120k Skymiles and is absolutely worth the upgrade in my opinion – but, when taking into consideration you’re booking for two people, 160k Skymiles might already be a stretch so 240k for Business might be simply out of reach.

Benefits of using Delta Skymiles to consider when researching:

Booking a Delta award ticket allows you to have 1 stopover and 1 open jaw for free! This could dramatically increase the price of an out-of-pocket-cash-paid ticket, so you should absolutely plan to take advantage of it. This means your final itinerary could look something like:

Day 1: Fly New York-JFK to Shanghai-PVG on China Eastern
Day 2-4: Stopover in Shanghai
Day 5: Fly Shanghai-PVG to Bangkok-BKK on China Eastern
Day 5-7: Explore Bangkok
Day 7: Transit to Phuket on your own terms: pay for a flight, take the train, rent a car etc…
Day 7-9: Explore Phuket and nice resorts
Day 10: Fly Phuket-HKT to Kuala Lumpur-KUL and then Kuala Lumpur-KUL to Los Angeles-LAX on Malaysia Airlines and then connect to a Delta flight onward back to New York-JFK.

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This example itinerary makes use of the stopover (in Shanghai) and then the open jaw (flying into Bangkok and then out of Phuket). This is how you can really maximize your Skymiles when award booking.

Using Delta miles on Delta

Getting to Thailand is a P.I.T.A. from the East Coast on Delta aircraft… I mean, the most efficient route that Delta offers is Atlanta (ATL)/New York (JFK) –> Tokyo (NRT) (both about 14-15 hour flights) and then Tokyo (NRT) -> Bangkok (BKK), a 7.5 hour flight.

Cities to Tokyo-NRT on Delta:

  • New York-JFK
  • Detroit-DTW
  • Minneapolis St. Paul-MSP
  • Los Angeles-LAX (1x a day to Tokyo-NRT and 1x a day to Tokyo-HND) 
  • San Francisco-SFO
  • Portland-PDX
  • Seattle/Tacoma-SEA (1x a day to Tokyo-NRT and 1x a day to Tokyo-HND)
  • Honolulu-HNL

deltaus-nrt-bkk

As with any Delta flight, you’ll want to methodically search the most constrained segments first – this is typically the longest flight of your trip. In this case, I would suggest searching how to get from any Delta city in the US to Tokyo-NRT and then worry about how you’ll get to the hub later. You really want to know the availability of the weakest link in these scenarios.

Taking August as sample dates, I’m finding excellent availability on the JFK-NRT route:

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I hone in on departing on Sunday August 6th and returning on Monday August 14th. The trip will require 70k SkyMiles in coach per person.

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Now that you have the most constrained, longest leg selected as available, it’s time to search for the Tokyo-Bangkok route:

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Using Delta miles on Korean Air flights

Korean Air will give you a plethora of choices to get from the US to Seoul-ICN and then you can easily connect to Bangkok-BKK.

Cities to Seoul-ICN on Korea Air

  • Atlanta-ATL
  • Chicago-ORD
  • Dallas-Ft. Worth-DFW
  • Honolulu-HNL
  • Las Vegas-LAS
  • Los Angeles-LAX
  • Miami-MIA
  • New York-JFK
  • San Francisco-SFO
  • Seattle-SEA
  • Washington-IAD

koreanairroutestobkk

Again, it’s all about the methodical search. I was able to piece this itinerary together on Delta.com for 120k miles in Business Class:

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Korean Air offers a few direct flights from ICN-BKK daily:

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The final step would be finding low-level Delta award space to position myself from Anywhere, USA to San Francisco-SFO (or the Korean Air city you found departing the US).

Using Delta miles on China Southern Airlines

China Southern’s only flight to the US is its Los Angeles-LAX to Guangzhou-CAN route.

chinasouthernlax-can-bkk

Here’s some example availability of the route:

Ignore the First Class availability, you won't be getting up there with Delta Skymiles...

Ignore the First Class availability, you won’t be sitting up in the very front with Delta Skymiles…

From there, you can easily find availability on the Guangzhou-CAN to Bangkok-BKK route with 5 scheduled flights daily.

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The coolest thing about flying China Southern from LAX to CAN? It’ll be on its new Airbus A380:

chinasoutherna380plane

chinasoutherna380

Business Class on the A380 (source)

chinasoutherna380seat

Business Class on the A380 (source)

Unfortuately, you can’t book China Southern flights on Delta.com. To find award space, your best best is using the tool at Wandering Aramean Travel Tool – on this site, you should find segments with award seats available and call Delta to book. Adam from Pointmetotheplane.com offers a excellent tip here:

Important – several of the Delta agents saw no availability when searching for business class awards on LAX-CAN, I had to instruct them to manually request the space from China Southern, make sure they do this. If they don’t know how or refuse to, hang up and call back for another agent.  You can add your domestic positioning flights once you confirm the China Southern flights.  Low level business should price at 120,000 SkyMiles while low level economy is 80,000 SkyMiles.

Using Delta miles on China Airlines

China Airlines serves the following cities from their main hub in Taipei-TPE:

  • Honolulu-HNL
  • Los Angeles-LAX – 2x flights per day
  • New York-JFK – 2x flights per day
  • San Francisco-SFO

chinaairlinesroutestobkk

Finding award availability on China Airlines is tougher than most and its not bookable on Delta.com. To find award seats you’ll have to signup for an account at Expert Flyer and start searching dates. I found 7+ seats available in economy on most flights but very little availability in business.

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Looks like I hit a gold mine on this one, flight CI 2007 operates only on Sundays and has 7+ seats in economy & 7+ seats in business! Jump on this is you need it

Hint: Use booking code “O” to search for China Airlines business class award availability on Expert Flyer

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Once you’ve found flights with availability, you’ll need to call Delta to book and expect to pay a $25 phone booking fee. Make sure to have very detailed info on the flights you want i.e. dates, cities and flight numbers so you can spell out exactly what you want. And, similar to the China Southern issues outlined above, you might have to ask the Delta rep to manually request space from China Airlines.

Using Delta miles on China Eastern

China Eastern serves the following cities from their main hub in Shanghai-PVG, pretty much identical to China Airlines’ routes above:

  • Honolulu-HNL
  • Los Angeles-LAX
  • New York-JFK
  • San Francisco-SFO

chinaeasternus-pvg-bkk

 

To find award availability, you’ll need to use ExpertFlyer (a paid service), I found 4+ seats in business and 9+ seats in economy available on this San Francisco-SFO to Shanghai-PVG route in September 2013:

 

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Or Wandering Aramean Travel Tool award availability tool (a free service), which is again showing plenty of availability on the New York-JFK to Shanghai-PVG route:

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Once you’ve found your legs, call Delta to book.

Using Delta Skymiles on Malaysia Airlines

***DISCLAIMER***: As of Feb 1, 2013 Malaysia Airlines officially joined the Oneworld Alliance (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific etc…) and it’s uncertain how much longer the Delta/Skyteam agreements will be in effect.

The only route from mainland US is the Los Angeles-LAX to Kuala Lumpur-KUL route:

malaysiaairlax-kul-bkk

 

But the good news is that it offers a Kuala Lumpur-KUL to Bangkok-BKK and to Phuket-HKT:

kul-bkk:hkt

Also, you can find ground transportation options from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket and southern Thailand if you want to stop in Kuala Lumpur and work your way up the Malaysian coast. More details on overnight trains from Kuala Lumpur to the Phuket/Krabi areas of Thailand here: Seat61.com.

You’ll need to use ExpertFlyer to find award availability, but the service can only search on economy class availability:

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To find business class availability, you should create an account with Malaysia Airlines’ Enrich program (for free):

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With you flights selected, you’ll want to try and call Delta to book with Skymiles. Again, there’s no telling when they’ll stop letting you book flights on Malaysia Airlines, so don’t necessarily count on this choice working.

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About The Author
jeffrey
jeffrey