Portland to Bangkok - Tyler's Thailand Adventure

Cover Photo: Jeff Gunn

Tyler is from Portland and is yet to experience the wonders of South East Asia. He got in touch with us through the Travel Hacking Cartel Booking Concierge Service to find out if and how he can get to Thailand using points, miles and a small stash of money in a savings account.

If you want to join the Travel Hacking Cartel to learn the best ways to earn and spend points and miles, you can start a free trial here.

Trip Specs

ORIGIN

  • Depart Portland (PDX)

Time, Date & Cabin

  • Leave January 30th, 2016 (+/- 3 days)
  • Return February 29th, 2016 (+/- 3 days)
  • All Cabins (Economy, Business, First)

DESTINATION

  • Thailand (Bangkok - BKK, Phuket - HKT)

Budget & Inventory

  • 45,000 AA Miles
  • 30,000 LH Miles
  • $500 Cash

Paid Full Fare

Using the usual search tools, we found prices ranging from $755 USD - $2500 USD

The best flight we found left a few days earlier and returned a few days earlier than the requested dates and can be found here:

Found on Skyscanner

Points and Miles Strategy

  • American Airlines AADVANTAGE: 45,000 Miles
  • Lufthansa Miles & More: 30,000 miles
  • Cash Budget: $500

How Many Miles?

AAdvantage

Thailand is Asia Region 2 (AA Regions)
N. America - Asia 2 = 35,000 miles

:) Woohoo, we have enough miles.

Miles & More

LH Mileage Calculator & Award Chart
PDX-BKK = 100,000 miles**

:( Not enough miles.

**Lufthansa 3 Region Rule

Lufthansa has a weird rule that if you touch (transfer,layover, connect) a third region, then your award immediately costs 100,000. This rules out Miles and More as an option. The only exception is when flights have the same flight number and technically have a stopover but the airline markets them as direct flights. For Example Singapore Airlines flies San Francisco to Singapore on flight SQ001 via Hong Kong. You could use this to get to BKK and this would price out as a 2 region award at only 40,000 LH miles, however there are no flights available for your dates, only a waitlist. You could try it but it is best to have a backup plan or save your LH miles for another trip. You could also fly a one way from Nth America to "Central Asia/Far East" then to "South East Asia" priced as 2 separate one ways, but it would cost 40,000 miles and 20,000 miles respectively still costing 60,000 total and requiring you to earn 30,000 more LH miles.

And the Winner is...

We will go with American Airlines. You can do either of the following:

  • Earn more AA miles and fly a Roundtrip award flight
  • Fly one way with AA miles and fly one way back with cash (more expensive)

Routes

When we search for award miles, the actual searching is done by a computer. And the computer does not always think as smart as we think it should due to the sheer number of possible routings on different carriers and through different hubs. So we have to do a bit of leg work to figure out what exactly we need to search for. The biggest part is knowing if the program you are searching on will show ALL the routes, and also being able to breakdown the trip into individual segments.

Some tools to use

FlightConnections - Free Route Planning Tool. You can see destination airports by origin and filter by airline.
AA Route Map - Shows all partner destinations too
Star Alliance Route Map - All Star Alliance Airlines
Google Flights - Search PDX to BKK and under "Airline" select OneWorld for AA, and Star Alliance for LH.

Searching for the Route

In my opinion these are the best steps to take for searching award space for a specific itinerary in any scenario, not just this trip. Go to the award search page for your frequent flyer program and try these steps:

  1. Search direct city to city - For example search PDX to BKK and see if it comes up. If you aren't getting any results, or just not great results, then you may have to try the next step
  2. Search nearby alternate origins/destinations - You could also try searching for SEA to BKK as it may be easy to get to a nearby airport and fly from there if the award availability is better. Also try looking for nearby airports to your destination.
  3. Search individual segments - You may be hitting a wall in your search and it's coming up with nothing. Don't give up! Try find out the common individual segments using the tools above. Then go to your Award Search site and search the individual segments to see if they have availability, If there is award space on the individual segments, then take note of the flight numbers, dates and airports and you can call up the FF program Customer Service to let them put the itinerary together for you. Sometimes there may be restrictions on combining carriers or certain cities, but for the most part you can mix and match segments as long as they are all airlines within the same partnership.
  4. Search on alternate site to cross check availability - Try searching on another program (eg Search British Airways Executive Club for Oneworld awards instead of American Airlines) within the alliance as some awards will not be visible. Also, the search engine might just suck at looking for those seats on that route or with that airline..

So now we know those steps let's see what came up.

AADVANTAGE Routes

Via Japan = Red, Via Hong Kong = Blue. Source: GCMap

Search Availability:

  • Alaska (Search AA/AS)
  • Japan Airlines (Search BA*, JL*)
  • Cathay Pacific/Dragonair (Search BA**)
  • **Signup required to search

PDX-SFO-HND-BKK

  • PDX-SFO (Alaska)
  • SFO-HND-BKK (Japan Airlines)

PDX-SFO-HKG-BKK

  • PDX-SFO (Alaska)
  • SFO-HKG-BKK (Cathay Pacific)

PDX-SFO-HKG-HKT

  • PDX-SFO (Alaska)
  • SFO-HKG (Cathay Pacific)
  • HKG-HKT (Dragonair)

Trip Availability

Following the above steps I was able to find availability for your trip dates. See below:

AAdvantage

Portland to Bangkok via Tokyo (Japan Airlines)
Portland to Bangkok via Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific)

Will have to call AA to book these, but they are available.

Searched using AA.com

Searched on British Airways Executive Club. BA doesn't show Alaska flights online so we have to search from the gateway city - SFO.

Searched on British Airways Executive Club. BA doesn't show Alaska flights online so we have to search from the gateway city - SFO.

Also availability to Phuket fro SFO

Search on BA for return availability to SFO, then search on AA for return availability from SFO to Portland.

Once you have all the info together, call American Airlines and feed them the individual flights. They will tell you the full taxes and fees and let you confirm and book right on the spot. Make sure all the flights they book are the same and that they all connect and the right times, etc.

Trip Cost

AADVANTAGE

Economy One Way

  • 35,000 miles
  • ~$100 taxes and fees

Business One Way

  • 55,000 miles
  • ~$200 taxes and fees

Economy Round Trip

  • 70,000 miles
  • ~$200 taxes and fees

Action Plan

  1. Earn more miles
    - Earn extra 30,000 LH Miles to have enough for a 60,000 one way via Asia through an affiliated credit card, or try Rocketmiles for any near-future hotel stays.
    - Earn 25,000 AA miles to have enough for a Round Trip Economy OR a One Way Business Class ticket through the AMEX SPG Card (25,000 SPG Bonus converts to 30,000 AA miles).
  2. Enrol in Frequent Flyer Programs so you can search their relevant partners:
    - British Airways Executive Club
    - Air Canada Aeroplan
  3. Find Available flights:
    - On frequent flyer award search website.
    - On Partner award search site
  4. Confirm Cost (Miles, Fees, Taxes)
    - Online instantly if you can (Not able to for this trip)
    - Over the phone if need be
  5. Book the flight:
    - Online instantly if you can (Not able to for this trip due to partner flights)
    - Over the phone if need be
  6. Go on an amazing trip!

Bonus Tips

  • It is only 70,000 miles for Roundtrip Economy on AA, so is worth getting the extra points on AA if you can. Make sure to factor in the time it will take for the points to get into your account if you choose to get a credit card. SPG/Amex can be quite slow at rewarding you your initial bonus points. You wouldn't want to wait too long or all the good flights will be taken.
  • If you go with Lufthansa Miles, you have to make sure you pick routes with low fuel surcharge. See this tutorial from MillionMileSecrets for more details on which airlines would be best.
  • Also consider the option of flying into Bangkok and out of Phuket (ie an open-jaw) or vice versa as that would allow you to travel through Thailand and see a bit more without having to return to the same spot.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for Tyler, please add them in the comments below.