Finding Award Seats to Koh Samui, Thailand

Reader Candice asks,

I’ve been looking at United.com for award space from USM [Koh Samui , Thailand] to Bangkok on Thai, and for the past 3 months this segment has not been bookable using MileagePlus miles for Business or Coach. However, there is no issue booking a HKT [Phuket] to Bangkok segment on Thai using MileagePlus miles on United.com

If I’m not mistaken— you’ve traveled to Koh Samui— any idea why a one-way segment from USM to BKK is not bookable using MileagePlus miles on United.com?

Samui is a great destination. But award seats, especially on Thai Airways, can be tough to come by.

Thai Airways has two flights and they’re on Boeing 737s. Bangkok Airways – which owns the Samui airport – has up to 20 flights a day between Bangkok and Samui.

Compare that to Thai Airways service to Phuket where they offer at least 9 flights a day (not including Thai Smile flights), with many of those operated by widebodies (Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s). I’ve flown the route on a 747 several times.

With only two flights a day to a popular resort destination, award seats can be tough to get. That said, it varies seasonally. Award space has also gotten easier as Thai Airways load factors have dropped lately.

And while United.com’s award searches are easy and useful, I don’t ever trust it as the final word on anything. I like Aeroplan’s website because it’s easy and generally accurate. Some prefer to use the ANA website.

Here’s a search for 2 economy award seats Bangkok – Koh Samui on Thai Airways in November. It’s available every day (though not at all in business).

Granted, November is rainy season…

If you can’t get the Thai Airways flights as part of a Star Alliance award ticket, consider:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. We did a trip to USM a few years back, I think in April. On the way over we managed to get 4 C class seats over 2 days on the TG longhaul from MEL. On the BKK-USM leg however we scored 1 C seat. That’s it. We purchased 3 seats in Y for that leg.

  2. It’s such a short flight and discount carriers are so cheap I’m surprised people want to use award miles

  3. We recently had trouble finding award seats BKK-USM as well for this past July, and found another inexpensive option (there were 4 in our group). We flew low cost carrier Thai Smile from BKK to Surat Thani, then a Seatran ferry connecting bus from the airport to the ferry terminal, and the Seatran ferry to Ko Samui. While it took longer (about 4 hours) than a direct flight, the bus and ferry combo was a pleasant way to see the area, and we saved a lot of money compared to a direct flight.

  4. I have been to USM many times. The past 18 months there have been ZERO seats on Aeroplunk or ANA from BKK to USM. During the recession there were many in J and Y class.
    HKT is easy to find but TG has blocked USM (all classes) for award tix.
    I like to keep my flights on one PNR.
    NOTE: after October you don’t want to be there. I was in USM last week of Oct and first week of Nov last year and the rain was endless and it really sucked as you could do nothing (including riding motorbikes to get around)

  5. 1 flight a day from SIN – USM on Bangkok Airways, but I managed to get 4 Y redemptions on using the JAL discounted redemptions above (8K from SIN, as it’s about 900 miles each way). I did book about 4 months ahead, for June. The fees were quite painful- $145 a ticket.

  6. BothofUs2,

    My wife and I did basically the same thing except on Air Asia. I’ll agree with you about it being an excellent way to save money and see the area. Air-gound-boat transfers couldn’t have been more seamless.

  7. Another LCC option (along with either AirAsia or Nok Air out of Surat Thani) is to go into or out of Penang in Malaysia and then fly Firefly PEN-USM. This is what I had to do on an Alaska Airlines CX award (since I didn’t have JL miles), and I wanted to see Penang anyway.

  8. Oh, it looks like Firefly has USM service out of Kuala Lumpur’s secondary airport, too (Subang, SZB).

  9. Hey Gary, another option I recently use was transfering Thank You Points to Etihad Guest for the Bangkok Airways flights. Is 10K r/t from BKK.
    And I think you can also use Asia Miles.

  10. *A award flights to USM are almost nonexistent. Toward the end of this year, I had wanted to fly from PEK to USM on a *A award ticket, but could not find any availability even with maximum flexibility. So, I wind up doing:

    PEK-BKK on TG
    BKK-USM on Bangkok Airways (PG)

    the same day, with a brief stop at BKK. I think that is fine since BKK-USM on PG is so cheap it may not even be worth spending the miles on *A award city…

    By contrast, I did find *A awards to do BKK – HKT around the same time a year ago.

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