Reader Troy R. passes along a tip that I think I noticed back in November but never fully internalized the significance of.
He was reading my trip report on burning Hilton HHonors points at the Conrad Koh Samui — one of the really aspirational properties in the Hilton portfolio, and a great redemption value at 50,000 points per night through March 28 when the bottom falls out of the best redemptions in the Hilton program (this property becomes 95,000 points per night for 10 months of the year).
All the rooms at the resort are standalone ocean villas with private pools. The food and service are good. The two downsides I note are that the hills are such that you have to take golf carts pretty much everywhere (golf carts are always at the ready there, but there’s no meandering around the property) and food and spa treatments are rather pricey for Thailand. I was grateful for my Diamond breakfast benefit when I was there because breakfast for two each morning would otherwise have run about US$70.
Getting to Koh Samui can be a challenge, though, at least at a low price or as part of an award ticket. Thai Airways flies two daily 737s and award seats are sparse. Most of the flights in and out of the private Koh Samui airport are operated by Bangkok Airways. They have a few mileage partners but most people find themselves buying tickets. And Bangkok – Koh Samui is pricey for intra-Thailand travel. I’ve seen coach running about $300 per person roundtrip, with business class about an extra $50 each way. (Bangkok Airways is often incrementally cheaper than Thai Aiwrays, too and they offer a good product.. their domestic flights aren’t dry, and they offered a tarmac transfer to even economy passengers transferring to international flights in Bangkok).
Troy points out that Bangkok Airways is a new partner of Japan Airline. And JAL has a promotion for discounted redemptions on Bangkok Airways for travel through December 31st that are a really good deal.
The promotion applies to economy redemptions only but…
- Any trip up to 1000 miles total flown normally runs 15,000 miles. But with this promotion it’s just 5000 miles. That’s 2/3rds off.
- Travel between 1001 and 2000 miles are normally 20,000 miles. Through December 31 they are just 8000 miles. That’s 60% off.
- Travel from 2001 to 4000 miles normally runs 21,000 miles, but with this discount is 18,000 miles. That’s about a 14% discount.
Starwood points transfer to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. Of course 20,000 Starpoints transfer to 25,000 JAL points. And JAL is also especially good for redemptions on Emirates, many Emirates awards are cheaper through JAL than through Alaska Airlines (which has just introduced Emirates awards).
JAL points don’t transfer instantly, plan on about a week. Bookings need to be made by phone with no award holds available. In general after a few calls to query availability it seems like things are pretty wide open (but I didn’t proactively check the highest season dates).
If you’re going to be traveling around Southeast Asia in 2013, have a look at the Bangkok Airways route map. This award sale certainly offers some bargains. They offer service to some interesting, underserved markets as well such as Luang Prabang and Ventiane, Yangon, Dhaka, Siem Reap, and Male.
And if you do travel on Bangkok Airways, join their FlyerBonus program because membership alone entitles you to an extra 10kg baggage allowance.