Thailand Trip Report, Post 2: Using Miles to Book Flights on Continental

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As I mentioned earlier this week, I am going to Thailand in December and was able to book a flight one-way to Thailand on American Airlines (the return flight actually). Unfortunately, after several calls to American since March, it came apparent that seats were probably not going to open up on my desired date on December 22. While I was semi-flexible, there was pretty much nothing available between December 18-28. My primary stash of miles is with American Airlines since I flew with them almost every week for 5 straight years. Luckily, American offers one-way awards, so I was able to book my return (blog post) and look into alternative options for my outbound flight.

I started looking up alternative airline options and came across availability with Continental. I will say, I was impressed with their award availability options on a date so close to Christmas. The one problem – I hardly fly Continental and 5,000 miles was not going to get me too far. The number of points to redeem a one-way economy class ticket from the US to Thailand is 32,500 points, which is amazing! American Airlines requires 35,000 miles (still not bad in my opinion).

Since I feel to be pretty “in the know” when it comes to travel and award redemptions, I knew that I had other alternatives to get those necessary Continental miles. Both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards allow transfers to Continental at a 1:1 ratio. Since I have a decent amount of Membership Reward points due to credit card spend on my Corporate Card and American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, I was able to transfer 28,000 points to my account and another 28,000 points to my husbands account (we both had about 5,000 miles already with Continental). Read my thoughts on the Membership Reward and Ultimate Reward programs at the bottom of this post.

Prior to transferring the miles over, I put the available seat on hold. Continental allows you to put award travel on hold until midnight the following evening. I would recommend doing this as you would hate to transfer the miles over and then come to find out that the flight you wanted is no longer available. While American Express says that points will take 24-48 hours for the transfer to be complete, I received the miles instantly into my Continental account. The best thing about Continental is that you can make award reservations online, even with partner flights. This is far better than American, where you need to call to book partner award flights and pay the $25/passenger fee.

I was actually able to score a flight to Phuket. I am flying Virigin Atlantic Airways from JFK to London, Thai Airways from London to Bangkok, and again Thai Airways from Bangkok to Phuket. After all was said and done, with Continental and American I was able to redeem 67,500  points for an $1,800 round-trip ticket, a redemption of 2.6 cents on the dollar. For an economy class ticket using the least number of miles required for such an expensive ticket, this was a great value!

Both American and Continental allow one-way awards redemptions, however, with Continental if you redeem for a round-trip, you are able to include a free stop over in your itinerary (this is not the case with American). Also, Continental does allow award redemptions to Southeast Asia via Europe (unlike American). I have listed below some of the various options to get to Bangkok from the US on Continental partners:

  • Via Tokyo:
    • From the US to Tokyo: United Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways
    • From Tokyo to Bangkok: United Airlines, Japan Air
  • Via London Heathrow:
    • From the US To London: Virgin Atlantic Airways, United Airlines
    • From London to Bangkok: Thai Airways
  • Via Frankfurt, Germany:
    • From the US to Frankfurt: United Airlines, Lufthansa
    • From Frankfurt to Bangkok: Thai Airways
  • Via Beijing:
    • From the US to Beijing: United
    • From Beijing to Bangkok: Thai Airways
  • Via Hong Kong:
    • From the US to Hong Kong: United
    • From Hong Kong to Bangkok: Thai Airways
  • Via Seoul, Republic of South Korea
    • From the US to Seoul: Asiana Airlines
    • From Seoul to Bangkok: Asiana Airlines

Steps to book an award flight with Continental miles:

1. Include your departing and arrival cities along with the :desired dates. Make sure to check the “Reward Travel” option.

2. Select the desired flight option with desired cabin class. Only options with the “Select” button have award availability. If your plans are flexible, you can use the calendar at the top to search other dates with additional availability.



My thoughts on the Membership Reward and Ultimate Reward programs: While I was always an American Airlines hoarder, this transaction made me realize first hand how valuable Membership Reward and Ultimate Reward points can be. While I have always been a huge supporter of these programs, I am realizing that diversifying my points slightly can have huge benefits and putting all your eggs in one basket can be restricting. Both programs are great with the main difference between the partner options to transfer your points.

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  1. I have tons of miles. Enough for a trip to Hawaii. I think saving miles is a great idea so that cost of air travel (which can be expensive) gets cut down!

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