Bye-Bye Star Alliance Award Trip

Traveler says bye-bye to the Star Alliance and samples the good life in Asian carriers before devaluation of miles sets in.

Award Trip by Olman Melendez-Pal

When United announced they were devaluing their award chart and making it extremely expensive to redeem miles for premium cabins on partner airlines, I decided to plan a trip that would maximize multiple foreign (mostly Asian) carriers that I was dying to experience.

I had no issues finding two seats on Asiana between JFK and ICN with fully enclosed suites, 31 inch TVs and one of the best catering services in the sky. We were the only two passengers in first, so of course our experience was fantastic.

Asiana Suites, Bye-Bye Star Alliance
THAI Airways


We had never been to Seoul, so we planned to stay for a couple of days, and being Japan-o-maniacs, we couldn’t resist visiting Tokyo, so I booked two tickets on Korean Air using Delta SkyMiles. I was glad we made this side trip as we didn’t ‘click’ with Seoul and would have felt a little empty if we had skipped Japan.

Asiana Business Class, Bye-Bye Star Alliance
Asiana Business Class

I owed my folks in Budapest a visit, so our next stop was Europe. I had hoped to fly to Vienna on Thai Airlines A380. I’d flown it last year from Frankfurt to Bangkok in business class so I was curious about their first class and services at BKK such as the Royal Orchid Spa where you get a complimentary one-hour massage before your flight.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a nonstop flight from ICN to BKK, so I had to route myself via Beijing. I was able to snag two seats on their 747 nose, so I was excited to compare both the old and new products. For the Incheon-Beijing leg we were booked on Asiana business class operated by an Airbus A330. The flight was great.

Turkish Airlines - Lounge Istanbul,Bye-Bye Star Alliane
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul

For the trip home from Vienna to New York, I found award space on Turkish Airlines. While their hard product is far from earth shattering, I wanted to try them because of their famed lounge in Istanbul; plus, their inflight catering is provided by DO&CO. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down! Everything was amazing. The lounge was fun and the flight was probably one of the best I’ve ever taken.

FFP miles spent:
120,000 US Dividend Miles and 22,500 Delta SkyMiles

Hotel points spent:
Four Chase free hotel nights

Approximate fees:

Airline(s) / Routing:
JFK-ICN-PEK-BKK-CDG-VIE-IST-JFK on Asiana, Thai Austrian and Turkish. ICN-NRT/HND-GMP on Korean

How booked:
Online (Delta) and over the phone (US Airways)

Type of award(s):
First, business and Y economy

Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Airbnb in Seoul

Month/year of trip:
May 2014


  1. Joey says

    There is no nonstop flights between ICN and BKK? I find that hard to believe since I flew Asiana ICN-BKK two years ago. Did you mean there was no non-stop award availability on either Thai or Asiana?

    • Olman says

      Yes both TG and OZ flies that route but Y and J only it.I went via PEK so I could try TG’s first on the 747.unfortuantely that was changed to a two class 77W a couple of weeks before my flight.

  2. Nandi Bolten says

    The numbers for the FFP spent can’t be right? I spend more miles and fees on a simple round trip from RDU to ZRH in Economy for my son. Mind sharing the secret how to do that for two tickets for those two trips?

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