It is difficult to keep track what Thai Airways is planning to do this time around with their Thai Smile unit. Thai Smile was originally supposed to be a deep discounter rather than a full service airline that it has morphed into.
Thai Smile has been flying under Thai Airways air operator’s certificate, but is planning to start flying under its own IATA code “WE” on April 10, 2014.
All Thai Smile domestic routes within Thailand will carry both the WE and TG codes. Thai Smile international flights will only carry Thai Airways TG code for now.
There is a lengthy article about Thai Smile on the CAPA site here.
The reason why this change is important to frequent fliers is that Thai Smile has been slowly taking over some routes previously operated by Thai Airways such as the Bangkok-Colombo.
If the airline (Thai Smile) is not affiliated with Star Alliance and Thai Airways is merely placing its code on some Thai Smile flights, it means that you don’t earn any miles for the Thai Smile flights and no Star Alliance status related benefits such as lounge access, premier check in and extra luggage allowance will apply.
This would be exactly the same situation as with Singapore Airlines owned SilkAir that is a full service short-haul airline that is not part of the alliance.
Cathay Pacific has taken different approach. Its short-haul unit Dragon Air is a regional affiliate of the Oneworld Alliance and all benefits apply.
And Malaysia Airlines owns FireFly that is called a “community” airline and which is not part of the Oneworld.
To make things more complicated, Nok Air, which is party owned by Thai Airways, is launching a NokScoot (mediun/long-haul discount carrier) in collaboration with Singapore Airlines owned Scoot. Also, Air Asia is launching a Thailand based Thai AirAsia X.
When I take short-haul flights to/from or within Thailand, I rarely fly on Thai Airways because their prices are never competitive and the few hundred award miles that you would earn are not worth more than couple of bucks.
So, I usually find myself flying on Thai AirAsia (the short-haul airline), Bangkok Airways or recently Nok Air.