On my second trip this year to Ko Samui, we chose Bangkok Airways to fly into Ko Samui airport – a much more convenient choice than Surat Thani on the mainland! Despite some hick-ups with our tickets, I had a pleasant experience on both flights and was impressed by the service on the ground and onboard! Read my review of Bangkok Airways’ economy class below!
Pre-departure: When planning your trip, Bangkok Airways allows for one checked luggage up to 20kg. You will most likely need that, because carry on is limited to only 5kg on all flights, the lowest I’ve ever seen anywhere and something most personal items with a laptop or some books are likely to exceed! Our trip with Bangkok Airways was not off to a good start: We had booked a ticket online in connection with an international Philippine Airlines flight and weren’t able to check in on Bangkok Airways’ website or with Philippine Airlines at the Manila airport. While the two airlines have a partnership to sell tickets, they don’t have an agreement to handle check-ins, luggage transfers or immigration, so you basically have two independent, back-to-back tickets. That’s a bad set-up, as it forces you to exit at your layover airport, pick-up any checked luggage you might have, head to the Bangkok Airways counters and re-check in! Even worse, because the tickets were issued on PAL ticket stock, Bangkok Airways staff wasn’t able to make any changes, so our hoped-for stand-by on an earlier flight went up in smoke! That is far from the premium experience Bangkok Airways promises and more a low-cost carrier performance.
It fortunately got much better from there on and the Bangkok airport staff tried to make the best out of the situation. They must have taken pity on us and assigned us exit row seats, the best seats onboard the all-economy Airbus A319 if you are as tall as me at 6ft3! All passengers leaving Bangkok on Bangkok Airways have access to their “Boutique Lounges” – a premium touch that differentiates them and was very welcome for our long wait. You can read my review of the domestic lounge here!
Service: The staff welcomed us in their stylish, youthful uniforms with friendly smiles. As soon as we had reached cruising altitude for our 50 minute flight, they were on their feet and started the onboard service with wet towelettes. While I knew a meal is included, I was not expecting a full service, consisting of a hot dish (one choice only), a dessert and a cup of water, all served on a tray. With the meal, they also offered juice as a drink and came around after the meal with a coffee and tea service!
While the quality of food was average and the selection of drinks limited, I was very impressed that they were able to deliver all of this without it feeling rushed! All of it was delivered with a smile. Compare that to grumpy flight attendants silently throwing a box with sandwich and water at you in Europe or nothing at all in the US – and you can call me impressed by this level of service!
Hard Product: Airbus A319 Bangkok Airways flies two versions of the A319 – ours was configured as all-economy with a 3-3 seat layout and a 31 inch seat pitch. The first three rows are considered the “Premier” section with empty middle seats and a curtain to the main cabin. It wasn’t used on our flights and all seats for standard economy. We had two seats in the exit row which has a few (much appreciated) extra inches of legroom! The seats are cloth covered and can be reclined a little. There are also adjustable headrests with clean cover sheets. While I prefer cloth seats on long-haul flights, for short flights I prefer leather – it just holds up better in frequent use and looks cleaner. Despite the plane being less than 5 years old, it looked a little worn! The planes do have TV screens folding down from the ceiling for safety announcements, but no entertainment was shown on our short flights. The onboard magazine and shopping catalogue were the only entertainment on offer!
Conclusion: Despite the issues caused by our ticket, I was impressed with the ground and onboard service. It was the best flight under 2 hours I’ve had in a very long time and it reminds me of the “good old days” when air travel was fun! Some of my friends in Thailand are big fans of Bangkok Airways and will take them over Thai Airways or budget carriers whenever possible. I would consider Bangkok Airways again for short flights and would be willing to pay a (small) premium over a Nok Air or Air Asia flight. If the fare is comparable, I’d probably still choose Thai Airways, because of my StarAlliance status and the ability to collect more useful miles!
If you do choose Bangkok Airways, make sure to book directly with Bangkok Airways or confirm that your international partner has a full partnership with Bangkok Airways to enable smooth transfers.