Monday, 26 March 2012

Bangkok Airways - Service Review

I hate flying, I really do. It’s tedious, uncomfortable but unfortunately a means to a wonderful end. So to have a travel experience that isn’t totally detestable is worth writing about, right?

I recently flew from Bangkok to Koh Samui with Bangkok Airways, a blessedly short flight of just over an hour. Usually I’m happy just to get somewhere safely, but on this occasion, I actually felt that my comfort and happiness was important and that I wasn’t just a number crammed into any available space. And I’m not just saying that because I was a guest of the airline (which I’ll admit up-front that I was.)

Privately-owned Bangkok Airways labels itself a ‘boutique airline’, and like a hotel bearing a similar status, the airline prides itself on personalised service to niche markets, all within Asia. Unlike the new breed of ‘budget’ airlines, Bangkok Airways doesn’t believe in cutting services to save costs: it’s a full-service airline, with meals served on board during even short flights, and lounge access available for all classes, including economy.

Having the luxury of relaxing in an airline lounge prior to the flight is a rare and precious commodity for budget travellers (usually we have to bluff our way into a lounge, or tag along with someone travelling Business Class). Bangkok Airways lounge in Suvarnabhumi Airport has all the comforts of a Business lounge – a courtesy corner with free snacks and hot and cold drinks, free internet access from one of several computer booths, free Wi-Fi, and a kids’ corner. My only complaint is that some of the sofas are looking a little worn and stained – it may be time to upgrade the facilities, as they have done recently in Chiang Mai Airport.

                               (Bangkok Airways' lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport) 

On board, I found Bangkok Airways service to be polite, efficient and speedy. Even on our short flight, the food cart was whisked out, with gourmet bread rolls keeping hunger pangs at bay. On longer flight, passengers are given different meal choices, and special dietary menus are available. Leg room on the flight is reasonable, and there is an inflight magazine to read to while away the time.

Samui Airport is privately owned by Bangkok Airways, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier, better maintained airport anywhere in the world. Its open-air thatched terminal is cool and breezy, and its gardens and coconuts are gorgeous, immediately getting you into the holiday vibe. Even the dinky little shuttle buses are fun and make you feel like you’ve arrived in paradise.

But it was on our return flight that Bangkok Airways really rose in my estimation, helping to make our full day of travel bearable (we were returning straight to Australia, with a nine hour flight ahead of us). Arriving at the airport a little early, we were placed on the next available flight without us even asking, saving us a boring wait. Also, our luggage was checked all the way through to Sydney, even though we were flying with another airline ex Bangkok. As it turns out, Bangkok Airways has an agreement with Thai Airways to check through all international luggage, which is a real bonus. All these extras were delivered with a smile, and as if our comfort was paramount.

Of course, anyone travelling to Samui will know that flights from Bangkok are pricier than other domestic flights offered by budget carriers. But there’s no comparison in regards to service and efficiency – Bangkok Airways is simply a class above. For a start, there are plenty of flights to choose from – 23 flights a day from Bangkok, in fact. Which means more time on the ground, enjoying your vacation – which is the bottom line of travel, isn't it?


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