Every now and then you get a reminder of what flying used to be like and a glimpse of what it could be like. Porter Airways in Canada is one such “boutique” carrier and Bangkok Airways is another. This was the 90th airline I have ever flown.
Bangkok Airways started back in 1968 as Sahakol Air, the first ever private aviation company in Thailand. They have embarked on a fairly aggressive growth strategy in the last three years. They have some of the cutest ads of any airline in the world!
There is now a crowded market in Thailand, a country with a population of 66 million in an area the size of Spain or slightly larger than California. There are nine registered carriers jostling for market share:
- Thai Airways (and subsidiary Thai Smile)– 29% market share
- Thai AirAsia – 28% market share
- Nokair– 27%
- Bangkok Airways- 14%
- Orient Thai Airlines – 1%
- Business Air <1%
- Happy Air <1%
- Kan Air <1%
- Thai Lion Air (started in Dec, 2013) <1%
The airline currently owns 27 aircraft. With codeshares they fly to 24 destinations in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan and the Maldives. They own their own airports at Samui, Sukhothai and Trat.
Bangkok Airways has a great website and an equally useful app for booking flights (you cannot choose a seat on the app, however).
We booked our ticket through a travel agent because we got a slightly better deal. Unlike many countries in the world where travel agents avoid selling domestic flights, Thai ones seem happy to assist.
Check In: 10/10
Bangkok Airways offer check in via the web or mobile phone from 24 hours prior to departure. Check in was straight forward. Strangely, you cannot use the app to check in.
We were unable to obtain window seats using the web check in so we presented ourselves at the airport. The warm friendly staff got us into the exit seats with no fuss. Others I have spoken to also admire the efficiency and warmth of Bangkok Airways Check in (now I sound like an advertisement for them).
Luggage allowance is one free checked bag of up to 20kg (44 pounds) and one carry on of up to 5kg (11 pounds).
One of the features of Bangkok airways is that all passengers have access to their private lounge with drinks, snacks, newspapers and wifi. The lounge at Chiang Mai airport was being renovated so we were welcomed into a converted room and given a complimentary snack box. This was better than many US airline lounges!
The flight was not full and boarding was pretty speedy. Passengers were greeted in English or Thai on boarding. The welcome aboard was very warm and hospitable. There was plenty of baggage room.
On Board: 8/10
Our one class Airbus 320 had 144 Economy seats with a 31″ pitch and 19.8 width except in the exit row! Seats were comfortable but old. The plane itself being ten years old is looking tired and dated. It was clean and the lavatories were spotless, however.
The airline is equipping some planes with a Premier Section at the front of their planes. Three rows have the middle seat removed. The airline also has a “Blue Ribbon” Business Class.
A flight attendant visited those of us in the exit row to take us through safety requirements for sitting there.
I found the safety demonstration awful. The video intro and outro with dancing flight attendants was cringe -worthy. The rest of the video is very dull. I would have liked to see the flight attendants on our flight dancing in the same way as the attendants in the video. None of the crew took positions in the cabin to demonstrate equipment or exit procedures.
We took off on time for quite a spectacular take off out of Chiang Mai with great views of Doi Suthep, the mountain next to the city as we climbed.
The airline served one of the most amazing spreads I have seen 0n a 57 minute journey! Check this out:
Everything was fresh. Remember we had also eaten snack box food in the lounge! The crew served and packed the meals up in what seemed like record time.
The airline offered no entertainment on this sector, although eating the meal took up some of our flight time! There were 14″ overhead LCD screens throughout the cabin, but they were only used for the safety demonstrations and moving map.
Right on time, we touched down into smokey Bangkok.
My Flight Rating: Overall 81% (4 out of 5).
Skytrax: Bangkok Airways has a 4 star rating from Skytrax – and well deserved.
Positives: Check in process, meals
Negatives: No Entertainment on board
Would I fly them again? Yes, Yes, Yes- definitely in the top 20 of my 90 airlines!