Unique Nok Air – Trip Report

IMG_0799Today, I was one of three “farangs” (foreigners) on a Nok Air 737 completely full of Thai people travelling from Bangkok, Thailand to Phuket. I could not work out if this was a random coincidence or do most foreigners not choose Nok? Me? I have wanted to fly the bright yellow Thai “Premium Budget” carrier for some time and today’s flight gave me that opportunity! Nok is the 90th airline I have travelled with since I started flying in 1968! Nok means bird in Thai. They are largely a domestic operation with an international flight to Myanmar.
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Booking: 10/10

Nok’s Booking engine is very simple, very straightforward and very clear. There are excellent how to instructions with screen illustrations. Not seen those on many airline booking sites.

Three types of fare options are sold:

  • Promotion – snack, 15kg luggage
  • Eco – above plus seat assignment
  • Flexi – 20kg luggage plus the ability to change flight dates for free

Unlike some other budget airlines, not paying for insurance and extra luggage is easy. Air Asia foist their insurance on you and many find it is hard to unselect and end up paying for something they did not need or want.

Uniquely, Nok allows more payment methods than any other airline I have seen including at branches of a Thai bank, at 7/11 Convenience stores (which are ubiquitous in Thailand), as well as via Credit Card or direct debit.

To reserve a seat, one has to finish the booking process and then start a new process by entering your booking number. Not sure why it cannot be included in the booking process? I was not able to access one of the premium seats (first row and two emergency exit rows).

Check in: 10/10

Like booking, check in was easy and fast. Nokair allows check in via its own app, or via its website. A downloadable boarding pass was provided and was also sent to me via email.

If you are ever in Bangkok, make sure you are going to the correct airport as the city  has two airports. Most discount flights including Nok Air leave from Don Mueang, which is also spelt Don Muang. It is north of the city. I have had to comfort some people at the other airport Suvarnabhumi who have realised too late they have made the trek to the wrong airport!

At Don Mueang, Nok Air has three rows of counters, all of which have their own entrances where your check in baggage is screened.

  1. Frequent Flyer (Nok Fan Club) Check in
  2. Northern flights eg Chiang Mai
  3. Southern flights eg Phuket

There was also an empty counter for the new (but grounded) NokScoot venture.

Domestic flights open for check-in and/or baggage drop off two hours before departure.

With only carry on luggage, we went straight to the boarding gate (via security and one of the many coffee shops that are dotted throughout Don Mueang airport). The airport is a little dated but has amazing floor to ceiling windows which are good for plane spotting!

The airline provides a free shuttle car from the security check point to the boarding gate for passengers with children, and/or elderly and/or physically challenged persons as well as monks.

Nokair provide free wifi while you are waiting. At the landing page, one enters your unique  booking code and voila free (but slow) wifi!

Boarding: 8/10

This was via jet way and was both efficient and smooth. Strangely enough, there were no scanner units for people with boarding passes on their mobiles, so staff had to write down the details of those passengers to later manully enter them into the boarding system. Not very efficient!

The numbering system on Nok Air’s 737, for some inexplicable reason starts at row 3o. Anyone know why?

Carry on luggage is 7kg. On this flight, few people were carrying hand luggage having taken advantage of the airlines’ generous 15kg limit so this left plenty of room for my small bag and computer case.

 

On Board: 6/10

IMG_0810 The cabin Crew gave a very friendly welcome.

I am not a fan of 737s, despite having flown on 283 of them! The cabin on this 15 year old 737-800 was looking very tired.

Seats are 30” pitch and 17.2″ wide. Emergency exit seats have much more generous leg room. I do prefer 31″…

 

Takeoff

We pushed back two minutes early and after a long taxi, we lifted smoothly up into a surprisingly clear Bangkok sky.

Meals: 6/10

Nok Air flights always include a complimentary snack (I cannot imagine Thais travelling anywhere without access to some food!). In this case a 100ml container of water and two Auntie Annie’s pretzel bits served in a paper satchel. A nice touch. It was a fair amount of packaging for something so small, however. Service was with very broad and friendly smiles.

IMG_0816

The airline also sells on board crisps(chips), chocolates, Milo drinks plus T shirts, cushions, pens and backpacks and other souveniers. The price of their water on board was double that of the bottle I bought at the airport convenience store!IMG_0818

 

Entertainment: 1/10

There was no entertainment provided on this flight. Last year Nok Air launched free wifi on board but only two planes have it installed so far. This was not one of them.

The airline has a free magazine Jib Jib (Cheep cheep) which was mostly in Thai. There is also a digital version.

Safety: 6/10

The safety announcements were spoken in Thai first with the staff demonstrating the procedures. They were then repeated in English as the cabin crew moved through the cabin checking on passengers.

You cannot officially use electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

Of concern, was that one of the seats in my row did not have a lifejacket. The container housing it was empty. (I always check that there is a jacket there, because there are a group of stupid idiots in the word who think it funny to remove life jackets from planes as a souvenir and/or joke).

Landing

We came in quite fast into the beautiful Phuket airport touching down 11 minutes behind schedule.

Once on the ground, there is something delightful about taxiing to the gate and seeing boats floating beside you in sparkling water. Another unique touch is that Nok Air welcome you to your destination in three languages; the first being the local dialect, of your destination, then Thai and then English.

We deplaned via gangway into the airport. The staff waid us in farewell.

 

The VerdictScreen Shot 2015-04-07 at 4.53.46 pm

My Flight Rating: Overall 67% (3.4 out of 5).

Skytrax: Nok Air has a three star rating from Skytrax – which I think they more than live up to. is  Skytrax customers rate them at 72%.
Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives 4/7

Positives: Staff friendliness
Negatives: Entertainment
Would I fly them again? Yes. If faced with a choice between Air Asia and Nok, then Nok all the way.  Bangkok Airways, however, impressed me over Nok Air.

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Comments

  1. Nok Air follows Thai Airways’ convention for seat numbering. Single digits for first class, 1x and 2x for business class, 3x and so on for economy class.

  2. Nok air was a great experience except for the sheer terror when You realize there is a golf course adjacent to the runway with no barrier.

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