NOK Air Trip Report

If you travel around Thailand, you will see Nok’s bold yellow planes with an image of a bird at the front of the aircraft nose. The word “Nok” is Thai for Bird. I have flown them half a dozen times and recently, I joined them for a flight from Ho Chi Minh to Bangkok’s smaller airport: Don Muang. Don Munag (DMK) handles domestic and regional flights and is  not to be confused with the bigger and busier Suvarnabhumi Airport.

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Booking: 10/10

Their easy to use website delivers and their app is one of the best airline apps I have ever used. A joy to use both.

The one class airline offers three fare types. I always choose “Lite” and add a seat in the emergency exit row. This extra seat purchase entitles me to priority boarding which is another reason for doing it! If you are on absolute budget, you can ignore this!

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Payment can be made via an extensive range of alternate payment systems including QR payments, over the counter at convenience stores in Thailand, features many countries do not have.

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Check in: 8/10

It was not possible to do online check in so we made sure we got to the Airport a little earlier.

The check in clerk was not interested in any small talk or unnecessary friendliness as she was somewhat frustrated by her boarding pass printer falling! Two IT staff were summoned to fix it- which they failed to do. Eventually,  our agent moved to another computer to get us the Boarding pass.

Immigration took about 15 minutes. Thee was some frustration for me as a westerner that people from other cultures quite happily cut the queue. The actual lines for the immigration offices moved at very different speeds. My line, for example, was moving At three times the speed of the line two lines next to me.

Security was pretty straight forward. Liquids do not need to be removed at HCMC. For flights to some destinations, your bag will he searched for liquids at a security inspection at the gate.

HCMC airport prices are about two to five times those down town. They were selling bags of Hershey kisses for 10usd the can be bought at your grocery store in the USA for much less!

Luggage

For $US18 extra, a 20kg bag can be checked.  As a result, some passengers appeared to have massive and heavy cabin bags -which the crew did not inspect.

Boarding: 10/10

When we arrived at the gate area, there were already people lined up. I never bother to line up. Do you?

Prior to the boarding announcement, the check in agent who had checked us in, sought us out and invited us to the gate. This means we were actually the first two passengers to enter the plane! Small talk and friendliness may work after all.

We got a very warm welcome in Thai. I had been so used to hearing Vietnamese this week I was taken aback to hear Thai again. It should have been no surprise of course but it’s funny how your brain can be slow! A Flight Attendant guided us to our seats personally.  It was a few minutes before the next passengers arrived.

 

The plane was utterly and completely full. Most of the passengers were Thai with a few Vietnamese and half a dozen Westerners.

On board

The two year old 737 was in great condition. There are 189 economy seats arranged 3/3. Like many Asian carriers, the seat numbering does  not begin at Row 1. In this case, numbering started  at Row 10.  The seats in front of cabin (Row 10) and the emergency exit rows (44 and 45) are the premium seats with more legroom between the seats.

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There are two lavatories at the rear and one at the front. The lavatory is the narrowest I have been  in. It was not much wider than my width. It contained a very tiny wash basin. Toilet was clean with good supply of toilet paper.  Do not be large and claustrophobic and need to use the rest room!

Safety

The Nok safety briefing was a stock standard recitation in English and Thai with disinterested participation by flight attendants and .an almost total ignoring of the advice by passengers. Staff very closely monitored seatbelts and baggage in their pre take off safety inspection. Airlines in Thailand do not have a god safety reputation and I am disappointed to see that Nok has seen their safety ratings plummet.

Meals: 2/10

NOK gives every passenger a small bottle of water.

They used to provide a small Thai snack but that was ditched a couple of years ago, as a cost saving measure. Food and drinks are available for sale along with gift items such as t shirts. Having eaten well in Ho Chi Minh, the water was all I needed.

 

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Entertainment: 1/10

Do not expect anything. NOK has a magazine. That is it. No movues, no screens, no power outfits, no wifi, and no USB power.

Landing

We landed on time but were then bussed to the terminal. This always ends a trip badly for me. I hate the bus transfers. Immigration was a long and slow process. I have breezed through immigration at Don Muang but this was not going to happen on this occasion.

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The Verdict: 

My Flight Rating: 76%-which is consistent with my last rating of them. Overall, I have found them to be an above average budget carrier. By comparison, my average ratings of key Nok air competitors are Thai Smile: 69%, Jetstar:  66% and Air Asia: 56%.

About the Airline: Nok has been flying since July 2004. It has the biggest domestic route network in Thailand and has been working on being a dominant regional player. They have been embroiled in ownership issues with Thai airways who own a large chunk of the carrier. Thai Air Asia looked at taking them over but have stepped away. It has lost money for the last four years and has some negative cash flow issues. It is cancelling flights, decommissioning planes and reducing staff numbers.

Fleet: 27 Destinations: 36

Skytrax: rates Nok as a 3 Star airline. Their customers give them 6 out of 10  

Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives them a lowly 2/7 which has put me off them

Frequent Flyer Program: None of their own. Nok’s higher priced fares include the provision of  points in Thai Airways Royal Orchid Program.

Positives: Boarding

Negatives: Deplaning

Would I fly them again? Not while their safety rating sits at 2/7 and while they start to slide toward bankruptcy. They need a new owner.

 

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