Founded almost 50 years ago, Bangkok Airways (PG), is the first Thailand Boutique airlines, When others are dealing with low quality at low cost, this privately owned company provides to each passenger a very individual treatment. At least, this is was they claim in advertising; we decided to inspect the airlines on the domestic route Bangkok – Samui (BKK-USM), and check what it looks like in reality.
After a quick check-in (no queue, smiling, experienced staff) at the brand new, well designed and appointed BKK-Suvarnabhumi Airport Concourse A, which is assigned as Bangkok Airways' domestic departure and arrival, we were invited to join the lounge. A privilege for ALL passengers; there is no C Class on domestic flights, but everybody received an executive treatment with a basic Economy Class ticket. The lounge is located a short distance from the check-in counter; close to the toilets: which we found very useful for families traveling with kids. Waiting our flight in such a lovely, comfy place, with plenty of rooms to sit, computers to surf the complimentary Internet (no WiFi network until further notice, unfortunately; but they have it at Samui airport lounge). We liked very much the bright color of the furniture, and the large windows with a panorama on the runways. The buffet is permanently supplied with snacks and desserts (lots of local specialties: like the palatable sticky rice with coconut milk, wrapped in a banana leaf: yummy!). Good choice of cold and hot beverages: fruit juice, tea, coffee... All comes on a complimentary basis. A TV screen shows attractive programmes, featuring reports with plenty of travel tips on Bangkok Airways destinations. The lounge attendants were charming, and welcomed all inquiries with a smile. We indeed liked the concept of this family and tourism oriented lounge. We just noticed -this is new- that Bangkok Airways operated a second lounge, called « Blue Ribbon », for the passengers of brand new aircrafts they recently purchased for international flights. Some of them are equipped with a small (three or four row) C Class cabin. We will inspect it sooner, and provide more information about it.
Many people simply love the reliable, though quite « picturesque », ATR 72-500. It is true that it gives some interesting flying impressions. But we are quite conventional, and prefer bi-reactors: this was therefore our pleasure to see that we would be transported aboard the new, 144 seats Airbus 319 recently assembled and delivered from Germany. A fine plane, stunning with lots of flowery tropical livery, which was coping very well with eventual turbulences, with smooth taking off and landing. We sat on the first row and, within a few minutes after we had reached our cruise speed and altitude, we received cold towel and soft drinks. Have they got more flight attendants than the competitors? More competent staff maybe? Or both? Anyhow, service was anticipating and, again, always with this gentle smile which makes all the difference. Very cozy atmosphere. Very « boutique », should we rather write! We were waiting for snacks (flying from BKK to USM takes about 45 minutes only), but received a tray featuring traditional Siamese red curry with sticky rice, which was palatable, a refreshing small salad, and a delicious vanilla custard. Which is, more or less, what we would receive a few days later, when flying PG on the international route Bangkok – Ho Chi Minh City. It came with complimentary soft drinks, or local Chang Beer sold out at the same price like in any supermarket. We found it generous to cater travellers that well on such a short flight.
Landing in Samui is unforgettable. The airport is a Bangkok Airways property! It is like no other: a narrow airstrip also functions as taxiway carved into the hills. It looks a golf course not an airport at all... Tractors pull funny trolleys of children-like passengers from the aircraft to the terminal with thatch style coverings. Walls don't exist, but vegetation does. The Samui « airport » is simply worth the trip by itself! We had never seen anything like that in our extended travelers' life!
We wouldn't like to close this review without a little, interesting anecdote. Our way back to Bangkok, we had a minor incident when we got our luggage delivered at Suvarnabhumi: the handle had been broken by the automatic handling. It might happen. But, which almost never happens, indeed is the fact that they sent one of their agents to pick up our bag at the hotel and, within 24 hours it had been carefully repaired with a new -and we must say: hard to find- spare part. And of course delivered again to the hotel! We had twice that kind of problem; twice with Air France, which considered us suspiciously, claimed that they had separate contract with the handling company, and finally did definitely nothing. The way PG behaved was remarkable: caring even AFTER we left the aircraft. Just for this special attention, we will travel with them, again and again.
Bangkok Airways recently received first honor for ‘Service Excellence for a Regional airline’ from Skytrax following the achievements under the category of Asia’s Best Regional Airline in 2004 and 2005.
Note that their current fleet is comprised of 8 ATR 72-500s, 4 Boeing 717-200s, 3 Airbus 320s and 2 Airbus 319s; each aircraft decorated in different liveries of various exotic destinations.
Bangkok Airways flies to major destinations in Thailand, developing very attractive new destinations to China (Xi'an, Guilin, Shenzhen, Hong Kong), Indochina (Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Angkor Wat, Pakse, Luang Prabang), Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives, and Japan (Hiroshima, Fukuoka).
Their online booking is straightforward, issuing e-tickets which you don't even need to produce at check-in: showing your passport is enough!
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