The word ‘boutique’ is one I like to find in my travel itinerary. I tend to pick smaller, more intimate dwellings while attempting to avoid mainstream branded resorts and hotels. Ever since I heard Bangkok Airways marketing itself as “Asia’s Boutique Airline”, I have been itching to see if they really have succeeded in bringing a ‘boutique’ concept to air travel. This modest size regional airline has collected an impressive list of accolades, with the most noteworthy being Skytrax’s “The World’s Best Regional Airline” title.
After trying out COMO’s new Phuket resort I planned a side trip to Bangkok just to try Bangkok Airways and to see for myself if this airline really was flying true to its ethos.
Booking: Bangkok Airways’ website is straightforward and simple to navigate. Ranging from the specials to the more expensive but flexible, tickets were priced in three categories. The price for a one-way ticket from HKT to BKK ranged from 60 USD to 150 USD. The price was similar to other low-cost airlines that operate the same route, so when I selected my ticket I was expecting to be whisked to 5 more pages offering all the add-ons, like luggage and food. But the only thing that was added was 100 THB in tax and I was good to go!
Check In: The only ‘un-boutique’ part of my Bangkok Airways experience was the airport check in; stock standard process. The check-in lines at Phucket International Airport were long, so I’m glad I checked in on line before. I only had to wait in the (much shorter) baggage drop line. A great perk to flying with Bangkok Airways is that there is no charge for your checked bag, as long as it meets their allowance. Bangkok Airways owns and operates three of their own “boutique airports” around Thailand, which would add to overall ease at check-in, however Phuket is not one of them.
Boarding: With tickets in hand I made it through security and into the Bangkok Airways lounge in less than five minutes. The differences between Bangkok Airways and its competitors, such as AirAsia, are felt as soon as you reach the lounge. All passengers get lounge access. Meaning even if you scored the special saver price of 60 bucks you still get to relax in their lounge and enjoy free Wi-Fi, snacks and beverages (nonalcoholic) while you wait. My flight boarded via an air bridge and was loaded up and ready to depart on time.
Inflight Service: After being met by the famous Thai smile at the door, I settled into my exit row seating.The aircraft, an Airbus 320, was laid out as a one-class configuration, seating 167 passengers. The airline’s color scheme, which consists of several shades of blue, is continued throughout the aircraft. The seats were royal blue cloth and very thin, which helps reduce weight resulting in cheaper fuel bill. This allows for the airline to offer full service at low cost prices. Before the aircraft began taxiing, the cabin crew offered around individually wrapped moist wipes from a basket. After a manual safety demonstration we were airborne and minutes later the parade of service began. First special meals came marching down the aisle, dispensed by hand to hungry recipients. This was followed by hot meal delivery from carts that were manned by two crew members each.
The meal tray consisted of water, a dessert, and a hot casserole of Thai seasoned chicken breast with white rice. I didn’t order a vegetarian meal so I personally passed on dining. Once all passengers had a hot meal the crew quickly returned to offer water and juice by hand, followed with tea and coffee. By the time the last passenger tray was lifted and placed back into the cart the captain’s PA announced we had started our decent into Bangkok. One crew member passed out a small gift for the young passengers while another rushed to meet an in-flight shopping request before they had to take their seats for landing.
Cabin Crew: The most enjoyable part of the journey had to be the pleasant nature and service that was presented by the six flight attendants working the flight. Most airlines would put the standard four-crew member compliment on this aircraft, however Bangkok Airways stocks this short flight with six young, well-groomed and professional flight attendants.
While all crew displayed a polite and service-orientated demeanor, they weren’t pushovers when it came to enforcing safety violations. This is a sign to me that Bangkok Airways takes safety just as serious as they do their service. As for service, I appreciated how their crew were willing to step out of their routine to meet customers’ expectations. When I declined my meal choice, the crew member immediately offered to fetch tea or coffee from the galley as an alternative. Similar to the aircrafts, the uniforms of the Flight Attendants are an assortment of trendy Thai designs, all colored in shades of blue to match the sky and surf that can be seen swiftly passing outside the window. Since Thai fashion and the color blue are two of my favorite things, the uniform of Bangkok Airways is one of my favorites in the air.
Arrival: We arrived BKK on time. While we were parked at a gate, the terminal we arrived in was on the international arrivals side, so busses were used to take us to domestic arrivals. While others were standing around waiting for their bags, I made my way to the arrivals lounge and helped myself to an espresso and sweet treat and my bag was out before I could finish both.
Conclusion: Often when you fly these airlines that brag “world’s five star airline” or “best in the sky” by the end of trip you’re left wondering if the airline paid for those fancy bragging rights because the claims, compared with the service, don’t add up. This isn’t the case with Bangkok Airways. The airline holds the title of “World’s Best Regional Airline”* and for once I found honesty in airline advertising.
*Award won by Skytrax
For more information on Bangkok Airways or to book a ticket visit Bangkok Airways
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Article written and photos by Jay Robert and edited by Ioulia Richards