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TPG International Contributor Lori Zaino just returned from spending two months in Southeast Asia (see her review of Thai Airways Economy Boeing 777-200ER — MAD-BKK and 12 Tips for Your First Trip to Southeast Asia), and one of her favorite experiences from the trip was flying with Bangkok Airways. Read on to find out why.
Bangkok Airways markets itself as “Asia’s Boutique Airline,” a tagline presumably targeted (successfully) to fans of boutique hotels. The Thai carrier flies between some of Thailand’s most popular destinations, such as Bangkok (BKK), Phuket (HKT), Chiang Mai (CNX), Krabi (KBV) and Koh Samui (USM), and also operates international flights to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
I flew Bangkok Airways for the first time in 2014 and had an amazing experience — though I assumed the airline simply forgot to charge me for my checked baggage and accidentally served me a meal on the 50-minute trip from BKK to USM. However, after flying Bangkok Airways four more times this past summer, I can confirm that the carrier’s consistently fantastic.
I’m not alone in my love for Bangkok Airways — the airline has won Skytrax’s “Best Regional Airline” award six consecutive years (2004-2009), and in 2015, it took second place — but here’s why I think Bangkok Airways is awesome:
1. A full meal is served on every flight. It doesn’t matter how short your flight is, you always get complimentary full-course meal with Bangkok Airways. A meal is served on flights as short as 45 minutes long. Although the meals may not be state-of-the-art cuisine, I find it refreshing that the airline still values giving you something to eat on board without charging you extra. Depending on the hour of the day, meals vary from breakfast-style foods to sandwiches, wraps or noodle and meat dishes. You can also request special meals when booking your flights. There are a variety of options, including children’s meals, raw vegetarian meals, gluten-free meals and even bland meals, if you happen to have a stomach bug.
2. You get complimentary Departure Lounge access. Bangkok Airways’ departure lounges are found at every airport where the carrier operates flights.
Once you arrive at the departure lounge nearest your boarding gate, you can simply show the Bangkok Airways representative your boarding pass and they’ll give you a Wi-Fi code and access to the buffet, drinks and snacks — including free popcorn from a popcorn machine!
Note that Bangkok Airways also provides its premium flyers with access to its own Blue Ribbon Club Lounges. Many of these lounges are being renovated to include services such as hot meals, personal shower rooms and massage parlors. They also offer library quiet rooms and meeting rooms.
3. Passengers get a free checked bag on any domestic or international flight. With the exception of Southwest Airlines and a few European and Asian carriers, there aren’t many airlines left that allow passengers — especially those in coach — to check bags free of charge. Instead, you’ll generally have to hold a co-branded credit card or have airline elite status in order to avoid checked baggage fees. Bangkok Airways allows each of its passengers to check one bag free of charge on both domestic and international flights. Each bag is allowed 20 kilograms (44 pounds) on the carrier’s domestic Thai flights and 30 kilograms (66 pounds) on its international flights.
4. You can sign up for the FlyerBonus Program to earn points. Members of the FlyerBonus program can earn points for flying, which can then be used to purchase flights or upgrades (points are valid for three years). There are two levels, Priority and Premier, and perks include Blue Ribbon Lounge Access, discounts and extra baggage allowance.
According to the FlyerBonus point accrual chart shown below, Thai domestic flights in economy will earn you 10 points one-way, and in business class, 15 points one-way. A business/Premier flight from Thailand to the Maldives (MLE), Mumbai (BOM) or Dhaka (DAC) will earn you the loyalty program’s biggest haul, which is 35 points one-way.
FlyerBonus awards begin at 100 points for a one-way domestic flight and 150 points for a one-way international flight. In order to redeem points for flights, FlyerBonus members have to visit the FlyerBonus website and complete an online award redemption request at least five days in advance of travel.
To sweeten the deal, Bangkok Airways also has the following airline partners on which you can redeem FlyerBonus points:
- Japan Airlines
- Cathay Pacific & Dragonair
5. The airline has excellent customer service. The carrier recently changed one of my flights and offered me Blue Ribbon Lounge Access for the inconvenience. Customer service quickly responds to emails, and there’s also a 24-hour live chat option on the website. (This is especially convenient when you’re traveling and don’t want to make an expensive phone call while roaming.) In-flight customer service is great as well, in addition to friendly reps at check-in and boarding. During the flight, the attendants really hustle to get all the food and drinks served make sure everyone is happy during the flight, many of which are just about an hour.
I can’t wait to fly with Bangkok Airways again. Sadly, it only flies within select countries in Asia, because if the airline operated in Europe or the US, I would be forever a loyal customer. Not yet convinced, yourself? Then I leave you with the Bangkok Airways safety video — and you’re welcome.
TPG readers, have you ever flown Bangkok Airways? Do you like them as much as I do? Feel free to share your comments below.
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