Bangkok Airways ATR 72 & A319 Review from Phuket - Samui - Bangkok
Updated: Jul 23
My wife and I decided to brave all the tests and requirements to visit Thailand a few months ago (February 2022). When I was planning this trip, Phuket was the only destination within Thailand we could arrive (under the sandbox program and of course that changed a few days after I purchased tickets ;) - the 72-hr. negative test to enter requirement was eliminated April 2022) and we wanted to visit Koh Samui. I knew Thai had greatly reduced their schedule within Thailand but saw that Bangkok Air had a few flights a day from HKT to USM and I knew they flew from Samui to BKK. We were lucky all our tests along the way were negative and our trip went according to plan. I have been to Thailand many times and even with all the requirements (was stressful) this actually could have been my favorite trip to the Land of Smiles.
Bangkok Airways considers themself as Asia's Boutique Airline. They fly the ATR 72 between HKT & Samui (they currently have 3 non-stop flights per day) and predominately the A319 between USM & BKK (they have several flights a day and 1 or 2 of them are with the ATR 72's). Currently Bangkok Airways only serves a couple of international destinations (Singapore from USM and Phnom Penh & Male from BKK) and it appears for the time being they are only using aircraft with all Economy seats. They do have a few A319's that have Business Class seats (called Blue Ribbon Club) but the only fare options I could find within Thailand was Economy (the MLE flights resumes next month (Aug 22) and will have Business Class). In the past (and hopefully the future) they did serve a few more international locations like; Da Nang, Hong Kong to name a few, Bangkok Air currently serves a total 10 cities within Thailand, The other seven are; Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Pattaya, Lampang, Sukhothai and Trat.
Check-in at Phuket was very easy as was security. The Domestic Terminal at HKT is the old airport main terminal. I hadn't been in this terminal in years. While it was nice to be back, it is definitely showing its age. Most of the shops are now open, but a handful are still closed. The prices for anything at HKT are more than double than what you would pay outside the airport. I have flown Bangkok Airways many times in the past and what I liked most about them was they had lounge access for all passengers, but I think most do not know about this. These Lounges were somewhat similar to a Business Class Lounge. A private hideaway from a busy airport. Due to the current state, I figured these Lounges would not be open. When I checked-in online I received a notice that we could visit the Lounge for 950 Baht. So, I thought they still existed, just no longer free. But when we checked our bags in (even with lowest fare each passenger allowed one checked bag up to 20kg) the agent mentioned the Lounge was located near Gate 4. After security and having a brief conversation with a gentleman from Ukraine :( we made our way to the Lounge. To my surprise we were allowed in with our ticket. I knew it wasn't because of our fare as we paid the lowest fare (Web Promotion). The Lounge was very small with only a few drinks (juice, chocolate milk, coffee and tea) and snacks (pre-packaged muffin and meat pastry/puff). Then I saw two other passengers arrive and the agents were showing them a menu. They then proceeded down a corridor on the other side of the Lounge. I then realized there are two Lounges.
The Boutique Lounge which is available to all passengers (which we were in) and the more elaborate Blue Ribbon Lounge. Full food & drink selection, nicer decor and furniture. Similar to a Business Class Lounge. When we checked-in for our flight to BKK from USM I once again had the option to purchase lounge access for 950 Baht (about $3o) per person. But at the Samui Airport the Blue Ribbon Lounge was not connected to the Boutique Lounge and the Boutique Lounge appeared to be closed (not sure if for good). But, they did have what they call a Courtesy Corner/Kiosk between Gates 1 & 2 of the Domestic Terminal. This was just a sectioned off area with similar complimentary refreshments and pre-packaged snacks as the HKT Lounge. The downside to this is the gate areas at USM are outside and the Blue Ribbon (and old Boutique) Lounge are inside and air-conditioned. Still, a very nice perk for all travelers. It appears that the only International Boutique and Blue Ribbon Lounges are at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).
Boarding at HKT was a little confusing as it was a bus gate (these gates are downstairs). We arrived around 30 minutes before departure and were one of the last passengers on the bus, but still waited over 15 minutes for the bus to drive to the aircraft. You board from the rear on the ATR's. The ATR72-600 has 18 rows and holds 70 passengers in an all Economy 2x2 configuration. The plane was much newer than I thought it would be and the overheads where much bigger as well. They probably wouldn't fit a full-sized (21") carry-on rollaboard but may fit a smaller suitcase (under 20"). The seat pitch (31 inches) was surprisingly generous. Otherwise, the seats are typical Economy Class seats with a smaller tray table that was nice and sturdy. Nobody used their table to eat as there was no food nor beverage service while we were in the air. Bangkok Airways usually serves a small snack on these flights (yes, even in Economy on a 50 minute flight) but because of Covid there is currently no eating or drinking on an airplane within Thailand (I believe this law still is in effect) However, a snack bag with a bottle of water and two Puffs (Chicken & Red Bean) was actually handed out as you deplaned. I thought this was a nice touch. My guess it will still be some time before the flight attendants come down the aisle with a cart on Bangkok Airways.
There are no power ports at your seats nor was there any Wi-Fi or IFE. Both flights were just under an hour so the scenery out the window kept me entertained. The cabin temperature was cool (which I like - my wife, not as much). There is only one lavatory on board. It is in the rear of the aircraft. The flight attendants (two of them) just stood in the rear and would squirt your hand with sanitizer after you used the toilet (Lav was comfortable size). I do not remember them doing this as we boarded and no sanitizing wipe were handed out.
On the 50 minute flight from USM to BKK my wife and I sat in seats 3D&F. Again, this A319 had a 3x3 all Economy configuration, but rows 1 through 3 were separated by a curtain (or could be) Also, I am not sure if this is accurate or not, but according to a couple airline seat sites rows 1 thru 3 is configured with a European Business Class layout with the middle seat left free. I cannot remember if any of the middle seats in the first three rows were occupied or not, but the seat between my wife and I was free. When I checked into the flight online, I was able to select these seats (I also can't remember if I could see middle seat was left free, but I do remember thinking we were lucky to get these seats). It certainly wasn't because of the fare we paid (again, we paid lowest "Web Promotion" fare) nor do we have any Status with Bangkok Airways (in fact, we never received credit for our flights with Emirates Skyward). There isn't any extra seat pitch in these seats as all seats have a pitch of 31 inches. The bulkhead did have extra leg room, but the armrest does not raise (thus decreasing the sit width). While I did not walk past the exit row (10), I do know that it has much more leg room (not sure if armrest raises though). Because of the exit row behind, row 9 seats do not recline. Like the ATR, there are no power ports, Wi-Fi nor in-flight entertainment. Surprisingly unlike the ATR this plane was starting to show its age. Again, the flight attendants remained seated other than once to walk down the aisle offering masks. Like with the earlier flight no sanitizing wipe was offered upon boarding, but a bagged meal was distributed as you deplaned and was similar to our flight to Samui. A Sweet Potato Purple Bun, another Chicken Bun and a bottle of water was handed out as we deplaned. The ATR seats were light blue leather while the A319 seats were cloth. This A319 had 4 lavs. one forward and 3 in the rear.
Announcements were in English and Thai. Masks were required on both flights and in the airport. Thailand just lifted mask requirements countrywide, however, I believe masks are still required while on board. I prefer Thai to Bangkok Airways but mostly because they have Business Class and fly wide-bodies between BKK & HKT. Plus, I am Star Alliance Gold and therefore can utilize the Royal Orchid Lounges. That said, if the service wasn't affected by Covid I would have been impressed by Bangkok Air just as I have been in the past. I am looking forward to returning to Thailand and believe if you have the correct vaccinations now entry is at or near pre-pandemic levels (non-vaccinated visitors need 72-hourAnnouncements were in English and Thai. Masks were required on both flights and in the airport. Thailand just lifted mask requirements countrywide, however, I believe masks are still required while on board. I prefer Thai to Bangkok Airways but mostly because they have Business Class and fly wide-bodies between BKK & HKT. Plus, I am Star Alliance Gold and therefore can utilize the Royal Orchid Lounges. That said, if the service wasn't affected by Covid I would have been impressed by Bangkok Air just as I have been in the past. I am looking forward to returning to Thailand and believe if you have the correct vaccinations now entry is at or near pre-pandemic levels (non-vaccinated visitors need 72-hour PCR test). Hopefully this holds as I would not go through all what was required on our visit again.