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Fly Boutique, Feel Unique: All The Way To Cambodia  
User currently offlineHKGfan From New Zealand, joined Aug 2008, 15 posts, RR: 0
Posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 4739 times:

Background

After a great 2 weeks on the beach in Thailand, it was time to head over to Cambodia and visit my friends there. I only had the weekend to make this trip so needed to fly in on Friday evening and leave on Monday morning.
My usual airline for such a trip would be Air Asia, with their cheap fares. However, they only operate one flight per day on this route, in the afternoon. This was incompatible with my needs so I had to consider the other options – Thai and Bangkok Airways. Both were astronomically more expensive than Air Asia - $400 return instead of $150!
Eventually I chose Bangkok Airways because they had perfect flight timings and because I had not flown with them before. I had heard about their great service so was looking forward to seeing what this ‘boutique’ airline had to offer.
Bangkok Airways operates four flights a day on the route, three with the A319 and one with the ATR72. Fortunately, the flights I booked were on the ATR, another exciting factor as I have not flown on a turboprop since a NZ domestic flight back in 2004.

6 July 2012
Bangkok Airways PG 937
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) – Phnom Penh (PNH)
ATR-72, HS-PGM
Scheduled: 2015-2150 (1h 35m)
Actual: 2145-2300 (1h 15 m)
Seat: 1C

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To get to Suvarnabhumi Airport for this flight, I took the express train from Phaya Thai station in town. Recently completed, the express train takes you to the airport in just 17 minutes and in considerable comfort. The trains are brand new from Siemens and run very quickly across an elevated track. It is also possible to take an express train from Makkasan station, or catch the City Line which is slower but will get you there for 45 Baht.

Phaya Thai Station
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There is a ‘lounge’ set up to wait for the train in. Trains run at 30 minute intervals.

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Then you go upstairs to the platform which houses the waiting train
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The trains are quite empty and there is a lot of space.
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Soon enough you are zooming above the Bangkok skyline. After about 15 minutes, the airport comes into view and you can watch the planes on approach to runway 19R.

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Checked the FIDS when entering the terminal… flight looks like it is right on time.
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The station is in the basement of the terminal, so I had to take a lift to departures which is at the very top.



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There were a lot of flights leaving to India at this time, with PG operating flights to BLR, BOM and DAC. There were long lines for the flights, and many of these passengers were carrying several large-screen televisions. Apparently traders travel to Bangkok from India just to buy LCD TVs which can be bought there at a cheaper price.

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I was glad that these Indian flights were given individual desks, as their queues were moving very slowly. The traders were trying to negotiate out of paying excess luggage fees.

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I, on the other hand, had no check in luggage as I had left my suitcase with my family in Bangkok. The check-in agent was very polite and efficient. As usual, I forgot to ask for a window seat so was given seat 1C – still on the front row which is good for legroom!

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The security and immigration system at BKK has changed. Immigration used to be directly after check-in, and security took place afterwards. Security is now upstairs, and is done before immigration which is unusual. The checks were also pretty strict – I even had to remove my watch!

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Where security used to be
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Once I was airside I decided to find the Bangkok Airways lounge which is available for all passengers. It was a little hard to find and required a considerable amount of walking to get there.

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Ahh – it’s downstairs…


Nearly there…
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Upon entering the gate I was greeted by a lady at the front desk who entered my details and also gave me a code for internet access.
The lounge was great. There were plenty of seats even though it was largely empty.

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Computers for internet access as well as free Wifi

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Drinks available were iced tea, orange juice, and tea/coffee.

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Food included popcorn, cake and sandwiches

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So overall the lounge was a great facility. I’m sure it doesn’t meet the standard of Business Class lounges (there was a separate lounge for Business) but for economy passengers like me it was an extremely nice gesture. I wonder if PG is the only airline in the world to offer a lounge for economy passengers?
Boarding time was apparently at 1935, so at 1920 I headed off to the gate. BKK is looking a lot nicer then it did 5 years ago. Flowers, trees and comfortable seats have been set up to replace the cold grey benches that used to be everywhere.

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My gate was C1a, a Bus gate which confirmed my flight was on an ATR.

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However, soon after I reached the gate I was told that the flight had been delayed until 2100 – from a scheduled time of 2015. This was surprising, as PG normally has a good on-time record. The reason for the delay was the “late arrival of the aircraft from its previous destination”.

So it was time for more walking and picture-taking  http://i524.photobucket.com/albums/cc325/jeromedv/IMG_1920.jpg

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Returned to the gate at 2020 hoping to board soon, only to find that the flight had been delayed further to 2120  

So I sat there and waited. The crew turned up at 2045, hopefully meaning that we would board soon?

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Then an interesting development occurred. The passenger sitting behind me suddenly called the gate attendant and said the ‘needed assistance’ as he was feeling unwell. Within five minutes a doctor appeared at the gate accompanied by about six nurses and paramedics. She quickly analysed his stomach pain and said he may have appendicitis, and told him he needed to go to the hospital. The passenger was obviously disappointed about this as he was a musician going to Phnom Penh for a concert. So our aircraft would sadly leave without this passenger.
Finally, at about 2100 it was time to board. My boarding pass was quickly checked by the agent before I went down the escalator and on to the waiting bus.

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The bus ride was about five minutes long and passed what was mainly TG aircraft. Soon enough we pulled into the area where PG parks its aircraft, revealing our ride for the evening to be HS-PGM.

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HS-PGM was first delivered to Bangkok Airways in 2003. For some time it was operated by the now-defunct Siem Reap Airways International.


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Photo © Jens Breuer
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Photo © Mark Tang



It was a strange feeling to board via the rear airstairs, having not flown in a turboprop for so long. I was greeted by a warm Sawadeekap upon entry and was then immediately stuck by the small size of the cabin. My head nearly touched the ceiling and the overhead lockers also appeared really small.

Being one of the last to board, I was escorted to my seat at the very front of the cabin. The legroom was great!

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But I also wanted a window. The flight was only a quarter full so I decided to move to seat 2D after take-off.
A FA came over to describe the emergency exits. The crew were colourfully dressed in their new uniforms and were very polite. Immediately after the safety demonstration was done, the turboprops spun into life and we commenced taxiing.
It was great to hear the humming of the engines – a really different sound to Jet aircraft. We also appeared to be taxiing really quickly –faster than the taxing speed of a larger aircraft. Is it true that turboprops taxi faster? Or did it just seem that way?
We headed onto the runway and had a noisy take-off with the turboprops at full power – it was a great sound! Soon we were aloft above the skies of Bangkok.



Immigration cards for Cambodia were handed out- not just one, but three!
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After filling those out I moved to seat 2D – legroom not so great, but had a window.

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Soon the FAs came around with the meal service followed by drinks – juice, soft drinks and wine. I suppose an advantage of the slower ATR flight is that you have more time to enjoy your meal!

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PG’s tagline on the seat rests – ‘fly boutique, feel unique’. A good line as it was certainly a unique flight for me.



We were soon descending into PNH, 1 hour 15 minutes late. I felt bad for my friends having to wait for me for so long – we had hardly left Bangkok at the time we were meant to arrive in Phnom Penh. But the crew were very apologetic and everything else was great so I didn’t mind too much.

Korean rivals on the tarmac at PNH – Korean Air and Asiana
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A very short bus ride brought us to the terminal.
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I was hoping to get my Visa-on-Arrival quickly, as I was already so late. However our late arrival meant that 2 planeloads from Korea and a Jetstar flight from SIN all arrived at the same time. The result was a crowded arrivals area and huge lines for visas.

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After handing in your application (with 1 passport photo) you have to wait for it to be processed before paying the 20USD fee. With such a large crowd, everyone assembled around the casher as he proceeded to yell out the names of the completed passports, before the said passenger would dash forward and pay the fee. Adding to the circus is the unprofessionalism of the cashier. He would often give the wrong change on purpose, leading to passengers returning a few minutes later demanding the correct amount. He would also joke with passengers and acted very informally. I know Cambodia has issues with corruption, but that shouldn’t be an excuse as this cashier is one of the first people tourists meet upon entering the country.

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Apart from that, though, the airport is clean and efficient. I passed immigration and as I had no luggage I could walk straight out, late but happy to have arrived.

Return Flight below.

[Edited 2012-07-12 01:36:44]

1 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineHKGfan From New Zealand, joined Aug 2008, 15 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (1 year 9 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 4705 times:

9 July 2012
Bangkok Airways PG 938
Phnom Penh (PNH / VDPP), Cambodia">PNH) - Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK / VTBS), Thailand">BKK)
ATR-72, HS-PGK
Scheduled: 0640-0815 (1h 35m)
Actual: 0635-0745 (1h 15 m)
Seat: 4D

After having had a great weekend in Phnom Penh, it was time to go back to Bangkok and on to India. 6.30 AM is a really early departure time, so I decided against going to the airport 2 hours early as I was sure the airport wouldn’t be busy. We hopped on motorbikes to the airport at 4.45 and rode in the darkness through the empty streets, arriving at 5 AM.

And – sure enough – the airport was almost deserted. My flight was also the first of the day.

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Phnom Penh is a small airport and serves regional destinations, with the exception of an AF flight to Paris via Ho Chi Minh City.
The check in area was almost empty, with only my flight being serviced. Check in only took seconds as I had no luggage.

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There used to be a $20 departure tax to be paid at this point, but thankfully this has now been included in the ticket price. You therefore go straight up the escalators to immigration and security.

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After this is the attractive gate area with a lot of shops. Most of them were closed at this time.

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A lone China Southern A320 sits on the tarmac, destined of Guangzhou later in the day.

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I head to my gate (another bus gate) before seeing signs for a ‘Bangkok Airways lounge’. What a pleasant surprise – I wasn’t expecting a lounge here!

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The lounge was almost a replica of the one in Bangkok, but with less food and drink options. The choices were tea, coffee, juice and fruit. Fine for this time of the morning.

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The lounge was quite empty and many of the passengers were sitting in the gate area outside, oblivious of what they were missing out on!

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Boarding was un-announced, but when I saw people being processed by the gate agent I left the lounge.
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The aircraft was revealed as HS-PGK, delivered to PG in 2001. Like the aircraft I flew a few days earlier, it had also served with Siem Reap Airways and so was decorated with an Angkor Wat image.


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Photo © Tek
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Photo © Wim Callaert

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The plane was really close by but we still had to take a bus. It was a beautiful scene, as the sun was rising over the tarmac of PNH.

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Was greeted by the same Sawadeekap as I boarded the plane and headed for the front of the cabin once again. The load was very light – only around twenty passengers.

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Almost straight after I sat down, we commenced our speedy taxiing to the runway. It felt like the whole airport was ours! We took off 5 minutes ahead of schedule.

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Soon we were buzzing above the skies of Phnom Penh and on to Bangkok. The crew commenced the meal service – an easy task with so few passengers. Breakfast was a noodle dish – tasty but not what my stomach is used to at 7 AM!

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Drink options were a bit more limited at water, juice, tea and coffee. When the crew had dispensed these they appeared to disappear for the rest of the flight, unlike my previous trip where they had continued to distribute drinks. The flight certainly seemed to last longer than the previous one. Perhaps due to the fact that there was only one arrival card to fill out!

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After about 50 minutes we descended below the clouds and Thailand came into view.

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We landed at Bangkok about 20 minutes early, which was surprising. After our quick landing we zoomed across the tarmac to the PG parking area, passing much bigger airframes long the way!

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It was at this point that my camera battery died  . We were given a brief farewell from the crew before going on a long bus ride back across the airfield. Immigration was almost empty and I only had to wait for about 2 minutes - a personal record for Bangkok.

Conclusion

Bangkok Airways is a great airline that provides great service, if you are willing to pay their fares. The BKK-PNH flight was great if you set aside the colossal delay. The return flight was also good but the crew seemed a little more reserved.
I found the best thing about PG to be the airport lounges; this is a great service that really sets them apart. The food on board was also great, and the seats on the ATR were small but comfortable.
However, in future I would still take Air Asia as my first choice on such a short route. The price differences are immense, and although PG’s service is excellent, I am also fine with less on such a short route.
Thanks for reading! Comments and Questions welcomed.
Jeroen


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