The following are three round trip reports of flights from BKK to SIN on each of the three new LCCs now operating this route. I wrote the three round trip reports immediately after (or during) each flight.
Between them these three airlines now have 7 return flights a day between BKK and SIN.
All three flights were booked online - Valuair and Air Asia allowed payment in Thai Baht - Tiger only in Singapore Dollars.
Tiger Airways Bangkok to Singapore TR103 Monday 4 October
Check in one hour before the flight at Bangkok's terminal 2 was a breeze. I guess everyone else had already checked in.
Then through immigration into the over-priced shopping mall that masquerades as an airport.
Tiger flies new A320s with 180 seats - this is 18 more than Valuair has with its 162 seats on the same plane. Legroom is very limited although is probably the same as on Thai Air Asia.
Passengers are mainly Singaporean; there is a Chinese mainland tour group transiting through SIN and a few Caucasians. There are no Thai passengers. And Tiger is missing an opportunity here - they do no marketing in Bangkok; their web site is in English only and their pricing is in Singapore dollars. Yet their first three routes are into Thailand. They are missing the Thai market.
The carpet is a deep blue and the seats are in a deep blue fabric with red flecks. Surprisingly there is no evidence of the Tiger theme.
Departure and arrival were on time despite an almost full flight. Our pilots are Czech.
The Singapore based flight attendants sell sandwiches (S$5), instant noodles (S$3), snacks and drinks. They then sell duty free; the only one of the BKK to SIN LCCs that serve duty free. And then come around with the snack and drinks cart again.
The luggage racks are covered in Visa advertisements and they are giving a hard sell ("absolutely sensational") to the wonderfully named and far too sweet tasting Billygoat Hill Shiraz in a can; exclusive to Tiger.
Tiger Airways - Singapore to Bangkok TR 116 October 5 2004
TR 116 leaves at 18.45pm; an ideal time I thought for people to do a day's work and head for Bangkok. But the load is only 44. And we are all asked to sit between rows 21 and 30 for "weight balancing".
The sunset is stunning; worth the fare on its own.
Same service as before. On time.
IFS was ex-Emirates. I think the crew has a harder time getting used to the no-frills approach than the passengers. Technical and cabin crew bring their own food and drinks or buy them at the same price as the passengers.
Valuair: Bangkok to Singapore VF301 Thurs 12 August
Check in 90 minutes before the flight is easy. Unlike other low cost carriers Valuair gives you a seat number on check in.
Made the mistake of asking for a bottle of drinking water at the cafe by Gate 44. They wanted Baht 80 for a small bottle that would cost Baht 7 in 7-11. So I politely suggested where they might put their bottle and went to the drinks fountain instead.
Strangely given that seats were pre allocated as soon as the A320 arrived at the gate the hoards were standing in a scrum at the desk. Affordable fares have brought a new breed of travellers.
Expat technical crew. More ex-Ansett Australians maybe. The airplane is a sparking new A320 with 162 seats. With a deep blue carpet and grey leather seating the inside is smart enough. The grey seats are very firm but there is good legroom - probably 32 inches. A significant improvement on Air Asia's cramped 737s.
I think I am the only caucasian passenger onboard; maybe that it why I have a whole row to myself.
We have four crew on board today and a crew trainer. She appears to be a dragon. And she should know better than to wear white slacks while working. It looks like someone threw their noodles at her !!
The rest of the crew are in polo shirts that are dark blue with a fawn trim and fawn chinos or skirts. Maybe just a bit too casual looking.
The crew do their introductions. The humour is rather forced; as though they are reading from the Valuair in flight joke book rather than being spontaneous.
15 minutes after take off the box meal appears. Noodles, a muffin and water. The crew then sell soft drinks, beer and snacks. There is also a coffee and tea service. The coffee is strong and hot.
And that was about it; another joke from the text book when we landed; it sounds so "prepared", like a cooking show; here's one I made earlier. And then the lead fa burst into sentimental song before we reached the gate....aarrgh !!!!Let me off!
We took off a few minutes late but arrived on schedule in SIN.
Valuair Singapore to Bangkok VF 302 Saturday 14 August
We are about 50% full flying up to BKK at lunchtime on Saturday. This is no way for an LCC to make money.
Valuair is attracting passengers who may not have flown regularly, if ever, before. The guy in 2F has brought all his belongings on board. He has been searching through them at length. Some of his clothing has probably not been washed for a while.
He was looking for his tweezers! And now he is plucking his face. Seems such a complicated way to shave. Should I tell the crew that they might want to have a special clean around 2F.
The box lunch has hot Chinese carrot cake with an indeterminate meat sauce over it. It may be chicken. Then again it may not!
When one of the flight attendant stretches she shows off the splendid tattoo on her lower back. Last time I saw a flight attendant with tattoos was on Aeroflot - and they were must have been ex KGB guys.
In reality Valuair is not an LCC. It carries freight; it is looking at code-shares; it serves basic meals; it assigns seats.
But I fear its owners may need deep pockets.
Prior to landing in Bangkok two of the crew decided to lead a short exercise class. Was this worse than having the crew sing to you?
Landing was followed by the anything left behind will be shared by the fas joke - except for spouses and children. There must be another joke they can tell!
On time arrival onto 21L at BKK.
Thai Air Asia - Bangkok to Singapore FD700, March 12 2004.
Thai Air Asia is the joint venture between Air Asia and Shin Corporation. With 3 737-300s now based in BKK their route network currently includes Chiang Mai, Phuket, Khon Kaen, Hat Yai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Let's deal with some misconceptions first.
Their airplane is the 737-300. It is one of the safest airplanes in the sky and a workhorse of short distance flights around the world. It seats 148 passengers in a 3-3 seating.
Today's plane is sparkling clean. The seats are black leather - classy. The crew are in a smart red or red and black. Four crew on board; one Malay crew supervisor and three very confident Thai crew. One of the Thai crew speaks fluent Thai, Mandarin and English. All speak good English. The languages are useful on the Singapore route with a large number of Chinese passengers on board. All the crew look like they are enjoying what they do.
There are no allocated seats; this can lead to a scrum to board the plane as people try to be first on board to get the best seats. It is quiet today - maybe a 60% load. So seating was not an issue. On a full flight it might be a problem, and I suspect that given the scrum mentality of some Asian passengers this may be a problem. Colour coding boarding passes may help. Give the first 40 to check in priority seating, then the next 40 and then the rest, or something like that.
There is no inflight entertainment; there is no inflight magazine. They may be missing a trick here - in flight magazines can be a good source of advertising and of p.r.
You can buy drinks and food on the plane. Nothing spectacular. Simple but cheap; 60 baht for sandwiches. They seem to do well in souvenir sales! No duty free is sold.
Not all the passengers understand the low cost no-frills concept yet. Requests for water before take off were delivered by a smiling crew but people should understand that all they are paying for is to get to their destination safely and on time. There is no inflight video or music. It is a two hour flight. Who needs it?
Booking tickets is simple. Go online to www.airasia.com. It is a very simple to use and well designed site. Pay by credit card and get your e-ticket. There are also hotline numbers for non computer users.
This flight cost Baht 499 one way. This can increase to about Baht 2,700 depending on the date and time of travel and the loading.
You can change the name on your ticket up to 48 hours before the flight for a fee of Baht 500. You can also rebook your flight for the same fee plus the fare differential.
We took off on time; we landed on time on 2R at Changi. We used an airbridge at both BKK and SIN. We were off the plane quickly and all the bags arrived.
On time, clean and decently comfortable. A happy crew. A good flight