AirAsia Bangkok - Phuket
Bangkok Airways Phuket - Bangkok
After over a year in Europe it was time to head to Thailand on a short trip to arrange some small business. During my research, the cheapest ‘normal’ tickets I found were on Air Berlin/LTU via Munich or Dusseldorf and on Emirates via Dubai. Both of these options were interesting: The Air Berlin/LTU trip because I have never flown on LTU before, and the Emirates flights because I find Emirates to be one of the best airlines around. The non-stop options with Austrian Airlines and EVA Air were, unsurprisingly, among the most expensive of all. However, there was another possibility to look at. While I work in aviation, I don’t have the option to obtain staff travel tickets, but there is a travel agent in Germany that arranges tickets with travel industry discount. I enquired with them for the EVA Air flight and it turned out that they could offer me a fare that was a couple of hundred euros below the lowest fare on Air Berlin/LTU. And this was for a trip in ten days time. Without hesitating, I had them book me on the flights I wanted.
After the booking was made and I had received my e-ticket, I sent an email to EVA Air asking whether they could reserve seats for me – I asked for a window seat somewhere in rows 42 to 46. On the outbound leg for some reason they couldn’t do this, and for the inbound leg they blocked seat 21A for me. Not between rows 42 and 46 for sure, but at least I had my window seat.
My stay in Thailand on this trip would be from 05.30 on Friday morning to 02.45 on Saturday morning, thus a bit over 21 hours. As I didn’t have so much to do to fill up the entire day, and despite visiting Thailand regularly and even living there for some time I had never been to Phuket before, I decided to make a little side trip to check out the airport and maybe do some spotting there. Some online research gave me a best combination of an AirAsia flight to Phuket and a return leg on Bangkok Airways, so I went ahead and booked these flights online.
Photo © Szabo Gabor
20 November 2008
EVA Air flight BR062 VIE-BKK
Airbus A330-200 B-16310
STD 13.30 STA 05.30
ATD 13.45 ATA 05.15
On the day of the trip I left my home at 10.30 for the one-hour drive to the airport, well in time for the departure so that I at least would have a chance to get a good seat for the outbound leg. There were quite a few people in the queue, with three check-in counters open. It seemed to take an unusually long time to complete the check in procedure but at least, once it was my turn, I managed to get seat 29K, a window seat over the right wing.
Boarding was a bit of a mess. The gate areas at Vienna are not really suited for handling large amounts of passengers, and today’s flight with the A330 was completely full. So the whole waiting lounge was jam-packed. Also, the fact that the boarding passes were checked and processed upon entering the waiting lounge didn’t help with conducting the boarding in an orderly manner, as everyone was free to proceed without having to show the boarding pass again.
Once on board I settled into my seat, which was quite comfortable as long as comfortable goes for a long-haul flight in economy class. EVA Air has a good 33 inch seat pitch in economy on the A330, which is of course great. Unfortunately I ended up with a fellow passenger seated in the aisle seat next to me who was, to put it mildly, rather large. The plane being completely full, there was no way for him to go and sit somewhere else, as I am sure that he was just as uncomfortable as me. He did try, but it was simply impossible for him to contain his presence to his seat alone. In other words, part of his belly, his right leg and right arm invaded my already limited space. Throughout the flight I was mainly leaning towards the window to make the best of it. Later on during the flight, when the big guy was gone to the lavatory, one of the flight attendants came to me and apologised for my discomfort. She was sorry that she couldn’t offer me another seat so that I could have a more comfortable flight. Bless her.
The AVOD entertainment system was quite good, with plenty of programmes to choose from. Quite a few movies and television shows. The choice of games was rather limited though. Throughout the flight to Bangkok I didn’t manage to sleep, partially for obvious reasons, and ended up watching several movies including Batman the Dark Knight, Wall-E and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
About one hour after take-off the first meal was served, and the choice was chicken or beef. How original! Nevertheless quite delicious. The chicken was served with rice, and accompanied by a salad, fruit and a custard dessert.
The cabin crew on this flight were very energetic and service-minded, and throughout the flight walked up and down the aisles to offer drinks (water or juice) which is a very good idea as flying is quite dehydrating. Of course they could have also given out small water bottles instead, but I guess this way they had something to do during the trip.
About two hours before landing, the second meal service started, which was also a hot meal. This time the choice was between fish and pork, where I opted for the latter. This meal also was very good, followed by some coffee or tea to finish it off. I had actually expected to be served some kind of breakfast instead, as the local time in Bangkok was very early in the morning.
After an unusual smooth crossing of the Bay of Bengal, we started the descent in the darkness, followed by a smooth landing on runway 01R. A long taxi took us to the gate at concourse E. The distances to cover at Suvarnabhumi Airport to get from the gates to immigration are considerable, which on one hand is quite good after a long flight: it gets the blood flowing again. Immigration was relatively painless and within 30 minutes of leaving the plane I was in the arrivals hall.
I then made my way to the departures level to check in for my AirAsia flight to Phuket. Although I was stood at one of three counters for passengers with hand luggage only, a large group with many bags was in the process of being checked in there. Despite the many non-amused faces of the other (baggage-less) passengers, everyone just had to wait while all the AirAsia employees seemed to have to get involved with this group. Oh well, this is Thailand…
I finally got my cashier-receipt-like boarding pass and made my way to the domestic terminal, which is the A concourse on the eastern side of the terminal building. The shops were just opening up and I killed some time walking up and down the long corridors.
Photo © Raymond Ngu
21 November 2008
Thai AirAsia flight FD3021 BKK-HKT
Boeing 737-300 HS-AAS
STD 07.20 STA 08.35
ATD 07.25 ATA 08.35
Boarding commenced on time and soon I was seated in the rear of the 737 which, for the first time in all my trips with AirAsia, was parked at a passenger boarding bridge. This was the first of two AirAsia flights to Phuket this morning, the second scheduled to leave 30 minutes later. That flight was operated with one of the new A320s but as I didn’t have that much time on my hands, I opted for this first flight instead. This trusty 737 looked pretty worn out, with stains here and there and also some loose panels. On the outside, the paint was peeling off here and there as well. Not the best business card for the company. The seats were quite comfortable though and it must be really very bad for me to be worried about flying.
Push-back was followed by a long taxi to runway 01R, making a right turn after departure and heading south. Not sleeping on the long flight to Bangkok had definitely taken its toll, and my eyes fell shut not long after lifting off. I woke up again during descent with a view of a nice tropical coast line; we were lining up for a landing on Phuket’s runway 27. The approach seemed to be a bit too fast but as the runway here is more than long enough, no problem there. We parked on a remote stand at Terminal 1 and walked into the building. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to go spotting at the runway 09 threshold on the beach, because it turned out that the spotting possibilities from the terminal were very limited. There is a separate corridor between the departure lounge and the apron, so it is virtually impossible to take good photographs from here.
I had booked both the AirAsia and Bangkok Airways flight online from home and the latter now also offered online check-in from 24 hours before departure, so of course I made use of this before setting off to Vienna Airport. But despite having a printed boarding pass, you still have to report at the check-in desk so that they can confirm your identity and place a stamp on the boarding pass print-out. In the end, this takes just as long as a normal check-in, the only difference being that you are able to select your seat online.
Photo © TK
21 November 2008
Bangkok Airways flight PG272 HKT-BKK
Boeing 717 HS-PGQ
STD 10.20 STA 11.40
ATD 10.50 ATA 11.55
I then made my way to the departures lounge, which was crowded with passengers for the 10.00 o’clock Thai Airways A300 flight to Bangkok. It turned out that my flight was delayed by about 30 minutes “due to late arrival of the aircraft.” Bangkok Airways offers free drinks and snacks for all their passengers in dedicated lounges. The one at Phuket is tiny, but it is a nice touch nevertheless and also offers free internet access to check emails and such. It was a bit cramped though, so I soon decided to have another stroll around the waiting area and ended up at the small Burger King to have some chicken nuggets.
Finally boarding was announced and we were taken by a very short bus ride to the waiting Boeing 717. As an aviation enthusiast, it is of course interesting to get a ride on this aircraft, in use with only a very small number of operators. I had had two 717 flights before, both on AeBal between Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. As a passenger, I don’t have any special opinion about this aircraft. The seat pitch on this particular flight wasn’t that good, but then again I couldn’t care less really because now also I fell asleep almost immediately after take-off.
Back at Suvarnabhumi, I picked up my rental car, spent the rest of the day doing what I had to do and returned it around midnight for my 02.45 departure back to Vienna.
Check-in went easy and I got my pre-assigned seat. After such a long and busy day with hardly any sleep, I was looking forward to installing myself in my airplane seat for the next eleven hours or so… I killed time walking around the duty free shopping area and made my way to the gate, where boarding started well in time.
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
22 November 2008
EVA Air flight BR061 BKK-VIE
Airbus A330-200 B-16312
STD 02.45 STA 08.30
ATD 02.45 ATA 08.15
On this flight I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me free, so I could make myself more comfortable. As expected, I fell asleep more or less immediately after the wheels lifted off the runway… only to wake up from the smell of food. Everyone around me was having their meals; on the seatback in front of me the flight attendant had put a sticker saying that they didn’t want to disturb me in my sleep and I could ask them to bring my meal whenever I wanted, which is what I did. To be honest I don’t remember what I had, but I can tell you it wasn’t bad. After finishing the meal and having some tea I fell asleep almost straight away again, waking up briefly every now and again to adjust my position in the seat. Breakfast was served about 1.5 hour before landing, and the choice was between noodles and an omelette. I had the latter.
Upon opening the window blind I was greeted by a white winter landscape, finding out later that it had snowed heavily just that night. We made our approach over the Neusiedler Lake and touched down on Vienna’s runway 34. This time we were parked on a remote stand in the northern corner of the airport grounds, I figured this was because it was a Saturday and maybe there would be more traffic to use the gates at the terminal. The EVA flight arrives at 08.30 and leaves again at 13.30, so that’s a long time for an aircraft to be occupying a passenger boarding bridge.
The cold air certainly woke me up upon exiting the aircraft and making my way to the waiting bus. I always feel for the Thais and other “tropical people” arriving in an environment with temperatures they will never get at home…
The bus ride took long, but once inside I was out in the arrivals hall in no-time, and back home about one hour after that.
This concluded my second trip on EVA Air, the first being from Bangkok via Taipei to Los Angeles, in business class, in January 2007. All in all EVA is certainly one of the better airlines out there in my opinion, but there are several things they could improve to make the travel experience much more pleasant, such as trying to be a bit more organised with the boarding procedure. The cabin crew generally do a good job but it would be good if the company would put more effort in improving their English skills, sometimes it is just very hard to understand what they say. It would be nice to see a bottle of water and an amenity kit provided for a long-haul flight. The only thing given was a pair of slippers, but only for the outbound leg. An amenity kit is something you would kind of expect to get on an Asian carrier. But I would certainly jump on an EVA Air plane right away if given the chance.
I consider myself very lucky to have completed this trip just days before protesters occupied Suvarnabhumi’s terminal building and disrupted air traffic…
Thanks for reading this report.