I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE INVITED BY BANGKOK AIRWAYS TO EXPERIENCE ITS MAIDEN FLIGHT FROM KLIA TO KOH SAMUI, THE EXOTIC HOLIDAY ISLAND IN THAILAND.
We were warmly welcomed in Koh Samui on Bangkok Airways' inaugural flight on April's Fool Day!
THE DAY WAS 1 APRIL 2012 AND I HALF THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE AN APRIL FOOL'S JOKE BUT THEN, WORLD CLASS COMPANIES LIKE BANGKOK AIRWAYS AND TAT (TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND) WOULD HARDLY PLAY A PRANK ON JOURNALISTS AS ONLY I WOULD SEE THE FUNNY SIDE OF IT AND THAT IS MAINLY DUE TO THE FACT I DID NOT HAVE TO APPLY LEAVE!
SO THE INAUGURAL FLIGHT TOOK OFF PEACEFULLY WITH LITTLE FANFARE AS THE OFFICIAL LANDING WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE ON 31 MARCH WHEN THE BANGKOK AIRWAYS PLANE LANDED IN THE EVENING.
BANGKOK AIRWAYS' SLOGAN 'FLY BOUTIQUE, FEEL UNIQUE' WAS SPOT ON AS PART OF THE BOUTIQUE SERVICE WAS THE FREE LOUNGE BEFORE TAKE-OFF. IN KLIA WE WERE SUPPOSED TO ENJOY BUSINESS CLASS BENEFITS AND LUXURIES AT PLAZA LOUNGE BUT THE DEAL WAS NOT YET INKED SO WE HAD TO SLUM IT OUT WITH THE PEASANTS UNTIL WE GET OUR INFLIGHT MEAL WHICH WAS VERY NICE.
UPON ARRIVAL, ALL PASSENGERS WERE GARLANDED WITH THE TRADITIONAL THAI 'WAI' FLORAL NECKLACE AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY THE LOCAL PRESS. TAT'S MALAYSIAN BOSS WIBOON NIMITRWANICH, DIRECTOR OF TOURISM AUTHOIRITY OF THAILAND IN MALAYSIA WAS SURROUNDED BY THE MEDIA WHO BOMBARDED HIM WITH QUESTIONS THAT INCLUDED THE UNFORTUNATE BOMBINGS AND KILLING OF 14 PEOPLE IN SOUTHERN THAILAND.
The Arrival Hall was rather ordinary though the conical central design was interesting. However the Departure Hall was very striking and modernist with a cutting edge feel. All passengers congregate in a circular hall also with a central conical foyer where there was a Courtesy Corner with free snacks and drinks! I was very impressed as normally such perks were designed for Business and First Class passengers. We could eat and drink as much as we like and I was pretty full by the time I boarded.
The many shops and cafes lining both sides of the road leading to Departure Hall were filled with interesting Thai products from bags to bling to books and blouses. I checked and received my boarding pass at one end and had to walk in the openair to reach Departure Hall. I wondered if I would get soaked in a downpour as there was no continuous sheltered passageway. Well, Koh Samui Airport is not exactly Suvanabhum Airport or KLIA!
As we departed KLIA at 8.20am we arrived just after 9am (one hour behind) after a near 2 hour flight so we were bright and early and best of all, had the whole day ahead of us so we did not lose an entire morning or part of the afternoon. Firefly, for example, leaves Subang Airport at 1.35pm and arrives at Koh Samui at 2.35pm so by the time you clear your luggage and check into your hotel around 4pm, the entire day is gone. Firefly also departs Koh Samui at 2.55pm arriving Subang Airport at 6pm whereas Bangkok Airways departs Koh Samui at 6pm arriving KLIA at 8.20pm so it is up to you which time schedule suits you.
If you hate waking up at the crack of dawn, then Firefly is better but if you are concerned about a few hours extra sleep, then you might as well stay home in KL and watch ASTRO all day.
I am the sort who prefers to arrive as early as possible on the first flight and depart on the last flight out. This maximises my holiday and allows me to spend as much time as I can on my destination. I can always catch up on my sleep in KL!
Joe Lau, Tina Chin, Wong, Fadhil Rozainoon and Richard Lim, marketing manager of TAT
Dramatic conical central roof of the Arrival Hall
Wiboon Nimitrwanich, director of TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) for Malaysia and Brunei was mobbed by the local press
We all appeared on TV and in the newspapers the next day
Wiboon Nimitrwanich speaking on our behalf
2 tourists decided to join us for the photocall
Who the 2 guys next to me were, I do not know but they gate crashed the photocall
The more the merrier!
Passengers on the historic inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Koh Samui on 1 April 2012
Koh Samui has the world's only large aquarium facing the men using the urinals (though one is out of order) which was certainly nice and quirky as the sight of the air bubbles encouraged me to pee faster and more!
My favourite airport loo!
Bangkok Airways launches Koh Samui - Kuala Lumpur service
Kuala Lumpur / 31 March 2012, Bangkok Airways, Asia’s Boutique Airlines today marked a special occasion for the launch of the airline’s latest Koh Samui- Kuala Lumpur service at KL International Airport (KLIA).
Bangkok Airways has expanded its regional service to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the start of summer schedule 2012. Kuala Lumpur is Bangkok Airway’s third international gateway offering non-stop service to Koh Samui after the successful Koh Samui-Singapore and Koh Samui-Hong Kong services.
The airline flies daily non-stop service with Airbus 319 - all economy class model with the total capacity of 138 seats. Flight PG951 leaves Koh Samui at 1755hrs and arrives Kuala Lumpur at 2025hrs. From Kuala Lumpur, PG952 leaves at 0825hrs and arrives Koh Samui at 0905hrs. The promotional roundtrip airfare booked from 1st April 2012 starts at MYR440 (exclusive of tax, insurance and surcharges).
Global Alliance Travel Services Sdn Bhd is appointed to represent Bangkok Airways in Malaysia as the General Sales Agent (GSA).
M.L.Nandhika Varavarn, Bangkok Airways’ Vice President for Corporate Communications commented “Speaking on behalf of the airline, it is our pleasure to announce the start of our flight operation to Kuala Lumpur as we have been eying for this market for a few years and we see potentiality to feed good passenger flow connecting at KL International Airport (KLIA). Not only KL is a metropolitan city, it also offers diverse Asian cultures which attract international tourists around the world with its tourism tagline “Malaysia Truly Asia”. By opening this route, it mutually benefits both Malaysia and Thailand to drive more tourism into the countries.”
Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, Managing Director of Malaysia Airports said, “Malaysia Airports warmly welcomes Bangkok Airways to KLIA, and we are confident that the airline will benefit greatly from the good demand for the Koh Samui-Kuala Lumpur route. Bangkok Airways is the 56th airline to operate at KLIA, and Malaysia Airports is actively collaborating with the Government to ensure that we maximise the effectiveness of our marketing programme in continuing to attract new airlines and establish new routes.”
In 2012, Bangkok Airways is expecting a productive year seeing 22.42% business expansion with total revenue of 437 million USD (approx: MYR1,311 million) and expect to carry 3.6 million passengers (increase 15% from 2011). The opening of Koh Samui-Kuala Lumpur route is part of the airline 2012 expansion strategy. Additionally, the airline will continue to increase flight frequency on its existing routes, while expanding its network through code-share partners. At present, code-share partners include Thai Airways International, EVA Air, Etihad Airways, Air Berlin, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.
Branded as Asia’s Boutique Airline, Bangkok Airways has served passengers with regional air links connecting them in and around Thailand from the region’s world’s heritage sites to vibrant beach destinations.
“As a full-service regional airlines, we always put focus on every services at all customer’s touch points from reservation, check-in, onboard service to until they land
at their destinations. What makes us stand out from other airlines is our so-called boutique service where we offer additional services include lounge for all cabin classes at Samui Airport offering snacks, hot and cold drinks, free internet and kids corner. Appetizing in-flight meals are served on all of our flights and the airline serves destinations to its own boutique airports in Koh Samui , Sukhothai and Trat” added M.L.Nandhika Varavarn.
Presently, Bangkok Airways serves 8 domestic routes; Chiang Mai, Lampang, Sukhothai, Pattaya (U-tapao), Trat, Phuket, Samui and Krabi and 11 International routes; Hong Kong, Singapore, Luang Prabang, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Yangon, Maldives, Dhaka, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kuala Lumpur. The current fleet consists of 19 aircrafts (8 ATRs, 3 A320s and 8 A319s). Additional two Airbus 320s to be delivered later this year.
About Bangkok Airways Co., Ltd.
Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com), with the ASIA’S BOUTIQUE AIRLINE slogan, is the first private airline established in Thailand since 1968. Taking off daily with about a hundred flights per day from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Airways flies travellers from around the world to more than twenty exquisite destinations across Thailand and Asia. Samui, Phuket, Trat (Koh Chang), Maldives are amongst the hottest beach selections, while Sukhothai, Luang Prabang, Siem Reap (Angkor) are World Heritage sites.
Bangkok Airways’ the only airline in Asia to have won the Skytrax Best Regional Airline for six consecutive years from 2004 - 2009. As a member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Bangkok Airways continues to provide comfort at an uncompromised safety standard to all passengers.