Tuesday, 12 January 2010


'Gee, that was a quick flight,' remarked the lady in front of me. True, it was only an hour. But what she meant was that the time flashed by painlessly.

It's a simple but effective formula that Bangkok Airways employ: make people laugh their asses off and they'll forget that they're sitting in a cramped aluminium tube with 120 others 35,000 feet up. You see Bangkok Airways, or PG to those in the trade, play those 'Candid Camera'-style slapstick videos on the drop down screens ... you know the ones where little Johnny is riding his new tricycle on Christmas day and is so busy grinning for the camera he doesn't see the fence looming and then BANG! Johnny's gone somersaulting through the air, over the neighbour's fence, broken their plate glass window, and squashed their cat. Laugh!?! I sure do when it happens to other people!

Next thing you know you've landed. A marketing masterstroke: these videos are inoffensive, and cut through all age, language, and other socio-demographic barriers.

Bangkok Airways have come a long way. I remember the early days of the airline, with elastic-band-driven propellors which the passengers had to help to wind up, and the rest of the passengers had to take turns in flapping their arms. Which can be quite painful, as the flights to Samui then could take weeks if you struck a headwind. And Samui airport in those days was a couple of little lean-to coconut frond huts. Now things are a little different ...

First of all, you can avail yourself of the boutique lounge at Soovanapom, um, Suvannabumi, er, Bangkok airport (see photo). Free internet. Drinks, snacks. Pretend you're some fancy first class flyer not someone who found enough coins behind the sofa to scrounge your non-refundable no-changes-allowed promotional fare ticket.

On board itself, notice the fresh light blue cabins of their Airbus 319's. OK, admittedly that's not as exciting as the jaunty Ken Done-on-LSD colour scheme of the stewardesses' blouses, topped off by their jaunty yellow scarfs. (Oh, and, a little 'well done' to the HR department -- excellent recruitment policies are clearly in place, if you know what I mean.)

If you don't want to watch the videos, immerse yourself in the Fah Thai inflight mag. I always end up taking it home because it's chock-full of usable tips and fascinating articles from their exotic destination list, which in itself reads like an intrepid adventurer's Places I Must Visit Before I Die list. I rate it as the best inflight mag of any airline I've ever flown in the world. (And I'm not just saying this because that magazine runs my stories. Honest.)

'Airline' and 'food' are two words that usually don't sit well together -- much like that big sweaty bloke with the body odour that is somehow always placed next to you wherever you travel. Typical PG fare is a fresh chicken foccacia or wrap. Fine. Good enough. Haven't seen one come up again, yet. They also serve organic rice, tea, coffee, soft drinks. All with a smile. All free.

The Khao Hom Sukho rice is an interesting story in itself: produced by the Sukhothai Airport Organic Agriculture Project in affiliation with PG, it comes in fragrant red, black and white varietals and packs a punch in nutrition with its high anti-oxidant rating and minerals such as iron and zinc. It is said some people fly this airline just for the rice. Alright, yes, you caught me out, I made that bit up.

So where can you fly to on Bangkok Airways?

Within Thailand:

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya (U-Tapao), Phuket, Samui, Sukhothai, and Trat (for Koh Chang).

Outside of Thailand:

Guilin, Hong Kong, Luang Prabang, Maldives, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Singapore, Yangon.

As a I said, a mouth-watering array of destinations for intrepid travellers. But best of all these days you don't have to strap yourself into a sedan chair with a bunch of coolie carriers. Just sit back in comfort on Asia's Boutique Airline.

You'll be surprised how time flies when you're having fun.

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