Our review of Bangkok Airways was impacted by Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year
Anyone who does private labeling Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) knows all too well about Chinese New Year/Spring Festival.
For those who don’t, it’s the cause of the largest annual mass human migration in the world. Think of Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Memorial Day and 4th of July travel all compressed into a single holiday travel event.
When the Chinese New Year happens China basically shuts down and stops working. Literally!
For our FBA business that means first quarter orders must be placed in November if we want them on a boat before the country closes for a few weeks over Chinese New Year.
We KNOW this! We LIVE this!
But we didn’t stop to consider how Chinese New Year would affect what we expected to be an affordable luxury flight on boutique airline Bangkok Airways.
Bangkok Airways Review Koh Samui to Chiang Mai
And when we chose our seats we saw that the plane was less than half full.
Sweet, we thought, easy day of affordable luxury travel.
In the end, not so much.
Review of Bangkok Airlines at Koh Samui Airport
The airport in Koh Samui is privately owned…by Bangkok Airlines!
And Lisa was quick to point out that it is obvious that Koh Samui airport is run by a company rather than a bureaucracy.
It has the design and feel of a relaxing resort rather than a utilitarian bus stop.
Each gate area resembles a hut.
And complimentary snacks and beverages are available in the gate areas.
All gates are remote (no jet bridges at all at the airport), but passengers make their way to and from planes on buggies right out of Disneyland circa 1980.
The only way to describe it is ‘cute!’
And it does take the edge off of the whole remote gate experience (you can see one zipping by in the video below).
Review of Bangkok Airways Flight
We boarded from the stairs to the door at the rear of the plane to reach row 16.
Immediately it was clear that because of Chinese New Year this was NOT going to be a half-full flight. Nor would it be affordable luxury!
To the contrary, the flight was packed to the gills.
Fortunately, Asian carriers have a well-earned reputation for making passengers check bags (this is why we packed so judiciously and so small).
So overhead space was not an issue the way it would have been on a domestic US flight.
The plane was not just very full, it was very full of Chinese families enjoying their Chinese New Year getaway. They just hadn’t chosen seats until check-in – which is why we were fooled when we looked at the seat map.
By my very unscientific analysis, about 1/3 of the passengers were screaming infants or toddlers.
Another 1/3 were playing videos or video games on their phones with no headphones and the volume turned up to max (this appears to be a thing – many Asians AND Europeans were doing this on the flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui too).
My favorite was the toddler who was screaming while her ipad was blaring a game that featured lots of alarms that sounded – disconcertingly- like airplane cockpit warning alarms. Just charming!
The final 1/3 of the passengers were doing their best to ignore the other 2/3.
Surviving the Flight
I hold a strong and long-standing opinion that noise and light control are the personal responsibility of each flyer.
So I always travel with noise-canceling earbuds (noise canceling headphones are far too bulky) and eye shades.
Soon I was immersed in my own music and trying to finally get through the last Harry Potter book (I started the series about 2 years earlier and was finally on the last lap!). So the madness on the flight was less bothersome than it might have been.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s strategic seat selections (me on aisle, her on window) somehow miraculously left the seat between us the only empty seat on the plane!
She had her earbuds in too so we just smiled at each other and carried on.
Soon enough we arrived in Chiang Mai and made our way to the Old City and our guest house where we had booked 4 nights.
Unfortunately, that was only the start of our paying the toll for not thinking about travelling in Southeast Asia during Chinese New Year: we had trouble finding longer-term lodging in Chiang Mai.
Bottom Line – Bangkok Airways Review
Bangkok Airways is indeed a lovely boutique airline.
Even during the madness of Chinese New Year travel they provide some affordable luxury even to economy passengers.