Bangkok Airways Business Class, Koh Samui – Bangkok: “Burn Avios, Burn” Cathay Pacific First Class and Amazing Conrad Suites

Index:

I called the hotel for checkout, and a representative came to our villa to handle it in-room. There was a golf cart for us and one for our bags, and we were swiftly taken to the entrance of the resort. We had reserved a BMW X3 to the airport, but were greeted by a more expensive Mercedes.

After a 45 minute drive we arrived at the Koh Samui airport.

I was a bit nervous about the trip because Cathay Pacific had cancelled the late evening Bangkok – Hong Kong flight as part of capacity reductions due to the flooding in Bangkok and the accompanying reduction in travel. I was traveling on a separate ticket, and so I had arranged a pretty substantial connecting time. But Cathay moved me to an earlier flight. It was still doable to take the same Bangkok Airways Koh Samui – Bangkok flight, I would have about a 90 minute connection.

I considered taking an earlier flight to Bangkok, that would have meant nearly 5 hours in Bangkok and that didn’t especially appeal especially since I’d have access to the rather mediocre oneworld lounges, and not the Thai Airways first class offering, at the airport (and it wasn’t really quite enough time to do much off-airport).

So I was left with a connecting time a bit over minimum, and when I arrived at the Koh Samui airport I learned that our departure time had been pushed back 20 minutes due to air traffic into Bangkok. As long as that was the extent of the delay I’d be more than fine of course. But I started to think through missing the Bangkok – Hong Kong connection, the last Cathay flight of the day, figuring I’d have to grab the late Thai Airways flight and convince Cathay not to cancel out the rest of my itinerary.

The Bangkok Airways checkin line was long, but there wasn’t anyone ahead of us for business class.

I had emailed Bangkok Airways in advance with our connecting flight information, and they had no difficulty through-checking our bags onto Cathay Pacific even though we were on separate tickets. Bangkok Airways doesn’t actually check you in for Cathay, and I worried I might need a boarding pass to convince them to through-check the bags and so that I would be able to clear immigration in Koh Samui and be treated as a connecting “CIQ” passenger in Bangkok. So I did online check-in and had the hotel print out my check-in confirmation, though I would still need to pick up boarding passes at the transfer desk in Bangkok.

Since we were international departing passengers even on the domestic Koh Samui – Bangkok segment, we had to walk over to ‘gate 6’ which is the international gate and in the separate international terminal building at the Koh Samui airport. It’s funny in Thailand when catching a domestic flight with an onward international connection you clear immigration at your first airport (true for most major airports) and once you clear passport control you’re kept in a separate area from purely domestic passengers, even though you all wind up getting onto the same aircraft.

At Koh Samui you can take a tram over to the other terminal, or just walk, it’s a short and pleasant walk.

As we got close to the international terminal it began to feel like an outlet mall in Florida, lots of shops and a design style that felt like Sawgrass Mills.

We passed through security and passport control, and turned left before getting to the gate area where there’s a Bangkok Airways lounge for business class passengers which also happens to be a Priority Pass lounge.

When we approached we were intercepted by a lounge attendant who shot me what’s probably the only ‘dirty look’ I’ve ever received in Thailand. She asked for boarding passes, I showed her and she acknowledged we were business class passengers and immediately brightened up, perhaps even a little bit embarrassed for her earlier doubt. She offered us drinks and told us she would return when it was time to board the aircraft.

The lounge was small but there was only one other passenger there. There was a sign in the lounge apologizing for the limited offerings, attributing it to the flooding in Bangkok which makes getting supplies tough, which seems odd considering that this wasn’t a problem at all for hotels in Koh Samui or lounges in Bangkok.

There are no restroom facilities in the lounge so a bit before boarding I excused myself, walked outside and past the gate in order to use the terminal facilities. I saw they were queuing to board so my wife and I went out, probably a few minutes earlier than necessary since the lounge attendant hadn’t returned to collect us, but the lounge itself wasn’t worth spending additional time in so we didn’t mind.

We already had CIQ stickers on our shirts from checkin, indicating we were international connecting passengers. Walking up to the gate we were given pink Bangkok Airways stickers which we were told meant that we would be met on arrival in Bangkok and escorted through the connecting formalities. This wasn’t even just a business class perk, the other passengers on the flight who received these stickers and the same service were flying coach. It’s a far cry from Thai Airways who only provides connecting assistance to passengers who are continuing in first class.

The rest of the passengers were directed to a large tram, we were sent to a small tram on the side for business class only and we were joined by the one gentleman who had been with us in the lounge (though the cabin would ultimately be filled 10 of 12 seats).

We boarded quickly and settled in for the short flight, the 20 minute delay was exactly on target. The seats are really quite comfortable for the hop to Bangkok and again quite happy with the legroom.

Service was both efficient and friendly. It’s a far cry from Thai where the crews are incredibly variable, everyone I interacted with onboard Bangkok Airways was pleasant. My only bad experience was the stern look from the lounge dragon at the airport, I suppose I must not have looked like a business class passenger. (Although my Priority Pass would have gotten me in had I been in coach!)

According to the menu, lunch and dinner service is the same on this route:

Samui – Bangkok
10:30 – 14:00 Hrs
17:00 – 22:00 Hrs

First Course
Chicken Pastrami Salad

Main Course
Roasted Duck Breast with Blue Cheese Sauce served with Has Brown Potatoes, Broccoli, Pumpkins and Carrots

Assorted Bread

Dessert
Apple Strudel

Coffee/Tea

It’s an extensive offering for a flight four miles shorter than New York LaGuardia – Richmond, but not quite extensive enough to justify the flatware they provide:

By the time I had finished eating, turned down coffee service, and read a few pages in my book we were on final approach. We disembarked, and right at the start of the jetway was a Bangkok Airways representative who saw the stickers on our shirts indicating we were connecting and directed us out a side door and onto the tarmac, out to a waiting Bangkok Flight Services van which would drive us across the tarmac straight over to transit security and up to the transit desks.

I don’t know whether this is something offered as a standard for Bangkok Airways or was because of our flight delay, I haven’t read a lot of reports on Bangkok Airways, but overall I was certainly impressed and considering that the flights were less expensive than Thai Airways I felt we more than got our money’s worth and I’d definitely choose Bangkok Airways again on this route (especially since it’s a tough flight to get included as part of an award itinerary, the only Thai domestic route on which this is usually a problem).

We were quickly to the Cathay desk, it turns out that everyone on my flight that had been given this service was flying Cathay and the lone agent at the desk was moving fairly slowly. When we got to the front of the line he asked why we had only checked our bags on to Hong Kong, since we were only overnighting in Hong Kong and would be there no more than 15 hours? He offered to have the bags re-tagged on to Chicago, and I took him up on the offer. He did say, though, that we should confirm in the lounge that this was actually completed. So we headed over to the Cathay Pacific lounge around the corner…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Hi Gary. I am enjoying your reports, particularly of your travel on Bangkok Air. We will be traveling with them next week–Bangkok-Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai-Bangkok-Krabi and then Krabi-Bangkok for the trip home. I just joined their reward program for the extra luggage allowance. Tomorrow I will check with my tour company to see if we can upgrade to business for $25 each leg. Despite the short flights, business sounds nice, particulary for the Chiang Mai-Krabi legs which are on my birthday.

    Cheers, Mary Anne

  2. Gary,
    Great information on the checking the baggage through! In your experience, are you able to “triple” check you bags through? We have a similar route as you did, flying AA to Chicago, Cathay to Bankok through Hong Kong, and Bangkok Air to Koh Samui. We’re taking longer layovers on the way there and wouldn’t want to check all the way, but the way back would be much nicer not worrying about our bags. Do you think it’s possible? You said you emailed the airlines ahead of time, is there a specific department that takes care of things like this or just “customer service”? Would I need to email all 3 airlines?
    Thank so much!

  3. @Jason for your return, assuming it’s Bangkok Airways -> Cathay -> American I would say that Bangkok Airways will have no problem through checking onto Cathay. That’ll get your bags to Chicago. If they only check your bags to Hong Kong and not to Chicago, Cathay should have no difficulty re-tagging. I do not think Bangkok Airways will be able to through-check all the way through on American. However it does not matter. If they do not, well, you have to pick up your bags in Chicago ANYWAY and walk them through customs before dropping them back off. I *believe* that AA has a ticket counter just past the customs hall on the left hand side (I know that United has one on the right hand side) and you would walk up to that to get the bag tagged before dropping it back off. Make sense?

  4. Really enjoying this trip report. Have a very similar trip planned in January (7 nights in BKK, 4 in USM, 1 in HKG) checking out the new St. Regis in BKK.

    Curious, how did you go about buying up to business on Bangkok Airways?

  5. Hi Gary,

    Really enjoyed the blog! Many of our customers have told us that they too have had better experiences with Bangkok Airways than Thai Airways.

    The photos looks great too. How was the food? Better than the standard airline meals?

    Best wishes, Alex

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