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Check-in and Lounge: I had managed to check-in online at the hotel the day before and had used the iPhone App. It only seemed to work well though when I was in range of some decent wifi, but when it did work it was effortless. After our speedboat transfer from Koh Phangan to USM we arrived early enough to be put on the flight before ours was due, and in the same class and seats. We were quickly dealt with, bags checked in and covered in priority tags and issued new boarding passes for our earlier flight.
Security is a breeze at USM and we were through the tiny area in a matter of minutes and on our way through the rather open, “US-shopping mall” style duty free shops and restaurants, around to the gate and the Blue Ribbon business lounge.
On entering the lounge we were ushered to a seat and table by the friendly staff, a menu was presented to us and drinks orders were also taken (we opted for a couple of ice cold Singha beers). By the time those arrived, we had decided to go for the Prawn Wonton Soup with Noodles which promptly arrived within 5 minutes of ordering.
Boarding: The staff personally announced the boarding of your flight and were asked to go to the gate, which in the case of USM is usually about a 1-2 minute stroll. Boarding is swift and passengers are transported to the aircraft in motorised golf carts (business class) or the type of trolley bus you see on the sea front at Margate! All good fun and done with the usual Thai efficiency. They allow Business Class to board first and give you plenty of time to do so before they allow the rest of the passengers on. We were ushered to our seats and provided with cold towels, a selection of cold non-alcoholic drinks and menus within minutes of sitting down.
Seat: Bangkok Airways’ Business Class seats on their A319 aircraft are set out in 2-2 layout and are of the cradle variety. The cabin and seats are in a pale blue colour to match the uniform of the cabin crew. They are wide and comfortable and have a good recline, with various options for leg rests and foot rests providing various comfortable positions.
The armrest on one side houses the entertainment system handset and the other houses the table for dining.
Flight: We boarded on time and the cabin doors were closed ready for departure. However, after about 20 minutes we still had not pushed back and it was at that point that the captain announced that they had a technical issue and that we would have to all disembark the aircraft and be put on another flight. Disembarking was then completed as efficiently as boarding had been completed and we were back in the Blue Ribbon lounge.
My one and only criticism was that, considering how small and airport USM is, and how organised Bangkok Airways is, the lounge staff didn’t seem to know why we had all returned to the lounge and did not automatically take our boarding passes and put us on the next flight (which just so happened to be the one we were originally meant to get). We therefore had to ask them to put us on the next flight (our original one), which they did immediately and re-issued our boarding passes.
We were therefore straight back out of the lounge to the gate again to go through the whole boarding process onto a different aircraft. Once again a different crew ushered us to our seats and provided us with more cold towels, a selection of cold non-alcoholic drinks and menus within minutes of sitting down.
Because most passengers and luggage was being unloaded from the previous flight on PG134, the flight was delayed leaving USM by about 45 minutes, but everyone understood why and most of us from the other flight, were somewhat grateful of making the later flight anyway.
Food: Menus were handed out before we pushed back. Lunch orders were taken about 10 minutes after take-off along with your non-alcoholic drinks choice and were served approximately 10-20 minutes after that. I chose to have the sea bass with a selection of rice with a starter of olive oil dressed smoked fish which was served with a small side salad.
Entertainment: There was no entertainment on this flight, although the aircraft do have the facilities.
Arrival: We arrived at Bangkok Suvarbhumani airport about 30 minutes late. We had been talking to a fellow passenger at USM when were all re-boarding and he and a couple of other passengers had been concerned about getting their onward connecting flights. This is where Bangkok Airways exceeded my expectations because as we were disembarking (off-stand), staff were waiting for these passengers at the bottom of the stairs, with minibuses, waiting to whisk them away to their connecting flights.
Business class passengers also had their own minibus. However, what time you made up having your own minibus didn’t mean a lot as the luggage took quite a while to come through. Again, considering the luggage had to be removed from one aircraft at USM and re-loaded onto our flight, no suitcases were lost and we left Bangkok airport very impressed with the airline.
Overall: Excellent standards of service, marred a little with the confusion at USM when the aircraft wouldn’t start and passengers were being re-booked. Otherwise, a quality price for a superb product. The European airlines need to learn something from Bangkok Airways as we felt we got better value for money in domestic business class with Bangkok, than we normally do with any of the European airlines we normally fly, both in standard of seating and meal service.