FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The simple thatched waiting areas, we remembered from our first trip to Koh Samui in 1995, have now given way to more permanent structures, which even include a retail plaza. The Bangkok Airways-run airport in Koh Samui may now be a totally different creature from what it was then, thanks to progress – the airline marks 40 years in business this year, operating to 24 destinations – but a part of us can’t help missing that thrill of having landed in paradise.
To the airline’s credit, it has tried to maintain a strong tropical ambience, using wood and eschewing air-conditioning completely, and instead going for a design that highlights cross ventilation.
I arrived an hour before my 4.15pm flight PG154 to Bangkok only to discover it was delayed by one hour (my arrival in Koh Samui three days earlier had also been put back by an hour). Choosing not to fret at being late for a dinner appointment in the city, I thought I would use the wait to work on my laptop at one of the newly opened eateries in the arcade.
The Taste was a charming air-conditioned tea shop (there is also Swensen’s and Whittards) with pastel wicker furniture and an internet corner with four workstations. From the list of smoothies, I chose lychee and received a wonderfully chilled concoction that I sipped slowly, savouring the sensation of cold while blinking against the intense glare coming from the runway.
Nearing boarding time, I hopped on to one of the shuttle trams from the check-in/reception to the waiting area, a ride of less than a minute. Deviating from the concept of traditional airport gates, Bangkok Airways has opted for non-enclosed pavilions with high ceilings and comfortable seating, similar to a resort lobby. Rows of deck chairs even fill up some corners. The washrooms have aquariums at the entrance. There is a snack bar with juices and fresh fruits, open to all irregardless of whether you are sitting in Business or Economy. The only nod to modernity would be the three mounted flat-screen TVs flashing soccer matches.
BOARDING: Again, a tram was used to ferry passengers to our aircraft.
THE SEAT: The Airbus A319 used on this evening flight featured Business and Economy Class, with Economy in a 3-3 configuration. I chose to be seated by the window and was given one on the right side of the plane. The distance between seat rows felt unexpectedly roomy.
THE FLIGHT: Even on short flights such as this 50-minute journey, the airline appears to believe in feeding passengers well. We received a sesame bread sandwich stuffed with chicken, tomato, cucumber and lettuce and for dessert, mocha crumble cake and fresh fruit. For drinks, there was orange juice, coffee or tea and water. The crew was brisk in serving and clearing away the trays – they had to as the captain was making the landing announcement in no time at all.
ARRIVAL: With no immigration queues and only my trolley to pick up, I was waving to my hotel chauffeur in less than 30 minutes.
VERDICT: Except for the wait, a perfect ride.
PRICE: For a Bangkok-Koh Samui return, Business is from US$289; Economy from US$206 (both excluding taxes).
Margie T Logarta