BACKGROUND Bangkok Airways, which boasts that it is Asia’s boutique airline, flies from the Thai capital to Phnom Penh in Cambodia four times a day. I took the 1800 PG935 flight on a Monday in January from Suvarnabhumi Airport after some business in Bangkok. The flight was scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh at 1910.
CHECK-IN I arrived slightly earlier than 1600 to check in and there were not many passengers yet. So, although as a Blue Ribbon class passenger I was entitled to use the dedicated counter, it did not make a difference. In fact, the group before me, a family of five, had such a long series of questions for the counter staff I probably waited longer than those in the economy queue. Otherwise, the process was smooth and I was told that my ticket allowed me to make use of the fast track and the Blue Ribbon lounge. The former was simply brilliant – I was led to the same security check and passport control used by pilots and it was mere minutes before I was cleared. For a busy airport like Suvarnabhumi, it really saved me a lot of time.
THE LOUNGE Located at Concourse A, the Blue Ribbon Club lounge was a bit of a trek from my gate, D5. But as I had time to spare, I decided to make use of it. The décor blends blue with grey and beige, as well as gold accents and a colourful striped carpet. The little chandeliers and country-style floral wallpaper give the space a homey feel, while the velvet and silk upholstery of the sofas adds a touch of class. There are two computers available but most guests used their laptops when I was there. To access the wifi, you need to ask the staff for a password. The snack counter displayed a decent variety of cakes and finger sandwiches, but I opted, instead, for the duck noodles. The noodles were the instant variety but with the sliced meat and some spinach on top it made a decent quick snack and went down well. Drink selection was limited and I had to settle for vodka with soda because there was no tonic! Other facilities include the shower room and an automatic massage chair (in the relaxation corner). There is also enough reading material on hand to keep one busy.
BOARDING As the boarding gate was quite far, I decided to head for it early, arriving around 30 minutes before scheduled departure time. But boarding time was slightly delayed and since there was no free wifi in the waiting area, I settled down with a book. After about 20 minutes one of the airline staff members walked around with a placard to alert the Blue Ribbon passengers for boarding.
THE SEAT I was given the 1A seat, which, despite feeling extra private, actually offers less legroom. The seat is more spacious than the ones in the back end, of course, but if you stand 1.83m tall like me, you can’t totally straighten your legs because there is a wall in front of you. (With the seats at the back, you can slip your feet under the seat in front of you.)
I thought there would be a TV hidden in the lower right-hand stowage but what I got was, instead, a metal stand for the portable multimedia player, which the cabin crew offers on selected flights. But my flight wasn’t one of them, despite the availability of an entertainment programme guide in the magazine pocket. I only got to enjoy the service later on the Bangkok-Hong Kong leg of my return flight.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? It seems that row 2 is the best bet, as you don’t have a wall in front of or behind you, allowing for a full stretch.
THE FLIGHT After the welcome drinks, the plane took off at about 1630. The service was graceful and personable, and it lived up to the boutique airline claim.
Unlike the Hong Kong-Samui flight I had taken before, the food selection on this particularly leg was limited, but the Tilapia three-flavour sauce with khao hom sukho (a special type of brown rice) and jasmine rice was delectable, if slightly over-seasoned. The Bollinger champagne served onboard was a fine choice,
well rounded enough to carry through my meal.
ARRIVAL The landing was smooth, and it took no time for me to exit the plane and reach the immigration area. But unlike at airports in Bangkok, Samui and Hong Kong where the airline has staff members assigned to help Blue Ribbon Club passengers facilitate the passport control and luggage claim process, I was on my own at Phnom Penh International Airport. But it wasn’t a complicated facility so it didn’t bother me.
PLANE TYPE A319
SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2 business, 3-3 economy
SEAT PITCH 47in/119cm
SEAT WIDTH 28in/71cm
PRICE Internet rate for a return Blue Ribbon Club ticket in April is THB12,295 (US$405.50)
VERDICT: Bangkok Airways has relatively modest hardware compared to larger airlines, but the service and personal touch more than make up for it. I’ll be happy to fly with them again