One of the first things I notice each time I arrive in Thailand and meet Thais, is the trademark welcoming smile. From street food vendors to office workers, this heartfelt symbol is distinctly Thai and well suited at the moniker for Thai Smile Airways, the regional airline and subsidiary of Thai Airways.
Flying Thai Smile Airways to Koh Samui
Our first flight with Thai Smile Airways took us from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) to Surat Thani, the jumping off point for two of Thailand’s biggest island destinations, Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan.
Flying domestically within any country we visit is an odd feeling for me. Most of the time we are flying from one country to another, presenting our passports at Immigration and heading onto our next destination. We’ve only experienced flying domestically in a few places: Vietnam, Laos, China, and Thailand. Each time I get this odd feeling like we are doing something wrong. Why aren’t we heading onward? Why don’t we go through immigration? You’re not a local, get out of here! I haven’t the slightest idea why, but I do.
Heading from the Thai Smile Airways ticket counter in Terminal 1 at BKK, pass security and onto our gate, that feeling hit me again, but this time it was different. It felt normal, like I belonged. Was it that we just signed a one year lease on an apartment in Bangkok? Or that with each passing day I’m feeling more at home with our lives in Bangkok? Either way, it was a welcome change.
Winding our way through Terminal 1 and arriving at Gate A2, it was a welcome relief that our ride for the one hour flight South was parked at the gate and that we wouldn’t have to shuttle out to the tarmac and board from the ground. I understand why airlines do this and as an aviation enthusiast you would think that I’d love get up close and personal to commercial airliners. Don’t get me wrong, I do. But, first thing in the morning, I simply want to get to my gate and walk directly on board.
At our gate, I indulged in our latest social media toy, broadcasting a quick Periscope of the terminal and the lovely looking Thai Smile Airways A320 parked outside. Amber, always one step ahead of me, spoke with the gate agents to see if we could board the aircraft a few minutes before everyone else to snap some photos of the empty aircraft.
With the Captain’s permission, we boarded ahead of our fellow passengers. In true Thai fashion, we were greeted at the door of the aircraft with five warming Thai smiles and a sign song “Sa-wat-dee-ka”, or hello in Thai. Knowing we only had a couple minutes to ourselves, Amber and I quickly grabbed our photos, taking only a quick moment to enjoy our own “private” Airbus.
What is Thai Smile Airways
When flying long distances, particularly from Asia to Europe or especially the US, we tend to go for luxury flying experiences. We often cash in miles for business class, and have had amazing luxury experiences with Etihad business class, Cathay business class, and even United Airway’s first class. But, when it comes to short haul flights within Southeast Asia, or domestic flights, we like to fly the budget airlines. We would rather spend our money on nicer accommodations and great food, than a fancy one hour flight. Good for us, there are loads of options available.
The competition in Southeast Asian aviation is intense. With several low cost carriers from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, airlines need to set themselves apart. Some offer crazy low, $2 one-way, tickets, while others offer Premium seating options and fly the latest aircraft to come off the assembly line, like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. With most of these airlines, you have to pay for options like food, or exit or first row seating. This is the new norm in the industry.
To compete with $2 fares, if that’s even possible, I think Thai Smile Airways has done the right thing by offering passengers what I like to call “basic airline rights.” They let passengers check their bag, select a seat, and have a little something to eat, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST.
Thai Smile’s basic fare, called Smile Saver, does all three: 20 kgs of checked baggage, seat assignment, and a hot snack or meal. If you feel like passengers want some extra room, they can upgrade to their Smile Plus. Similar to inter-Europe Business Class, it’s a standard economy row, with no passenger in the middle seat. Smile Plus offers an additional 10 kg of checked bags, 30 kg in total, plus priority check in, boarding, and baggage handling. One nice thing about about all of these options is that you can earn miles with Thai Airways’s Royal Orchid Plus frequent flier program.
I’ve lost track of how many different airlines we’ve flown since leaving the U.S. Being the #AvGeek that I am, it’s always exciting to experience a new carrier to see what they offer, or don’t, what their inflight offerings are, and how the staff treat their passengers. In typical Thai fashion, Thai Smile was warm, welcoming, and worth flying if you come to Asia. I’m looking forward to flying them again and again from our new home base in Bangkok.
Operating an all Airbus A320-200 fleet, Thai Smile serves 11 destinations throughout Thailand using both Bangkok airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang International (DMK). Outside of Thailand, Thai Smile offers direct flights to Macau as well as Yangon, Myanmar.
Flights from Bangkok to Surat Thani can be found for as low as $40 in November, even booking last minute. An hour after departing Suvarnabhumi, we landed at Surat Thani completing our first Thai Smile flight. To get to our final destination of Koh Samui, we still had a 90 minute bus ride and a 45 minute catamaran ride. We paid and additional $16 a person for the bus and ferry combination to make it to Koh Samui.
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We were hosted by Thai Smile Airways on our flight to Surat Thani, but all #AvGeek opinions are my own.