It is back to the Land of Smiles for the next installment in the saga of the trip to Thailand in November 2021. After spending about 10 days in Bangkok during the opening phase of Thailand’s Test & Go program for vaccinated travelers, the plan was to go to Phuket for a week of relaxation on that lovely island.
I bought a roundtrip ticket in economy class on Thai Smile, a subsidiary of Thai Airways. Thai Smile describes itself as a “lower cost” airline. It’s goal is to fill the niche between full-service airlines and true low-cost carriers that nickel and dime customers for every amenity and service. This post depicts the flights between Bangkok (BKK) and Phuket (HKT) (in black & white for a change of pace) and reports on Thai Smile’s unusual post-arrival meal service — a first for me.
For comparison, this post reports on a Thai Smile economy class flight during non-Covid times.
Other posts from this Covid-19 Thailand trip:
The one-hour flight departed from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi (silent i) International around midday. The taxi dropped me off at the terminal, and I was struck by the contrast with the normally crowded drop-off area.
At check in, the agent did not weigh or measure my new Travelpro Platinum Elite 21″ carry-on bag and backpack to see if they met the Thai Smile size and 20kg weight limit. In my experience, that is thankfully common on airlines in Asia.
The flight departed from Gate B1 on the domestic concourse. Airlines have responded to the pandemic-induced decrease in travel by reducing the number of flights. So even with fewer customers, planes are still relatively full. This flight was about half full. Everyone wore masks and every other seat in the waiting area was marked with an X for social distancing.
Taxi and takeoff revealed a lot of empty gates.
Like most airlines during the pandemic, Thai Smile reduced its in-flight service in coach. I was surprising that the service reduction included eliminating the funny videos shown on the overhead video screens. The sight gags are universal and need no translations.
The Gulf of Thailand is dotted with many limestone karsts like those found in Halong Bay, Vietnam. The most famous are Khao Phing Kan and Ko Ta Pu. They are better known as “James Bond Island” from the 1974 007 movie The Man with the Golden Gun.
You can’t get to the beach from the airport. However beach access is available nearby.
Some airlines like to say that flight attendants are primarily “for our safety.” It is an awkward attempt to justify their lack of in-flight service. On these flights the flight attendants were there exclusively for our safety. Like most short flights in economy class worldwide, this flight had absolutely no in-flight service to minimize Covid risk.
It was a different story on Thai Smile Pre-Covid. On a flight that takes only one hour gate to gate, there isn’t much time for service in economy. Still, on these short flights Thai Smile used to provide a complimentary snack or meal and non-alcoholic beverage service to all passengers in coach pre-Covid.
Thai Smile went the extra mile by offering a light snack after reaching the gate. Passengers could pick up a to-go bag with a bottle of water and a pastry from a table in the jet bridge as they disembarked.
I had a pre-departure meal once on China Eastern, but this post-arrival snack was a completely unexpected gesture. Kudos to Thai Smile for going the extra mile.