The third flight of my itinerary for the chrismas holidays and is actually happening on Christmas will bring us to Ubon Ratchathani to visit my wife's parents for a few days. The four days of us staying in Krung Thep (Bangkok) have been quite busy to complete some formalities in the paperwork of my wife and meeting some of her friends and family residing in Krung Thep (Bangkok)
Given that we borrowed the car from my wife's sister to proceed to Bang Saen the day earlier to meet my wife's best friend, we dropped off the car shortly before we needed to make our way to Suvarnabhumi for our flight. The luck of having a Thai wife is that the taxi's not tend to overcharge you for a trip to the airport instead of charging you 500 THB or up as most foreigners will pay for it….. Using the Taximeter from the city center will be 300 THB max, but usually costs you around 250 THB + 50 THB or so for the tollways if you opt for them.
The driver, a friendly and chatty chap, brought us over to the drop-off area of Thai Smile & THAI for the domestic departures. This section also includes the business & first class check-in counters, but the counters for economy are wrongly advertised as they are further away in the terminal.
Thai Smile offers you to check-in via kiosk or either online and proceed to the drop-off section once you've obtained your baggage tag, but all kiosks were occupied by travellers who did not seem to fully understand the system nor was it functioning at a decent speed, we just decided to queu in the line for check-in as the line itself was not very long nor did it take long for us to be helped by one of Thai Smile's agents.
It took us about five minutes or so to be helped. The ground attendant who helped us was a quite hard to understand with her speaking volume being very low, wearing a face mask and an additional divider to separate us further, so I basically gave her just my passport and couldn't hear the rest of what she said and just answered what I thought she said.
Given that we had to check-out at noon from our hotel, it also gave us plenty of time at Suvarnabhumi to grab a bite downstairs before heading to security. With about 1.5 hours to boarding, we decided to proceed to the domestic departure area of Suvarnabhumi. Just a few people before us, the system that automatically opens the doors for us to proceed airside just decided to quit on all of us forcing the two staff members who we're present to check & verify all passenger's boarding cards… Quite chaotic as the people behind us jumped the queu to be the first to be helped by one of the staff members instead of just being patient and let the first ones in queu be the first ones through the gate.
Given that I haven't been in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi for over three years, I was expecting that our bags need to be checked shortly after, but my wife told me they changed the procedure and moved the baggage checks further down to the gates…. Something similar to what Singapore does in T2, so instead of that we just needed to follow the long escalator to the domestic area.
The moment we arrived it was quite calm in the domestic section with a limited amount of restaurants and shops… The food court that used to be here was now removed and was replaced by a few other eateries with almost no seating availability.
My wife and me just opted to grab a cocktail at the Koh Hop Bar. The left cocktail was Chaweng Beach which I opted for and my wife took the Phuket Marine. Neither of us were really satisfied with the drink itself, but it did the job to spend that hour. The bar itself had plenty of staff available, yet they weren't very engaging with the clients and seemed to create chaos amongst each other about their tasks.
About ten minutes prior to boarding, we decided to proceed down to our gate. Both A & B sections do have a domestic lounge and a C.I.Q. section for passengers to wait to board their domestic or international flights.
C.I.Q. - Customs, Immigration & Quarantine
For those who are not familiar or do not know what this program is, it is basically a way to transfer on a domestic to international or international to domestic without clearing immigration in Bangkok if connecting. It basically means that once you arrive in Bangkok from London with an onward journey to Phuket for example, they will direct you in Bangkok to your plane to Phuket and you will clear immigration in Phuket…. You can also do it in the opposite way by clearing immigration in Phuket to London via a stopover in Bangkok and allowing to skip immigration formalities in Bangkok.
Once we arrived at security, it took us about ten minutes to clear as it's unfortunately not as advanced as in Amsterdam Schiphol, so all electronic devices such as laptop, tablet and powerbanks had to be stowed in a separate bin. Somehow in Thailand they do really verify the power outage of the powerbank unlike Europe where they don't give a #[email protected]$ about the outage.
Also be sure to grab a drink and bite before you enter security as there is literally no option other than two vending machines to grab something. B4 would be our gate today to Ubon Ratchathani.
Face masks are not required to be worn anymore in Thailand, but are recommended, so it's quite common to see all Thais still wearing them while most foreigners are not. The seating area of the gates provides you with enough seats for even the larger birds and gives you a good view over the apron, but only if Suvarnabhumi ever bothered to clean their windows.
HS-TXD will do the honours of bringing us to Ubon Ratchathani. HS-TXD is a 10.3 year old Airbus A320 that was delivered to Thai Smile in September 2012. It was decided in November 2014 that this bird will be changed to main carier THAI before being returned to Thai Smile again in July 2016. It is powered by two IAE V2527-A5 engines and can carry up to 168 passengers (12 in J, 156 in Y). It is also named after the Thai province Sing Buri.
Boarding was called right on time and we were kindly greeted by one of the flight attendants. As most of you are aware, any airliner with ties to THAI will have a different numbering of the rows in their cabin and so does THAI Smile. Seat 50A is the one I chose and is a few rows after the wings. Legroom isn't great, but the seat itself is comfortable.
The view of the window seat gave me a sight of HS-PPG. An Airbus A319 of Bangkok Airways who was prepparing for it's flight to Koh Samui (PG163), but was delayed by about 40 minutes or so.
An complete view of the seat.
The airplane's cabin.
Despite the flight being fully booked, pushback was ahead of time and it would mean that today's departure from Runway 01R would be right on time.
The departure also gave me a view of the entire airport with the new terminal which is yet in construction. The taxiways and apron around is are still being used as storage for planes of THAI & Bangkok Air (95% was THAI). I wonder how many of those will be flying with the airline again and whether the A380s of THAI will ever see the skies again.
Once we reached a safer altitude, the flight attendants jumped into action to prepare the complimentary service for today's flight. The aircraft is also equipped with overhead TV's which were solely being used to randomly show advertisements throughout the flight and would have been retracted once it was over with some of them being naughty and requiring the flight attendants to push the tv back up.
A light meal was handed over to us which came in a bag like this.
The contents of the bag. A refreshing tissue, bottle of water, plastic spoon and a cupcake that was decorated to the christmas theme, but tasted quite chemically.
Once everyone got it's little package, the flight attendants came back out of the galley to serve us tea or coffee. Luckily enough it was freshly brewed coffee and not one of those instant coffees you will receive if you buy it with a low-cost carrier.
The view I had when I was sipping my coffee.
About 20 minutes to landing, the flight attendants came by to clean the cabin and it also gave me a chance to capture the literature of today's flight, which was not really surprising as it contained the obvious safety card, a sickbag and an advertising paper saying that you will receive extra milage or discounts if you bought certain goods via their homepage.
The aircraft is also installed with a reading light and an individual air vent.
By this time we were already in the final stretch of our leg getting ready for our landing into runway 05.
Touchdown with an absolute smacker and full brakes on, but we were about 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time.
Thai Smile competitors blocked any of the two available jetbridges, which meant that we were being parked at one of the remote stands.
The culprits were an Airbus A320 of Thai Vietjet & an Airbus A320 of Thai AirAsia in the Amazing Thailand livery.
Disembarking the aircraft went at a speedy place and gave me a proper chance to grab a picture of the aircraft that brought me over with the beautiful sunset in the background.
The Nok Air Boeing 737-800 had the same faith as us as neither one of the aircraft had left the jetbridges and would be parked next to us… Guess I haven't seen Ubon Ratchathani Airport so busy in the past visits.
It took about five minutes to reach the terminal from our parking area and gave me a chance to spot the Thai Vietjet Airbus A320.
Given the size of the terminal and the amount of planes, I expected the baggage claim to be a lot more crowded. It however didn't take long for us to receive or baggage and the overcrowding was nowhere to be seen within the terminal building…… The opposite happened though for the road leading to and from the airport as it took my wife's parents about 30 minutes to reach us to pick us up.
A short, but comfortable ride with Thai Smile from Bangkok to Ubon. Flight attendants were friendly, the seat's comfort was good, though it could do with some extra legroom. Though the snack was appreciated, it wasn't really appetizing to me.