Competition hots up on Bangkok-Danang route

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BANGKOK, 27 September 2018:  Competition is heating up between airlines flying the Bangkok-Danang route as Thai VietJet prepares to launch a new direct service 15 October.

The main attraction for Danang-bound visitors is the World Heritage port of Hoi An, and its beach resorts on the coast around 4 km from the historical town centre.

Travellers considering a visit to Hoi An can look forward to cheaper fares once the Vietnamese low-cost airline starts daily services from its Suvarnabhumi base in Bangkok.

Three Bangkok-based airlines offer the lowest fares on the route according to a November check of Skyscanner flights.

Vietnam Airline is not in the frame as it best offers are for one-stop flights that require a change of plane in Ho Chi Minh City. End-to-end flight time is five hours on the outbound trip from Bangkok and six hours and 40 minutes on the return trip. The roundtrip fare is USD221.  The fight departs from Suvarnabumi at 1120 and arrives in Danang at 1620. The return flight departs Danang at 0630 and gets you in Bangkok at 1310.

Bangkok Airways was the first airline to offer a direct Bangkok-Danang service, although in the past two other airlines, Thai Smile and PB Air, flew and then fled the route due to heavy losses.

In contrast, Bangkok Airways made a go of the route and possibly that explains why it pegs its lowest roundtrip fare at USD337 for travel dates 7 and 14 November (return leg).

Despite a generous check-in luggage allowance and an inflight meal in today’s competitive environment the sums just don’t add up even if you are keen to earn points on the airline’s popular frequent flyer programme.

However, the airline probably fills up the cabin with international tourists, who are booked on the PG flight through codeshare deals. It evidently doesn’t rely on local Bangkok residents or direct online sales, while it does remain the favourite airline of tours operators.

As for the rest of us, starting 15 October we can enjoy a trip on Thai VietJet and save USD137 on Bangkok Airways’ best online offer with a departure almost at the same time and using the same aircraft, the versatile Airbus A320, from the same airport, Suvarnabhumi.

Personally, I have no brand loyalty when booking regional flights in Asia, so my choice is straightforward. I book the cheapest; Thai AirAsia at USD97. It means more cash to spend on food and booze at Hoi An’s famous boutique restaurants and food markets.

Thai AirAsia flies twice daily offering a morning departure at 1030 from Bangkok, with almost the same departure time as Bangkok Airways and Thai Vietjet, but out of Don Mueang Airport. However, the fare is more expensive at USD122, while the USD97 bargain for the 1640 departure is fine if you live up-country and need to fly to Bangkok.

Compelling factors when I book flights are connecting times and avoiding immigration and security checks in crowded Bangkok airports. I reside in Chiang Rai in far north Thailand so check-through flights that do away with the need to check-in twice gain my attention.

Thai AirAsia offers an efficient check-through booking option that issues two boarding passes for the entire trip, your luggage tagged to the final destination and immigration clearance in Chiang Rai for the connecting international flight out of Bangkok.

Thai AirAsia was the first to offer this service from domestic airports that cuts out the crowded immigration and security checkpoints in Don Mueang Airport. You still need to steer through the transit security checkpoint, but the queues are considerably shorter.

The one-hour flight from Bangkok gets you in Danang by 1820 and you can check-in your Hoi An resort, or town hotel, 60 minutes after landing. The transfer from Danang Airport takes 45 minutes to cover the 29.5 km distance to Hoi An town. The beach resorts of Cura Dai are a 3.8 km commute from world heritage town that stands on the banks of the Thu Bon River estuary.

The typical nightly rate at beach resorts at Cura Dai is around USD85 a night, bookable on any of the popular booking sites; Agoda, Booking.Com and Expedia.

Hoi An is the top destination to visit in central Vietnam for its world heritage port town and nearby beach resorts, but there are also golf courses and beach resorts close to Danang town. From there, following the scenic coastal road, buses take you to Hue the home of imperial palace ruins and a world heritage site, 92 km north of Danang.

Thai VietJet inaugurates its daily flight Bangkok-Danang 15  October. Effective 28 October the winter timetable, up to March 2019, confirms a daily service using an A320 departing Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport at 1050 and arriving in Danang at 1230. The return flight departs Danang at 1315 and arrives in Bangkok at 1455.

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