THAI Smile returns to Luang Prabang

BANGKOK, 21 August 2017: Thai Smile says it will resume flights between Bangkok and Luang Prabang starting1 October.

Thai Smile launched flights to Luang Prabang in 2014 and halted them in 2016, without an announcement or explanation to passengers or the travel trade.

According to the airline’s website, the upcoming route will operate with four weekly flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

The airline sells a one-way promotional fare, inclusive of taxes and fees, ex-Bangkok at THB2,580 to Luang Prabang. Bookings are open until 28 October for thee special fare for travel 1 to 28 October.

However Thai Smile’s website is fraught with potential hiccups. One is the drop-down calendar that tends to freeze making it impossible, or very time-consuming, to actually identify the dates you wish to travel before you can reserve a seat.  This irritation occurred twice when checking the promotional fare on the Luang Prabang flight for October, but on the third attempt the calendar worked.

The best fare available, mid October, is THB4,965 roundtrip, which is what the airline presents in its ‘Smile’ offers. The airline will serve the route with an A320.

Bangkok Airways, the first Thai airline to serve Luang Prabang, offers a twice-daily service using the smaller 70-seat ATR 72, which is a mite restrictive on space for carry-on luggage. Even the cargo hold is tiny which limits the carriage of sports equipment such as cycles.  The twice-daily flight is convenient for passengers who need flexibility or prefer the later departure to connect with flights to Europe.

Its best fare, mid-October, is THB1,695  one way; total THB3,390 return, but when taxes are added the fare increases to THB6,715.

Thai AirAsia was the first low-cost airline to gain permission to fly to Luang Prabang, 24 March, last year. SilkAir from Singapore also inaugurated flights to both Vientiane and Luang Prabang from its home-base in Singapore, 31 October last year.

AirAsia launched direct flights connecting Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Luang Prabang, 21 November last year.

Lao Airlines, Lao Skyway and Vietnam Airlines, also serve Luang Prabang but it requires a change of plane in Vientiane (Laos) and  Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City ( Vietnam).

Luang Prabang was recognised as a World Heritage site in 1995. It captured the imagination of travellers because of the fusion of traditional and French colonial architecture dating back to the 19th century and its chill-out ambience that still survives despite a tourism boom. It is one of the few remaining towns in Asia that reflect a blending of two distinct cultural traditions.