Pilgrim fares to Bodhgaya

BANGKOK, 31 January 2018: THAI offering airfare deals to Gaya a destination for serious Buddhist pilgrimages travelling to Bodhgaya, and a prime gateway on the religious tour circuit of northern India that ends in Varanasi.

Thai Airways International uses its low-cost subsidiary airline, Thai Smile, to operate flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to Gaya’s airport, located 12 km from the city and 5 km from Bodhgaya in the Mahabodhi Temple complex.

THAI’s special offer for an economy roundtrip fare, Bangkok-Gaya, starts at THB18,750 before taxes and surcharges with the booking and final day to complete travel ending 31 March.

THAI promotes the THB18,750 fare on its website under the tag ‘special offers’, but by Thai Smile on its website flags a lower roundtrip fare at  THB16,465 including THB1,005 in taxes and surcharges.

Hardly makes sense to grab the THAI deal on its website when Thai Smile clearly upstages the mother airline with a fare THB2,285 cheaper. There is no clear mention of any extras bundled into the THAI offer to justify shelling out more cash than Thai Smile passengers travelling on the same plane.

It gets worse. Despite frequent attempts to book the “special offer” on THAI’s website the best deal turned out to be THB19,480, before tax, which was THB730 higher than advertised.  The booking was for late March arguably enough advance notice to catch a deal, but there were only five seats open in t he Super Saver Plus fare category, suggesting pilgrimage trips to North India are selling well,

The 31 March cut off date singles the end of Thai Smile’s seasonal flights until November. The airline serves Gaya and Varanasi with the same A320 flights. The outbound flight from Bangkok to Gaya takes slightly more than three hours, while the return flights takes five hours 20 minutes due a technical stop in Varanasi.

Tour groups on the North India pilgrimage route fly to Gaya and then travel overland to various religious sites starting with Bodhgaya and ending in Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River before boarding the Thai Smile  flight for the homebound trip to Bangkok.