Island hopping fares

BANGKOK, 5 March 2018. Despite rising fuel prices that are impacting on travel costs in Southeast Asia fares to the popular island of Phuket are still competitive during April.

There isn’t much separating Thai AirAsia and Nok Air fares on the Bangkok-Phuket route, so it is really a matter of personal preference rather than snapping up big savings.  Both airlines are based at Don Mueang Airport (DMK) and offer multiple daily flights to Phuket.

Shopping around gets you a roundtrip fare, Bangkok-Phuket, at THB 1780 on Thai AirAsia for mid-week flights in April.

It’s a starting fare, not including fuel and airport taxes, that will add around THB 250 to the fare.  If you have luggage then add another THB 740  (20kg) giving you a bottom-line roundtrip fare of around THB 2,770.

Nok Air’s cheapest roundtrip fare stands at THB 1,958 and again you have to add THB 180 and THB 600 for check-in luggage of 15 kg for the bottom-line fare of THB 2738.

Thai Vietjet is the only competitive low-cost airline flying to Phuket from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. Its best fare, mid-April, is pegged at around THB 2,074. When you add the extras for baggage and tax, the fare creeps into the low THB 3,000 range.

The airline’s website is not very user-friendly and if you are not keen on lengthy sessions clicking boxes and double checking then opt out and book through one of the airline’s authorised travel agencies to obtain the same fare with credit card or cash payments.

If you fancy a reasonable snack and 20 kg of luggage then Thai Airways International serves Phuket with its mid April fare pegged at THB 3,200. The connections between TG’s regional or long-haul flights from Europe or Australia are pretty seamless and hassle free.

THAI’s subsidiary low-cost airline, Thai Smile, also based in Bangkok Suwarnabhumi airport quotes a roundtrip fare to Phuket of THB 3,200 to 3,500. Again you get a snack and 20 kg of checked luggage.  The same inflight features are also included when flying Bangkok Airways to Phuket from Suvarnabhumi airport, which quotes a roundtrip fare of THB 3,430 roundtrip.

To put island hopping in perspective for the traveller arriving in Bangkok and planning a trip to an island, a flight to Samui Island on the Gulf of Thailand will set you back at least THB 8,980 roundtrip on Bangkok Airways. The high fare is more about a virtual monopoly on direct flights to the island from the Thai capital as opposed to fuel costs, or flight distance.  Samui is closer to Bangkok by around 20 minutes flying time, when compared with Phuket.

THAI offers a roundtrip fare at THB 9,660 to Samui through a codeshare deal it negotiated with Bangkok Airways.

Phu Quoc an island destination in neighbouring Vietnam that is catching the attention of travellers is just a one hour 50 minutes flight away from Bangkok on Bangkok Airways, which uses an ATR 72.  The rountrip fare mid April, posted on the airline’s website, starts at THB 8,125.  That includes the basic fare and THB 3,335 in taxes and surcharges. The airline flies four times a week.

Its nearest competitor on the hop to this southern Vietnamese island is Vietnam Airlines, also flying out of Bangkok’s  Suvarnabhhumi airport. The fare is pegged at THB 8,345 with one stop in Ho Chi Minh City and a change of plane. The flight time is five hours and 25 minutes.

That’s no real choice, leaving Bangkok Airways as the preferred airline on this route.

Shop around and check both the airlines’ websites as well as third-party search sites such as Skyscanner and Google Flights. There are some dramatic contrasts in the offers.