Limited flight options for Thailand travel

BANGKOK, 25 August 2021: In theory, travellers can book domestic flights in Thailand for departures starting 1 September, but a note of caution as the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has yet to confirm flights will be back next month.

Airlines are pushing for a commitment from the CAAT that they can resume flights on 1 September. You can even browse their websites to book and pay for fares starting 1 September. That could invite more grief for stressed-out passengers who will demand refunds if the flight ban is extended.

Travel experts claim a 15 September reopening of domestic air travel is more likely when you consider the rate of new daily Covid-19 cases. It is falling slowly, but it will take at least two to three weeks to confirm a downward trend in new infections.

Travellers have been making do with just a handful of limited flights mainly to serve Phuket Sandbox travellers who want to get off the island and visit other destinations.

Bangkok Airways resumed three direct flights weekly between Samui and Phuket to support the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus programmes. The first flight takes off today, 25 August, departing Samui at 1125 and returning from Phuket at 1300.

 Bangkok Airways is also offering a weekly Samui – Singapore flight, the only international service out of Samui.

Nok Air offers travellers limited flights from U-Tapao Airport in Rayong province to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai  Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Phuket up to 31 August.

Thai Smile Airways will operate a single charter flight from Phuket to Bangkok on 26 August 2021. Flight WE 8784 will depart Phuket at 1430  and arrive in Bangkok at 1600. The fare quote is THB 4,300 one-way inclusive of tax, about double the fare offered pre-Covid-19 era.

Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air are grounded, but they hope to resume domestic services starting in September. Bookings can be made directly with the two airlines for flights in September. However, the situation is fluid. Passengers buying tickets could face the hassle of seeking a refund or applying for a voucher for future travel if the ban on flights in and out of Bangkok extends beyond 31 August.

Last week, Thai VietJet Air reactivated promotional fares on limited domestic routes for travel between 15 September to 31 December 2021.

Promotional fares started at THB389 one way on limited routes, but travellers should be cautious until it is clear that the airline intends to resume consistent services to all destinations advertised. Refunding unused tickets from any of the domestic airlines can take months.

There is a 14-hour bus ride option from Phuket to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport just for international travellers under the Phuket Sandbox programme. The service runs three times weekly (Monday, Thursday and Saturday until 30 August 2021). The one-way fare is THB1,800. If airlines services from Bangkok to domestic destinations fail to resume 1 September,  bus service may extend into September.

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