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BobHelm
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Post by BobHelm » January 9, 2016, 12:11 pm

Usually I would include the travelling to & from a holiday destination in my views on the holiday in general. This time I have decided to post in a separate thread. This is partly because of the quantity of travel - 6 trips in 14 days - but also because just about any negativity on my time away came from this area.
I didn't want to give the impression that I had anything but a great time, but I didn't want to miss out recording my disappointments in this area either..

The flights
26th. December - Udon to BKK (Lion Air) & BKK to Ho Chi Minh City (Air Asia)
27th. December - Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang (Vietnam Airline)
7th. January - Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam Airline)
8th. January - Ho Chi Minh City to BKK (Air Asia) & BKK to Udon (Lion Air)

All the flights were about an hour in duration, but every flight suffered a lift off delay significant enough to alter the boarding time. The worst delay was only just over the hour, but it was a pretty appalling record..

The carriers
As they were all equally bad on punctuality, I guess that I will have to concentrate on other things... :D
Passenger comfort.
Lion Air were the worst in this regard. I am only 5'11" & 82 kilo. While I guess that is pretty large by Asian standards (but even that is becoming less so), it really isn't from other parts of the world. On the Lion Air flight it was impossible to sit without my knees touching the seat infront.
Air Asia gave just about enough room for a short haul flight to be comfortable & on the 1 flight had those well padded leatherette affairs that are not too bad at all for sitting in.
Vietnam Airlines were probably running the oldest planes of the 3 carriers. Possibly because of that, there was quite a bit of leg room. Indeed I have flown tourist long haul with less.
Food
These are all low cost airlines, so don't expect too much here... :D
Lion Air just about won by handing out a bottle of water & a pack of 2 Oreo biscuits - not that I am a fan there!!. In good old low cost tradition, Air Asia give you nothing - but are willing to sell you just about anything at an inflated price. Vietnam went the bottle of water route, which is good enough for me on an hour long flight.
Point of turn around improvement here for Vietnam Airlines...
The Lion Air cabin staff come around with a bin bag just before landing & so have got the plane into a fair condition before the passengers have even left & utilising them to clean up their own mess. The Vietnamese cabin staff just dished out the water & left it at that - definitely a clean up required after the passengers have left & so just by the employees.
Quirkiness
The winner of the quirkiness award goes to Lion Air for a sign displayed on each passenger seat.
I must have taken 100s of flights (in various conditions of 'playfulness') but I have to say that the thought of stealing one of the under-seat life jackets had never entered my head.
I do not know if, in its' early days, Lion Air carried a lot of cheap Charlie yachts' men or vacationing fishermen, but there is a notice posted that reminds passengers that it is illegal to steal them & that the company take any such act seriously.

To sum up. There was not a great deal of difference between the carriers & no one excelled or appalled. It was disappointing that they all seemed incapable of keeping to a schedule that they had created though & that smacks a little of either poor planning or poor management.

Don Mueang
I have always had a bit of a nostalgic, romantic regard for the old airport.
I used to like the long trek from International to Domestic & when I did a trip through there a year or so ago it still, to me, had a quaint appeal.
It is now back to full service though & any appeal is now long gone.
A new terminal had been opened since I last went through & all International flights were separated from Domestic on Christmas Eve, so I was expecting some teething issues when I travelled down 2 days later. In fairness it all went surprisingly well & my only complaint was the lack of signage to at least give a passenger a fighting chance of heading in the right direction without needing to constantly ask someone.
So I was pretty hopeful that a couple of weeks would have given them a chance to knock off the hard edges.
I could not have been more wrong & the experience was worse than any that I ever experienced at Swampy - even at the height of its issues there.
It took 45 minutes to get through a packed Immigration department that was pretty obviously way undermanned. There were bays available, just no one occupying them. The situation worsened during the time I was there, rather than improved & I am certain that many after me will have waited well past the hour.
However, that all faded to insignificance compared to the debacle of trying to book onto the Lion Air Udon flight.
Rather than having dedicated flight desks, Lion have gone for two banks of 7 desks that will accept any Lion flight.
While the theory might be sound, the practical demonstration yesterday was a nightmare. The queue snaked around 5 times between rope & poles but even this length proved insufficient for the number of waiting passengers. At one stage this was so long that it extended out through the airport doors.
If my flight had not been delayed by 45 minutes while I was in the queue then I would not have made it in time anyway, such was the processing time.

I had read that delays were expected yesterday anyway, because of the Thai Royal Airforce practising for the Children's Day display today. So I can only hope that my experience yesterday were a one off as a result of those issues.
As it was, it was totally unacceptable & if it represented the 'norm' then the airport will see no more of me..

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Post by 747man » January 9, 2016, 12:56 pm

Bob, Thanks for you're views on this,I WAS Planning to go Udon-DM-Krabi next month for the cheaper option ( As I've been told I'm a CC ) But now I'll be looking to go via Swampy even though it is more expensive,Not sure it will be " Hassle Free " but I Reckon it could well be LESS Stressful....Cheers...

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Post by Barney » January 9, 2016, 1:16 pm

Thank's Bob,
Good insight. I have never travelled through DM and may keep it that way.
I'll be travelling from Beijing to Ho Chi Minh via Bangkok during the TET holiday period so may throw back a comment about that once completed.
Will also be trying the 6 hour transit hotel in Swampy both ways for the first time.

How was the HCMC airport experience, I have travelled there a lot over many years and have mixed experiences with exiting with the immigration desk and then customs clearance after that. They do love to queue.
Immigration going into HCMC is always good as I don't need a visa these days.

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Post by fatbob » January 9, 2016, 1:19 pm

Travel over xmas and new year is hectic world wide. 747 Im sure you will be ok in Feb. I used D M every three weeks last year internationally and never had an issue.

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BobHelm
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Post by BobHelm » January 9, 2016, 1:59 pm

Barney wrote:How was the HCMC airport experience, I have travelled there a lot over many years and have mixed experiences with exiting with the immigration desk and then customs clearance after that. They do love to queue.
Immigration going into HCMC is always good as I don't need a visa these days.
Fairly positive Barney.
Inward there was a bit of a queue & a 'Falang' lady 2 infront of me had a real problem with them. They just wouldn't let her in for some reason & she ended up waiting for a senior official.
I was pleasantly surprised by no need for an 'arrival/departure' card & the 15 day visa exemption worked perfectly.
Lot of people exiting on the journey home, but they do seem to understand 'queue control' which must frustrate the Chinese who go there... :D
From the number of people in the queues I thought that we would be hours, but I think we arrived through both in under half an hour.
As you say they do like to ensure everything is A1 'above board'. I think it is the only country that I have ever been to that has officials validating that your checked luggage receipt matches the 1 on your bag before letting you leave!!

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Post by Jing Jing » January 9, 2016, 2:29 pm

I flew into and out of BKK with Thai Smile early Dec. TS has all new AB320-200. The food is a snack and water, the morning flight snack is a warm Stromboli - ok, but the evening was a cold pizza danish - yuck. They also have a beverage cart with coffee, juice and soda.

When you get to BKK it's a fair distance to the exit. It took 45 minutes including waiting for a loaded bag to get to the exit.

Returing was OK there was not a long que, but that could be due to the number of scheduled flights at that time. Eliminating the dedicated counter may make the agent more efficient but the passenger runs a risk of not knowing how long check in will take. I always over estimate the the time needed.

The scanning line was also short and easy.
I
I will use TS in late Jan and see if I get the sane results.

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Post by wazza » January 9, 2016, 9:02 pm

Bob 83 and rising now your back ?

Seems to me, apart from the food issues, ( 1 hour flights, cant people wait ? Imagine the savings if no snacks on BKK to UTH )

Real issue is the human resources allocated by the authorities and airlines to move numbers.

The problem for AOT in BKK, is 5 flights will arrive and Imm Hall busy etc, once cleared , Imm officers waiting patiently.

But flexibility in shifts, to cover the peak times MUST be a priority. and of course try not to have any arrivals 1200-1300 as we are all eating.

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Post by sometimewoodworker » January 9, 2016, 10:49 pm

I can only say that my experience was vastly different from the OP
NRT -> DMK. DMK->KKC AirAsia for both flights on December 25 with 40kg checked baggage, both on time and the waiting time for the bag drop was under 5 minutes for both flights.
Waiting time for immigration at DMK was about 15 to 20 minutes.

AirAsia KKC -> DMK January 6th carry on only, no waiting departure about 5 minutes behind schedule, arrival on time.
AirAsiaX DMK -> NRT January 7th carry on only, no waiting departure on time, arrival 40 minutes early. No waiting time at immigration as I'm registered for the automatic gates in Japan.

Part of the reason could have been that I checked in for the Christmas Day flights on December the 21st
And for the January flights on December the 30th
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Post by lassebasse » January 10, 2016, 6:54 am

Checked in at Don Muang on Jan. 4 for Air Asia to Udon Thani. Air Asia have these CheckIn Machines in the hall and then 3 desks. One for people who cannot use the CheckIn machines and 2 for luggage drop. However they where checking in people att all 3 desks and all 3 lines were equally slow!

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Post by Zidane » January 11, 2016, 11:07 am

I've travelled on all the carriers from Udon and they are all,basically,not bad but none outstanding.

This weekend we travelled on Nok Air to Bangkok.We took our 9 month old granddaughter with us and as it was her first ever flight I had visions of her screaming throughout the flight and long delays ! 8-[
But everything went fine,certainly on the outgoing bit,and the little girl was no trouble.Also with Nok Air,children under 2 years fly for free.
Coming back,check in was swift and efficient again but there was a problem with the gate no.78 we were given.Currently gates 71 to 78 are under renovation and they just have two "holding areas" downstairs for passengers with not enough seating and only one toilet with long queues.....you are also bussed out to your plane.
You are better staying upstairs near the restaurants and shops until about 15 minutes to your boarding time.
That said,all the restaurants were very busy and we were lucky to get a seat in BK.
Dom Muang certainly is very busy now and a big change from what it was like from a couple of years ago.

We have flown with Lion Air several times from Udon to Bangkok or Hat Yai and they are pretty good with new planes in service.A big plus with Lion Air is that you can get some excellent deals if you look out for them.For instance,in September a month after the Bangkok bombs,we got return flights to Bangkok for about 730 baht total....an absolute steal.
However,like Bob,we have had problems with them at Dom Mueang.There are huge queues and it took us nearly an hour to get checked in last time.They certainly need to get more desks for check in (double ??) and as it was nearly 4 months since we last flew with them,they must be aware of the problem.....Lion Air check in staff at Dom Mueang certainly earn there money,at present !

Air Asia are OK but I hate he "add ons" when you try to book online with them.For instance,a promotion deal of 695 baht one way to Bangkok is not what it seems.This would be only if you have no check in baggage.If you are checking in luggage thats another 330 baht,for starters,then the site directs you to things like insurance and paying for your seat.When you also have things like admin fees and airport taxes to consider you can easily end up paying 1500 baht plus if you dont do a bit of deletion.Air Asia should show there prices upfront !
I'm surprised Air Asia dont consider coin slots for when you want to use the toilet.....20 baht a dump !

I've always found the counter staff for Thai at Udon to be very friendly and helpful but the price for the flight is a little bit high for what you get now.But if you are connecting to an International flight from Suvarnabhumi they are the most convenient option for you.
Just when I thought our chance had passed,you go and save the best for last.

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Post by BobHelm » January 11, 2016, 12:05 pm

One point to be aware of if flying with Lion Air from BKK to Udon that I forgot to mention earlier..

They seem to have a bit if a 'thing' going on with phone portable battery chargers & phone batteries being put into stowed baggage. As far as I could see the lower rated (10,000mAh & less) versions seemed to be accepted, but the high rated (15,000mAh & more) appeared to be a definite no-no.
Strangely (in another new to me from them) after you had checked your baggage in you had to go to a 'viewing' area at the end of the line & watch a video feed of your bag going through an x-ray machine. Once you saw your bag on the screen you could continue your journey.
I gathered that if the x-ray attendant spotted anything (like a suspicious battery charger ?) then they would want to open your bag to examine it.
However, in the very long time I was queuing, I never saw that happen,

Undoubtedly the price obtainable from Lion makes even a day trip to Bangkok affordable but I don't think that it will necessarily be hassle free... :D

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Post by Zidane » January 11, 2016, 12:18 pm

BobHelm wrote:
Strangely (in another new to me from them) after you had checked your baggage in you had to go to a 'viewing' area at the end of the line & watch a video feed of your bag going through an x-ray machine. Once you saw your bag on the screen you could continue your journey.
I gathered that if the x-ray attendant spotted anything (like a suspicious battery charger ?) then they would want to open your bag to examine it.
Yes,we had that with Nok Air,yesterday,at Dom Muang,Bob.After check in you have to wait for up to 5 minutes to see your bag going down the conveyor belt on a TV screen and if your name is not called you are free to go to the departures area where you have your hand luggage screened.
New to me,too.....I didnt know what the check in girl was going on about at first.
It would be helpful for the passenger if the TV screen showed the destination code (eg.UTH) where your bag is going to end up ? :-k
Just when I thought our chance had passed,you go and save the best for last.

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Post by wazza » January 11, 2016, 10:03 pm

The reason for the cheaper fares , is also less payroll activity, thus the delays that aren't normally found at Swampy.

You may get the cheaper flight, but it costs you an extra hour or so arriving early , checking in and finally getting to your gate and then standing.

Taxi lines are sometimes mentioned also, so a consideration if you have appointments in BKK etc

a Taxi from Swampy to Sukhumvit , inc tollways / airport tax of 50 baht , is approx. 350 all up, unless serious traffic jams or rain etc

whats the taxi from DM to Sukhumvit ??

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Post by caducus » January 12, 2016, 1:00 pm

I have taken a number of flights between Bangkok and Udorn using various airlines over the past few years . My (subjective) comments on each of the airlines that I have used are below.

Bangkok Air (in the days that they had daily flights): A little more expensive than the flights to/from Don Mueang but my preferred choice on days and at times that travel to/from Swampy from/to Bangkok was assumed to be hassle free.

Lion Air: My first flight was a bit bare and bumpy, but a subsequent flight showed a considerable improvement in service and comfort. Very reasonable fares and early and late flights.

Nok Air: Nothing to complain about at all. When I am flying alone I try to check in early and find that a polite and friendly attiitude more often than not will get one a seat with ample leg room.

Air Asia: Following a few nasty experiences on their website, whereby when clicking to reserve I was offered a flight that included all options and had to log off and back on again to rebook, I had sworn never to use them. Then I dIscovered that family were visiting from the UK and had been booked on Air Asia. Upon booking my flight I was surprised to be quoted the lowest fair with no add-ons. At check-in I was informed that I had not been charged for carry-on baggage, which at a minimum of 900 baht per 15 kg was in excess of my fare. I was not able to pay this excess at the check-in counter and had to exit the check-in hall at Udorn Thani International Airport and go to the sales office. I will try never to fly with these shysters again.

The leg-room seems about the same on all of the above carriers, but as long as I have an aisle seat I am prepared to sit upright for what is no more than a 60-minute flight.

My rating:

Nok Air 3.5 stars
Lion Air 2.5
SRT 1.5
Air Asia 0.5

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Post by Udon Map » January 12, 2016, 1:46 pm

wazza wrote:a Taxi from Swampy to Sukhumvit , inc tollways / airport tax of 50 baht , is approx. 350 all up, unless serious traffic jams or rain etc

whats the taxi from DM to Sukhumvit ??
About the same, including the recent price increase. One thing I like about BKK is the option to use the ARL. Speedy and cheap.

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Post by Udon Map » January 12, 2016, 1:49 pm

Zidane wrote:I've always found the counter staff for Thai at Udon to be very friendly and helpful but the price for the flight is a little bit high for what you get now.But if you are connecting to an International flight from Suvarnabhumi they are the most convenient option for you.
... and sometimes free, too, if you have your ticket done right.

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Post by parrot » January 12, 2016, 2:17 pm

In the past few years, I've booked online and flown with Air Asia, Thai Smile, Nok Air and Bangkok Air. I had no unusual problems with any of them. A few of my observations:
- getting baggage from Thai Smile always seem to take an extraordinary amount of time
- Booking with all the airlines is like ordering a pizza. You want the cheapest fare, you get a small plain pizza. If you want pepperoni (extra legroom), you pay a small fee. You want a medium size (extra weight), you pay a small fee. You want a coke with that pizza (a small meal), you pay a small fee. Your choice......you're only paying for what you want......not like the old Thai Air days of paying for a large pizza with two toppings and a coke when all you really wanted was a small plain.
- In most all cases, you pay ahead to get the lowest rates (for extra bags, meals, etc)......if you pay those fees when checking in, you'll pay more.
- A girl who works for Air Asia ticket sales/check-in in Udon told me the on-line fares are always a few hundred baht cheaper than when booking at the airport.
- Finally, if you're checking in with more bags than you expected, it seems being overly polite, smiling, waiing will at least result in paying less than they could charge for. I once checked in 8 pounds overweight on an American Air flight in the US. Overweight? Pay $50. At least in Thailand, you're paying an extra fee per kilo. Our last flight from Suv. to Udon on Thai Smile had us checking in about 20 kilos over. The attendant only charged us for about 13.

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Post by samster » January 12, 2016, 6:42 pm

Cant believe no-one has mentioned the best reason to use Thai Smile - you get to watch a Mr Bean movie. Travelled up today and watched Mr Bean Back to School for the 87th time!

Apart from this, for the small differential in price I always use Smile. Their prices are inclusive and, on several occasions they have let me through without paying for excess baggage.

Cost of today's flight was around THB 1000 which is excellent value.

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Post by sometimewoodworker » January 13, 2016, 5:08 pm

caducus wrote:I
Air Asia: At check-in I was informed that I had not been charged for carry-on baggage, which at a minimum of 900 baht per 15 kg was in excess of my fare.
That seems surprising. Currently the policy is that carry on is absolutely limited to 7 kg + computer bag or handbag and is free.
Checkin is charged 20kg if prebooked and paid.
Checkin is charged 15kg for a higher price if not prebooked.

The only company I know who would allow over 10kg carry on doesn't fly domestic in Thailand.
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Post by caducus » January 13, 2016, 6:04 pm

Apologies for the confusion. I was referring to checkin baggage, and had tried to edit after my post had appeared online but could find no way to do this. It would seem that when I had previously looked at the Air Asia website - over three years ago - one was at first quoted a price that incuded all possible add-ons. Along with a number of others I stopped using them for this very reason. It now seems that, unless one is careful, one is quoted the lowest available fare and if one takes no action upon making the booking one is liable for fairly steep extras upon checking in. Caveat Emptor. This particular emptor has decided that, considering the range of available aternatives, he will never again travel with Air Asia.

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