Airlines and Aviation
AirAsia flies at least three times a day between Hong Kong and Bangkok. As of one several carriers linking the two cities, the budget air carrier uses Don Mueang International Airport, which most domestic and low-cost carriers use.
Why I’m Flying to Bangkok
Following two months of civil unrest in Hong Kong, I decide a change of scenery is in order.
I make a last-minute decision to book a flight to Bangkok, Thailand, which is one of the closest travel destinations.
Bangkok has two airports: Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi International Airport. While international airlines favour Suvarnabhumi, domestic airlines and budget airlines favour Don Mueang,Suvarnabhumi.
Because I’ve got a friend that lives a short drive from Don Mueang, I decide to book a flight on AirAsia. The airline is a budget carrier that I’ve flown on several times in the past.
The Pre-flight Experience in Hong Kong
Because the airport experienced protests that turned violent a couple of days earlier, I decide to leave home much earlier than usual.
I am expecting heavy traffic on the way to the airport. I also fear long lines at the airport.
However, the trip to the airline is smooth as silk. There is little traffic along the way. I arrive much earlier than I expected.
In fact, the sidewalk in front of the terminal is practically empty. What will it be like in the terminal?
The Airport Authority has instituted heightened security measures. Passengers must show their passports and boarding cards in order to enter the airport terminal.
This has been done to prevent would-be protesters from entering the terminal.
Also, passengers will have do the same before passing through passport control. But that process has been in effect for many years.
Hong Kong International Airport is the world’s eighth busiest airport. More than 70 million passengers pass through the terminal each year.
More than 100 airlines fly to approximately 180 travel destinations on all corners of the globe.
Once inside the terminal, I am amazed at how empty it is. I post a few photos on Facebook, describing the place as a “virtual ghost town”.
After checking my bags, a second check is required before passing through passport control. This check is part of normal departure procedures.
After passing through passport control, I make my way to the airport shuttle. OMG!
I practically have the shuttle all to myself! I only see one lonely flight attendant with her carry-on bag. I have never seen Hong Kong Airport this deserted!
I have traveled to the airport with a friend. As an American Express cardholder with Platinum status, he can take me as his guest to the Centurion Lounge.
I spend a few hours there before boarding my flight. You can read my airport lounge review HERE.
It is a lonely journey along the lengthy concourse to my gate.
Only a very few passengers are waiting at Gate 205 to board my flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok.
The AirAsia Airbus A320-200 (320)
AirAsia is a Malaysian-based airline, with a hub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
AirAsia has several subsidiaries. Together they serve 165 cities across Asia. Thai AirAsia is one of its subsidiaries. The carrier has a hub at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok.
The Airbus A320-200 is AirAsia’s dominant aircraft. It has 180 economy class seats, including 42 “hot seats” at the front of the cabin. In addition, there are 138 standard economy class seats.
Located in the first five rows, hot seats offer more than additional legroom. They also priority boarding.
The pitch for all seats is 28 inches. The width for all seats is 18 inches.
The Flight Stats
- Flight Number: FD 505
- Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
- Scheduled Departure: 19.10 (7.10 pm)
- Actual Departure: 19.35 (7.35 pm)
- Scheduled Arrival: 21.35. (9.35 pm)
- Actual Arrival: 21.34 (9.34 pm)
- Scheduled Flight Time: 2.25 hours
- Distance: 1,686 kilometres (1,048 miles)
The In-Flight Experience on AirAsia
Although AirAsia is a low-cost carrier, you would never know it from the cabin.
The seats are covered in black or red and black leather, and they are at least as comfortable as the economy class seats of legacy airlines.
In fact, I would have to say that they are more comfortable than the seats of many of the legacy carriers I have flown on!
I wanted an aisle seat, so I upgraded my seat when I checked in on line. I opted for 3C, which turned out to be a “hot seat”.
Not only does the hot seat offer me a bit more leg room. It also allows me to board before other passengers.
And I LOVE not having to wait in line!
The flight is uneventful. Not only that, I have rarely flown on a flight into or out of Hong Kong with such a small payload.
Despite taking off a bit late, we actually arrive in Bangkok slightly ahead of schedule.
One key difference between AirAsia and most mainstream airlines is the lack of complimentary food and beverage.
This is pretty much standard with most of the budget airlines I have flown on.
Meals and drinks can be pre-ordered in advance or purchased on board. You even have to pay for water!
- Travel tip: take an empty water bottle in your carry-on luggage and fill it with water from a drinking fountain after passing through security!
The Arrival in Bangkok
Don Mueang International Airport is almost as deserted Hong Kong Airport was.
I walk quickly past the money exchange counters lining the concourse. I know from experience that you get a substantially better exchange rate in town.
Passport control at Don Mueang International Airport. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
The lines at passport control at Don Mueang are as short as they were in Hong Kong.
The last time I flew into Don Mueang, I had to wait in line for nearly an hour for a taxi. Not so this time!
Most taxi drivers in Thailand don’t speak English. Not only that, they sometimes try to cheat tourists. Also, they sometimes refuse to take you where you want to go.
To prevent misunderstandings, the airport offers a convenient booking service. For a modest 50 baht fee, an agent translates your destination for the driver.
In addition, you are given a receipt so that you can report him if he tries to cheat you.
When the agent announces my destination, the gathered taxi drivers burst out laughing. I’m not sure why this strikes them so funny.
Did my driver lose the lottery?
I’m sure they are all hoping for a lengthy fare into downtown Bangkok. Or perhaps they are hoping to drive someone to a distant beach resort.
Unfortunately for them, my friend’s house is just a short 10 minute driver from the airport.