Thailand - Getting There Air

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Getting There - Air

The expense of getting to Bangkok per air mile varies quite a bit depending on your point of departure. However, you can take heart in the fact that Bangkok is one of the cheapest cities in the world to fly out of, due to the Thai government's loose restrictions on airfares and the close competition between airlines and travel agencies. The result is that with a little shopping around, you can come up with some real bargains. If you can find a cheap one-way ticket to Bangkok, take it, because you are virtually guaranteed to find one of equal or lesser cost for the return trip once you get there.

From most places around the world your best bet would be budget, excursion or promotional fares - when enquiring from airlines ask for the various fares in that order. Each carries its own set of restrictions and it's up to you to decide which works best in your case. Fares are going up and down with regularity these days, but in general they are cheaper from September through to April than during the rest of the year.

Fares listed here should serve as a guideline - don't count on them staying this way for long (they may go down!).

To/From Australia

Regular one-way economy fare from Australia to Bangkok is A$1600 from Sydney or Melbourne, A$1333 from Perth. There are one-way and return advance purchase fares that must be booked and paid for 21 days in advance. Two seasons apply to advance purchase tickets, the peak is 10 December to 10 January, and all the rest of the year is off-peak.

One-way advance-purchase fares are A$831 from Sydney or Melbourne (A$984 peak), A$609 from Perth (A$722 peak). The return excursion fares are around A$1000 from Sydney or Melbourne (A$1200 peak), A$860 from Perth (A$935 peak). Through travel agents specializing in discount tickets you should be able to knock a bit off these fares, although you will still need to book in advance.

To/From Europe

London 'bucket shops' will have tickets to Bangkok available for around £180 one-way or £360 return. It's also easy to stopover in Bangkok between London and Australia, with fares for around £380 to the Australian east coast. Good travel agents to try for these sorts of fares are Trailfinders on Earls Court Road or STA on Old Brompton Road. Or you can simply check the travel ads in Time Out or the News & Travel Magazine.

To/From North America

If you can fly from the West Coast, you can get some great deals through the many bucket shops (who discount tickets by taking a cut in commissions) and consolidators (agencies that buy airline seats in bulk) operating in Los Angeles and San Francisco. One of the oldest and most established of these is Overseas Tours (formerly OC Tours) at 475 El Camino Real, Room 206, Millbrae, CA 94030. Toll-free from outside California is now (tel. (800) 227-5988), inside California, (tel. (800) 323-8777). Overseas Tours is a Chinese-operated corporation that mainly serves the heavy Asian traffic between San Francisco and the Far East. They put out a yearly booklet listing their various fares - give them a call and they'll send it to you. Overseas Tours' return (round-trip) airfares to Bangkok from any of 12 different West Coast cities start at US$640. Another good discounter in the San Francisco area is Omi Tours.

While the airways themselves can rarely match the prices of the discounters, they are worth checking if only to get benchmark prices to use for comparison. Tickets bought directly from the airlines may have fewer restrictions and/or less strict cancellation policies than those bought from discounters as well (though this is not always true).

Cheapest from the West Coast are: Thai Airways International (THAI), China Airlines, Korean Airlines, Pan Am and CP Air. Each of these has a budget and/or 'super Apex' fare that costs around US$900 to US$1100 round-trip from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. THAI is the most overbooked of these airlines from December to March and June to August and hence their flights during these months may entail schedule delays (if you're lucky enough to get a seat at all). Several of these airlines also fly out of New York, Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta - add another US$100 to US$200 to their lowest fares.

To/From Asia

There are regular flights to Bangkok from every major city in Asia and it's not so tricky dealing with inter-Asia flights as most airlines offer about the same fares. Here is a sample of current estimated fares:

Singapore to Bangkok US$140
Hong Kong to Bangkok US$160-200*
Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok US$120
Taipei to Bangkok US$240
Calcutta to Bangkok US$135
Kathmandu to Bangkok US$190
Colombo to Bangkok US$190-240*
New Delhi to Bangkok US$190
Manila to Bangkok US$240
* Varies according to airline

ASEAN Promotional Fares (round-trip from any city, e.g. a Bangkok/Manila/Jakarta fare is good for Manila/Jakarta/Bangkok/Manila, or Jakarta/Bangkok/Manila/Jakarta, or Bangkok/Manila/Jakarta/Bangkok):

Bangkok/Manila/Jakarta US$505
Bangkok/Singapore/Manila US$420
Bangkok/Jakarta/Brunei US$395
Bangkok/Manila/Brunei/Jakarta/Singapore/Kuala Lumpur US$560

Tickets in Bangkok

Although other Asian centres are now competitive with Bangkok for buying discounted airline tickets, this is still a good place for shopping around. Note, however, that some Bangkok travel agents have a shocking reputation. Taking money and then delaying or not coming through with the tickets, providing tickets with very limited time life or severe use restrictions are all part of the racket. There are a lot of perfectly honest agents, but beware of the rogues.

Some typical fares being quoted out of Bangkok include:

Around Asia
Calcutta 3,510 Baht
Colombo 4,966 Baht
Delhi 4,940 Baht
Kathmandu 4,784 Baht
Rangoon 2,470 Baht
Paro (Bhutan) 7,770 Baht
Kuala Lumpur 120 Baht
Penang 2,600 Baht
Singapore 3,500 Baht
Hong Kong 4,160 Baht
Jakarta 4,560 Baht
Australia & New Zealand
Sydney or Melbourne 9,250 Baht
Darwin or Perth 8,372 Baht
Auckland 11,700 Baht
Europe
Athens, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, London, Frankfurt 8,250 Baht
USA
San Francisco/Los Angeles 10,250 Baht
Via Australia 18,200 Baht
New York 12,500 Baht

Booking Problems

During the past couple of years the booking of flights in and out of Bangkok during the high season (December to March) has become increasingly difficult. This is of course due in part to increased demand for seats but is also due to a continuing attempt by THAI to maintain a semi monopoly on international as well as domestic air traffic in Thailand. In spite of the fact that almost every seat on every flight during the high season is booked, and many of their own flights are overbooked and flying under heavy delays, the government-owned THAI has refused to allow additional airlines permission to add much-needed service through Bangkok. In addition, THAI has refused to join a regional computer-reservation system called Abacus that is used by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific to boost reservations efficiency.

This same attitude has so far also precluded any other Thailand-based airlines from flying domestically, though this may change if Bangkok Airways (owned by Sahakol Air) ever receives permission to fly to destinations in the south and northeast not served by THAI.

Departure Tax

Airport departure tax is 200 Baht for international flights and 20 Baht for domestic. There is no longer a tax exemption for passengers in transit.


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