A Royal (dis)HHonor: SilkAir Business Class Singapore to Koh Samui

Introduction
Aloft San Francisco Airport
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to Singapore
St. Regis Singapore
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge Singapore
SilkAir Business Class Singapore to Koh Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Koh Samui to Bangkok
Le Meridien Bangkok
Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class Lounge Bangkok
Royal Jordanian Business Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco


SilkAir 772
Singapore (SIN) – Koh Samui (USM)

Monday, March 25
Depart: 9:00AM
Arrive: 9:50AM
Duration: 1hr50min
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Seat: 2C (Business Class)

Upon boarding we were welcomed by two flight attendants dressed in bright orange and green uniforms. They directed us to our seats in row two.


View of the coach cabin from business class

The SilkAir A319s have eight business class seats, each with about 40 inches of pitch (slightly more than domestic first class in the US). At each seat was a pillow and blanket.


Our seats


Legroom

Each seat had a legrest which wasn’t especially useful with only 40″ of pitch, and three manual control levers on the right side of the seat.


Seat controls


Pillow and blanket


Business class cabin


Business class cabin

As soon as we settled in one of the friendly flight attendants offered us pre-departure beverages from a tray. We both had apple juice.


Pre-departure apple juice

The flight was packed, though they still managed to board the plane in about 15 minutes. It was interesting to watch the boarding process, and in particular the way the crew interacted with passengers.

I was kind of curious how different SilkAir crews would be from Singapore crews. After all, it’s Singapore’s regional airline, so you kind of assume service will be similar. And just from watching boarding it was clear that the crew was exactly as I expected — extremely friendly and full of smiles, though to some degree weren’t as polished and lacked the confidence of your typical Singapore Airlines flight attendant. The exception was the “senior stewardess,” who had a much more poised demeanor.

Around departure time the captain came on the PA to inform us of our flight time of 1hr25min. Shortly thereafter push back commenced and the safety video began to play.

We taxied out to runway 2C which took about 10 minutes. During that time one of the flight attendants came around the cabin with a single menu to take meal orders. The choice was between Malay fried rice and blueberry pancakes — I ordered the latter.


View on push back


View during taxi

Once at runway 2C we were immediately cleared for takeoff and had a smooth climb out of Changi.


Taking off runway 2C


View after takeoff


View after takeoff

About five minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began. Within about 10 minutes breakfast was served. I was kind of surprised they didn’t do drinks first and then breakfast, but rather everything was served on a single tray at once (not that this is any sort of a travesty for an 85 minute flight, but Asian airlines do operate on a different level, so…).

The breakfast was okay. The blueberry pancakes didn’t have a whole lot of blueberry, and came with chicken sausage, sweetened apple chunks, and a tomato. There was a side of fruit, and the flight attendant also came around with a bread basket, consisting of croissants and rolls.


Breakfast

This was only an 85min flight, so after breakfast I watched a sitcom and a half on my laptop before we were already descending for Koh Samui.

The views on the approach were beautiful.


View on approach


View on approach

About 15 minutes ahead of schedule we had a firm touch down with some strong braking.


Touchdown

Koh Samui Airport is fascinating for many reasons, probably the least of which is that they have a single runway with taxiways only at the center of the runway, meaning a back taxi was required.


Back taxiing

Near the center of the runway was the fire station, where the dozen or so firefighters seemed to be standing to watch our landing.


Airport fire station

At the time we arrived the airport was fairly empty and we parked next to a Bangkok Airways A320.


Taxiing in

Since the airport doesn’t have any gates, there were air stairs and “buggies” waiting to transport us to the terminal.


Taxiing in


Our aircraft

I find the buggies at Koh Samui Airport to be only a small step behind the ground transport offered by Lufthansa in the First Class Terminal. An open air vehicle with great plane views? Yes please. 😉

Best of all they had a buggy exclusively for business class passengers, so there were only eight of us on it, and we got to the terminal before everyone else.


Transport to terminal


View driving to the terminal


Approaching the terminal

The drive took maybe two minutes, and once there we found ourselves at the immigration desk, where there was no queue.


Walking to immigration


Baggage claim


Exiting the terminal

We had arranged transportation to the resort in advance, so there was someone in the arrivals area waiting for us with a sign from the Conrad Koh Samui. He helped us with our bags and took us on the hour or so drive to the Conrad, which is located on the other side of the island.


Arrivals area

I enjoyed my flight on SilkAir, and the experience was actually exactly how I expected it to be. The flight attendants were friendly, the seats comfortable, the aircraft clean, and the food perfectly edible. I also loved Koh Samui Airport, though it’s even awesomer on departure, so stay tuned for that.

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Comments

  1. What would you say is better silkair (Singapore airlines’s regonial airline) or dragonair (cathay pacific’s regonial airline)

  2. @ Tony — That’s a great question as I haven’t actually done Dragonair. My impression is that the SilkAir planes are a bit newer and service might be a bit better, though on their widebodies it seems like Dragonair has much more personal space.

  3. @ adam — The rate was 1500THB (~$50USD), which was actually not much more than a taxi, given that there’s a “taxi mafia” of sorts in Koh Samui.

  4. @ De — Sure, you could call it that too, though there’s no question it’s price gouging.

  5. There are nicer beaches in the Caribbean. Does the absence of international 1st class prevent you from going to the Caribbean? It’s almost the same time-zone, friendly folks (not a dictatorship like Thailand), beautiful nature and not very far away.

  6. Taxis are expensive in Koh Samui, but probably not because of a “mafia”. It’s supply and demand. And fuel can’t be cheap on an island.

    @EFG: Thai people, in general, are *extremely* friendly. I’m not sure what having a monarch has to do with friendliness.

    One example of friendly: My family and I showed up on Koh Pha Ngan after a “grueling” multi-connection trip from the US (OK, most of it was in first class), then taking the bus to the Koh Samui pier, then a ferry to Koh Pha Ngan. We’d told our hotel when we were arriving, but assumed we’d take a tuk-tuk … but there was a driver, waiting for us with a sign! One of the little things that make a great start to a vacation.

  7. EFG- Thailand is a bargain compared to the Caribbean. You go to the Caribbean during the high season (i.e. the U.S. winter) you get gouged price wise for nice hotels and condos/homes. Further I’ve yet to discover a whole lot of culture worth going back to in the Caribbean. The last 4 islands I visited were overrun by cruise ship passengers. Yes, I agree there are some nice beaches in the Caribbean, though.

  8. Yes, Koh Samui taxis do not use meters, and are tough negotiators. After several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a fare, we ended up having to take a covered pickup truck from the LeMeridien to the Conrad Koh Samui. It was pouring rain, and our driver was unable to find the Conrad. When he eventually did stumble across it, he wanted to drop us off at the bottom of the hill. After further review, and perhaps a pang of guilt, he ended up driving us up the hill to the hotel. He was not happy.

  9. @ EFG — There are a few reasons I go to beaches in Asia over the Caribbean:

    — For me getting there is half the fun, so I *enjoy* the travel experience and also the one night stopovers I can have in cities along the way.
    — I write about the travel experience and maximizing miles and points, and I can demonstrate that much better by going to Asia than the Caribbean.
    — The service in Asia is almost consistently better than in the Caribbean, in my opinion.
    — There are lots more aspirational hotel properties for which points can be redeemed in Asia than in the Caribbean.

    Just a few of the reasons…

  10. The Caribbean has no culture of service even at 5* resorts like RC, StR, etc. It’s a “no problem mon”/”manana” mentality everywhere. Try getting your room AC fixed in the Caribbean without following up 10 times.

    SE Asia service is great for those of us looking to truly unplug and take a break from having to do much…

  11. @Justin, Try Sandy lane in Barbados etc (sorry you’ld have to pay with hard earned money. The Fairmont is pretty decent, even kids free). Sure customer service is “better” in Asia. But you got 12h+ time-difference. You’re wasting time just catching up with the time-zone. Tough to “unplug” when you only have a week of vacation, as most Americans have. I understand that “Here” it is more about the journey. Not so much the destination (beyond hotel).

  12. I’ve not tried Sandy Lane, though I have always paid cash for several high end hotels down there ($400+/nt) and always come away disappointed with the food/service/etc.

    I guess I’m a bit biased being self-employed. I have a slow season in January that is basically 2 free weeks off…

  13. I guess I live on Miami beach and the beach is 2 blocks from my house, but I enjoy Ben’s travel and products he tried. So keep it up kid.

    By the way, Singapore airlines sure needs a new paint livery. It is dated!

  14. For whatever its worth, I’ve flown Dragon Air many times between Hong Kong and Shanghai PVG and without a doubt the service is the best of any airline i have ever flown

  15. @ Lee

    Without listing what other airlines you are comparing it to, your statement doesn’t really hold much weight.

  16. “Dictatorship”??? That’s a little harsh isn’t it? After all, the trip report was about Thailand…not North Korea.

  17. Always enjoy your reports, Lucky. Unfortunately, the SilkAir flight I took from SIN to Cebu last January made old NWA planes look amazing. The interior of this A320 was ancient (therefore no entertainment of any kind), dirty seats/carpet, and the crew wasn’t SQ-like in any way (came through twice on 3-hour segment and food was inedible.) Wish I could post a pic here of the plane condition! 🙂

  18. Tried to get reasonably priced taxi for brother and wife, from airport to Maenam. Two companies waiting for disembarking passengers.
    1)Bht800
    2)Bht700
    Walked across street, guy with mini busses did it for Bht400.
    Now i will always tell anybody to just walk past these rogues as you walk out, 100 mtrs across the road you can get a reasonable deal.

  19. Are there business class check-in counters for Silk Air (for the flight back from Koh Samui to Singapore)?
    Thank you!!

  20. @Dani
    There are business class check in counters at USM

    Basically taxi pricing to and from hotels to airport is mostly preset and expensive, even if you are close. But expensive there is not really much… if you are staying somewhere close to the airport like Chewang or Bangrak then you are likely to pay around 400-500baht which is about AU $20. Over there it’s a ripoff as most thai on the island make this much in a whole day. Anyhow that’s how it is.

    Getting a taxi anywhere else is usually a lot cheaper and contrary to popular belief most of them do have meters. It will say “taxi meter” on the car taxi light on top of the car so they are easily recognizable. Just always make sure they turn the meter on! lol And always confirm “taxi meter” with the driver first so they know you are onto it.

    However, sometimes late at night they will refuse to turn it on so be careful… they will try to extort you so put you negotiating hat on and counter with 1/3 of their price then settle at half or start walking away. They always would rather have some business than none! You just need to play the game with these guys. Oh yeah and always count your change and agree on a price first (if there’s no meter).

    I love thailand and have been there many times but taxi drivers are pretty much at the lowest level of integrity over there so be vigilant, especially if you have been drinking. They will also try to sell you drugs (which are not drugs) so be careful!

    I always hire a bike, problem solved!

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