Introduction: Journey To Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, And Kuwait
Review: Air France Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: Korean Air Business Class 747-8 San Francisco To Seoul
Review: Korean Air Business Class 777 Seoul To Kathmandu
Review: Hyatt Regency Kathmandu
Review: Kathmandu Airport Lounge
Review: Drukair Business Class A319 Kathmandu To Paro
Review: Le Meridien Thimphu
Review: Le Meridien Paro
Hiking To The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
How We Spent Our Time In Bhutan
Review: Drukair Economy ATR42 Paro To Dhaka
Review: Presidential Suite At The Le Meridien Dhaka
Review: Dhaka Airport Lounge
Review: Kuwait Airways Business Class A330 Dhaka To Kuwait
Review: Sheraton Kuwait
Review: Kuwait Airways Lounge Kuwait Airport
Review: Kuwait Airways Business Class 777 Kuwait To Shannon
Review: Kuwait Airways Business Class 777 Shannon To New York
Kathmandu (KTM) – Paro (PBH)
Friday, March 10
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Seat: 1A (Business Class)
They were boarding passengers on this flight through two sets of stairs — people seated in the front half of the plane boarded through the forward door, while people seated in the back half of the plane boarded through the rear door.
Drukair’s A319s have a total of 16 business class seats, spread across four rows in a 2-2 configuration.
Since I managed to be the first onboard, I took a quick glance into the economy cabin, which looked reasonably comfortable, at least in terms of the headrests.
The business class seats were fairly spacious, with probably marginally more pitch than what you’d find in domestic first class in the US.
We had been assigned seats in the bulkhead row, which had the advantage of having extra legroom, though you also couldn’t store anything there for takeoff and landing.
The seat’s controls were at the bottom left of the seat, and were manual. The seat even had a legrest, which seemed a bit unnecessary.
The tray table could be folded out from the side armrest, and flipped over, if you just wanted to use half of it.
At first I thought there were personal televisions based on how the center console looked, but as it turns out there wasn’t actually anything there. Odd.
There was also a pillow waiting at my seat, which was pretty basic (not that I’d hope to get much rest on such a short flight).
Boarding was extremely efficient, and everyone was on board within about 10 minutes of when boarding began. In the end, seven of the 16 business class seats were taken, and I’d say economy was maybe two thirds full.
Once everyone was on board, the friendly flight attendants offered each business class passenger a warm towel.
That was followed by the choice between water or apple juice.
After that the crew distributed newspapers.
Once the door closed, a pilot came and sat across from us in the window seat on the opposite side of the cabin. There were also two pilots in the cockpit, so I’m not sure why Drukair has a relief pilot on such a short flight.
Speaking of the other business class passengers, there was a monk seated behind us, who chanted for nearly the whole flight. He did so from the moment he sat down in his seat, until about 10 minutes before landing. The only exception was that he took about a minute-long break to eat.
While it’s usually annoying when other passengers make loud noises the whole flight, this was sort of calming, and a very nice introduction of what was to come in Bhutan.
At 9:40AM we began our taxi, at which point the manual safety demonstration began. The demonstration was super quick.
After the demo the lead flight attendant announced our flight time of 45 minutes, and that we should arrive on-time.
Within a few minutes we found ourselves holding short of runway 20. Once there we had to wait for a few minutes, as a Flydubai 737 and then a smaller prop both had to land on the runway.
At 9:50AM we were cleared for takeoff. The takeoff roll was rather long for an A319 on a short flight, though I guess that doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given Kathmandu Airport’s high altitude.
As we took off I gazed at the city, which looks about as chaotic from the sky as it looks from the ground.
Eventually we made a sharp turn in the direction of Paro.
The seatbelt sign was turned off just two minutes after takeoff, and a couple of minutes after that tablecloths were distributed, followed by landing cards for Bhutan.
There was no choice of snack. Instead the snack consisted of a croissant with warm cheese, a meat pastry, and a chocolate cake. It wasn’t the healthiest or tastiest snack, but it was better than nothing. Funny enough, I overheard the lady behind us (seated next to the monk) say to the flight attendant “we want Chinese food, not this.” The flight attendant had to apologize and explain this was the only option.
After the snack was served, the crew offered drinks, including water, coffee, and juice.
Given the short flight time, I just gazed out the window for the remainder of the flight. I had been told before I took the flight to request a window seat on the left side, because that way you can see Mount Everest on a clear day. Unfortunately it wasn’t an especially clear day, but I believe the below is Mount Everest? It was cool to see, even from a distance.
Shortly after passing Mount Everest we began our descent. The seatbelt sign was turned on about 20 minutes before landing, at which point they turned on “boarding” music throughout the cabin.
I was super excited about the approach, given that Paro Airport is allegedly one of the most dangerous and challenging approaches in the world. To me it didn’t seem actively dangerous or challenging (at least from the cabin) with good conditions. However, the second there’s any sort of weather, the airport shuts down.
The views on approach were beautiful.
Here’s the video I took of the approach into Paro (my apologies for the quality of the video — trying to take pictures with one hand and video with the other isn’t as easy as I hoped it to be):
And if you’re interested in learning more about why Paro Airport is so challenging, here’s an explanation:
We had a smooth touchdown at Paro Airport at 10:45AM local time (there’s a 15 minute time change from Kathmandu).
Paro Airport is tiny, so you taxi to the very end of the runway, then turn around, and then enter the tarmac near the center of the runway.
We parked between two Drukair planes — an A319 and an ATR turboprop.
After experiencing the pollution and craziness in Kathmandu for a few days, I can’t say how good it felt to step off the plane and smell the fresh air. Even the airport was peaceful.
Once off the plane we walked towards the terminal, which had the traditional Bhutanese design.
The immigration officers couldn’t have been friendlier, and we were out of the airpot just a few minutes after our flight arrived. Once in the arrivals area we were greeted by Sonam, who would be our guide for the next five days.
Drukair A319 business class bottom line
Drukair is a cute little airline with friendly staff and (clearly) well trained pilots. They even have a proper business class cabin, even if it’s probably not worth it for such a short flight. Drukair is the biggest airline in Bhutan, so if you’re going to Bhutan, I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.