To get from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui in any reasonable amount of time, your only option is to fly. And, well, there’s only one nonstop flight per day, and it’s on Bangkok Airways, so you’re probably going to be flying them if you want to do it quickly.
Bangkok Airways advertises itself as Asia’s Boutique Airline, and there are some things that make it unique. Er, or rather, there’s one thing that makes it unique, which is that all passengers get lounge access, regardless of class of service. Besides that, I’m not sure what’s boutique about it?
One reason Chiang Mai is great is that the airport is so close to the city center, and it was about 10 minutes and 150 baht to get from Le Meridien Chiang Mai to the airport by taxi. Since we had checked in online, we could skip the long normal queue and instead use the business class queue to check our bags, which was great (as an aside, there was no business class cabin on the flight from Chiang Mai to Ko Samui).
We then headed upstairs to the Bangkok Airways lounge, which is located outside of security.
When checking into the lounge, we were given wifi codes to use. The lounge was pretty busy, but there were still some empty seats. I’m not sure that all passengers realize that they all have lounge access, because Bangkok Airways has many more passengers than were using the lounge, and there really isn’t that much to do in the terminal, so I’m not sure where the other passengers were.
There was a small snack selection, and the food was edible but not particularly inspiring. The chips in the jar were pretty interesting, though, as they were tom yum flavored.
It’s nice that they have a complimentary lounge for all passengers, and there was a separate section for business class passengers or Bangkok Airways elite members that is hopefully nicer. But this isn’t the sort of lounge that you should get to the airport early for, and it’s more that it’s a place that you can sit with free wifi.
They made a boarding announcement in the lounge, so we made our way through security (super fast, even though the line was long) to find a long line to board with zero Thai people in it (I guess locals don’t have much of a reason to fly from CNX to USM?). For this flight, there were two zones, with people in the back half of the plane boarding first. Boarding order probably doesn’t matter much since everyone checks their bags anyway, so you’re not racing to find overhead space.
This flight had an all-economy cabin, so there really wasn’t anything special to see. They cram the seats in pretty tight, but the flights are so short that it didn’t matter that much to me.
The flight time was about 90 minutes, and since this isn’t the US, they served a hot meal. I had previously requested a vegetarian (VGML) meal, and it was simple, but reasonably tasty. Rice with vegetables in a tomato sauce. My friend had one of the normal meal options, which was duck with some steamed vegetables.
Upon landing, we got off the plane to board the buggy/trams that are used at the Ko Samui airport since there aren’t exactly boarding gates anywhere. It’s nice and scenic, but it can be pretty hot out, and there’s no air conditioning, so watch out for that.
Overall, flying Bangkok Airways was an enjoyable experience, and you’re almost certainly going to fly them if you want to go to Koh Samui since they operate the majority of the flights out of USM. The employees seemed happy, all passengers get lounge access, and they feed you on very short flights. The “boutique” aspect of Bangkok Airways seems like just a marketing ploy to justify the outrageous prices that they charge for such short flights, but I’d happily fly them again.