Thailand’s Bangkok Airways is restarting its first international service since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with three times weekly flights between Singapore and the popular holiday island of Koh Samui, which is now accepting foreign tourists without arrival quarantine.
The carrier will fly 144-seat Airbus A319s on the route every Monday, Thursday and Sunday from 1st August 2021.
The flights will help support the ‘Samui Plus’ programme, which allows fully vaccinated tourists from 69 countries to visit Koh Samui plus Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, without requiring a transit in Bangkok.
“We are more than delighted to announce the resumption of our first international flight after being on pause for a long while due to the pandemic. The Samui-Singapore route is anticipated to bring back confidence to Thailand’s tourism. We have assured that both Samui and Singapore have robust processes in place to ensure travels between the two cities can be undertaken safely.”Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, President, Bangkok Airways
Bangkok Airways will fly an evening service to and from Koh Samui three times per week, as shown below.
From 1st August 2021
Before the pandemic, Bangkok Airways was serving the Singapore – Koh Samui route 14 times per week with two services every evening, while SilkAir was also flying 14 times a week with a pair of morning flights, so this schedule represents a very cautious reintroduction.
This will likely be the only link between Singapore and Koh Samui for the foreseeable future, since Singapore Airlines, Scoot and Jetstar Asia no longer operate any aircraft compatible with the island’s small airport (maximum Airbus A319).
With the demise of SilkAir and the imminent return of its two Airbus A319s to lessors, it now looks unlikely there will be any future competitors on the route.
You can redeem Economy Class award seats on Bangkok Airways flights between Singapore and Koh Samui with the following frequent flyer programmes (one-way miles rates shown):
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue: 10,000 miles
- Asia Miles: 10,000 miles
- Bangkok Airways FlyerBonus: 9,000 miles
- Etihad Guest: 15,000 miles
- Emirates Skywards: 14,000 miles
- JAL Mileage Bank: 12,000 miles
- Qatar Privilege Club: 15,000 miles
Cash fares start at around S$250 each way, which is typical for this route. Prior to COVID-19 it was not unusual for prices to rise as high as S$850 return in Economy Class for last-minute bookings from Singapore over the weekend, so redemption becomes a very sensible option at times like those!
Unfortunately there will probably be no KrisFlyer redemption option to Koh Samui any more.
What about quarantine?
As part of the ‘Samui Plus’ programme, fully vaccinated travellers are able to take a holiday without the need to quarantine on arrival, by instead completing a COVID-19 testing regime both prior to and after reaching the island.
Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 can travel with fully vaccinated adults without quarantine.
It’s a similar arrangement to the Phuket ‘sandbox’ scheme, though there are some additional restrictions, including the requirement to spend the first three days in the grounds of an approved hotel. For full details, see the Tourism Authority of Thailand website.
Koh Samui has recorded an average of 1.7 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days, however Singapore does not assess it separately to the rest of Thailand, where cases are over 10 times that.
That means Singapore residents returning from holiday there will still face a 14-day SHN period in a hotel on return, at a cost of S$2,000 per room (plus testing fees).
This can also be served in a specific hotel suite of your choice at selected properties, including the Westin, the Conrad and the Swissotel, though rates start at S$5,000 per room (which you can share with a family member).
Who will travel?
With quarantine still imposed on return to Singapore, it’s unlikely that there will be much point to point traffic traffic on these flights.
Bangkok Airways codeshares with Qantas, British Airways, Emirates, Finnair and Qatar Airways on the its Singapore – Koh Samui service, tapping significant transit demand from Europe and Australia in ‘normal times’.
With around half of Europe’s residents now fully vaccinated, that’s likely to be the primary source of transit passengers on this route.
SilkAir, on the other hand, was operating to and from Koh Samui with codeshare passengers from Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Vistara.
It remains to be seen whether Bangkok Airways will strike up a codeshare deal with Singapore Airlines on its Koh Samui flights (previously the airline had a codeshare with SilkAir, but not SIA).
It’s good to see that Bangkok Airways is starting up its Singapore – Koh Samui route again, which looks likely to be the only non-stop option to the island now that SilkAir’s Airbus A319s have been put out to pasture.
Flights will cater to a few people willing to quarantine on return to Singapore, but primarily to transit passengers from the airline’s extensive codeshare agreements.
Hopefully as we move into ‘endemic COVID’ strategy in the months ahead there may be some relaxation for those returning to Singapore from well-controlled locations like this.
The news comes as Singapore Airlines ramps up its Phuket services to twice daily and Jetstar Asia makes a return to that route, to cater for demand from the ‘sandbox’ tourism scheme there.
(Cover Photo: Nieuwland Photography / Shutterstock)