After spending three nights in Bangkok, it was time to leave Thailand and fly to Penang Malaysia. After having our last breakfast buffet at the Royal Orchid Sheraton, we checked out of the Sheraton and grabbed a taxi to Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. Our taxi driver told my dad that it would cost 600 Baht to Don Muang and then the driver joked that 600 Baht was no problem for my dad since he is from America. There was traffic on our way to Don Muang Airport but we built in enough of a buffer when we checked out of our hotel.
Our taxi driver was a pleasant man who spoke some English and talked with my dad on our drive to the airport. Once we arrived at Terminal 1 at Don Muang Airport, I only had a 1000 Baht bill with me and after consulting with my mom, we agreed to give the driver the whole 1000 Baht for his great driving skills navigating Bangkok’s terrible traffic jam. Once I handed our taxi driver the 1000 Baht bill and told him that I do not need any change, the driver immediately started bowing the traditional Thai Bow and tried to help us into the terminal building with our luggage while his taxi was still running. We told him that it was ok and not to leave his taxi unattended. The driver was so happy that he could not stop bowing as we entered the terminal to checkin for our flight to Penang.
Our AirAsia flight to Penang, flight FD 401 was originally scheduled for 3:40 PM but on the 22nd, I received an “Urgent” email from AirAsia, saying that FD 401 had been retimed to depart from Bangkok Don Muang at 12:00 PM. The almost four our earlier flight would give us more time to spend in Penang and it did not bother us at all, but when we got up to the checkin counter, we were met by a checkin agent with a nasty attitude who demanded that we come back 3 hours prior to departure. She had no clue that FD 401 had been retimed and only after my parents and I raised our voices at her did she finally confirm with her colleagues that the flight to Penang had been retimed to noon. Without a single apology, the checkin agent processed us for our flight. Our checkin agent was the type of person that would try to step all over you unless your snapped her into place real quickly, which my mom did. My mom is no push over and she was in no mood to put up with the agent’s nasty attitude, when the agent was in the wrong.
Once we had our boarding passes, we headed for security and departure immigration check. My dad originally was thinking about exchanging our leftover Thai Baht back to USD, but we decided to just spend it the money airside since we still had a lot of time before our boarding time. Once we were through security and departure immigration, the first place that we stopped at was Starbucks for some coffee. This was my first cup of Starbucks Coffee since we left home and having my usual plain Iced Americano was a nice familiarity vs the sweetened tea and coffee drinks which are more prevalent in Thailand.
I left my parents at Starbucks with our belongings so I could go through the terminal and take pictures. The terminal was decorated for the 100th Anniversary of Don Muang Airport which was this year. The terminal was not busy at all today but I can only imagine what it must have been like when Don Muang was Bangkok’s main airport before Suvarnabhumi Airport opened. The activity on the tarmac was all Airbus and Boeing narrow body aircrafts of primarily low cost airlines such as AirAsia, Nok Air, and Lion Air. There were an assortment of Thai Airways aircraft parked in front of what I am guessing to be Thai Airways Hanger.
Once I was photoed out, I headed back to Starbucks where I had left my parents. Since AirAsia only offers Buy On Board service onboard, I suggested to my mom that we buy some snacks for the flight. We found a shop selling assorted sandwiches, dumplings and etc where we bought a bagful of items trying to spend our Baht before leaving Thailand. It was also getting close to lunchtime so my mom wanted to grab something light to share at the Japanese Restaurant in the terminal. We ordered a single Japanese Lunchbox which we shared among the three of us. The Japanese Lunch used up the last of the Thai Baht that I had on me except for some coins.
After lunch, we strolled down to Gate 5, which is one of the bussing gates at Don Muang Airport. There were plenty of seating around the gate area and even a smoking room for smokers. When boarding commenced for our flight to Penang, we had our flimsy cash register style receipt type boarding pass collected before boarding the bus which would take us to our remotely parked aircraft. As I understand it, AirAsia avoids using jet bridges to save money.
The bus dropped us off at our Airbus A320 Aircraft which was parked fairly close to the assorted Thai Airways Aircrafts parked in front of the hanger. I took this non jet bridge boarding opportunity to take clear unobstructed pictures of the exterior of our aircraft. I focused my shots mostly on the engine as I climbed the stairs to the boarding door. Once inside the aircraft, it was pretty clear the legroom was going to be tight at the seats. While visually the legroom looked tight, when I sat down at my assigned seat, it did not seem that bad at all. Now if you had to retrieve something from the floor, that was another story. I could see the seat pitch being a problem for people taller than me but at 5’10”, I thought the legroom was acceptable for a sub two hour flight.
The seats which cost extra all have a read cover over the headrest onboard AirAsia Aircrafts. We did not pay extra for the premium seats and decided to stick with the standard seats which came with our airfare. FD 401 was not sold out today but I would estimate that the flight was about 85-90% full. Once all of the passengers were boarded, a manual safety demonstration was performed by three flight attendants while the fourth read off the instructions over the intercom.
From where our aircraft was parked, the distance to the end of the runway was short. After lining up with the runway, our Airbus A320 Aircraft powered down the runway for Penang Malaysia. Once our aircraft was through the clouds, the columns of big cumulous clouds was beautiful. Flight attendants began service once we were past 10,000 feet by distributing the preordered Buy On Board meals first, followed by the trolley selling items from the Buy On Board Menu. Since we had purchased the snacks earlier at Don Muang Airport Terminal 1, we passed on purchasing anything on this flight. The family from Europe sitting in front of us pre ordered their meals for this flight and when they initially opened the the containers, the smell at first seemed unpleasant but it quickly grew on me.
During the flight, I visited the forward lavatory which was clean but nothing special. While I was up front, I took the opportunity to take pictures of the forward galley while no flight attendant was present. After an uneventful flight, the flight attendants made an announcement that in preparation for landing in Penang, they would come through the cabin spraying the cabin with insecticide. We were told that that the spray was safe and WHO approved. My mom nor I were thrilled with this procedure and I covered my face the best that I could when the spray can passed by our seats. The flight attendant doing the spraying wore a mask and gloves while she pointed the nozzle of the spray cans up at the overhead bins.
Shortly after the whole cabin was “poisoned,” we landed in Penang. While Penang has a modern terminal with jet bridges, our AirAsia Airbus A320 taxied to the terminal but parked just short of the jet bridge and stairs were brought to both the front and rear of the aircraft. We deplaned through the front and walked into the terminal building to head over to Arrivals area for immigration and customs.
Overall, there was nothing to complain about AirAsia Flight FD 401 except for the inflight insecticide spraying before landing. We paid a total of 9030 Baht (Around $270 USD) for the three of us and three luggages for this flight from Bangkok to Penang. When I was searching flights between Bangkok and Penang four months ago, I checked the price with Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, and AirAsia. AirAsia had substantially lower prices than their two other competitors. While AirAsia will nickel and dime you for everything such as baggage, pick a seat, and a processing fee, even after factoring in the extra charges, AirAsia is substantially cheaper than the National Airlines of Malaysia or Thailand.