Silkair A320 Economy Class: Phuket – Singapore

After four interesting days in Phuket, it was homeward bound for me.

I was actually looking forward to today because my Thann spa appointment was scheduled today, a fitting end to my stay in Thailand. Voted by Conde Nast as one of the Best Spas in the world, Thann hails from Thailand, and even has a Singapore outlet at Hotel Fort Canning. Even so, I wasn’t as satisfied as I thought I’d be after the spa’s signature massage, mostly because the more than bumpy boat trip to Phi Phi and Phang Nga bay the day before left me with bruises, making the massage painful and stressful than calming and relaxing. After a bout of lunch at the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Patio Al Fresco, and a frantic last-minute online check-in, and the last bout of packing, we headed for the airport. With the resort located at Cape Panwa, at the southeast tip of Phuket, it was quite a drive up the 71 kilometre long, 21 kilometre wide island. Fortunately, the roads remained clear and before long, actually after forty minutes, we were there.

With visitorship numbers ever-increasing, Phuket International Airport has been expanding ever since the tsunami in 2004. A second terminal, which is in fact, just an extension of the existing check-in, arrival hall and baggage claim facilities with no increase in gates, opened two years ago, but it isn’t enough. The growing affluence of the Chinese, Russians, combined with Middle East carriers such as Emirates adding flights and thereby connecting the Thai resort island to the western world, means the demand for a bigger airport continues to grow. So, there are ongoing plans to expand the airport, as well as modernize the terminal building into a contemporary structure of metal and glass which will, bar any coups or natural disaster, be completed by 2014. Like Beijing’s Terminal 2, one has to go through security before entering the terminal building itself. It used to be the reserve of passengers only, but it’d seem that these days, anyone can go in if they clear security.

Online check-in in Asia is a curious affair. You might be able to check-in online, print your boarding passes and all, but bag-drop and tagging is still done at the regular check-in counters so we still have to queue to “check-in”.

For passengers traveling to Singapore, you oughta note that check-in is located at Terminal 2, the check-in counters for other carriers like Jetstar, Thai AirAsia, Silkair, Tiger Airways and in a few months time, Thai Smile, are performed at Terminal 1. The variety of shops and food options airside have increased somewhat, but it wasn’t anything to get excited about. So, the media peers and I spent the time browsing and chatting amongst ourselves, and before long, it was time to board.

The very late Thai AirAsia A320-200 finally pushed back for Hong Kong.

Talk about a monopoly. This Malaysia Airlines B737-800 doing a quick turnaround back to Kuala Lumpur is codeshared with Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways.

Our Silkair A320-200 quietly pulls up the gate.

Note the Virgin Australia tail, most likely a B737-800 in the distance, which will head back to Perth.

Silkair MI 755
Also operating as Bangkok Airways PG 4204 and Singapore Airlines SQ 5055
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Scheduled Departure: 1750h
Scheduled Arrival: 2040h

When I stepped aboard the aircraft, I was surprised to see that the aircraft had the old interior – with teal blue seating as opposed to the earthy tones of the newer aircraft. However, those worries came to naught when I realized that the old seats were actually softer and more comfortable despite the lack of headrest. The crew on the whole weren’t as friendly as the one or two on my outbound flight, but as a whole, it was wayyy better than all of my Silkair flights so far. Their service delivery, while not the best, was to their credit, consistent unlike the hits and misses I’ve had. Was it because none of the crew were newbies? I’m not sure, but one thing was certain – it was going to be a rough ride to Singapore.

Having Joannah unexpectedly assigned beside me really helped me deal with the shaky ride a lot better than I expected. She had become a close acquaintance, and we were sharing a lot of laughs aboard the flight, which calmed me down. God knows how embarrassing it’d have been had the sweaty palms and tears come, but while the ride consisted of some heart-stopping drops and rather violent shifts, the fear never came. Instead, it was more of an annoyance than frightening, really. The catering this time wasn’t as good as the outbound. By the time it came to our seat, there was only one choice, chicken chop with penne, which should, in theory, taste pretty okay but it wasn’t. Instead, the pasta was absolutely too dry.

The bumps and jolts continued right until just before landing, and before I knew it, my junket trip had ended.

We pull up beside a Lufthansa A380, which will return to Frankfurt in a few hours.

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