The hard part’s done – you’re finally off what might have been a very long plane ride to Thailand. Now it’s just a zippy flight of an hour or so to Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi or Chiang Mai. Your vacation is so close you can touch it! While the flight transfer process at BKK couldn’t be easier, the unknown can be daunting – especially when half your brain has disappeared with jet-lag.
- For Bangkok Airways: see below.
- For other airlines (including Thai Airways): jump way down the page
How to transfer flights at BKK to or from Bangkok Airways
In a baffling move for an airline that just won World’s Best Regional Airline – Bangkok Airways has changed their baggage transfer policy for passengers travelling on (A) more than one airline on (B) more than one ticket.
For example: You’re flying from London Heathrow on Thai, then changing to Bangkok Airways in Bangkok to fly to Koh Samui. Say, like many travellers, you booked these tickets separately on the airlines’ own websites. Until recently you could check your bags at Heathrow and collect them in Samui – simply transferring in Bangkok. Not anymore.
Now – in a move that seems to punish the capable and independent-minded traveller (or perhaps Star Alliance competitors?) – you have to add a few annoying steps to achieve the above.
This holds true for travel both to and from Koh Samui (or any domestic Bangkok Airways destination).
Why the policy change?
In their words: To “enjoy care free journey without anxieties”. Having tried the new reality, I’ll have to disagree. What used to be care-free will now, at busy times of the year, involve significant waits.
So – what are your options? How to get around this new policy to enjoy the easy days of old?
(A) If you haven’t booked your tickets
Check that your second airline is listed on this list of eligible carriers. If your second airline is eligible, you can book your Bangkok Airways flight under the same ticket and skip this nonsense entirely. To do this, have it issued through a travel agent or call your second airline’s ticket office and have them book your Bangkok Airways flight on the same ticket. Do some comparison shopping, though, as we’ve found this is often a more expensive option on the routes we fly.
Remember the days when you could do things for yourself, on the internet? No longer! This option might actually involve a dot matrix printer.
(B) Fly Thai Airways
Now, I’ve long been a Bangkok Airways fan but, to me, this new policy is nonsense. If you’re a Star Alliance member, I might suggest that you seriously consider the twice-daily Thai Airways flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui – which have zero baggage transfer complications. For this very reason, I’ve switched to Thai for domestic connections myself and far prefer an hour’s lounge time to a non-stop race through every floor of BKK.
(C) If you have separate Bangkok Airways tickets
Expect that your bags will be checked to Bangkok only. You will have to collect them and re-check them for your onward flight. If you have a tight transfer time, consider booking VIP transfer and immigration assistance – it really helps. Or, consider cancelling your Bangkok Airways ticket and getting a travel agent to rebook your existing reservation under the same ticket. (Once you’ve checked that there’s available space on the flight!)
Yes – we tried the obvious! Even with no checked luggage and an onward boarding pass for flight #2 ready in hand, you are still not allowed to transit in Bangkok. No matter what, you have to exit through baggage claim in Bangkok and proceed through departures upstairs. Don’t blame the messenger!
Other airlines: How to transfer to domestic at BKK
This is your BKK transfer process if you’re flying with any other airline that offers direct through-transfer from other airlines (like Thai Airways), or have achieved the small miracle of having two+ flights on one ticket.
Here’s the easy peasy, 7-step process to transfer from an international flight to a domestic flight at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Whether you’re flying Thai or Bangkok Airways (see above for complicated nonsense), the process is the same.
1. Arrival at BKK
Your l-o-n-g journey (whether flight or flights) to Thailand reaches a joyous conclusion the minute you touch down at BKK. Instantly, you get a sense of the steamy climate, soon replaced by near-freezing air-conditioning (see what to wear at the airport). Everyone’s smiling at you – Welcome to Thailand.
2. A long walk
To transfer to a domestic flight, follow the yellow ‘transfer’ signs through the airport – they’re everywhere and very obvious. You’ll soon be weaving and wading through dozens of follow-the-flag Chinese tour groups… just keep walking! Very likely you have a long walk from your international flight’s gate to the transfer desk – in our experience Star Alliance flights are over a kilometre’s walk!
If your carry-on bag doesn’t have wheels, do your shoulders a big favour and grab a hand luggage cart – there are plenty available throughout the terminal. If you start to doubt the length or your walk or have any questions, there are English-speaking information booths at about 1-minute intervals along the way. Or, take the time to check out various duty-free shops as you go.
3. Your boarding pass
Visit the transfer desk (if you need a boarding pass): If you flew to Thailand on an airline other than Thai or Bangkok Airways, you’ll very likely need to collect your next boarding pass at the relevant transfer desk. Following the yellow signs will lead you straight there, both airlines’ desks sit next to each other. Delightfully, unlike the fifth levels of hell at many U.S. airports, we’ve never seen a queue at these transfer desks – it’s like they’re there just waiting for you. They’ll want 3 things at the transfer desk:
- Your printed e-ticket (or equivalent itinerary)
- Your passport
- The luggage tag given to you at check-in when you started your journey (it’s small, square, sticky and has a bar code on it – probably stuck to the back of a previous boarding pass)
Now’s the time to request a window seat if you’d like to gawk at Thailand’s beaches along the way!
4. Your arrival/departure card
Once you have your onward boarding pass, you’ll head through immigration to officially enter Thailand. This is right next to the transfer desk – no more walking! Adjacent to some metal barriers is a small desk where you have a chance to fill in an arrival/departure card if you didn’t already (though you’ll have probably been given one on your previous flight). It asks for your hotel address in Thailand – no huge degree of specificity is required, ‘Banyan Tree, Koh Samui’, for example, is plenty.
Before approaching the immigration counter, you’ll pass through an airline check – either a Thai or Bangkok Airways representative checks that you have 3 things ready in your hands:
- Your boarding pass
- Your completed arrival/departure card
- Your passport – save him or her a few seconds by having your passport open to your ID page
Next up, a friendly smile for the immigration official. Even at peak travel periods, we’ve never experienced more than a minute’s wait here, it’s very slick. After a frenzy of rubber stamping your departure card will be stapled to your passport – to be removed when you leave Thailand.
Round the corner, you’ll go through security. In our experience, it’s a quick process – while you need to remove your laptop from your bag they seem happy for it to stay in its case. Also, remove your Ziplock bag of 100ml liquids, but no particular hoopla beyond that. We’ve never been asked to remove shoes or belts.
7. Your gate (and free coffee!)
Emerging from security you’ll face straight down the B concourse. It’s nothing but gates down there – the interesting stuff is to the left. Turn left, towards A concourse, to find some great little shops and a nice selection of places to eat. There’s a Boots pharmacy if you need more sunscreen. Better yet, around the corner past Boots is a great food shop – Camden Food Co – with a great selection of take-away sandwiches.
If you’re flying Bangkok Airways you’ll almost certainly be heading for Concourse A, which is just further on past Camden Food Co. About halfway down the concourse is the Bangkok Airways Lounge – ideal to spend a few minutes with free WiFI and a very welcome cup of coffee.
How long does this direct, through-transfer process at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi?
From start to finish, assuming a long but reasonably brisk walk from an arriving flight, the process takes us around half an hour from landing to pushing ‘AMERICANO’ on the Bangkok Airways Lounge coffee machine. With an easily distracted group, full bladders, lots of luggage or children to wrangle, assume a bit longer – perhaps 45 minutes to an hour.
Hopefully this eases any first-time or nervous traveller concerns – making you all the readier to enjoy a perfect holiday. Enjoy!