In March of 2019, I had the chance to fly with Thai Smile from Phuket to Hong Kong as I returned from a trip. I never got the chance to write up the flight experience. Considering the somewhat copious amount of free time, and the fact that Thai Smile is one of the lesser-reviewed airlines on the internet, I thought I’d write about my experience.
What Is Thai Smile?
Thai Smile A320 at Phuket Airport
Thai Smile is a regional offshoot of Thai Airways International. The airline operates a fleet of narrowbody Airbus A320 aircraft flies short-haul low yield and leisure routes. Phuket to Hong Kong is an example of a leisure route that Thai Airways mainline spun off to Thai Smile. Flights are staffed by crews that are paid less than their Thai mainline counterparts. While I’ve seen Thai Smile described as a low-cost carrier, the airline’s offering is more similar to that of a full-service airline. This means that checked bags and meals are complimentary. All things considered, I see Thai Smile as a less premium version of Cathay Dragon.
Interestingly, Thai Smile is a Star Alliance connecting partner. This means that passengers connecting on select Thai Smile flights from select Thai Airways International or Lufthansa group flights can enjoy benefits such as baggage interlining and certain benefits for Star Alliance Gold and Silver members.
Thai Smile Flight 608
Saturday, March 9th, 2019
Origin: Phuket (HKT) Dep: 15:40
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Arr: 19:40
Duration: 3 hours
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 44K (Economy Class)
Thai Smile offers online check-in, but because I was travelling with a group, that was not available. The counter check-in experience was painless, and the agent was friendly and efficient. I was sent on my way to the boarding gate in no time. Our flight was assigned a remote stand, which meant boarding from a chaotic gatehouse. Despite this, we boarded on time. I didn’t take any pictures of the ground experience, but I trust you don’t need me to show you what a check-in counter and boarding gate looks like.
As I boarded, I was welcomed aboard by one of the flight attendants.
I walked past Thai Smile’s Smile Plus cabin, which is pretty similar to European Business Class in the sense that the hard product is essentially Economy Class with a blocked out middle seat. The Smile Plus and Economy cabin were separated by a moveable divider and curtain. Smile Plus passengers also receive an upgraded meal service, priority boarding and priority check-in.
Thai Smile A320 Smile Plus Class
Thai Smile also has another version of Smile Plus on some of their A320’s, which features a seat that is better padded and a little table that can be flipped down in the centre seat, which I managed to snap a picture of on another flight.
Thai Smile A320 Smile Plus Class
I made it into the main economy cabin. I really like the finishes that Thai Smile chose for their cabins, which were vibrant and colourful but not overly garish (Ryanair, I’m looking at you…). I thought the cabin design pretty much summarised the Thai Smile experience perfectly: modern and fresh but not too trashy.
Thai Smile A320 Economy Class
According to SeatGuru, Thai Smile offers 28 to 31 inches of seat pitch on their aircraft. I found the legroom to be a little bit tight, but bearable for a regional hop. The seat was definitely uncomfortable for me once the person in front of my reclined. Either way, it was perfectly passable for a regional aircraft, and probably made better by the slimline design of the seats.
Thai Smile A320 Economy Class Legroom
The seat also had an adjustable headrest, with foldable “wings” that provided excellent lateral support. The heardest could also be moved up and down. I really appreciated this, as it helped me get some much-needed rest after a long and tiring week in Thailand. I found the seat padding to be perfectly acceptable. Nothing mind-blowing, but quite comfortable.
Thai Smile A320 Economy Class Headrest
Unfortunately, Thai Smile didn’t install USB ports or power outlets in each of the seats, so remember to bring your own power banks! Thankfully, I knew this going in and had enough to keep my devices juiced, although I noticed several other passengers crawling around their seats trying to find a power port. Ultimately, this isn’t a deal-breaker, but slightly disappointing and a simple enhancement the airline can offer.
Further, there’s no personal entertainment onboard. No personal television screens, no streaming entertainment, nada. The only entertainment offered came from the drop-down screens which occasionally played Thai Smile-related content and other advertisements.
Phuket Airport Ground Traffic
After boarding was completed, the lead flight attendant welcomed passengers on board and played a welcome video in English, Thai and Mandarin. This was followed by a manual safety demonstration. Shortly afterwards, we quickly taxied to the runway and took off, during which we got some amazing views of Phuket.
Views of Phuket
The meal service began shortly after we took off, as the flight attendants passed through with packs of peanuts. No drinks were offered.
Thai Smile A320 Economy Class Peanuts
This was followed by the main meal service, where there was a choice between shrimp or pork. When I asked for more information about the food, the flight attendant snapped back that they were both served with rice, which took me a little by surprise. I opted for the shrimp, which once again was served without drinks.
The main meal was tom yum flavoured shrimp and rice, which was absolutely phenomenal. The shrimp were well-seasoned and cooked perfectly, and the rice was incredibly flavourful. Colour me impressed! The main dish was served with a side salad and sesame dressing, which was a little boring but inoffensive. For dessert, there was a delicious coconut cake. A small cuplet of water was served on the side.
Thai Smile A320 Economy Class Main Meal
Overall, I was very impressed by the meal. It was comparable to the meal that I was served on mainline Thai Airways, with the exception of the lack of a choice of drink. The food was fantastic. While the service was a little curt and borderline rude, considering that this was my only interaction with the crew, I didn’t mind. The service was also efficient, which ordinarily is a good thing, but considering the lack of entertainment meant I had to spend longer staring out the window.
As the meal service wrapped up, I took a few cabin pictures.
Thai Smile A320 Economy Class Cabin
Eventually, the person in front of me reclined their seat, which ended up knocking my water bottle. Thankfully, my boredom was interrupted when the sun started setting, and I was treated to some of the nicest views I’ve seen from a plane in a long time.
Thai Smile A320 Sunset
As we started our descent into Hong Kong Airport, a landing video was played through the drop-down monitors, which was accompanied by an announcement from the lead flight attendant.
Thai Smile A320 Cabin During Landing
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and we touched down safely 25 minutes early. After a long taxi, we ended up parking next to a China Eastern A330.
China Eastern Airbus A330-200 at Hong Kong Airport
Clearing immigration was a breeze, and our bags were out shortly after I was let out into the baggage hall. I headed to the Airport Express and was on my way back home soon enough.
Bottom Line: Thai Smile A320 Economy Class
Thai Smile perfectly fits the bill for what they brand themselves as: a slightly lower-cost alternative to the bells and whistles of Thai Airways without the nickel and diming of Air Asia. With the lack of power ports and personal entertainment, their hard product is more akin to that of a low-cost carrier. However, their soft product offering, from their (delicious) food to their checked baggage allowance is more comparable to that of a full-service carrier. Thai Smile is priced accordingly, sandwiched between traditional network carriers and low-cost carriers. For the price, I would absolutely recommend Thai Smile, just make sure you manage your expectations before your flight.
Have you flown Thai Smile before? How was your flight?