In late July, Bangkok Airways announced that it would be resuming its thrice-weekly Singapore to Koh Samui service from August onwards.
This was presumably in support of the Samui Plus scheme, under which fully-vaccinated tourists from selected countries (including Singapore) could visit Koh Samui, without quarantine.
We’re now halfway through August, and there’s just one problem: the flights aren’t actually happening. Ever since the route supposedly commenced on 1 August 2021, PG961/962 has been cancelled every single time.
It’s not exactly an auspicious start, but well…
Bangkok Airways’ Singapore – Koh Samui route
On paper, Bangkok Airways was planning to operate thrice-weekly service between Singapore Changi Airport and Koh Samui, with flights on Sunday, Monday and Thursday.
PG962 would depart Singapore at 1930 and arrive in Koh Samui at 2035 (not great timing really, since you lose the whole first day and basically pay an additional night’s accommodation). PG961 would depart Koh Samui at 1505 and arrive in Singapore at 1800.
This is obviously a significant reduction from the 14 times per week service we saw prior to COVID-19, but in any case, there’s literally no competition on the route- SilkAir has since been folded into Singapore Airlines, and the SIA Group no longer operates the A319 (the only aircraft in the fleet capable of serving Samui airport).
Despite the route’s, shall we say, chequered operating history, Bangkok Airways is still selling tickets as per normal. Heck, I can buy a ticket for this Thursday’s flight, which I’m not very confident will actually materialise.
On the bright side, I’ve never seen Bangkok Airways price this route so low. Prior to COVID, Economy Class tickets from Singapore to Koh Samui would typically retail at around S$600-800, barring the occasional sale. We’re now seeing tickets as low as S$366 nett.
If you felt inclined to burn miles (not advisable, since you’d still be paying S$183.30 of taxes and fees), the following programs offer Bangkok Airways redemptions:
- Etihad Guest: 7,500 miles
- Asia Miles: 10,000 miles
- Qatar Privilege Club: 15,000 miles
Mileage requirements refer to one-way Singapore to Koh Samui redemptions in Economy Class
Unfortunately, you can’t view Bangkok Airways award space online (unless you have the KVS Tool) so you’ll have to call up your frequent flyer program to make a booking.
Do note that Bangkok Airways has only loaded inventory on the Singapore to Koh Samui route till October 2021.
How does Samui Plus work?
|Samui Plus FAQs|
Under Samui Plus, fully-vaccinated travelers from 69 countries/territories can travel to Koh Samui without quarantine.
|⛱️ Samui Plus Eligible Countries/Territories|
Samui Plus travelers must make a prior application for a Certificate of Entry, and meet the following criteria:
- Passport with at least 6 months validity;
- Been in a Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) approved country for 21 days or more;
- Fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) or the World Health Organisation (WHO) (children under 18 need not be vaccinated if traveling with fully-vaccinated parents/guardians);
- Booked and purchased return air travel;
- Booked and paid for accommodation, and required RT-PCR test/s at a Samui Extra Plus or SHA Plus hotel;
- Purchased medical insurance with COVID-19 treatment coverage of at least US$100,000;
- Tested negative for COVID-19 no longer than 72 hours before travel.
Guests will be required to stay at a designated Samui Extra Plus hotel for the first 7 nights of their trip, after which they can move to an SHA Plus hotel on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao for the other 7 nights. After 14 days, they can travel freely around Thailand.
Here’s how the Tourism Authority of Thailand describes the schedule:
After waiting for the test result in your hotel room on first arrival (Day 0) and the result is negative, you can travel around as follows:
Samui Plus Travelers can stay in Koh Samui for fewer than 7 nights, but must immediately depart Thailand after checking out.
In my opinion, all the restrictions make leisure travel rather unattractive. You’re basically confined to your hotel for the first 3 days, and the scheme only makes sense for those willing to do a prolonged vacation.
Is Samui Plus a realistic option for Singapore travelers?
While quarantine requirements are somewhat relaxed on arrival in Koh Samui, Singapore residents will still be subject to a 14-day SHN at a hotel upon returning to Singapore, which costs at least S$2,000.
There’s no suggestion at all that Thailand will be among the first batch of countries approved for SHN-free travel come September; on the contrary, it almost certainly won’t.
While Koh Samui’s new caseload is below that of Thailand’s, the Singapore authorities are unlikely to assess it in a different category from the rest of the country. Thailand is reporting around 30 new cases per 100,000 people, with just 7% of its population fully-vaccinated- a far cry from the low risk criteria that Singapore has described.
But I don’t think Bangkok Airways had Singapore residents in mind anyway. Rather, European residents seem to be the target audience, and Bangkok Airways is code sharing with several European and Middle Eastern carriers on this route.
I have a soft spot for Koh Samui- in fact, I was planning to go again in March 2020 before the SHN restrictions kicked in. While I’m pleased to see direct air links re-established, it’s unlikely to be a viable travel option for 2021, or even early 2022.
If you’re hoping to kick up your feet on a beach anytime soon, Sardinia might be a more realistic prospect than Chaweng.
Anyone knows what’s happening with Bangkok Airways’ Singapore to Koh Samui route?