Saturday, November 3, 2007

Getting There - Flights

Finding an affordable flight can be difficult. Flights from the East Coast of the US to Bangkok range anywhere from $750 and higher for a round trip ticket. Anything in the $750 - $900 range is considered extremely good.

I usually spend some time searching on Orbitz. Once I locate a cheap flight, I then book it directly on that airline's website to avoid paying the Orbitz fees :) I have found decent flights on ANA and United. United will book your flight on other Star Alliance partner airlines (ANA, Thai Air, etc).

Most routes from the East Coast will include 1 or 2 stops. If its a 2 stop flight, your first stop is usually in LAX, SFO, or ORD. The second stop (or first stop in a 1 stop flight) will be either Narita Japan or Incheon South Korea. After deplaning, you will be required to pass through a security check point. You will be required to show your passport and occasionally the connecting ticket so keep these handy. These airports are quite some distance from the urban metro areas, so unless you have approximately an 8+ hour layover, you will not have time to leave the airport and come back. The international connection areas of these airports are heavily populated with Duty Free Shops. However, all of the duty free shops seem to sell exactly the same items as the Duty Free Shop next door, at the same set prices as well. These areas also seem to have a very limited amount of dining options compared to the US airports. At this point, you still have another 5 or 6 hour flight to Bangkok to look forward to. Because of this, my usual routine is to find a food shop with power outlets on the walls. I grab a quick bite to eat while I let my electronic devices recharge (iPod, laptop, etc). I then use the remaining couple of hours walking around stretching my legs and preparing for the next portion of my journey.

A typical itenrary will look something like:

2 Stop:

IAD to LAX (5 hours) --> 2 hour layover in LAX --> LAX to NRT (12 hours) --> 3 hour layover in NRT --> NRT to BKK (6 hours) = Total 28 hours

or single stop:

IAD to NRT (14 hours) --> 3 hour layover in NRT --> NRT to BKK (6 hours) = Total time 23 hours

In the past year or so, both Thai Air and Singapore Air have started offering direct non-stop flights out of New York's JFK. It greatly reduces the amount of overall travel time! The flight is to Bangkok is approximately only 17 hours non-stop. Thai Air has brokered a deal with the Russian government to offer flights in and out of Moscow. Because of this, they are now allowed to fly through Russian air space. The JFK - BKK flight goes directly north, just to the right of the north pole, and then down over Russia, Mongolia, China, and into Thailand. I highly recommend this flight. Because Thai Air is part of Star Alliance, you can have a United agent check prices and book for you.

On the flight, I would recommend taking snacks and dressing in layers. The food is usually mostly Asian and like most airlines, barely edible. I usually pack a few snacks in my bag to get me through. Additionally, Asian people seem to have a much lower tolerance for colder temperatures than a typical Westerner. Because of this, I often find that flights to and from Asia are alot warmer than I would prefer. I often will stash a pair of shorts in my carry on in case it gets too warm.

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