Thai Lion Air Premium Economy Review
I recently climbed Mount Fuji in Japan, for ‘Cure Parkinson’s’ charity, with my 70-year-old mother (she did it!). I’m based in Bangkok, Thailand so I had to fly us both from Bangkok to Narita, Japan. We had raised $15,000+USD for the cause, so I decided to treat my mum to a little more than an economy flight to Japan. A flight from Bangkok to Tokyo takes somewhere between 6 to 7 hours, and on economy it’s super reasonable with budget airlines Air Asia, Scoot and Thai Lion Air all running return trips for somewhere around $200 (no bag), and the 5* airlines (Thai Air, Japan Air, Cathay etc) costing around $500 return.
Before I decided to upgrade us both, I had booked us both with Thai Lion Air. Their daily flight from Bangkok to Narita leaves at 1 am and gets into Tokyo around 6 am, so you have the full day to explore Tokyo, as long as you have some rest! I had to organise 21 people and get them ready to climb Fuji together, so rather than be super tired from the economy red-eye flight, I enquired about the Premium Economy Upgrade. And it was AMAZING! Here’s my experience with it all.
Booking, Upgrading & Price
So as I mentioned, budget airlines cost around $200 or so for Bangkok to Narita (Tokyo) return. I booked 2 economy return flights for my mum and me for 8,000THB each ($260USD return, each – roughly $130 per person each way). The booking process with Thai Lion Air is AWFUL. Believe it or not, you CAN’T use a foreign credit card on their system, which is absolutely ridiculous. So you have 3 options to book directly with them:
- Use a Thai credit/debit card. I understand most of you guys don’t have that, so that’s not an option (This is what I did last time, as I do have a Thai debit card)
- Pay in 7/11, Big C or Tesco in Thailand. Yup, sounds weird but if you don’t use your card, you get a code then go to 7/11, for example, and pay directly to the cashier. I’ve done this previously too. Again though, you have to be in Thailand to do it.
- Use a 3rd party booking website. Leave Lionairthai.com all together, hop on Nusatrip.com and book through them. I’ve also done this in the past. It’s easy, but if there are problems with your flight, it’s tough to get refunds etc. Still, they do accept foreign bank cards so at least you can book it!
Now, with Thai Lion Air, they use the A330-300 for their flights to Japan, and with that plane, that means there are 18 seats in the front for business or premium economy. Normally they have promotions for their premium economy costing 8,000THB to 10,000THB ($260 to $320) one-way to Japan. That’s amazing value. If they offer that, book it! Alas, I didn’t. I booked economy for 4,000 ($130) and a month later I decided I wanted to upgrade.
After spending 65 minutes on hold, I finally got through to them and asked to upgrade. I was quoted $1200USD, but told if I wait until 48 hours before the flight, I can call up and upgrade for 4,000THB per ticket ($130). So I did that, another hour on hold, and finally upgraded. The process was torture, but the price was great. But how was the premium economy experience with Thai Lion Air?
Thai Lion Air depart from low cost Don Mueng Airport (DMK) in Bangkok (not the main Suvarnabhumi airport, BKK). DMK airport is notorious for huge queues, and thousands upon thousands of flag-waving Chinese tour groups. With Premium Economy, you don’t have to queue. They have a special counter for Premium Economy passengers, so you can just cut the queue and go straigt and check-in, that was amazing.
A friend was flying with me too, he hadn’t paid for his luggage yet. They were going to charge him around 1200THB ($40) for luggage, so he also upgraded for 4,000THB ($130) and then he, too, skipped the queue and got 30KGs of luggage included in the upgrade. Bargain!
One of the reasons why Premium Economy is so cheap with these guys is that you don’t get Lounge Access. Remember this isn’t officially Business Class, sooo no lounge. However, I NEVER travel without my Priority Pass Lounge Access Membership (check out more info about that in my blog post here) so I did still have lounge access, and off I went to the Miracle Lounge for some food and a couple of whiskey’s to help me sleep on the flight.
So how was the actual flight experience with Thai Lion Air Premium Economy? Honestly, amazing. The planes they use are super new, so the Premium Economy is as good as many flights Business Class. It’s not 100% flat-bed, but it’s about 85%. The screens are amazing, really reactive, with great movie choices. The space you have is more than enough. They supply a pillow, a blanket. All-in-all, for the price, it was amazing. Check this out for $250 one-way! It’s so close to business class, for a super cheap price:
Now, the negatives. No alcohol is included in Premium Economy, although they have 2 beers (Singha and Asahi) for sale. Both were sold out and unavailable on my return flight, but they had them on the first leg, billed at about $5 each. The food isn’t great, and there’s only one option, so if you’re vegetarian, bad news. It’s chicken or nothing. The staff are, however, really friendly, and one of the guys found a mushroom wrap for me, but I don’t think they can guarantee that.
With Premium Economy, you’re not waited on by the cabin crew throughout the flight. On Business Class, they’re constantly asking how you are, hot towels, glasses of wine, water, food, nuts etc. It’s not like that here. It’s essentially economy service, but you can request coffee, tea and water by pressing the button.
Ok, here we go. Booking process. Crap. Customer service. Crap. Food and Alcohol. Crap. Lounge. Crap. Flight, airplane and price – AMAZING! For $500 return, I think it’s the best-priced product in the market. Anytime I ever, ever fly to Japan again, I’ll use this again. I honestly can’t believe the quality for the price. It’s so close to Turkish Air business class for example, which costs $2k+ for similar distances. So yes, you don’t get all the trimmings of business class, but you can sleep, you can relax, you can lounge in your comfortable chair. I would recommend this to everyone, especially if you can’t afford to normally fly Business. Treat yourself, you won’t get another price like this for a long time.
PS This isn’t sponsored. It was just such an amazing product for a cheap price, I wanted to share it with everyone 🙂
Oh and here’s me and my mum at the top of Mount Fuji for good measure, she did it!