Airport review: Phuket International Airport (HKT)

THE FLIGHT

AirAsia FD3036 to Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport.

THE ARRIVAL

I’ve arranged a 5.30 am transfer from Mai Khao, close to the airport, ahead of a 6.45 am flight. It’s cutting it fine but these are the times recommended by my hotel. The drive to the airport takes 15 minutes; the roads are empty. All’s well until my driver turns into the departure lanes for the international terminal instead of the domestic terminal where my flight departs from. No problem; he loops back around and drives next door, adding just three minutes to the journey. In any case, walkways connect the two terminals.

THE LOOK

There are three terminals – Terminal X for charter flights, Terminal 2 for international and Terminal 3 for domestic. The domestic terminal is a smaller version of the international terminal next door. The whole place underwent an extensive renovation in 2016, tripling capacity to cater for more than 20 million passengers a year.

CHECK-IN

Thailand’s third busiest airport, behind Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang in Bangkok, is practically empty. The one person in the queue in front of me is gone by the time I reach the AirAsia counter. Being a budget airline, I expect my hand luggage to be weighed upon check-in and in preparation, I’d offloaded several items that I’d normally take onboard. I’d even scoffed down the takeaway breakfast provided by my hotel in case it tipped me over my weight allowance, so I’m almost disappointed when no effort is made to check that I’d adhered to their restrictions. The AirAsia representative behind the check-in counter asks for my passport, checks my luggage through to Chiang Rai – my connecting flight from Bangkok – then hands over boarding passes with a smile.

SECURITY

As many as seven security personnel staff each of the four X-ray machines. It seems like overkill, particularly considering most stand around idly with little to do. But it’s unbelievably efficient, as well. One line is vacant, so a smiling official politely waves me over. Four pairs of hands gently nudge my bag along the conveyor belt after it has passed through the screening process.

FOOD AND DRINK

Two Burger Kings, two Subways and a Gloria Jean’s coffee outlet – all are familiar names. One I’m not familiar with is 2 Dollars Coffee, though I can work out what it offers. Several local cafes and food outlets serve rice and noodle dishes and soups, plus there are numerous snack stores and a Zurich Bread Cafe. All up, there’s plenty of choice, though only half are open at this early hour.

RETAIL THERAPY

Slim pickings, really. Just souvenir and jewellery stores, and a pharmacy. Like the food outlets, most aren’t open yet.

PASSING TIME

Well, the departure lounge is certainly clean. Robotic vacuum cleaners with inbuilt sensors, bearing uncanny resemblances to Star Wars’ R2-D2, roam the floor, sweeping up rubbish and dust that isn’t there. There’s plenty of seating, some phone charging stations and coin-operated massage chairs. None of the airline lounges are open yet. Opposite Departure Gate 4, massage costs from THB180 ($7.40) for 15 minutes.

THE VERDICT

If only all airport experiences were this easy. No wonder the workers are smiling.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

The writer was a guest of the Minor Hotels group that includes the Anantara and Avani brands.

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