Come fly with me in Thailand, with a face mask – OPINION


July 1 is looming as the day Thailand really opens up again, with all the ‘Covid’ paperwork (aka. The Thailand Pass) being binned. They’re even scrapping the TM6 form, at least in the short to medium term (maybe permanently?).

But if you want a reminder about some of Thailand’s more hypocritical and absurd Covid restrictions, just go for a flight, domestically.

Now, I have been a frequent flyer, domestically, almost exclusively out of BKK (Suvarnabhumi) to HKT (Phuket) over the past 20 months. I’ve totalled 138 domestic flights in Thailand in that time. Although my experience has been limited to mainly 2 carriers, the same rules apply for flying anywhere inside Thailand at the moment.

I am sure all this is about to be given the heave-ho, and none of it particularly bothers me, but I just battle to grasp the logic of it all.

It all starts with the check in area where you need to wear your face masks, only to remove them for the check-in attendant when they make sure your mouth and nose look something like your passport photo. If there’s a long queue you are waiting in line with people that will be well inside your ‘Covid personal space’.

Then the seating areas are marked with an alternate tick and a cross. Social distancing is in force here and suddenly becomes an acute problem, compared to the laissez-faire attitude in the check-in queues. Those damn green tick and red cross stickers have been stuck to the vinyl for a couple of years, and proudly adorn most of the seating at Airports of Thailand facilities around the country. I fear the stickers may take half the upholstery with them when ripped off. But the visual signal, the red cross, was a sure sign no one would sit there. We are then frequently reminded of the importance of social distancing whilst waiting in the airport – in Thai, English and Chinese languages. Often. (Why bother with the Chinese language announcements at the moment??)

Then we queue up to get into the bus or make our way onto the plane. Any social distancing we’ve been practicing for the past 30 minutes or so is gone again as people cram the lines in fear that the plane is going to leave without them. Some of the budget carriers park in a remote section of the airport to save on gate fees and require a bus ride from the terminal to your plane.

If you have the misfortune of travelling to your plane by bus then you’ll know it gets really silly with the buses fitted out with foot stickers showing people where they should stand to avoid close contact. If you used the guide of the foot stickers, only about 20 people would actually get on the bus. But they’ve wasted their money on these feet-shaped stickers because 1) the airline treats the buses as sardine cans to ferry the impatient passengers to their plane and 2) NO one stands on the foot stickers – NOBODY.

Once in the plane any pretence to social distancing is completely irrelevant because we’re sitting within spitting distance of any number of strangers.

We’re continually reminded to wear our masks at all times during the flight and the attendants, with little else to do these days, are particularly attendant to your mask being properly worn at all times.

The food and beverage cart doesn’t make an appearance, not that I need a cold tea or stale piece of cake in a one hour flight, but they seem to be be able to wheel the merchandise cart down the aisle (does anyone ever buy the airline merch?). It’s been almost two years since you could buy a sandwich on a budget airline, or get handed out the free catering from the full-service airlines.

Then getting off the aircraft, after being crammed next the snotty-nosed kid on side and the snoring tourist on the other, only inches away from my head, we’re told we have to deplane “row by row” and “five aisles at a time” to adhere to the airline’s social distance policy.

By the time I get off the plane, and back into the terminal building, I am totally bewildered where, on the one hand, I’ve been bombarded with announcements by the airline – in the boarding area and the plane – about the importance to wear your face mask and socially distance, whilst on the other hand me, and another 150 or so people, have been crammed into a space about 30 metres x 4 metres (approx. 100 x 13 feet) for the past hour.

Over the past month the need to show my Covid vaccination certificate at check-in has almost completely disappeared, so they’re no longer fussy who they transport on their aircraft. So why all the residual, and contrary, restrictions?

From July 1 just about all restrictions in Thailand are gone, including the Thailand Pass and the compulsory US$10,000 insurance. So the whole experience of coming to Thailand will be back to normal… unless you’re travelling on a domestic flight.

It’s now time for the civil aviation authorities in Thailand, the AoT and airlines to urgently come into line with the rest of the country to provide the best, most transparent and ‘normal’ travel experience as possible.

I will also move into the upholstery business as they start ripping off all those seat stickers!


The Thaiger,  20-.June 2022