Sorting out flights and airfare for a Thailand golf vacation can be time consuming and full of potential pitfalls. Here is some guidance based on both my own experiences and what Golfasian’s clients tell me.
In general, you will get the best options and pricing by arranging international airfare in your country of origin and booking round trip tickets. As route and landing rights have become less restrictive and more players have joined the game, the options have opened up considerably for international golf travelers. One hot trend in recent years has been low cost no frills budget carriers, though they should be approached with caution as quality, staff, training and equipment can vary significantly and many have not been able to stay in business for long.
When choosing among airlines to Thailand, be sure to take into account the ‘total’ cost, which is often not readily apparent. In addition to taxes, fees and potential surcharges, Thailand bound golfers need to pay particular attention to luggage allowances especially for golf clubs. If traveling Business or First Class the luggage allowances are generous to the point where you will not encounter luggage surcharges. Economy Class travelers need to be more careful.
Some airlines weigh all checked baggage including golf clubs together when determining any surcharges. Others have a special flat ‘sports equipment’ fee for golf clubs as long as they are of reasonable weight and contents. Don’t expect though to pay a fee for 1 set if you’ve somehow managed to jam 28 clubs and 4 dozen balls plus a week’s clothing into one golf travel cover – that usually ‘doesn’t fly’!
Recently I had two different groups who booked economy round trip tickets between the UK and Bangkok. Both chose connecting flights one on Emirates and the other on Etihad to get the lowest cost. One told me his airline did not charge extra for golf clubs. The other told me it was going to cost 300 hundred pounds in luggage surcharges for him and his wife to bring their clubs. The airline was charging more on a ‘per kilogram’ basis for his golf clubs than what they were charging for him!
When considering an airline, go on its website and check out the information on luggage allowances. Allowances for domestic and international flights usually vary, and also the country of origin can make a difference as well.
Signing up for an airlines’ frequent flyer program often entitles you to higher allowances and doesn’t cost anything. And airlines in the same partnership alliance (such as One World and Star Alliance) may provide members of their alliance partners’ programs with similar status even if are not a member of their program.
Ultimately it is the person sitting behind the check-in counter who decides what, if any, surcharges you will need to pay. Of course they are given rule to follow, but the “human factor” can also come into play. Sometimes smiling and being pleasant to that person will help them ‘look the other way’ if you are a little over the official allowance.
The low cost budget airlines are more restrictive on allowances as they rely on additional surcharges revenue more than full service carriers.
Airport fees, government taxes and fees, advance seat assignment fees and other fees can also be applicable on some airlines and the initial price quoted might not include those things. Be sure to get the ‘real price’ when shopping around for your Thailand golf holiday!