Flight Review: Peach (A320) Economy From Bangkok to Okinawa
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To The Point
Peach truly embodies the no-frills spirit of ultra low-cost carriers. The Pros: It’s a cost-efficient way to get from point A to point B. The Cons: The food, comfort level and service aren’t memorable.
We undoubtedly live in the cheapest time to fly, thanks to declining fuel prices and increased competition from ultra low-cost carriers — 2017 has seen an explosion of budget airlines across North America, as WOW Air and Norwegian Air both continue to expand to more destinations. Many parts of the world now have their own as well, but because of their limited route networks, you might not ever know they exist unless you’re traveling to that specific country.
When a severe storm threw a wrench into my travel plans from Bangkok (BKK) to Okinawa, (OKA), Japan, I was excited to discover a low-cost carrier I’d never heard of before: Peach. Founded in 2011 as a joint venture between ANA and a Hong-Kong based venture capital firm, Peach boasts a modest fleet — 18 Airbus A320-200s, with another five A320-200s and 10 next-generation A320-NEO aircraft on order — and services a total of 17 destinations throughout Asia, with hubs in Osaka (KIX), Okinawa (OKA) and Tokyo (NRT). Here’s what it was like to fly in economy aboard the ultra low-cost carrier’s A320.
Peach offers three different booking classes for its all-economy A320 aircraft, similar to how Southwest has “Wanna Get Away,” “Anytime” and “Business Select” fares even though all the seats on its planes are identical. Since I was booking within 24 hours of departure, the cheapest “Simple Peach” fares were all sold out and I was stuck booking the middle tier, “Value Peach” fare instead — this ended up working well for me, as it included free advance seat selection and a checked bag. My total cost came to 5,290 Thai Baht — about $158 at the time — which I paid for with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card so I’d earn 3x points on travel, or, in this case, 474 Ultimate Rewards points. Using this card also ensured my trip would be insured if the storm lasted another day.
Note that a quick Google Fights search shows decent availability of “Simple Peach” fares if you’re booking farther in advance — these price out to about $95 but don’t include a checked bag, so make sure you read the fine print and book the best ticket for you.
Check-in was about as no-frills as it gets. Because Peach operates just one daily flight out of Bangkok (BKK), it doesn’t have a permanent check-in zone, so you have to check the board when you arrive to find it. While some budget carriers, like Spirit Airlines, use eye-catching black and yellow signs and creative-bordering-on-offensive advertising to distract you from the lack of amenities being offered, Peach opted for a less obnoxious setup, with a simple sign that simply stated the baggage rules.
And here, I’m embarrassed to admit, is where I committed the cardinal sin of flying with budget airlines: I assumed that my 50 lb bag would be fine since my fare includes one free checked bag, right? WRONG. It turns out Peach’s limit is really 20 kg — or about 44 lbs — so it took some frantic shuffling of clothes into my backpack before I was able to check in and clear security.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is very spread out, but thankfully there’s a Priority Pass lounge in every concourse. I’d been hoping to check out the Oman Air lounge, which TPG says is one of the best Priority Pass lounges in the world, but it was closed in the middle of the night when my flight was departing. My girlfriend and I settled on the Miracle First Class Lounge in the G concourse, which was just a five-minute walk from our departure gate.
Thanks to my Priority Pass membership I receive through my Chase Sapphire Reserve, I was able to get her in as a guest for free. We were checked in within a matter of minutes.
Much like the flight that followed it, the lounge was nothing all that special. Inside, we found a nice bar set-up, some hot and cold food options and plenty of seating areas that were spread out over two floors.
I grabbed some chicken curry puffs to hold me over for the four-hour flight to Okinawa as I knew better than to expect any free food from a budget airline.
While the lounge was perfectly fine for the half hour or so that we spent there, my one complaint was the lack of outlets. I only found one seating area that had any at all and I had to move a chair and unplug a lamp to uncover them — notice the lamp in the photo below that’s been conspicuously turned off so I could charge my phone.
With the exception of the Oman Air lounge, the Priority Pass lounges at BKK are all Miracle Lounges. While I only visited the one in the G concourse, you can likely expect a similar experience at the others.
At around midnight, I headed over to the gate to snap some pictures of our plane before the 12:25am scheduled boarding time. The gates at BKK are set up in an unusual way — the concourse is one level up and to get to the actual gate area, you’ll have to go down a set of stairs and have your ticket and passport checked before it’s time to board.
I’m not sure if this is a universal policy or if it was specific to Peach, but our gate didn’t even open until the 12:25am boarding time. From that point, it was another hour until boarding was finally called — all this with absolutely no communication from the gate agents. Boarding was eventually called at 1:25am and with no cabins or zones by which to separate the boarding process, it was all pretty hectic.
Cabin and Seat
Peach’s all-A320 fleet consists of 180 identical economy seats spread across 30 rows in a 3-3 configuration.
Each seat is 17 inches wide and offers 29 inches of pitch, which is about on par with what you’ll find on Spirit Airlines.
Here’s a look at my window seat, 8A, where I sat for our four-hour ride to Okinawa.
Note that there aren’t any power outlets and there’s no in-flight entertainment to speak of, just standard old seats that you can recline about an inch or two after takeoff. I’m on the smaller side, clocking in around 5″7, and even I found these seats to be a little cramped. While they were fine for a four-hour flight, anything longer would have started to get uncomfortable and I can’t imagine TPG trying to fit himself into one of these seats.
Food and Beverage
As is the norm on low-cost carriers, once you buy your ticket, you can pretty much expect to pay for everything else you might want on board. Checked bags? Fork it over. Seat assignment? Yeah right. A bottle of water? That will be 200 yen (~$2) please. And Peach is no exception, offering an extensive “Peach Deli” menu full of both Japanese and Western options.
While I contemplated ordering some food, in the name of science, of course — I applaud anyone brave enough to try the “spinach and cheese risotto” — I ended up just going to sleep given the late-night departure. If you plan on purchasing food, be warned that there is a 1,000 yen (~$9) minimum spend requirement for credit cards and Peach only accepts cash in the form of yen or the local currency of your departure city — bills only, all coins must be yen. Since even water comes at a price on this carrier, make sure you bring a few bottles from the lounge along with you.
Service and Amenities
This flight was no more than 2/3 full and I was lucky enough to have a full row to myself, so shortly after takeoff, I spread out and tried to get some sleep. I say try, because despite the 2:00am departure time, the cabin lights were never turned off and the flight attendants continued to make announcements every half hour or so for the duration of the flight. These were mostly in Japanese, with the occasional translation, so I don’t know if they were giving updated arrival times or simply trying to keep everyone awake so we would buy food. There was a glimmer of hope when I noticed the in-flight shopping brochure said that Wi-Fi was being sold, only to be let down again once I realized it actually meant they were selling mobile hotspot plans for use in Taiwan.
We touched down in Okinawa right on schedule despite the late departure. Even though every gate at Naha Airport (OKA) was empty this time of the day, we taxied to a remote stand where I finally managed to snap a picture of our funky purple plane.
If I sound like I’m complaining uncontrollably about this flight, it’s probably because the transition from a St. Regis suite to a low-cost carrier was rough. The truth is I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Peach again. I’d gladly pay $150 for a nonstop flight when the next best options were either more than $500 for flights that included long layovers or using 22,500 United MileagePlus miles and paying $70 in taxes to book an award ticket. Flying a low-cost carrier is all about managing expectations. Peach did its job perfectly, getting me to my destination in a safe and timely manner. And when the price is this low, that’s ultimately all that matters.
Have you ever flown on Peach Airlines? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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