I recently traveled to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: landing at the world’s most dangerous airport
- Review: Six Senses Thimpu, Bhutan
- Review: Six Senses Punakha, Bhutan
- Review: Six Senses Paro, Bhutan (today)
- Review: Bhutan Airlines A319 Business Class from Paro to Delhi (today)
Review: Bhutan Airlines A319 Business Class from Paro to New Delhi
I recently flew Business Class onboard a Bhutan Airlines Airbus A319 from Paro (Bhutan) to New Delhi (India). Bhutan Airlines is a private Bhutanese airline and only one of two airlines allowed to fly in and out of Bhutan (the other one is government-owned Drukair). The carrier has two Airbus A319s in its fleet, which are both equipped with special engines to provide maximum thrust for a steep ascent in a demanding environment, since Paro is located at an altitude of 2,240 m (7,350 ft) and surrounded by tall mountains. While the onboard product and service was unremarkable, the flight itself was amazing because of the incredible views it afforded of the Himalayan mountain range (including Mount Everest).
Have you ever flown with Bhutan Airlines? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: Paro (PBH) to New Delhi (DEL)
- Airline: Bhutan Airlines
- Aircraft type: Airbus A319
- Aircraft registration number: A5-DOR (built in 2010; ex-Mexicana and ex-Frontier Airlines)
- Flight number: B3-774
- Date: April 22, 2019
- On time departure: Yes (11.45 am)
- On time arrival: Yes (13.35 am)
- Miles: 754
- Flight time: 2 hours
- Seat: 1F
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip):
- Cost of my ticket
- Paro, one of the world’s most challenging airports
- Business Class lounge at Paro airport
- Business Class cabin & seat
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory & views)
- My verdict (score)
1. COST OF MY TICKET
I paid $504 USD for my one way Business Class ticket from Paro to New Delhi. I booked the ticket directly on the Bhutan Airlines website. I did not intend to book a Business Class ticket (the flight is only two hours) but Economy Class was full, so I had no other option as my travel dates were restricted.
2. PARO, ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST CHALLENGING AIRPORTS
Paro is Bhutan’s sole international airport and main getaway to the remote country. Only two airlines fly in and out of Paro: Drukair and Bhutan Airlines.
The tiny airport is nestled in a deep valley and surrounded by sharp Himalayan peaks of up to 5,500 m (18,000 ft) tall. Because of the surrounding terrain, Paro is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Flights are only allowed during daytime and under visual meteorological conditions in which pilots make their judgements by eye rather than relying on aircraft instruments. Only a limited number of pilots (17 in total) are authorized to fly to/from Paro.
An engine failure during takeoff from Paro International Airport would be a tricky scenario since there is no escape from the valley. The plane can turn back to the airport inside the valley, but only at a sufficient altitude. Rest assured though as pilots at both Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are trained for this unlikely event, and there has never been an incident at the airport (which is a statement to the excellent skills of the pilots).
Terrain is not the only issue at Paro. Storms and high winds can also cause severe turbulence and operational difficulties, closing the airport for days in a row. Winds can be as strong as 90 kt (160 km per hour), and from February to May, it is often impossible to fly in the afternoon because of the winds.
3. BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE AT PARO AIRPORT
Both Drukair and Bhutan Airlines have a lounge at Paro Airport, one floor above the main concourse. Bhutan Airlines’ lounge is basically a small room, offering comfortable chairs, a TV, and complimentary WiFi. The lounge doesn’t have any outside windows. A small self-service buffet with coffee, croissants, and pastries is on display in the lounge’s corner.
4. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN & SEAT
Bhutan Airlines’ Airbus A319 aircraft features a small Business Class section in the front. The 12 Business Class seats are spread over 3 rows and arranged in a 2-2 layout (similar to domestic First Class on a USA based carrier). The seat is comfortably spacious, has a leather cover, and can be reclined. The seat’s manual controls are located in the armrest. The seat even has a legrest, in case you want to stretch out.
What are the best Business Class seats on Bhutan Airlines’ A319?
- Seats in the bulkhead row have extra legroom
- Window seats are a must given the exceptional views of the Himalayas when landing or taking off from Paro. When you take-off from Paro, you need to choose a window seat on the right side of the plane. When you land at Paro, your best bet for excellent views is a window seat on the plane’s left side.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Bhutan Airlines’ A319?
- There are no real bad seats onboard Bhutan Airlines’ A319, but as said above, a (bulkhead) window seat will offer a superior experience because of the terrific views.
No amenities are offered by Bhutan Airlines in Business Class.
A hot meal was served right after takeoff. The main dish was chicken, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. A corn salad as well as a dessert cake were also served on the same tray. All in all, food was mediocre and similar to what you get served in Economy Class on other airlines.
Bhutan Airlines Business Class seats are not equipped with TV screens, but who cares when you can enjoy some of the best inflight-entertainment anywhere in the world: spectacular views of the Himalayas.
8. VIEWS OF MOUNT EVEREST AND THE HIMALAYAS
The flight from Paro to New Delhi offers an incredible opportunity to get an aerial view of some of the world’s tallest peaks. The skies are normally clear from October to April, allowing breathtaking views of Tibetan Plateau, the roof of the world (as long as you are seated on the right side of the plane). The flight path goes over Nepal, flying along the Himalayas for more than one hour, and offering a good view of the pyramid shape of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet. I have captured the spectacular Himalayan views in my YouTube clip (starting at 8’34”).
9. MY VERDICT
- Cabin design: 5/10
- Seat comfort (upright position): 7/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): not applicable
- Food (quality): 3/10
- Food (quantity): 5/10
- Inflight entertainment : not applicable
- WiFi: not applicable
- Service: 8/10
- Overall experience: 10/10 (because the amazing views made me forget the mediocre product)