Tips on booking a flight with Bhutan’s Drukair

I had an interesting experience booking my outbound flight from Paro, Bhutan to Kolkata, India. There is little information online on the entire process. So here are a few tips and notes.

Please note: I am based in the United States. My experience may not apply to travelers from other countries. 

  1. Nationality selection – you have to select your nationality as part of the search criteria. Unless you’re from a SAARC country or Bhutanese, you will most likely have to select Others. Be honest. Nothing would stink more than picking the wrong option and not being allowed to board the flight because your documentation does not match the flight details.
  2. Fares – If you select Others, you fare will be quoted in USD. You will only see your fare after selecting the seating type
    • Economy  Y
    • Business
  3. Flight search is a bit wonky. It’s very basic and also specific so you may have to search a few times, depending on your criteria. I was looking to fly to Delhi from Paro since Delhi has more nonstop flights back to my home city. Unfortunately there was nothing available when I searched; all I saw was N/A for both Economy and Business. I initially thought flights were sold out which made me very nervous. When I searched the following day however, the Economy option was available again. I am not sure if additional seats opened up (perhaps there is a quota per day – ?) or if there was a bug in the software. Either way, it wasn’t a very fun experience. Note: in case you’re interested, seats were available on the Paro – Kolkata flight so that’s the one I booked in the end. I was afraid that flights would be sold out if I waited too long. Spending an extra day in Paro while wonderful would require an extension of the visa (doesn’t sound easy) and at least an extra 250 USD tourist fee.
  4. You may not receive a flight confirmation immediately. Payment processing is handled by the Bank of Bhutan so once you select your flight and enter passenger details and are ready to pay with a credit card, Drukair forwards you to a page managed by the Bank of Bhutan. After your payment is successful, you’re not really directed back to the Drukair site. There’s no real confirmation number or anything indicating your flight was successfully booked. The only notification I got was a Bank of Bhutan Ltd_Transaction_Success email about the successful payment with no flight specific information.
  5. There is no toll-free international telephone number for Drukair.  So naturally I wanted to know if my flight was successfully booked and between the correct cities and on the right date! The payment had gone through but I still needed a flight confirmation. Especially since the flights were selling out fast. Since I had none, I tried finding contact information online so I could reach out and clarify. There is no toll-free number so I instead sent an email to a credit card refund email address. (email can be found on Drukair’s Contact Us section) I got a response back from Drukair about 24 hours later.  Just be a little patient even though its hard when you’re not sure what’s going on. The representative was very kind, helpful and eventually sent me a flight confirmation.
  6. Seats cannot be booked online or in advance. I’ll keep this one short. Seat selection is done at the airport counter. You need to re-confirm your flight 72 hours before the scheduled departure. But that point is well noted on the Drukair website. Also if you book the flight directly online at Drukair.com, there is no booking reference number. So the booking details cannot be viewed via the Manage Booking option on the website. The reason? The ticket is issued from Drukair. It’s useful to lookup booking details online so I hope this feature is added in the near future.

Overall, I’m glad I booked my flight on my own rather than with a travel agent. The process was definitely a learning experience and adventure in itself. This is just one example of adventure before the actual trip (adventure) starts. Plus, I did not have to pay extra money to have someone else book the flight on my behalf. So while a little bumpy, the experience was totally worth it!

Have you been to Bhutan? How was your experience? Would love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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