Awesome: British Cave Rescuers In Thailand Given Free Flights For Life

Filed Under: Thai

I’m unsure of how much attention this has received in the US, but in the UK and Australia at least, you would have to be living under a rock for the past few weeks not to have heard about the dramatic rescue situation in a cave in Thailand.

We haven’t covered this story here at OMAAT yet, because it didn’t really have a travel angle, until now.

Tham Luang Caves

To summarise what happened:

  • On June 23, 12 young Thai footballers, aged between 11 and 17, went exploring in a cave system in Tham Luang, in the Chang Rai province in Thailand with their 25 year old assistant coach
  • While they were in the caves, heavy rains partially flooded the entrance, forcing them deeper and deeper into the cave system
  • Continued strong currents and rising water levels kept the boys and their coach trapped
  • Their plight attracted worldwide media attention, and a massive rescue effort was launched with the United Kingdom sending eight experienced divers from the British Cave Rescue Council to Thailand to assist
  • After being trapped for more than a week, two of the British divers, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, managed to reach the boys, but the difficulty of how to get everyone out remained; Mr. Stanton is a firefighter in the UK, while Mr. Volanthen is an IT Consultant
  • A massive team including 2,000 soldiers and 200 divers managed to eventually pump sufficient water out of the cave system to enable to boys to escape between July 2 and 3

I did follow the story as it happened, while my mother sent me daily updates from Australia as she was absolutely captivated with the ongoing story. It was headline news for many days.

While all 12 boys and their coach made it out alive, unfortunately a volunteer diver, Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan, died while installing oxygen tanks, and has been hailed as a hero around the world.

Two of the British divers (John Volanthen and Jason Mallison) have been given a heroes welcome in Bangkok, as they prepared to head back home to the UK. Here’s the video of their reception in Bangkok from the Daily Mail:

Both men seem quite overwhelmed with the level of international interest in them, with Mr. Volanthen modestly saying:

We are not heroes. What we do is very calculating, very calm. It’s quite the opposite. We were very pleased they were all alive but I think at that point we realised the enormity of the situation and that’s perhaps why it took a while to get them all out.

Thailand’s tourism minister, Wirasak Kowsoorad, representing the Thai government, said to the pair:

Thank you so much for your effort. It was a great rescue and we appreciate it very much. Now, both of you, you will always be welcome, any time. You have so many friends here.

Mr Volanthen receiving his certificate of appreciation (which doubles as his lifetime golden ticket)

Lifetime free travel

Thailand’s transport minister, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, has promised the British divers free travel to Thailand for life which seems like an awesome way to show gratitude for what was truly a heroic effort. Hopefully all eight of the UK divers receive this gift rather than just the two who walked into the media storm!

Given the reception they received at Bangkok Airport, I can’t imagine they would have flown economy back to Heathrow. Thai Airways operates both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 77W, on their twice daily flights to London Heathrow.

I wonder if the travel is just limited to Thai Airways?

  1. Hi James, the daily direct flight should be A380 and 777-300. I have just flown it few days ago.

  2. I would say given that THAI is still considered the government airline of the Kingdom of Thailand it is pretty well a sure bet that the flights will be restricted to routes operated by TG. I have often had to travel to Thailand in an official capacity the flights have been booked on THAI.

  3. And by contrast, in a spectacular misjudgment of the global mood around this rescue, Elon Musk called one of the British divers a pedophile.

  4. @ Shen – good pickup. The A350 was scheduled to operate on the route but TG being TG, it never actually happened!

  5. Its made the US news alright, thanks in part to Elon Musk’s theatrics and Twitter hissy-fits.

  6. I am sick of hearing about Thai boys got lost in the cave. Not sure how is this related to miles and points?

  7. Just the ones who found them first should be given the first class.

    Free in which class?

    Btw this is the downside of most Asian cultures, too much hero worship. They want to turn temporary heros into gods.

  8. The minister doesn’t want to talk about the 60+ tourists, including many children, drowned in a boat ‘accident’ in Phuket, the same time as the cave rescue. As with most junta members, he leans more toward spin and PR than fixing the appalling safety record in Thailand.
    As for creepy Musk, what a total drop-kick. My opinion of him went from highly favourable to extremely low, instantly.
    This rescue was very international: British, Japanese, American, Australia, Swedish , Chinese and others. Such a fantastic effort to save those boys and ALL of the rescuers seem to be so modest, indeed embarrassed by the attentions. Real heroes.

  9. @ Jackie – this wasn’t a travel story before now, so hasn’t been covered on this site until now. I’m sure plenty of frequent flyers would love the idea of receiving free flights for life.

  10. @ Jackie judging by your previous post relating to minimum connections, you are an American trump supporter

    If you are so miserable why not set up your own blog instead of complaining

    Now go and your white robe as I’m sure it needs a wash

  11. @Debit and @James

    (This post is regarding Debit) I have been reading the comments for a few months, and I have noticed that you’re comments always tend to stick out .

    But, I think your previous comment went a little too far. Let me explain.

    You commented that “The downside of most Asian cultures (is) too much hero worship.” You also said that “They want to turn temporary heroes into gods.”

    I have a couple of issues with this comment. First off, you are making a stereotype that most Asian people see heroes as Gods. What you see to forget is that the term “Asian” can mean a lot of things. It doesn’t only refer to Thai people, but Chinese, Japanese, Vietnammese, and a lot of other cultures also fall under this term. So, with this comment, you are disregarding people’s unique individual views, and assuming that the majority of the people turned these great heroes, who risked their lives, into Gods.

    My second issue with this comment is that you say that this is a “downside” of most Asian cultures. The point I want to make here is that you need to mind your own business. Judging other cultures on steyorypes when you are (very likely) thousands of miles away is completely unwarranted.

    The point I am trying to make is that you need to be more considerate when you are making comments. I don’t have to be a miles&ponts expert, or a legal adult to know what you said was not right. But that’s not the point.

    I also want to challenge my fellow OMMAT readers to stand up to intolerant comments like this. Please do not be complicit when you see comments like this, and correct people when they say something that is hurtful.

    I hope you all can understand where I’m coming from. My goal of this wans not to be aggressive or put them down. @James please remove the comment. Thanks all!

  12. William see my comment about social media vigilantism in another post.

    While my views are more extreme than those I would espouse in real life, just as in real life it is very easy to ignore my comments here. That said my comments are grounded in reality and experience even if they come through as unpolished and unfiltered.

  13. @Debit

    My goal was never to “police” the comments.

    It is your choice to take a more extreme stance on the issues. I respect that. I also agree that in real life, I might have not been as quick to correct you.

    However, I do have a couple of issues with your argument that “justifies” your extreme stance.

    You talked about how your comments are ”grounded in reality and experience.” But, have you visited all the Asian countries
    and talked to the Thai people when the rescuers came out of the cave? You need evidence. Instead, it seems to me you might be basing your “realities” off steryotypes.

  14. @Jackie
    First off, your comment sounds like you don’t care about the fact that people could’ve died.
    Second, this blog is also about airplane/airline news, now just miles and points, which this article demonstrates.

  15. If you are giving something , make sure it is something good .
    These divers are without doubt the only ones, or at least among the very few who could have done this .

    They can have my seat anytime .

  16. Most importantly, will they earn miles on all the free flights that can be redeemed on Star Alliance?

  17. Is this the first time a man in a military uniform has presented an official honour to a man wearing a Shaun the Sheep t-shirt? Love it!

  18. An absolute amazing rescue and story portraying mankind when we all come together. I truly hope they develop a movie to honor the rescue team, the soccer players and all the volunteers, and I’m sure they will provide a perception of what it was truly like…I’m sure we have no idea what everyone went through.

  19. James this story was headline news in the U.S. and Canada, just as it was in much of the rest of the world. FYI, the world cup was also shown in the USA in both English and Spanish broadcasts.

  20. I wonder whether the promise will e honoured. Thai officials are prone to this sort of grandstanding

    Im reminded of the stateless boy who won the origami co test in Japan. He was promised Thai citizenship. He is still stateless

    Thai officials have a very different relationship with the truth compared to mere mortals

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