Friday, December 11, 2009

Singapore Airlines 865 & 237 ( SQ865 & SQ237 ) - Hong Kong to Singapore to Melbourne Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 777-300

AIRLINE: Singapore Airlines
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-200 (unknown registration)
CLASS:  Economy Class

I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport by the very fast and reliable airport train. I already had my boarding passes with me as I had arrived earlier that day from Bangkok and checked in at the transfer desk, my luggage had been interlined from Bangkok also. The lovely agent at the Singapore Airlines transfer desk offered me an emergency exit seat on the Singapore to Melbourne leg which I gladly accepted! With no checkin in to worry about I proceeded immediately through passport control and over to the Silverkris Lounge, which has been recently renovated.

Lounge Entrance - No luggage trolleys allowed!

Computer Area

Dim-Sum, Char Siu Pork, Kim Chi Rice, Egg Tart and Champagne - lounge food

I do quite enjoy the food selection in this lounge I must admit, as you can see above I had quite a nice selection! Nice to see champagne on offer with a bottle of Drappier in the bucket and plenty of other drink options in the fridge. I ate in the dining room area of the lounge before making my way to the lounge seats where I set up my laptop and had a vodka and orange juice. Sadly the toilets are not within the lounge itself, you are forced to use the ones right outside with the rest of the general public. Thumbs down to that, but what can you do!

Beer, soft drink and water fridge

Spirits selection

After eating and drinking way too much the flight was called and away I went to the gate area. On arrival at the gate I saw the lovely Singapore Boeing 777-200 waiting for us outside:

Due to timing I was forced to take an ordinary Boeing 777-200 to Singapore tonight, I would have preferred the Airbus A380 but it did not work out on this occasion! Never mind, plenty more opportunities in the future!


A nice touch during December flights is the addition of Christmas decorations around the aircraft as you can see in the above picture. Tonight's flight was completely sold out, no seats spare at all. Sadly there was no upgrade, but that's normal with SIA!

According to this, flying time is a little over 3 hours

The usual hot towels were handed out during the boarding process, along with the menu, tonight a full dinner service is on offer. There is an oriental or a western option, as you can see here:

I would be having the oriental as I don't eat fish. Pushback was on schedule and we were soon making our way to the runway and leaving Hong Kong. Soon after takeoff the cabin crew came around with trays of juice, water and beer. I find this very frustrating, I don't understand why, on a 3 hour flight leaving at 6pm they don't offer a full bar service on the trolley before dinner. It's not like they do not have enough time. This is where I find Thai Airways better in economy, they offer a full bar service before the meal. I notice when I ask for something other than beer, wine or juice when they have pre-dinner drinks I am given a dirty look by the cabin crew on SIA. I actually enjoy a Singapore Sling, which is proudly featured in the menu but when I ask for one I feel like I am a major inconvenience to the crew. I tried to ask them why they don't offer a full bar service and they just sort of laughed and gave me a puzzled look and walked away. So annoying! I could certainly understand an abbreviated drinks service if the flight was only an hour, or if the flight was a red-eye, but this certainly isn't the case on Hong Kong - Singapore at 6pm. 

Aside from my frustration with the drinks service, the meal itself was good, although I was not hungry at all after the food in the lounge, I declined the ice cream that was offered after the meal.

I did not take any more pics of the flight, instead I sat back and watched a movie and dozed off. 

After arrival in Singapore I proceeded to the Krisflyer Gold lounge in Terminal 3. I sat around there for an hour drinking ginger ale, I'm not sure why but I had the urge to drink ginger ale for the rest of the night, on the flight to Melbourne too. Perhaps my body was a bit over alcohol after spending most of the day drinking.

AIRLINE: Singapore Airlines
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-300 (unknown registration)
CLASS:  Economy Class
SEAT: Emergency exit (can't remember seat number)

By the time it came to boarding the Boeing 777-300 to Melbourne I was truly exhausted, I had been up since 5am and it was close to midnight and I was ready to just pass out! I was glad to have the emergency exit row to help me sleep. After boarding was completed I was pleased to have the middle seat free too, with a young Aussie female sitting on the aisle seat on our set of 3.

legroom certainly isn't an issue 

Soon after takeoff the crew came around with the tray of pre-poured juice, beer, water. I won't complain about this as I know this flight departs close to midnight and with a flying time of only 6.5 hours the best thing to do is get the supper service out of the way and the cabin lights off so people can sleep, as quick as possible. It seems I forgot to take a photo of the menu but here is how my meal looked:

meal, with another glass of GINGER ALE

I really enjoyed this meal! In fact it was one of the best I had experienced on Singapore Airlines in economy class. The prawn starter was great, and I loved the dessert! I don't really like ice cream desserts, so I was really happy to have a cakey type thing on this flight.

As soon as lights were off I dozed off and managed a few hours of broken sleep. A little under 2 hours before landing (Why don't they make it 1 hour!) the continental breakfast was offered. I did not take a picture of this sorry, but it was the usual offering of fruit, croissant, bread roll, jam, butter and sweet muffin, along with the tea, coffee and juice. 

I took no further pics on this flight I'm afraid, I think I had my eyes closed most of the time, but it was a pleasant enough flight on Singapore Airlines again. That's why I keep going back to them really, it is consistently good service. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thai 600 ( TG600 ) - Bangkok to Hong Kong Royal First Class Boeing 747-400

AIRLINE: Thai Airways International
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 747-400 HS-TGY (11.5 yrs old at time of review, first flight was 22/6/98)
CLASS:  First Class

This is a review of TG600, which at the time, was the only flight of the day to feature first class service to Hong Kong. It leaves at about 8am local time in Bangkok, and gets in to Hong Kong about noon, and then the flight continues on to Taipei under the same flight number. At the time of writing, this flight still exists but the add-on flight to Taipei will no longer operate. Also, Thai will fly a second daily first class service with Boeing 747-400 on the Hong Kong route, making it 5 times daily in total to Hong Kong from Bangkok (the other flights are a mix of 777 and A330).

With an 0800 departure I intended to arrive prior to 0600 so as to enjoy the lovely Thai Airways ground service for First Class passengers in Bangkok. I took a cab and stopped at 'Door 1' at about 0545 , there were no porters standing around as there normally is for first class passengers so I made my own way into the first class checkin area:

First Class Check-In

I walked up to the counter and presented my passport, I also had an onwards itinerary from HKG that night on Singapore Airlines so I gave them the e-ticket and asked for my bags to be interlined. After I gave them this I was told to take a seat on one of the couches nearby...

Waiting for check-in to be completed

As is often discussed on the Thai Airways forum on Flyertalk, for some unknown reason, it takes a VERY long time to be checked in at  the first class counter. In my case today about 8 minutes, but I have heard it can regularly extend out to 15 mins, when really it should be a couple of minutes tops! Well, the reason for this may forever remain a mystery but for this flight I perservered and was eventually presented with my boarding pass to HKG and my bag tag receipt which had been interlined to Singapore Airlines... I was then escorted to fast track passport control and security. There was a woman in front of me at passport control who had overstayed her visa or visa exemption and was being spoken to which delayed me a couple of minutes.  My escort patiently waited on the other side for me to come through, I was then taken downstairs and put on a buggy and whisked into the first class lounge. I ordered a glass of Moet which was brought over, and I was asked if I would be partaking in a massage prior to the flight.

Moet in the Royal First lounge

For First Class passengers a full body massage is available, for Business and First Class passengers a head and shoulder or foot massage is available. I decided to take the full body massage, why not! The staff in the lounge made all the arrangements with the spa and said I should expect to go over there shortly after it opened at 6am. No sooner had I finished my glass of morning champagne than the staff came over again to advise me I should go to the spa, so off I went on the short walk across the hall to the spa entrance. Upon arrival I was offered a wet towel and drink:

Spa Waiting Area

I'd barely managed a sip of my drink before I was invited into one of the rooms provided for first class passengers full body massages and a lovely female masseuse. She offered me a selection of aromatherapy oils to choose from, after I had selected a suitable smell I was asked to take a shower and get changed into some provided disposable type underpants and a dressing gown:

Shower Room

After the shower I went ahead and got the full body massage. It was pretty good and went for almost the full hour. Afterwards I took a nice shower to wash off the oil and prepare for departure!

Massage room and table

There is also a bath/jacuzzi in the massage room

After I had cleaned up it was off to the lounge again for one more glass of Moet...

First Class Lounge

The lounge was fairly empty with only about 8 people in it at this time, and it was about 7.30am when a Thai Airways staff member came over to collect me and the 2 other F passengers going to Hong Kong this morning. We were escorted on foot to the gate, which was relatively near to the lounge so a buggy was not used (for longer journeys you are taken by buggy).

Final Call for Hong Kong - the gate holding area was almost empty as we arrived

HS-TGY preparing to go to Hong Kong and onwards to Taipei

As I was walking down the airbridge the Thai staff member who was escorting us made small talk with me about the low passenger load in First Class on this flight, I said it was lovely to have only 3 passengers but she seemed quite concerned that it was not good business for her employer. I don't think she needs to worry too much, the business class and economy cabins looked very full!

I entered the cabin and turned left and was warmly greeted by the cabin crew and escorted to seat 2A on this 'old configuration' Boeing 747. Thai have 2 configurations on the 747, this one featuring the old style business class seats mostly used only on regional flights and flights to Scandinavia (where these seats are sold as business class) and the ones with the newer first class 'suite' type seats that are used on European services. Yes the seats look a bit dated, but they are very comfortable, particularly for a 2 hour flight, and they do recline into a FULLY FLAT position.

Seat 2A/B

looking across from my seat

leg shot - that is the menu in the seat pocket

looking ahead from 2A

I was immediately asked whether I would like a pre-takeoff drink and I ordered the champagne of course! The champagne on today's flight, and on most of the regional First class flights is Bollinger Grande Annee 1999. This Champagne is also served on long haul when the Dom Perignon runs out (apparently this is a frequent occurrence!)

pre-takeoff Champagne

I was given a top up prior to pushback and the captain came on the PA with the welcome on board. We pushed back just a couple of minutes behind schedule...


Climbout - From Runway 01L

in the climb over northeast Thailand

After a routine takeoff the cabin crew came out and set up the drinks table in the centre of the first class cabin:

and set the table at my seat....

Here is today's menu:

I went for the omelette for my breakfast, accompanied by continuous top ups of the Bollinger 99. Here is how the meal service went:

Pastries and yoghurt (Cereal was available if you wanted aswell)

followed by a lovely fruit plate

and the main course

The food all tasted pretty nice overall. It might be nice if they had a decent sausage with the main meal though, rather than the 'chicken sausage' they tend to serve in Thailand. However the bacon was quite good, as was the omelette.

With only 3 passengers in the cabin service was fantastic and the entire meal service had been complete just over halfway through the flight. It was time to sit back and relax for the last hour and watch some tv and sip more champagne. These old configuration 747's have several video channels running on a loop, no AVOD here! But it's sufficient for this short sector, and I like to look at the 'AirShow' flight map anyway.

bathroom amenities - there is no individual amenity kit provided on this short flight

view as we commenced descent into Hong Kong

It had become quite cloudy by the time we reached top of descent into Hong Kong, and this short sector in First Class was sadly drawing to a close. Fortunately the lovely crew continued to top up my champagne at all times, even well into the descent when they insisted I drink some more. 

The arrival was in heavy low cloud and rain with some light to moderate turbulence, the final touchdown though was spot on, nice job Captain!

taxi'ing in next to a United Boeing 747

We soon parked, and the arrival was right on schedule, the doors were opened and us first class passengers were first out the door. At the top of the airbridge was some ground crew with my name and the names of the other first class passengers on it, we were whisked away by a buggy to immigration, nice touch!

awaiting the jetway to be connected

buggy to Immigration

Overall I really enjoyed this 4 1/2 hour experience from arriving at the airport to arriving in Hong Kong. The ground service in Bangkok was fabulous and on this flight the inflight service was very good too. Looking forward to my next flight on Thai Royal First class.

For those interested I have video of this flight available through my YouTube channel, the video shows the takeoff and landing and a few bits in between. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thai 466 ( TG466 ) - Melbourne to Bangkok Boeing 777-300 Business Class

AIRLINE: Thai Airways International
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-300 HS-TKD
CLASS: Business Class

I have a need to travel to Bangkok on a regular basis (every 6 weeks), so I won't review every single trip I take.  The majority of my travel is in economy class however this report is on Thai Airways Royal Silk (Business) Class. The journey is scheduled on a Boeing 777-300, one of two daily B777-300 services that Thai operate out of Melbourne, to Bangkok.

Most of the Thai Airways long haul fleet is now equipped with angled lie flat business class seats, with ALL of the B777 fleet equipped with them, so the dreaded and much discussed last minute equipment swap that Thai Airways is famous for is not really a problem on Australian east-coast routes. Previous to the B777-300 operating Melbourne flights, the Boeing 777-200ER was scheduled, and before that the A340-600.

Thai Airways Check-In Area

Check-in at the business class counter was a bit slow with the people ahead of the queue taking quite some time, probably would have been faster to use the Internet Check-In area. After check-in I proceeded to passport control and security.... utilising the Thai Fast-Track pass, always a good thing if the queues are long. Simply present the pass at the sliding doors and turn left to access the fast-track/crew lines. You can also get priority at the security line immediately after passport control.

I decided to have a quick walk around the gate area to see what aircraft were on the ground and check the progress of the terminal extension currently underway at Melbourne Airport.

Singapore A380 prepares for afternoon departure to Singapore

A380 cockpit windows

Cathay A330 and Qantas 'Wunala Dreaming' B747-400, Malaysia 777 tail behind

Here is my aircraft, HS-TKD preparing for departure

HS-TKD taking a rest before flying me to Bangkok. There is about a 3 to 4 hour turnaround from the inbound flight

After a bit of plane spotting I headed down to the ground floor to go to the Air New Zealand lounge, which Thai uses as it's contract lounge in Melbourne. As I have mentioned in other trip reports, the ANZ lounge is easily the nicest Star Alliance lounge in Melbourne.

Air New Zealand lounge

Lounge snacks and some New Zealand wine

Since the ANZ lounge is designated for Thai passengers there is a boarding call when the flight is ready. Todays flight was going out with just about 130 passengers out of approx 300 seats. Pretty poor loading, especially considering the Singapore A380 was fully booked, and it was December! I headed upstairs again when the lounge attendant made the call. The B777-300 is a 2 class aircraft and the aerobridge was connected to Door 2 so it was a lovely turn to the left as I was warmly welcomed on board by the Thai crew. 

'sa wat dee ka!'

leg room shot

Hot towel and welcome Champagne

Although the flights overall load was pretty low, Business Class was in fact quite full, with about 27 seats taken out of 34 available. Seats are in a 2x3x2 configuration, except the first row which is 2x2x2, there is 5 rows of seats. A welcome drink was immediately offered, I opted for a glass of the Pommery champagne. A hot towel was also provided.

'Sawat dee ka, Welcome to Royal Orchid Service' - safety video

Push Back was on schedule and  we were soon taxi'ing out for Runway 16 at Melbourne, with heavy grey clouds surrounding the airport. The next lot of pics are plane spotting on the taxi out, and the climb out:

passing Essendon airport soon after takeoff

grey skies during departure, although turbulence was only mild

i think i am wearing 2 different socks lol

Amenity kits were handed out after takeoff. These are very basic bags with simple things like toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, socks, eyeshades, lip balm etc. No brand name designer type items unfortunately. I entered into a cradle type position on my seat and retrieved the IFE screen from between the seats (found on the seatback in the rows behind the bulkhead).

Here is the menu for today's flight:

The crew came around with the crab cake first, before setting the table...

They also came around with a bag of nuts, then they came around with a fully laden drinks cart:

Service seemed good so far, and the crew were quite friendly and attentive. I continued to drink the 'Pommery' Champagne. The champagne can change from time to time, I believe in 2010 they have been serving a few different kinds. The crab cake was quite tasty! Soon after that was finished the crew came to set the table...

Smoked Duck, Salmon and Scallops first course

Thai serve the meals on a cloth covered tray on top of your cloth covered table... they come out with all of the above except the bread which is served from a basket and you can choose what you want. I enjoyed the duck and scallops but I am not that much into salmon so I couldn't tell you how good or bad it was. I decided to try the lamb rogan josh for the main, and my first course plate was taken away from the tray and replaced with the main...

lamb rogan josh

Presentation wasn't exactly fabulous but it was tasty! Thai serve the same size main meal in economy class as they do in business class, they don't have nicely arranged big plates for the mains in business. This is fine for me as when you add all the other food that comes with it, I get quite full.

Soon after completing the main course the crew comes and removes the tray and leaves you with your drink and just the table cloth covered table. They then bring around the cheese and fruit trolley. I decided to sample everything, I asked for a little of all and I got this:

Cheese and fruits, not bad

This was followed shortly thereafter by coffee and dessert... both of which were quite good:

Being a later afternoon flight I had no real intention of sleeping, so after the dishes were cleared away it was time to get comfy and watch some inflight movies. It's already a couple of months since I took this flight so I can't remember what I watched sorry!

I find the seat quite comfortable for reclining and watching movies as well as sleeping, here is a shot of the seat:

Thanh and Bulgari amenities in the lav's

After the meal service the crew asked everyone to place their window shades down, although it was only about 6pm in Melbourne! This is the usual routine I have noticed on this flight, they like to dim the cabin as soon as possible. I guess it's good for watching movies, or if you want to sleep. I took a walk down the back and found nearly every economy passenger with a set of 3 seats to themselves sprawled out over the cabin. I love this kind of flight when in economy, so much room to stretch out! Made the business class cabin look kind of crowded!

economy cabin

I snapped this shot of the sun setting from my seat, beautiful!

flight path over Brunei

We encountered a period of moderate turbulence as we approached Brunei so the seat belt sign was engaged for a period of time.

Time was flying as I watched movies from the sleeping position and sipped on wine throughout the flight, with the occasional nap as required :) At about the 90 minutes before arrival point the crew turned on the lights and offered a light meal, by this time it is approaching midnight back home in Melbourne.

light meal - hokkien noodles with chicken

The snack before landing was presented on a single tray and a coffee and tea service was offered also. I asked for a glass of champagne... unfortunately when the glass arrived from the male cabin crew member, I found it to be totally flat, no bubbles at all, must be the last drop out of a bottle opened at the beginning of the flight. I told the crew to open me a new bottle and sent this one back, he was EXTREMELY apologetic and brought me a new glass, which he refilled constantly until just before landing. Good recovery!

I went for a walk around the aircraft to stretch my legs before arrival...

business class cabin

30% full economy class

from the very back looking forward - i normally sit on the twosome seats at the back here

Well, the flight was rapidly drawing to a close, duty free shopping was closing and it was almost time to descend into Bangkok as we flew over Cambodia. This would be about my 25th time flying into Bangkok from Australia in the past 3 years, it was all becoming very routine, but I still love it. Gazing out at the small villages and towns in the darkness over Cambodia is just magic. I often wonder what the people are doing down there, what a different world most of them live in compared to the business class seat I was occupying right now... amazing isnt it?

The descent commenced and we made a routine approach into Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport...

arriving at gate C8, a bit of a walk ahead of us! At least we got a gate and not a bus!

Overall I was pretty impressed with the crew on this service, although they were not THE most attentive and friendly, the service was decent and the food and product were both quite good. There isn't a more comfortable way of getting from Melbourne to Bangkok anyway! I highly recommend the late afternoon flight into Bangkok, it gets you in about 10pm, just in time to go to bed and wake up totally fresh in the morning.