Monday, June 21, 2010

Thai Airways 315 ( TG315 ) - Bangkok to Delhi Economy Class Boeing 777-300

AIRLINE: Thai Airways International
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-300
CLASS: Economy Class
ROUTE: BKK-DEL
SEAT: 38K

SCHEDULED: DEPART 1755 ARRIVE 2055 (4 hours 30 min)
ACTUAL: DEPARTED 1850 ARRIVED 2150 (4 hours 30 min) 55 minutes late

NOTE: Keep in mind, whilst reading this report, that I took this trip right in the middle of the 2010 political protests and Thailand was already suffering big tourism losses although the more serious incident in Mid may was still a couple of weeks away.  For this reason, it is much quieter around the airport in my pics and Thai Airways suffered big losses in passenger numbers during this time.

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Well, this was to be my first ever trip to the fabled sub-continent and I must say I was pretty excited to finally be on my way to India. I have a fantastic uncle who really loves the place and does a lot of business there so who better to accompany me on my first visit? We met up in Bangkok the day of our departure...

My uncle, although he flies regularly on Thai Airways only manages to maintain Star Alliance silver status through Royal Orchid Plus, so he has never actually seen the inside of an airline lounge! Today will be his first time! For this reason we plan to arrive nice and early to enjoy the lounge facilities with my Star Gold access. We set off from central Bangkok in heavy traffic but about 15 mins into the trip my uncle realised he had left an item in the hotel, so we had to ask the taxi driver to turn back. After sitting in such heavy traffic we were both quite frustrated to say the least! Anyway, we finally got back to the hotel and underway again, making a quick stop at my apartment on the way to pick up my case for the short trip before heading off to Suvarnabhumi. The whole time the taxi driver muttering under his breath, I have to say I'm not too sure what he was saying but I don't think he was impressed with the diversion... even if he did get more money for it!


Star Alliance Gold - Check In

First things first, its off to the Star Alliance Gold check-in rows at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. To the lowly Silver card holder (my uncle), things were already looking up with a premium checkin zone. As you can see in the picture above there was no wait whatsoever! As always is the case for me with Thai Airways the system was not printing my BMI gold status automatically on the boarding pass, but the very experienced and efficient check-in agent managed to force the status to show and handed us our boarding passes. I had selected 38H and 38K, I assumed the middle seat would not be occupied, and I was told it was not. Lovely, 3 seats for the 2 of us!

Next... it's off to the Singapore Airlines lounge to show my Uncle how the other half live...



cardboard Singapore girl directs us to the lounge

The friendly girls at the desk did not question why I was using the SQ lounge on a TG boarding pass, which is a good thing! They were very friendly and welcoming indeed, just asking to see my gold card and putting the number down on the guest list. It was still a little early for the Singapore Airlines passengers so the lounge was nice and quiet but the food was well stocked.

My seat in the lounge. Garden view to the left of shot

After a nice helping of dim sum, haagen dazs ice cream, and vodka and orange juice it was time to bid farewell to the SQ lounge and head for the Concourse C Thai Airways lounge. This next lounge was located a short stroll from gate C2, where our flight to Delhi was departing.

As we strolled through the front doors to the lounge we saw a piece of paper stuck on the wall saying that TG315 to Delhi would be delayed 25 minutes, ETD would be now 18.20. No problem for us, more time for lounging and my Uncle was enjoying every minute!

Concourse C Lounge


View from my lounge seat - out an A340 can be seen at gate C1

At about 17.55 we decided we should head to gate C2 to board...


Gate C2 - but where is our plane!

We arrived at gate C2 to find no plane connected to the jetway, I remembered that there was some works going on around this part of the tarmac... looks like it will be a bus to the aircraft today.

I usually get angry when Thai bus me out of a perfectly good jetway but today I had consumed numerous vodka's so I didn't mind so much! We found that everybody else had already been bussed to the aircraft and only the 2 of us plus about 5 others would be on the next bus. On the way through the gate we saw this hand written note explaining the situation:

No need to ask why we have to take a bus... 

Here is some pics from the bus ride, with the sun rapidly setting to the west....

bus features 50th anniversary stickers.. nice!





Thai A300-600 pulls in to a domestic gate at A concourse

Bangkok Airways Airbus (Druk Air and Orient Thai behind)

After a lengthy but scenic taxi ride (if you like plane spotting like I do!), we finally arrived beside HS-TKC, a Thai Airways Boeing 777-300 that was first delivered to Thai in October 1999. That makes this bird 10 and a half years old.

Only one set of stairs was set up at door 2L... up we go:


sun setting behind the aircraft

We were warmly welcomed by the crew and directed across to the right side of the aircraft, by this time most of the other passengers were all seated. The passenger load looked to be well under 50%, even in the forward economy cabin. 

Our seats, colourful and very comfortable!

Leg Room Shot

According to the Thai Airways seat map documents, the forward cabin of the B777-300 has 34 inch seat pitch. This seemed pretty correct to me, I found there was even enough leg room for me to cross my legs. I am 178cm tall and found it all very spacious, particularly with the middle seat free to spread out. All quite ample for an early evening 4 hour trip to Delhi.  I glanced out my window and noticed an unmarked Boeing 747-300. That aircraft belongs to Orient Thai and was recently acquired form Japan Airlines.

HS-UTV to our right, Orient Thai Boeing 747-300 (ex JAL)

At this point the captain came on the PA to inform us we would have a further delay as they were holding the aircraft for several passengers connecting from Manila. My uncle was slightly annoyed that it would end up being quite late before we arrived at the hotel in Delhi... I was still presenting a vodka smile so wasn't too concerned.

Eventually, our transfer passengers arrived, the doors were closed and we had a quick taxi to Runway 19L, taking off with the sun all but gone...

Shortly after take-off

With the lights of Bangkok glistening below we turned right and tracked west towards Myanmar and onward to India. It did not take long for the crew to arrive with the pre-dinner drinks trolley. I decided to switch to Beer at this point (not a wise move as I had a cracking headache when we landed in Delhi).


Beer Singha please!?

The drinks were accompanied with a packet of cashew nuts and broad beans:


Soon after we had finished off our drinks the meal service commenced. No menu's were offered for this service. There was a vegetarian or a chicken option, this is how it looked:



Meal

I am usually very happy with Thai catering but this meal left a lot to be desired. The appetiser was a mix of cold vegetables and it was very unappealing, the main meal was passable but the indian style dessert (I have no idea what it's called) was absolutely awful. I only ate the main course and bread roll. The crew were regularly offering wines with the meals and several top ups along with handling any other drink requests. With not all that many passengers the meal service was over pretty quickly and I was settling back watching the audio video on demand. As soon as the trays were cleared the crew dimmed the lights, a few people slept while most watched movies...

In cruise, the cabin is dimmed

I took a quick look down the back of the aircraft and noticed there was plenty of vacant seats, anybody could have gone and had a nice make-shift bed down the back if they felt like it. We were quite happy though in row 38 watching the inflight entertainment system.

After my movie I managed to doze off, so I'm not sure whether the crew were coming around with drinks trays or not.... when I woke we were almost ready for descent. The captain made an announcement with the arrival time and weather which was mostly fine. During the descent, we entered a holding pattern to the east of Delhi:


Just one circle around and we continued on towards the Indira Gandhi International Airport, making a smooth touchdown. We taxi'ed past the new terminal under construction and parked next to an Air India 777.


Well, the flight was over but the adventure was only just beginning... I was in a new country, and knew I was in for a blasting of the senses as soon as we left the airport. I stepped off the plane fairly satisfied with the Thai Airways experience again, it was a typical Thai flight with decent service, the food could have been better, but perhaps it was appealing to the Indian passengers?

There was a bit of a queue at immigration but nothing too bad, it wasn't long and we were out into the stinking hot night fending off touts and looking for a meter taxi, and when we found one I was shocked to see how old it was!!

Delhi Taxi outside the airport

My Uncle gave me a "WELCOME TO INDIA" and off we went to our hotel....

Here is a couple of pics I took from around Delhi:










I was only in India a short time, but I would love to go back sometime and see more. Thanks for reading!



Friday, June 18, 2010

Singapore Airlines A380 Video

I have uploaded a video to youtube today of a recent flight on the Singapore Airlines A380 from Melbourne to Singapore. I will be following up with a trip report on my blog soon! I have reviewed SQ Economy on this sector a few times now but this time is the first time with the A380.

Check back soon for the A380 trip report... in the meantime, here is the video:


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cathay Pacific 703 ( CX703 ) - Hong Kong to Bangkok Business Class Boeing 777-300

AIRLINE: Cathay Pacific



AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-300 (B-HNH, first ever Boeing 777-300 in commercial service)

CLASS: Business Class


ROUTE: TPE-HKG


SEAT: 15K


SCHEDULED: DEPART 2005 ARRIVE 2145 (on time)





After arriving from Taipei at about 3pm, I had plenty of time to kill. I had considered getting an earlier flight to Bangkok, but a quick look at the departures board showed the only other CX flight to Bangkok before mine had been cancelled. In fact this flight had been cancelled every day for the past week and the cancellation was continuing for all of June, due to political unrest in Thailand reducing visitor numbers. It was still too early to see which gate I would be departing from so I decided to check out 'The Wing' lounge first.


Flight Information Display HKG - after I arrived from Taipei

The Short Bar @ The Wing lounge

My workstation @ The Wing - home for the next few hours

I settled in at one of the many workstations overlooking the tarmac and borrowed a power adapter from The Wing customer service desk. Unlike the Thai Airways business lounges, the Cathay lounges in Hong Kong have bars with barmen to pour you a drink. There is also a self serve area in The Noodle Bar.  I visited the Short Bar and got myself a vodka and orange.


I found the food quite ordinary, there was a selection of sandwiches, a couple of Chinese type bun items, and the made to order noodle soups at the noodle bar. None of which were particularly outstanding. 

View from my seat 

Being an aviation buff, I was really happy that the lounge had great views of the tarmac action. The lounge is elevated above the main departures level, and has a nice open feel, with no roof other than the main airport terminal roof. You can see straight out to the main windows of the terminal. Very nice!

After chatting on the net for a couple of hours, and having a few vodka's I felt pretty tired. I had been doing nothing but flying and sitting in airports  for about 12 hours. I decided to freshen up and have a shower in one of The Wing's 'Shower Suites'.

Shower Suite



Shower Suite

Shower Suite - what is the black tap? I didn't know so I didn't use it!

The shower suite contained a few basic amenities including Dermalogica moisturisers, dispenser shampoo/soap etc. There was more amenities like toothbrushes available upon request to the bathroom attendant. I was very impressed with the cleanliness of the room. It appears they clean each suite after every use and place fresh towels ready for the next customer. I was impressed. After a very nice hot shower I felt completely refreshed and ready for my next flight.




Lounge Seating @ The Wing

I moved over to the lounge area for the last hour or so before departure of CX703, and settled again with a cup of coffee. I asked for a latte at the bar, and the barman used the automatic coffee machine, although right next to it was a proper cafe style coffee machine. Perhaps he did not know how to use it?

lovely presentation on a tray to take back to your seat

At some point during my lounge visit I discovered that my flight (which continues on to Colombo after Bangkok) would be departing from Gate 3. Great!! That gate is literally right next to The Wing. I could observe Gate 3 directly from my seat in the lounge.

CX703 to Bangkok and Colombo - Gate 3 as seen from The Wing

Having been in the lounge for about 4 hours I was a little over it and craving to get home to my bed in Bangkok. I packed up my stuff and headed down to Gate 3. Along the way I saw this warning:

TRAVEL ALERT - AVOID ALL TRAVEL TO BANGKOK

For a moment I thought something huge at happened in Bangkok whilst I had been traveling, but then I realised it could not have because I had been reading the Bangkok Post online whilst in the lounge and there was no real new development. The army had already taken back Bangkok from the red shirts days ago and the curfew was already over in Thailand. It seems the Hong Kong government was a bit slow in reducing the travel alert status to Thailand. A few days later, Thailand was placed in the Yellow section above, which seems more reasonable.

Boarding has JUST been announced

There was a long queue of passengers at the economy area of gate 3, you know that crowd, the ones that think they are going to miss something if they don't make a mad dash for the plane the second the doors open. This seems fairly typical in China/Hong Kong from my limited experience in those places.

I took the left queue and walked straight on and turned left at the first door. It's so much nicer to take that first  door rather than the second isn't it?

Business Class Cabin

It's already dark outside and I don't like disturbing people with camera flash so all the following pics are taken with no flash with my trusty point and shoot Sony TX-7, which I must say does pretty well in low light!

Tonight's flight would be on board B-HNH, a Boeing 777-300. I discovered that this was the first ever 300 series Boeing 777 delivered. It was almost 12 years old. The aircraft was fitted in a 2 class layout with business class and economy class. The business cabin features recliner style seats with a looping personal entertainment system. The seats are fine but I wish they had a little more legroom. It is not easy squeezing out from the window seat into the aisle when someone is occupying the other seat. Especially when they are eating!

Seat pitch could be better


Welcome Drink - Cathay's signature non-alcoholic Kiwifruit Delight

I was quickly offered a selection of welcome drinks, champagne, juices and the KiwiFruit delight. I decided to try the delight! It was quite tasty actually. The flight attendant serving my part of the cabin tonight was a lovely Thai lady. She spoke in Thai to the passenger beside me who she later told me actually went to University with her back in Bangkok. Small world.

Cathay A340-300 in OneWorld colours parked next door

The flight load tonight was quite reasonable, with about 80% of the business class seats taken. Economy looked well over half full. Considering the do not travel alert to Bangkok, this seemed ok to me! Of course, there was possibly quite a few continuing on to Colombo. 

It didn't take long for everyone to be seated and we were soon watching the safety video on the old projector at the front of the cabin. The weather en route was going to be bumpy for the first half of the flight, and just a couple of minutes after takeoff we entered thick cloud as we tracked south west towards Thailand. With a bit of turbulence it took a little bit longer before the crew were released from their seats, while the rest of us were instructed to continue observing the seat belt sign. Menu's were then handed out...

Tonight's menu

The drinks menu differed slightly from my previous flight. The champagne on this regional flight would be Billecart-Salmon, whilst the previous flight was Champagne Deutz. I'm told the reason why Deutz was served on my previous flight from Taipei was because that flight had originated in Japan and a long haul drinks menu was being used. Both main courses tonight were asian dishes, prawns with rice or chicken massaman curry. I decided to take the chicken. I was disappointed the entree was salmon as I don't eat salmon... I was also disappointed with ice cream for dessert, I would have preferred a nice cheese cake or something like that. Never mind!

Before the meals were presented we were given fast track immigration cards for Bangkok:


Just before meal service, we have tracked south before turning towards Thailand - now in cloud and turbulence at cruise altitude

The meal tray came out with the appetiser, followed by a selection of breads, I took the hot garlic bread. To accompany my meal I would be having the Billecart-Salmon champagne.

Salmon appetiser - and garlic bread

As mentioned, I don't like salmon but i decided to pick out a bit of the lettuce with the dressing. Not very nice, lettuce was too cold, even icy like it had been frozen. Dressing was ordinary too. The garlic bread however was nice!

Chicken Massaman main

The main course, the chicken massaman curry, was delicious. I also like the little salt and pepper shakers in the shape of small rocks. I finished off the main meal completely and was then offered some ice cream, there was a couple of flavours to choose from, I took vanilla...

Haagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream

The lovely flight attendant continued to keep my champagne regularly refilled whilst I lounged back and watched the inflight entertainment. I have to thank Cathay Pacific for introducing me to the hilarious television show from the UK called 'The Inbetweeners'. I saw one episode on this flight and I was laughing out loud so much I may have been disturbing other passengers. Since then I've watched the entire two seasons of this show and love it.

After dessert we had a tea and coffee service, I took some coffee...


After coffee was complete we still had just over an hour to go so I continued watching the inflight entertainment. I managed to catch a very interesting documentary about an Indian slum. It was a weird feeling watching life in a slum, whilst sitting in business class drinking French Champagne at 37,000 feet. Made me think about just how lucky I am.

About to descend into Bangkok


By this last part of the flight, flying conditions were very smooth and the captain announced good weather in Bangkok for the landing. He said goodbye to those continuing on to Colombo as a new flight and cabin crew would be performing the next leg of the flight. The cabin crew announced that those continuing to Colombo should remain onboard whilst the aircraft is cleaned and serviced for the next leg.

After a smooth landing on Runway 19R we taxi'ed to the F concourse and parked...

Taxi'ing past an Air Macau A319

Having flown this sector (HKG-BKK) with Thai Airways a couple of months earlier I was slightly disappointed with the food. Thai Airways offer a much more extensive dinner on this sector than Cathay did. However the service on Cathay was probably slightly better, with the crew again taking the time to address me by name, something I rarely see on Thai Airways. Overall it was a good flight but it had been a very long day of airports and flying and it was time to go home and get some sleep. But not before I saw this sign in the airport on my way out:


Kind of weird feeling walking under that, considering the place is half burnt down and looted after the political demonstrations and riots that followed just a couple of weeks earlier. I wonder when they plan to change this billboard?

Thanks for reading...