Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thai Airways TG492 Auckland to Bangkok - Business Class

After a pleasant day and a half wandering around Auckland it was time to head for the airport for my flight to Bangkok. Today I would be taking the daily Boeing 777-200ER Thai Airways non stop flight from Auckland.

My transport to the airport was by the airport shuttle bus, it was just a 5 minute walk to the nearest pickup point on the main street in Auckland. The cost is NZD16. Quite reasonable really and a lot cheaper than a taxi!

After dropping off a few passengers at the domestic terminal we arrived at International departures and I made my way to the Thai Airways check-in desks. There was no queue in the business class line and I was quickly issued my boarding pass by the Air New Zealand staff member manning the desk. I had been assigned an aisle but asked for a window seat and I was offered 16K, the last remaining window. I accepted it despite knowing there is one window missing from this row and you have to lean forward to see out.

With check-in complete, I headed upstairs to departures and then on to the Air New Zealand Koru Club lounge for a bit of lunch. The lounge has an 'adults only' area where children are not welcome which is nice. I set up with my lunch and a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc in that area. Much to my disgust, as I was setlling down, a baby in the adults area started crying!! Some people have no respect for others whatsoever... I don't mind crying babies in general, but this was supposed to be an area for adults and not families. The staff didn't seem to care in the least. At least the food on offer was good!

Parked at Gate 9 was HS-TJT, a 4 year old Boeing 777-200ER, one of six of this model in the Thai Airways fleet. This particular aircraft has been named 'Patham Wan'.

The great thing about the -200 series B777's with Thai is the 2x2x2 configuration in business class compared to 2x3x2 on the Boeing 777-300. In economy class these 6 aircraft all have personal televisions with Audio Video on Demand in every seat.

HS-TJT awaiting her passengers for the journey home to Bangkok

Boarding was called for Business passengers only and the gate agents strictly enforced this with many economy passengers who had surged forward being turned back and told to wait. I made my way through the hoards of economy passengers and soon settled in 16K. I was immediately offered a choice of newspapers and decided to catch up on Thai news with a copy of 'The Nation'. Pillows, blankets and amenity kits were placed on each seat.

Seat 16K - missing one window

In the seat pocket a pair of noise cancelling headphones was available along with the usual duty free catalogue and airline magazine. The inflight entertainment system showed a flying time of 11 hours 31 minutes today. The flight departs mid afternoon but follows the sun so most of the flight is in daylight hours.

Within a few minutes of being seated a welcome drink was on offer, I took the champagne as usual. Whilst the rest of the passengers boarded I did some plane spotting and noticed an Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 beside us, bound for Papeete.

The doors were soon closed and I was pleased the seat beside me was vacant, allowing me a little more room. It also gives me 2 inflight entertainment screens so I can watch the flight progress on one screen, with a movie on the other.

Taxi out - nose camera view on the right hand screen

It was a very cloudy day in Auckland and it took a few minutes of climbing to get through the solid cloud layer, but we soon emerged above into the bright blue sky.

Above the clouds

The amenity kit on offer is basic but contains everything you need, the contents can be seen below:

Amenity Kit

Once we were through the clouds the seatbelt sign was switched off and the service commenced with a round of drinks and some veggie chippies.

The menu below shows that there is three servings on this flight. The first meal is the most significant of them. The order of service varied from the menu provided with the 'Second Serving' sandwich being served last, before landing in Bangkok. The second main meal was served about 8  hours into the flight.

Did anybody proof read this menu - what is a 'Freeting Season'?

The lavatory amenities on offer are 'Salvatore Ferragamo' branded. The Thanh and Bulgari amenities they had previously are no longer featured.

The New Zealand made 'veggie chippies' were really tasty. I kept drinking champagne which was Piper Heidsieck on this flight. After a round of drinks the food service commenced.

The food ex-Auckland was of a really good standard and I enjoyed the meal. I had the roasted lamb loin which was cooked very nicely. The service was good too, with regular top ups of my wine and offers of more bread.

After the main course the cheese and fruit plate was delivered along with a glass of port. By the time the ice cream was out I was absolutely stuffed. I declined the regular coffee and ordered a cappuccino which wasn't too bad considering it was made on an aircraft.

With the first meal over it was time to close the blinds and allow people to sleep or enjoy movies. I settled back and had a nap. At some point the crew offered me a drink and some peanuts:

After about 8 hours it was time for.... another meal! This second meal is a smaller one but it's still pretty significant.

The entree and main are served on the one tray. There was scallops for an entree followed by a main of chicken and prawn noodles. It was really tasty! The chocolate tart dessert served afterwards with coffee was absolutely divine. One of the tastiest dessert's I've had in the sky. Two thumbs up to Auckland catering!

We still had a few hours to go and I spent my time relaxing watching movies. I wasn't hungry but had wanted to try out some instant noodles which are available as a snack any time during the flight. I pressed the call bell and ordered them, 5 minutes later a tray was delivered with my hot noodles in a cup. Basic but very tasty!

Bed in reclined mode

Instant Noodles snack

With an hour or so to go before touchdown the crew came around and asked all passengers if they would like a sandwich. There was two choices on offer, I had a chicken sandwich and cup of coffee. The lights remained off during this service and those sleeping were not disturbed. The sandwich was a little soggy unfortunately, and not particularly tasty.
With night fallen outside this flight was drawing to an end. The captain announced our upcoming descent and arrival weather information. Despite flying for 11 hours I still felt quite fresh and had enjoyed this flight very much. What a great way to get from New Zealand to Thailand!

The crew performed really well on this flight. They were polite and courteous at all times. The food was of a good standard and I certainly did not ever go hungry! We landed on schedule but unfortunately we parked at a domestic gate which meant a bus ride to the international arrivals area. I am never a fan of this, but being in business class meant I was in the first bus to leave which was a slight consolation. Overall though, a great experience on TG492!

Parking at the  domestic concourse

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New RSS Feed Location

Hi all,

With the recent change of the website name and new URL can you all please ensure you update your RSS feed.

The new feed is at:

Thanks all,

Aussie Flyer

Auckland and the Rydges Harbourview Hotel

I recently had a stay in the Rydges Harborview in Auckland. It was my first time in this city and the location works really well. It's very central and located opposite the Sky City Auckland complex. The rooms have fresh modern look and have all that you could want including a large LCD television. The bed was really comfortable and I got a great night's sleep.

Rydges Harbourview standard room

The hotel is very highly rated on tripadvisor and you will find some good deals on and There is a paid for broadband cable service available but there was also a wifi network throughout the hotel which was free when I logged on.

The handy access to the casino complex means there is plenty of nearby restaurants and entertainment options and it's just a short stroll down to the harbour front. Overall I was quite impressed with the hotel for the price and would stay there again. It's a 5 minute walk to the airport bus as well.

Harbour area

Sky Tower

View from SkyTower of Auckland CBD

Glass floor at Sky Tower observation deck - scary!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Emirates Business Class : EK406 Melbourne to Auckland on the Boeing 777-300ER

After flying Emirates back in 2008 on a return trip from Sydney to Bangkok I had acquired enough frequent flyer points to upgrade a Melbourne to Auckland ticket from economy to business class. I decided to take advantage of this and booked a cheap one way ticket which I immediately upgraded to business. It's only a little over 3 hours flying time but I was looking forward to trying out the EK product! The online upgrade process was quick and easy on and I was able to select my new seat instantly.

I arrived at the airport a little after 6am for the 8am flight. The Emirates check-in desks certainly stand out with large billboards featuring attractive Emirates cabin crew inviting you to queue:

After check-in was complete I was through security and heading up the escalators to the Emirates Lounge which is a shared lounge for both First and Business passengers.

Emirates Lounge Entry Melbourne Airport

After a long night at work with zero sleep before the flight I was please to find they had shower facilities in the lounge. Unfortunately the water pressure was low, but it was enough to freshen me up before breakfast.

Shower Room - Emirates Lounge

lovely view from Emirates lounge

The Emirates lounge is located above the main terminal and has lovely views of the airport which is a nice change from the star alliance lounges located on the ground floor.

The first thing I noticed as I walked into the food and beverage area was the Moet and Veuve champagne in the refrigerator. Very impressive! I am a fan of Veuve myself so I went straight to it! I was intercepted on the way by one of the lounge staff who told me she would pour me a glass and bring it to my table. Fabulous service!
I helped myself to the breakfast buffet which was of a really high standard with lovely yoghurts, pastries and a good selection of hot food including eggs, hash browns and mushrooms. By the time I got to my table with an airport view my champagne was waiting for me and everytime I finished a glass the lovely waitress would bring me a refill.

What a pleasant way to spend the morning, sipping on champagne and having a great breakfast while plane spotting. This was to be my first breakfast for the day, with the second breakfast waiting for me on board.... that is if the aircraft shows up on time! The inbound flight from Dubai had been delayed and it appeared we would be departing late on the Auckland flight.
The delay certainly didn't bother me, as I was quite content to just sit there with the champagne and look out the window, despite feeling very tired from lack of sleep. Eventually our Boeing 777-300ER landed and made it's way to the terminal.

My aircraft arrives from Dubai

With about an hour's delay we were finally called to board the flight so off I went to the gate for my first Emirates business class experience.

I was welcomed on board by the multi national crew and directed to the second aisle and to my seat in the 2nd cabin, seat 9K. The seats are angled lie flats with wireless hand held seat controls and very large entertainment screens. I soon settled in and was offered a newspaper, I took the Herald Sun for a quick read before takeoff.

My jacket was collected and hung soon after I had settled in, and I had a welcome glass of Moet. A nice feature is the entertainment system that displays your seat number digitally on the screen in front of you.

Although there is no amenity kit on this short sector the crew did hand out socks and eye shades and the lavatories had a supply of amenities if required.

I spent a few minutes using the electronic controlled window shades, with the press of a button the shades can be raised or lowered, or there is a see through shade as well if you would like partial light. Nice novelty that I had not seen before!

The menu's were handed out and today breakfast was on offer. There was 3 choices, a breakfast grill, a swiss cheese omelette or french toast. Not a bad menu at all. If you weren't very hungry there was a cheese plate on offer as well.

Eventually we pushed back and made our way to Runway 34 for takeoff, about 1 hour and 20 mins behind schedule. The flying time was just over 3 hours to Auckland.

Soon after takeoff I started playing around with the seat controls which are found on a small screen beside the seat. You can pick up the screen and use it wirelessly as a remote control for your inflight entertainment as well as for adjusting your seat. I was fortunate enough to have the seat beside me so I had plenty of room to spread out.

I found the seat quite comfortable and although it does not go fully flat it seemed quite pleasant enough to sleep on. The 'ICE' inflight entertainment system from Emirates is one of the most, if not THE most comprehensive in the sky with literally thousands of options. It is very hard to get bored on an EK flight!

As we reached a higher altitude the crew commenced inflight service. A table cloth was placed on my table followed by this meal tray:

The bread basket was on offer as well as some nice strong coffee. I took a piece of fruit toast, although it was more fruit bread than fruit toast, could have been cooked a little bit more but it was still good!

Presentation overall was good although putting the yoghurt in a bowl might have been a nice touch. The fruit and yoghurt were both very tasty and once I had finished them, the main meal was delivered. I had the mixed grill which hit the spot quite well. The small piece of steak was juicy and tender. Two thumbs up! The bread basket was offered a couple more times during service as well as regular tea and coffee top ups from the young and attentive crew.

Unfortunately at this point of the flight my eyes could barely stay open (combination of a lot of champagne and lack of sleep). I put the seat in bed mode and managed an hour and a half nap before top of descent into Auckland.

Seat fully reclined

The flight was rapidly coming to an end... what a shame it wasn't a bit longer as I was enjoying the Emirates product very much. The captain announced our descent and we were soon approaching the New Zealand coastline.

We made a fairly routine approach and landing before parking at the International terminal and disembarking. Feeling pleased and still a bit drunk I headed for passport control and was promptly processed and allowed in to New Zealand.

On approach to Auckland

Unfortunately there was a very long delay, about 30 minutes or so to get the baggage. No reason was given but the passengers were getting very frustrated waiting, I was just wanting to get to the hotel to have a bit of a rest before exploring Auckland. Eventually they showed up and I was soon through customs and onto a hotel shuttle van.

Overall I was impressed with Emirates trans-tasman business class. It is quite comparable to the Air New Zealand Boeing 777 and 747 product on this route but quite a bit cheaper generally. I still think Air New Zealand is the winner though, but only just! 

One last look at the seats as we disembark