Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To Japan in Style - Thai Royal First Class (Part 3 - BKK/HND, TG660)

Airline: Thai Airways International
Flight: TG660 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Intl - Tokyo Haneda Intl
Seat: 1A (First Class)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER HS-TKS (on lease from Jet Airways) 4.5 years old

Scheduled Departure: 14.50
Actual Departure: 15.32

Scheduled Arrival: 22.30
Actual Arrival: 22.59

Passenger Load: 3 out of 8 in First Class (37.5%)

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After a pleasant overnight stay in Bangkok it was time to continue my journey on to Tokyo Haneda. This next flight was one I was particularly looking forward to as it was on the Boeing 777-300ER with suites in First.  The taxi dropped me off at Door 1 at BKK and I made my way into the First Class checkin zone which is a private zone with lounge seats you can sit in whilst the check-in staff take your bags and get your boarding pass. At the same time I was shown a seatmap for the B777-300ER and asked if I still wanted my pre-assigned seat 1A. I was also offered to make an appointment in the spa which I did for 1 hour 30 minutes prior to departure. 

Thai First Class Check-in Bangkok
With check-in formalities complete a staff member assisted me with my cabin baggage and escorted me through security and passport control and down the escalator to the first class buggy for my ride through to the lounge.

Not that I needed help with my luggage but I got it anyway

buggy ride to the F lounge
As I arrived in the lounge I was escorted in and my request for a private room was granted. I made myself comfortable in my own little lounge with TV, lounge suite, chair and table. It was most pleasant indeed! A menu was brough to me and drink orders taken. Moet is the champagne on offer which I selected along with a glass of Perrier. A kind of cold tea drink was offered as well.

F Class Lounge Menu
I ordered the wonton noodle soup and fried rice with chicken for my lounge lunch. They are made to order but were presented within just a few minutes.
Wonton Noodle Soup

Fried Rice with Chicken
After my rice I walked to the buffet area and checked out the dessert options. I selected an apple pie and banana tart and was told to return to my seat and they would bring it out to me. Sure enough a few minutes later my chosen items arrived on a plate and my Moet was quickly replenished.

Dessert!

My own little lounge in the Thai F lounge Bangkok

The Facilities - F Lounge
It was soon time for my spa appointment and I was escorted to the Spa by one of the lounge attendants. As I walked in I was immediately greeted by name and taken to the waiting area where a cold towel and tea were provided. Just moments later I was taken for the full body aromatherapy oil massage. A quick shower after that and I was on my way back to the lounge for one last glass of Moet before departure.

Spa waiting area

Spa bathroom facilities

I'd only got down half a glass of champagne before one of the lovely Thai Airways staff came and collected me and one other passenger. I expected a buggy ride for the lengthy walk to gate C7 but instead we had to walk! To make matters worse the flight was yet to start boarding and I was forced to hang around the gate area for a good 10 to 15 minutes before I was allowed on board. Must have been some sort of miscommunication somewhere as I thought boarding would have been near to complete by the time I arrived at the gate. At least that's how it was last time I flew Thai in First out of Bangkok.

My escort to gate C7

The flight had been delayed 30 mins due late arrival of aircraft from Paris

My Boeing 777-300ER ride, HS-TKS
Eventually it was time to board the Boeing 777-300ER which at the time of this flight was 4.5 years old and had already flown with 3 different carriers. It was originally delivered new to Jet Airways of India before they decided to lease out several aircraft that were surplus to their needs. The next operator was Turkish Airlines and when that lease ended Thai Airways took delivery of it in July 2011. It is one of five such aircraft currently operated by Thai but owned by Jet Airways. Thai use them mostly on flights to Tokyo, Paris and some other European destinations such as Frankfurt. Today's aircraft had just come in from Paris and was delayed due to the late arrival of that flight.


The First Class cabin

First Class Suites


First Class Suite
I was warmly welcomed on board and shown to my suite 1A. I was really happy with the seat, which was huge and although it showed a bit of wear and tear it was very comfortable indeed. Within moments a crew member came to ask me what drink I would like, and I opted for the Dom Perignon. A bottle was presented and poured at my seat a minute later. The inflight supervisor then came and personally welcomed me and advised a flying time of 5 hours 20 minutes.
Seat Controls by LCD remote control

Newspapers, headset and slippers provided at the seat

looking across row 1

Dom Perignon sir?

Shortly afterwards menus were delivered and blankets were handed out. I was happy to see a proper duvet style blanket which was a huge improvement over the flimsy economy style blanket I had been offered the day before on the flight from Sydney. I hope these blankets will be the usual in Thai First from now on. But blankets are just one thing that Thai manage to make extremely inconsistent!

Menu for today

Blanket

Personal light, air vent and do not disturb button

AVOD controls

Pushbank commenced at 3.29pm, a further 9 minutes behind the already advised 30 minute delay. I did manage a second glass of Dom before the glasses were put away though.  The usual safety video was shown and we were soon powering down runway 19L at Bangkok. I really noticed how quiet the 777-300ER is from Row 1 on this flight.

Climbout
Shortly after takeoff a round of drinks was offered and I had a vodka martini with a glass of water. A selection of nuts was also provided.


I do quite like the retro style drink stirrers they provide. I decided to start watching the remaining episodes of Downton Abbey season 1 that I hadn't watched on the previous flight. Despite having seen this series many times before I just never get sick of it. Definitely my favourite show right now!

The meal service then followed and is best explained simply by showing the pictures:




Hot Savoury - Satay

Downton Abbey - total heaven, first class and downton!

more champagne and Perrier please

Getting comfortable

Table set, Dame Maggie Smith is on the screen!




First Course - Whole Duck Foei Gras, Marinated US Scallop on Avocado Mousse

Mushroom Soup


Pan Fried Australian Veal Loin
After the main course it was time to visit the bathroom, you can only drink so much wine and champagne before it becomes quite necessary!
Large first class bathroom

On the way back I spotted the fruit and cheese trolley being prepared:


looking down on my suite
I opted for a mix of fruit and 2 of the cheeses along with some crackers... I had opted to continue with the Dom Perignon rather than any of the red or white wines on offer.

Orange and Ginger Pudding with a Peppermint tea to finish
After the HUGE meal and loads of Dom Perignon I was absolutely bursting and also feeling quite sleepy so I decided to close my suite doors and take a nap in the fully flat bed. The seat converts into a bed without any need to stand up. It is a very comfortable and feels like quite a private arrangement with the doors closed. This is as comfortable as I have ever been on a plane, I could quite happily sleep here for many hours. I only had 2 hours or so but I slept very soundly.


Prior to the top of descent I was offered drinks and given the arrival card for Japan.

one more Perrier whilst I fill in the documents

The descent and landing were standard and we made our way to a remote parking spot where two sets of covered airstairs were waiting for us.  This ended the first class experience at Tokyo. There was no special treatment for the arrival, it was onto the bus with everybody else and make your own way through passport control. I was subjected to a full baggage search and questioning by Japanese customs, apprently I fit some profile that warranted it! However it only took about an extra 10 minutes and I was soon on my way into the arrivals hall where my driver was waiting.


on the bus!

Overall it was probably the best flight I have ever taken (keeping in mind my First Class flying experience is reasonably limited). The food was very tasty and the Dom Perignon was flowing the whole way. Service was good on board, and it was certainly excellent on the ground at Bangkok. Well done Thai!

Looking forward to my next First Class travel experience!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

To Japan in Style - Thai Royal First Class (Part 2 - SYD/BKK, TG476)

Airline: Thai Airways International
Flight: TG476 Sydney - Bangkok
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 HS-TGX (14 years old)
Seat: 2A (First Class)

Scheduled Departure: 10.00
Actual Departure: 10.05

Scheduled Arrival: 15.30
Actual Arrival: 15.20

Passenger Load: 4 out of 10 in First Class (40%)



Check-in Zone for THAI
After landing in Sydney from Melbourne I took the Qantas shuttle straight over to international. I had carry on only with a plan to buy a new case in Thailand to bring back any extras I might buy overseas. It was about 8.10am as I arrived and the economy queue was relatively long. Fortunately there was nobody in the First Class queue although the check-in girl was dealing with someone as I arrived. Whilst standing in the queue a Thai representative came and confirmed I was in first class and asked my name. A moment later I was checked in and had my boarding pass and express departures card in hand.



Departures Display
I filled in my outbound passenger card and  headed toward the express path area which was basically deserted, so I was straight through security and passport control and headed into the shopping area. I had a quick look at jackets (after leaving mine at home!), but decided it was all overpriced and I would have a look at Bangkok during my overnight visit.

I headed for the Air New Zealand lounge, skipping the option of the Singapore First lounge.
Express Path this way

Plane spotting - United, Delta, Air New Zealand and Emirates

I made my way into the lounge and as I was looking for my boarding pass in my bag I suddenly realised I had left my Samsonite passport wallet at the check-in desk. I spoke to the lounge agent who made a phone call to check-in who confirmed that they had found it and would deliver it to the gate area. Phew!

The lounge was quite busy with various  NZ and star alliance departures. There was a great view of my aircraft HS-TGX, a 14 year old 747 delivered new to Thai in 1997.


Hs-TGX

Another shot

Air New Zealand Lounge

Yet another shot of my bird
 I was pleased to see TGX parked at the gate as I knew it was one of the aircraft with the more modern first class seating and in the week before my flight Thai had been sending old configuration birds to Sydney on a regular basis! Much to the disgust of business class passengers who went from angled lie flats to recliners. But this was not the case today!

Not wanting to miss any of the champagne I headed down to the gate area early and picked up my passport wallet which was waiting for me. A minute later boarding was called for First and Business class. I made my way straight down the airbridge and was warmly greeted and escorted to my seat, 2A.

Boarding Area 

It only took a matter of seconds before I was offered a hot towel and choice of welcome beverage. I asked for and was given, the Dom Perignon 2002. In fact all 4 first class passengers were drinking it as the welcome drink and we finished one bottle between us before takeoff, with me taking the last few drops! I declined opening another bottle before takeoff and told them to pop it after takeoff instead!

Menu's were provided and the rimowa amenity kit and noise cancelling headphones were waiting at each seat.
My seat
Menu - First Serving

Menu - Second Serving

Menu - White Wine

Menu - Red Wine

Menu - Champagne
 Purple coloured pyjamas and slippers were also handed out before takeoff, with one passenger immediately heading to the lavatory and getting changed. I personally prefer to wait until we are in the air to remove shoes or change clothes, in case there is an emergency (highly unlikely I know) and we have to evacuate. I think I would feel rather silly standing on the tarmac in my purple pyjamas and slippers!


Rimowa kit and headphones 

Rimowa amenity kit

Mr 1K in his PJ's


At 5 minutes past 10 am, with all passengers on board the doors were closed and we pushed back. The safety video was played and I made myself comfortable.... looking forward to the next 9 hours of first class travel.

Mr Tug Driver - thanks!

Taxi'ing past another Thai 747 waiting to perform the afternoon flight

Asiana and United patiently waiting behind us for takeoff
 We made our way to runway 34L and were soon powering down the runway and into the grey skies. The loud noise of the nose wheel retracting is very noticeable on the 747 in the nose section. I quite like it myself, check the YouTube video to hear it.

Goodbye cloudy Sydney!

Airshow display
Once we were airborne I popped the lid for the entertainment unit and watched our progress on the map. I flipped through the entertainment guide and settled on watching the movie 'Contagion' (which was pretty ordinary by the way). The seatbelt sign was switched off once we were above the cloud layers and I decided to check out the lavatory. It featured Bvlgari fragrance and Aigner moisturiser. Anything else you might need is in the amenity kit.

Lavatory amenities

Seat 2A

Phitek noise cancelling headset - includes cleaning cloth to sanitise
 The crew were quickly up and preparing the first class bar area in the centre of the cabin. here they had a selection of soft drinks and wines along with glasses and ice. You could help yourself at anytime which was quite handy.
Bar area
 Once the bar was set up I was quickly offered drinks and warmed nuts. I selected the Dom Perignon along with Perrier sparkling mineral water. I was offered additional warm nuts once I had almost finished the first lot.


Very quickly the canapes arrived and the crew got out the very large table for me. If you have a friend on board they can sit on the ottoman and dine together with you if you wish.

Canapes
 I was again offered a hot towel which was left on the table on a silver tray for use during the meal I assume.

Table setting
 Next up was the caviar service and the crew came around with a trolley containing the caviar, garnitures and frozen smirnoff vodka. I decided to go for the whole lot.

The caviar trolley
my caviar - with shot of vodka
Once I was done with my caviar it was time for the appetiser. The table was set with a bowl of salad and my own bread basket. I was offered a choice of salad dressing between thousand island or balsamic, I took the balsamic. My appetiser was also presented and it looked quite appealing to me.

Appetiser
 One upon a time I wouldnt eat much seafood but as I have aged I've really started appreciating prawns and scallops. So this went down very well indeed. There was a side sauce which went very well with it too. Next up was my main course, the Beef Fillet with Madeira sauce.

Main Course
 The main meal was quite tasty and I finished it all off. Whilst I was eating the crew were very attentive with the wines and I tried one of the white wines which was quite good. I also tried the Veuve Rose which was fine, but I soon switched back to my favourite, the Dom Perignon. I'm not sure how many bottles they loaded but it didn't run out at all thankfully.

I was already getting full by this stage but I wasn't going to miss out on anything so when the fruit and cheese tray came out I took a sample of the lot!

Fruit and Cheese tray

What I received after asking for 'the lot'

the bar
 I slowly picked away at my fruit and cheese whilst i continued to watch my movie. Once I was done the crew came around and offered dessert. It was an apple and berry crumble with vanilla sauce. To go with that I asked for a cappuccino. I was also given a ferrero rocher chocolate!

Dessert
 After all that food and wine I was almost ready to burst but I was very pleased! The crew soon turned out the lights so people could sleep if they wished. After a meal like that and very little sleep the night before I passed out for about 3 hours or so on the very comfortable bed. It's a pity only a thin economy class style blanket was on offer though.

Keeping business class passengers out is this very large curtain

Thai's uniquely configured 747 with galley on the side  of the aircraft. First class toilets visible here too
 After sleeping and watching tv it was time for the second meal service. This started about 90 minutes before arrival in Bangkok. Once again, my table was set and I opted for Dom Perignon and Perrier.

2nd  meal table setting
 By this stage I discovered they had Downton Abbey on the inflight entertainment system, it's one of my favourite shows. I watched episodes 1 and 2 before arrival in Bangkok. What could be better than sitting back drinking Dom in first class and watching Downton??? It's hard to beat!

Tom Yum Goong

Satay Chicken

Raspberry

Seat Controls
 The captain announced our descent and weather for arrival in Bangkok as 'partly cloudy skies with temperature 32 degrees celsius'. During the descent we entered a holding pattern due to traffic congestion in Bangkok and we remained in the hold for about 15 or 20 minutes before continuing on to make a landing on runway 19R.
In the hold around some storm clouds

Arriving at gate C1
 We made our way to gate C1 and disembarked. Thai Airways ground staff were waiting with signs displaying the names of the first class passengers. I made my way to my staff member and was soon on the buggy and speeding through the airport to express immigration.

Buggy ride
Once through immigration the ground staff asked if I needed any help with luggage, hotels or transport. I needed no help with any of them so I made my way landside and headed for a taxi into town. Overall a great flight with very attentive staff and nice food. Definitely a Royal First Class experience and I was looking forward to the following day's flight to Tokyo.