Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Quick Trip Around Asia Part 2 : Thai Airways First Class Sydney to Bangkok Boeing 747-400

After arriving from Melbourne on QF400 I collected my luggage (Qantas won't interline to non alliance partners on separate tickets anymore), and took the train between terminals. They charge $5.70 for this 2 minute journey, which other airports in the world charge to transfer between terminals I wonder? Qantas does offer an inter-terminal transfer but I couldn't use this as it is airside and I had to go landside to get my luggage.

Fortunately the luggage didn't take too long and I was over at the Thai check-in counters by 8am. Here are the details of todays flight:

FLIGHT
TG476
AIRLINE
Thai Airways  International
ROUTE
Sydney to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
GATE DEPARTURE
10.00 (Scheduled) / 10.02 (Actual)
GATE ARRIVAL
15.25 (Scheduled) / 15.44 (Actual)
FLIGHT TIME
9 hours 12 minutes airborne
AIRCRAFT
Boeing 747-400 HS-TGO



Check-in for Royal First, Royal Silk and Economy



I arrived at check-in and headed for the 'Royal First' queue, and I was checked in immediately. My bags were tagged with Royal First tags through to Tokyo Haneda and boarding passes printed for both this sector and the next one to Tokyo. I had pre-selected seat 2A when I booked the flight, this is my preferred seat on the 747. The seats in row 1 are a little too close together which is good for a couple but if flying solo row 2 is preferred.

Having tracked the incoming flight from Bangkok I was already aware that the flight today would be on HS-TGO, a 23 year old Boeing 747-400 which unfortunately had the older first class product, and not the newly installed suites. As of December 2014 Thai operate 12 Boeing 747-400's, 6 of them in older configuration (used a lot on Asian routes and the non-premium Europe routes like Milan) and the other 6 in suites (used on longer haul premium Europe routes).  For Sydney with the current schedule it is a mix of both old and new product in First Class. The business and economy product is essentially the same on all of the jumbos.

So, whilst I was a little disappointed, it wasn't the end of the world. In fact it was only a year or two ago where this was the best product that everyone was hoping to get!

Having been given express passes for security and passport control it was only a few minutes before I was navigating through the duty free shops and onwards to the Singapore Airlines first class lounge. Thai usually use the Air New Zealand lounge but at the time of my flight it was closed for renovations. Regardless, any Star Alliance first class passenger is entitled to use the Singapore First class lounge.... even if the lounge attendants may try and point you towards NZ.


Head up this escalator to get to the lounge
The lounge attendants took a look at my boarding pass and opened the 'secret entrance' to the First Class lounge, which is a special sliding door to the right of the reception desk. Once inside I was welcomed by one of the lounge staff who offered me some cooked to order breakfast. I declined as I was not hungry and instead ordered a coffee which was brought to my seat by the window. The friendly staff member advised me the buffet was being cleared as it was time to start changing over from the breakfast menu and since the Singapore Airlines flight had just left there would not be any food for a while. This didn't bother me at all as I wasn't hungry and just wanted to relax.

Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Sydney

Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Sydney - I like these work pods

Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Sydney

Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Sydney
At about 9.20am I decided to wander over to the gate area and see if boarding was ready. Singapore Airlines do not make boarding announcements in their lounge for any flights other than their own so it is up to you to make your way there. This is the opposite to what Qantas do in their first class lounge, with all oneworld airline boarding calls being announced. I don't see what is so hard about making a boarding call for Thai Airways considering the airlines are supposed to be partners and this is the only first class facility for star alliance in Sydney.

HS-TGO awaits its passengers
Despite it being past the advertised boarding time the gate was still crowded with people waiting for boarding to commence. Eventually at about 9.30am the wheelchair passengers were escorted onboard, shortly after priority boarding was called. I got my boarding pass scanned and eagerly headed down the jetway, the Dom Perignon was only moments away!



"Sawat Dee Ka! - Welcome on board sir!"  - I was greeted with a wai and a big smile. Upon seeing my first class boarding pass I was escorted to the left and into the nose section of the Boeing 747. Definitely my favourite cabin of any aircraft, it's so secluded from the rest of the aircraft. Here are some cabin shots:

The older pod style First Class seats

It's an older style of first class but it's still comfortable and theres loads of space

The view from 2A

Yes - a projector and a screen! So retro
I was handed a menu and offered a choice of drinks, obviously I ordered the champagne, and the cork was popped on my first bottle of Dom Perignon 2004 for the flight. Lovely....

The fairly senior female crew member serving me seemed very relaxed and friendly. I could tell she was going to provide a good service on board. She offered to take my photo with my phone so I could show off on facebook and instagram, which I did of course.  It's always nice to show off when flying First Class right? Well maybe not, some people might get a bit jealous.

I was pleased to see the Rimowa hard case amenity kit was already provided next to the seat. Today's colour was dark brown. I was also offered a pair of pyjamas in a powder blue colour. I would make use of those later on when I needed a nap.

Soon enough boarding was complete, just 5 First Class passengers today out of 10 seats. At 2 minutes past 10am, we pushed back from the gate and the 4 General Electric CF6 engines sprung to life. The takeoff was towards the north on runway 34L, and the views were great from the nose section, with so many windows available!

About to turn onto runway 34L

On climb  over western Sydney
Soon after takeoff I popped out the IFE screen which comes out of the side of the seat. By today's standards it is rather small! However at least it is on demand and there is a decent selection of movies and TV  shows. I noticed the movies were till from October even though we were well into November. Thai have still not improved on loading the new entertainment at the turn of the month, they have been slow on this for years. Thai Airways if you are reading this - make an effort to get the new entertainment loaded by the 1st of the month or thereabouts please.

Small AVOD screen
After climbing through a bit of weather the seat belt sign was turned off and the flight attendants closed the large curtain between first and business class and commenced the inflight service. To start with this morning, drinks and nuts. I continued with the Dom Perignon:


Here is the menu for today:

Wine List

Drinks

First Serving (also known as LUNCH!)

Second Serving (Light Meal)
First we have some canapes... we have beef with melon, salmon and cream cheese, and lobster:



The table was then set up, Thai have recently updated their serving ware for long haul business and first class, now featuring a silver trimmed circular plate.


After the table was set up the bread basket was offered and I took some garlic bread. The caviar service then commenced. The crew come around with a trolley and serve caviar with garniatures. Frozen vodka is also offered if you so desire:



Caviar.... it's fancy and all, but I don't understand the fascination with it. I mean, its ok but is it really that amazing that it's worth the price its sold at? I think Thai continue to offer it because they know their overall product is a little below the likes of Emirates,Cathay and Singapore Airlines, so they try to compensate by continuing with the old tradition of caviar. I'm sure there are plenty of big fans of it but I could take it or leave it.

I was relieved to see a starter that did not feature salmon today, I am so sick of salmon on Thai flights. You may have read my complaints on salmon on other reviews of Thai business class previously. This one was grilled scallops with duck liver terrine. Both of which I like so I was happy:


Despite the fact that I enjoyed this starter, I do think Thai need to offer a choice of at least 2 options. Not everybody likes seafood, or duck liver terrine. In first class the customer should be able to create a menu that is perfectly suited to them.  With no choice of dessert or starter Thai loses points. On Emirates, Qantas, and most other first rate carriers there is a choice of 2 to 3 starters at least.

Next on the menu was the salad course, it was pretty basic but tasty none the less:


Let's take a brief break from the food photos and see how the cabin was looking at this point in the meal:


As you can see Thai use this centre storage area as a bar. You can help yourself if you wish. The Dom Perignon is in the ice bucket closest to the camera. Passenger in 2K has chosen to close his blinds already, but for me I like to watch the passing changing landscape as we head into the 'red centre' of Australia.

Now we have the main course, and to be honest, presentation was pretty poor. This is the Chicken  Piccata dish, served with pasta and some vegetables. This dish was not particularly tasty, the chicken and pasta were both dry. A bit of a let down unfortunately:


With the main course proving disappointing, it was on to the fruit and cheese trolley. Have a look at the trolley (and consider this is for just 5 of us):


I was already getting a little full, but I chose some watermelon, strawberries, cheddar cheese, fruit cheese and some crackers.  The cheese is cut to order by the crew on the trolley and plated beside your seat according to your specifications, which is rather nice:


Yes, there is still more food to come. There is no way you will go hungry on Thai. The dessert was a chocolate mousse cake and I ordered a peppermint tea to go along with it. A nice hot towel was also provided to freshen up (probably the 4th hot towel on the flight so far). 


The chocolate mousse cake was ok, not too fancy and probably pretty cheap really.  But it was fine. I don't think I managed to finish it, as I was simply too full. Considering I had been up all night working and had no sleep I was extremely tired at this point. I asked the crew to set up my bed and then I went and got into my pyjamas for a 4 hour nap. A mattress is placed on the seat to smooth it out, and it's quite comfortable really, the only drawback being the lack of privacy when compared to the more modern 'suite' concept in first class.

It's time for bed (note the power outlet location)
I dozed off pretty quickly and woke up with about 2.5 hours to go before arrival in Bangkok. I watched some TV shows on the entertainment system for a while and decided to go for a walk around the aircraft. It seems the flight was not that full, so there was a fair bit of space for the economy passengers to spread out up  the back.

When I got back  it was time for the second meal and my table was prepared once again. The first course was a Sichuan Soup:


Typical cloud buildups in south east Asia
I had the dumplings for my main course, just 4 of them on a plate. Taste was ok, perhaps a bit dry. I suppose they can't steam them properly on a plane.


And finally, the Chocolate Tart to finish. That was pretty nice, but basic and probably no different to what was being served in business class. At least the Dom Perignon was still free flowing. I was the only one drinking it.


More cloud shots
With the food done I decided to take a photo of seat 2E, this gives an idea of the seat in upright mode:

Thai Royal First Seat 2E - Boeing 747-400 (10F configuration)
Here we have seat 1K which was vacant on this sector. It's a good seat although a little close to seat 1A. For couples flying in this cabin 1A and 1K is recommended.

Seat 1K
Seat 1A - from this angle the seat pitch looks short - it isnt though, just the camera playing tricks
Here is 2A - my seat after 8 hours flying

Helping myself to a top up of the Dom

Well that pretty much was the end of the flight, only a short time before descent commenced into Bangkok. I did spend about 10 minutes in the side galley chatting with the crew who were all very friendly. We took a few photos together and talked about the Jumbo Jet. The flight attendants seem to love it, in fact the one I spoke to said she only ever works on Boeing 747 flights, has never been near an A380. Quite interesting.


On descent into Bangkok

Approaching a grey and stormy Bangkok
We touched down on a very wet runway 01R. A shower must have passed just prior to our landing. From this runway it was a very short taxi to gate C10, the most distant gate you could get from immigration. Fortunately a perk of First Class is being driven from the gate to either the lounge or immigration on a buggy.


Turning into gate C10
As I disembarked several Thai ground staff were waiting with signboards, my name was on one of them. Within a minute myself and 2 fellow passengers were being whisked through the terminal and personally escorted through immigration:

Buggy Ride
The gate agent took us to the VIP fast lanes for immigration and even managed to get us ahead of the people waiting in that queue! Nice service indeed. As I did not need to pick up my bags I bid farewell to the agent and headed into Bangkok to waste some time during the 8 hour transit.

Overall one of the best flights I've been on with Thai. The cabin crew really stood out on this sector, very warm and friendly at all times. And I did not feel rushed with my meal service, which has been a problem for me on previous sectors.

Next up in part 3 is the red eye first class sector to Tokyo Haneda, stay tuned!







5 comments:

  1. Another great write up. Keep them coming

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  2. Very well articulated and informative blog. An entertaining read!

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  3. Loved your trip report. I'll be taking this same trip in November. Thank you so much for the information.

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  4. Thank you very much for useful and interesting information. I will travel on the same flight/class next month :-)

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  5. Thank you for sharing your Thai Airways First Class experience. I am eagerly looking forward to TG476 in September then onto Rome via Munich. I would love to be on the newer configured version however I found your critique reassuring.

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