If you haven’t flown on Thai Airways before, here’s one thing you should know about them. They switch out more airplanes on more routes than any other airline that I know. When I originally booked this trip, I was booked into first class on a Boeing 747-400. For whatever reason, this flight was downgraded to an Airbus A330 and my lie-flat first class seat was downgraded to an angled, recliner business class seat.
They are terribly inconsistent and are notorious for last minute equipment changes. So be forewarned, if you are booking a flight on Thai Airways to specifically experience a hard product such as their Airbus A380 or brand new Boeing 787, just know that it’s not guaranteed and expect your aircraft to be swapped out for something less desirable. And don’t be surprised if your first class seat gets downgraded to a business class seat either. It happens. A lot.
Flight: TG 665
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Shanghai (PVG) to Bangkok (BKK)
Depart: 5:20 PM on Wednesday (5:43 PM actual)
Arrive: 9:15 PM on Wednesday (9:28 actual)
Duration: 4hr 55mn
Seat: 16K (Business Class)
About 10 minutes prior to boarding time, I left the No. 77 VIP Lounge and made my way to the gate. The gate was not that far a walk from the lounge but I wanted to take a leisurely stroll through the terminal and check out the airport. I arrived at the gate with a few minutes to spare and took some pictures of the bird before boarding was called. Boarding was actually delayed about 20 minutes but eventually started with business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. There was one jet bridge and all passengers boarded the plane through door 2L. I presented my boarding pass to the flight attendant, turned left towards the front cabin and made my way to seat 16K on the right side of the plane.
Thai Airways uses these Airbus A330’s on their short intra-Asia, regional and medium-haul routes. These aging wide-body jets are configured with a two class cabin, business and economy. Business class is located in the forward cabin with 36 seats. There are six rows of seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 layout. On this flight, the cabin was quite full with only a few seats unoccupied. And for those of you that were paying attention, I was seated in seat 16K but it was not located in the 16th row. It was located in the fifth row as the business class cabin started with row 11 and there was no row 13.
This Airbus A330 was configured with Thai’s old business class seats. The fixed shell seats were marketed as “angled flat” but they were nowhere near anything flat. These seats were akin to really good recliner seats. With 131 degrees of recline, they were definitely better than your typical “domestic” first class seats but were not as comfortable as lie-flat seats (or even angled lie-flat for that matter).
The seats offered 20 inches of width and 58 inches of pitch. Each seat was equipped with a 15 inch, in-flight entertainment monitor, seat massage and lumbar support, foot rest, universal power outlet and a small privacy divider to separate the two passengers. There were small pockets at the seat to store your cell phone and other small electronics but all large items including backpacks and laptop bags had to be stored in the overhead bins.
Despite being an angled recliner, the seat wasn’t entirely bad. Due to its fixed shell design, I still maintained my personal space when the passenger in front of me reclined back. However, when my seat was completely reclined, the seat lacked proper support for my knees and legs. There was a gap between the bottom seat cushion and the leg support and made my legs feel like they were “dangling.” I can’t really describe it but just take my word for it. It felt awkward.
This seat was adequate for the five hour flight but I would imagine it would be uncomfortable for anything longer than that.
Seat fully reclined
Seat fully reclined
Waiting at my seat were a day blanket and pillow. As I settled into my seat, the flight attendant came by to offer me a glass of water or orange juice and a warm towel. A few minutes later, another flight attendant came by with amenity kits, menus, local and international newspapers and Thai branded headphones. The headphones were nothing special. They were standard, “over the ear,” noise reducing headphones.
I appreciated that we got amenity kits on this short flight but the kit itself was very lackluster and disappointing. The pleather Borghese branded kit was unattractive and had a “made in China” feel to it. The kit contained all the usual products including ear plugs, eye shades, socks, comb, dental kit and small bottles of Borghese branded lotion and lip balm. Definitely not a kit that I’m going to reuse (or re-gift).
Once we reached our cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were turned off, the flight attendants came by to take our meal orders and distribute a round of drinks and package of peanuts. That’s right. You read correctly, a package of peanuts. It was very much like a Southwest flight.
Dinner service started with garlic bread, side salad and a smoked turkey and crab meat appetizer, served on a tray. The garlic bread was fantastic (can you really mess up garlic bread?) but the appetizer dish was just meh.
For my main meal, I chose the swordfish with fried rice and it was not good either. The fish tasted fishy and the fried rice was dry and tasteless. I’ll let you judge from the pictures.
There was a fruit and cheese cart after the main meal and I chose some fruit followed by a black forest cake dessert.
Food wise, I was kinda disappointed with the entire meal service. The food just wasn’t good, lacked flavor and left me longing for something a bit more.
After dinner, our plates were cleared and I took some time to explore the IFE system. This was definitely an older system and the monitor was not the best quality. The 15’’ monitor was located in the seatback in front of you and there was a decent selection of on-demand movies, TV shows, music and a moving map. Annoyingly, there were also commercials played before takeoff and before every movie.
Service wise, the flight attendants were great. They all spoke English fluently and everything was said with a smile. Even on this short flight, they walked the cabin frequently and made sure we were taken care of. My drink was refilled several times and I didn’t need to ask for anything. Sure they weren’t as polished as the other Asian carriers but they handled their business and were friendly.
About 30 minutes prior to landing, the flight attendants came by to pick up their headphones. I always bring my headphones so it didn’t affect me but I could tell some people were annoyed that they couldn’t finish their movie or show.
Once we landed in Bangkok, we taxied to a remote stand where the passengers were transported to the terminal by bus. Because I was connecting to a Thai Airways first class flight (Bangkok to Paris), there was an escort waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. I received a private van transfer to the terminal and a buggy ride through the airport to the Royal First Lounge. Yeah yeah, I know. This was no Lufthansa Mercedes transfer but it sure beat riding in a bus with everyone else.
Overall, this wasn’t my best experience on a Thai Airways flight. The old business class seats (still found on a majority of their planes) were not my favorite and I found them to be on the uncomfortable side. They didn’t provide enough support or privacy and would be uncomfortable on any flight longer than a few hours. The food was an overall disappointment and the amenity kit was lackluster as well.
The positives included the attentive flight attendant and the in-flight entertainment system with a decent selection of entertainment.
However, whatever Thai Airways lacked in the air, they definitely made up for it on the ground. Transferring for first class passengers (in Bangkok) was fantastic and I enjoyed every bit of it. It was great having a personal escort the entire way from the moment I walked off the plane. I didn’t have to think about anything or figure out where I needed to go. She escorted me to the terminal, through security and to the lounge. It was fantastic and I’m actually surprise the other 5-star carriers such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines don’t cater to their premium passengers as much as Thai does.
Combine that with the personal attention and service of the Royal First Lounge and Spa and I quickly forgot about my sub-par flight. After a great meal in the lounge and a massage in the spa, I was well-rested, re-energized and ready to take on my next flight. The Thai Airways ground experience was amazing and I highly recommend everyone experience it at least once. For all the things that they got wrong in the air, their ground services was definitely something they got right.
Other trip reports in this series:
- The new Star Alliance Lounge at LAX
- The new Korean Airlines Skyteam Lounge at LAX
- Turkish Airlines business class from Los Angeles to Istanbul
- Hilton Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge at Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines business class from Istanbul to Frankfurt
- Lufthansa Senator Lounges at Frankfurt
- Asiana Airlines first class from Frankfurt to Seoul
- Asiana Airlines first class lounge at Seoul
- Asiana Airlines business class from Seoul to Shanghai
- Westin Bund Center Shanghai
- VIP lounges at Shanghai Pudung International Airport
- Thai Airways business class from Shanghai to Bangkok
- Thai Airways Royal First Spa and Lounge
- Thai Airways first class from Bangkok to Paris
- Star Alliance Lounge at CDG
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at CDG
- Air Canada business class (Executive First) from Paris to Montreal
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at Montreal
- Air Canada business class (Executive First) from Montreal to Los Angeles.