Tag Archives: trip reports

Orchid, Elephant, Turtle: Thai Airways Business Class USM-BKK-SIN

Orchid, Elephant, Turtle:
Touring the Thai Conrads

Thai Airways Business Class SIN-BKK (A350)
Conrad Bangkok (Executive Corner)
Thai Airways Business Class BKK-USM
Conrad Koh Samui (Oceanview Pool Villa)
Thai Airways Business Class USM-BKK-SIN


So it was when flying back from Ko Samui to Singapore that I started regretting doing the entire journey on Thai Airways – since Ko Samui is located pretty much halfway between Bangkok and Singapore, having to transit at Bangkok effectively quadrupled the travel time required.

Still, an interesting experience, even if one I’m unlikely to repeat in the future, and I’ve captured some highlights below.

Samui Airport

Being rather used to flying through air-conditioned city airports, Samui Airport was a bit of an eye-opener for me. There’s something quaint and charming about an airport that decides to place aquariums in the toilet to entertain you while you… go.

Most of the airport was very much open, with not an air-conditioner in sight. There’s something about walking within the airport towards your departure gate without a roof over your head.

I’d hate to be there when it’s raining, though.

When you finally get to the gate, there are some trams to bring you to the plane. Since we had some time to kill, we decided to check out the lounge first.

Blue Ribbon Club (Bangkok Airways Lounge) USM

The Thai Airways business ticket granted me access to the Blue Ribbon Club, which appeared to be the only lounge(s) in the airport (according to an old FlyerTalk thread, there’re an international and domestic one, and I’d visited the rather lacklustre international lounge).

It’s essentially just a small room with a rather limited range of items you can order off the menu.

There’s also a bunch of snacks – nothing particularly appealing, really.

I did enjoy being able to get a whole coconut while in the lounge.

All in all, a rather skippable experience. Think I’d rather have spent more time walking around the airport!

USM-BKK (Boeing 737)

The flight back to Bangkok was on the same Boeing 737 hardware that I took from BKK.

Again, no in-flight menu was provided for the domestic trip, though the meal looked rather less offensive/bewildering to non-Asians.

Royal Silk Lounge BKK

Unfortunately, due to lack of foresight, the 1h transit time in BKK did not really offer much time in the lounge, other than to snap some quick pictures before running off to the departure gate.

All in all, it seemed like a rather serviceable place. Wish I’d had more time to stay there!

BKK-SIN (Boeing 777)

The flight back was on a Boeing 777. Though not the swanky A350, as an international (albeit short-haul) flight the hardware was pretty decent, with a good amount of legroom.

There were in-flight menus again! After the regional flights I was getting used to life without them. I ordered the green curry with fishballs – it was tasty enough, though nothing fantastic.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, while I enjoyed the A350 experience, the bulk of Thai’s hardware for short-haul flights fails to impress. Unless you’re flying long-haul on newer hardware, I’d suggest saving your miles/money for better usage!


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: MAS B737 Business Class SIN-KUL

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


It’s hard to imagine that up until 2008 the SIN-KUL route was effectively a duopoly, with MAS and SQ operating more than 85% of the 200 flights a week (the rest were provided by a hodgepodge of airlines exercising fifth freedom rights like Air India and JAL). Round trip fares were upwards of S$300.

Then Tony Fernandes and Air Asia lobbied hard to get the route liberalized to competition, and in Feb 2008, AK123 carried just over 200 passengers about 50 minutes from KL to Singapore. Tony Fernandes himself attended the media scrum wearing a red T-shirt with “Finally!” emblazoned on it. And why not? It had been a long time, too long, in the making. The original agreement which granted virtual exclusivity on the SIN-KUL route to SQ/MAS has been preserved since 1974.

Fast forward 9 years, and you can get a round trip ticket on Tigerair from SIN-KUL for as low as S$64. Nope, that’s not a typo.

The SIN-KUL route now carries 2.7 million passengers, most of them on budget flights. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that once upon a long time ago, SQ and MAS actually operated First Class on the SIN-KUL route. I wonder what the meal service on that would have looked like…

These days, the highest class of service available on the SIN-KUL route is business class, which I was booked on with MAS today. The inbound aircraft was delayed about 40 minutes, resulting in a similar delay in departure from Singapore.

Priority boarding was announced for oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, MAS elite frequent flyers and business class passengers. In reality everyone just sort of streamed forth in a human scrum, frustrated with the delay

I boarded the aircraft and saw that I was flying on one of MAS’s new 737s. These have IFE and in seat power, along with cabin mood lighting and Boeing’s next generation interior. My colleague, who was on the later 9.15pm flight, got an old 737 which had none of these.

The four rows of seats in business class are plenty wide and are similar to domestic first class in the USA.

Each seat had a pillow and paper thin blanket.  Legroom was more than adequate.

I again lucked out in that the seat next to me was empty.

There was an IFE controller in each armrest, although the IFE screen was also touch sensitive.

Seat controls were basic, and manual. You could move the seat back up and down, or you could move the legrest up and down. Both required upper body strength, something I do not excel in.

As mentioned, each seat had a USB charging outlet and an EMpower plug.

The entertainment selection actually isn’t half bad. There were some first run movies with a solid back catalog. In any case, the flight time from Singapore to KL doesn’t even let you finish watching one movie.

There is one forward loo shared by all the business class passengers. It was kept clean and tidy throughout the (admittedly short) flight.

Shortly after takeoff, the drinks cart came around, but in addition to that they also offered a choice of meals. I was amazed that they served any refreshments on this flight, much less hot refreshments, much less something that could approximate a meal service on other airlines.

The chicken with rice dish that I had really wasn’t very appetizing (as you’ll see in the KUL-NRT leg, catering isn’t something that MAS excels at), but I was just marveling at how they managed to do a meal service in such a short time.

True enough, no sooner had I taken 4 bites of the meal than the captain came on the PA and announced the commencement of descent into KLIA.

I was now in MAS’s backyard, and quite eager to see what their flagship lounge would be like. That turned out to be, as you’ll see, somewhat of a disappointment.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
The Casablanca Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Westin Doha
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Dragon Lounge Bangalore
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class BLR-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


Just typing out the contents page for this trip report made me realise how momentous the next 40 or so days are going to be. Over this period, I’ll be flying 31,767 miles on 21 different flights and writing reports on 16 different hotels and 10 different airlines. The contents page got so long I had to group a few trip reports I feel might be repetitive (eg 3 domestic flights I’ll be taking in the States) or nothing to shout about (eg my intra-Europe J experiences with British Airways and Iberia).  And yet the contents page alone still takes up more than one screen.  This is gonna be fun.

Reviewing the routing

Due to various reasons and routing decisions that shaved more costs off the total trip price, the route map has changed a bit since I first wrote about the trip a few weeks ago. The flight plan currently looks like this

Planning a RTW trip is never easy because of the sheer number of moving parts, but I’m quite proud that I managed to keep everything within budget while actually decreasing the total cost compared to last year’s trip.

For example, I figured out that Qatar Airways was charging ridiculously high fares if your final destination was Doha. See in the example below- to get from Dar Es Salaam to Doha would cost US$2.6K. (in case you’re wondering why I had to buy this ticket separately when Qatar is part of Oneworld, it’s because I ran out of segments on my RTW ticket)

But when I put Dubai as my final destination (with a stopover in Doha), that price dropped to US$811!

I was thinking about just throwing away the DOH-DXB leg, but then realised that my flight from DOH-DXB was booked in first class. Apparently,  Qatar calls business class on its intra-Middle East flights first class. And although the hard product onboard is still the regular business class product, you get to access the Qatar Airways First Class lounge in Doha!

Image result for qatar airways first class lounge

Image result for qatar airways first class lounge

So all I had was to buy a budget flight back from Dubai to Doha to continue my RTW ticket, and I’d still be coming out at ~US$1.7K less, while getting to review what should be a very great first class lounge. Plus, I’d rather spend my weekend in Dubai than Doha anyway. It’s finding out little money-saving-yet-experience-enhancing tricks like that which make travel hacking such a joy.

What’s different from last year?

Obviously, the biggest difference from last year’s RTW trip is that I’ll be doing OneWorld this year, giving me a chance to write about some new airline products.

The destinations are different too. I’ll also be spending about a week in Africa, in Ghana and Tanzania to be precise. I’ve technically been to Africa before (Morocco + South Africa) but given how diverse the region is, I think it’s safe to say my experiences in Ghana and Tanzania are going to be totally different.

In terms of hotels, I’m pretty much sticking to Starwood wherever we have good corporate rates with them, but I’m throwing in several Marriott brands as well, most noticeably the Courtyard madrid Princesa in Spain (as the Westin Palace is pricing out at a ridiculous 400 Euros a night)

Image result for courtyard marriott madrid

Image result for courtyard marriott madrid

and the Ritz Carlton Bengalore (where we have an amazing US$120 corporate rate)

Image result for ritz carlton bangalore

Image result for ritz carlton bangalore

The reason I’m ok with non-Starwood stays is I’ve already planned my route to 50 Starwood nights this year. I know that some time in 2018 the SPG and Marriott Rewards program will be merged into one, and I’m assuming they’ll combine both my SPG lifetime nights and my Marriott Rewards lifetime nights into 1 when counting my qualification towards lifetime status in the new program.

As a side note, I will hit SPG Lifetime Gold on this trip, as soon as I hit the 25 night mark (on 20 so far). I don’t think you get a fancy membership kit for Gold like you do with Platinum, but it’s still nice to know at the age of 29 that I don’t need to worry about requalifying for elite status the rest of my life. At least, assuming the combination of SPG and Marriott Rewards doesn’t mess all that up…

So that’s the game plan! I realise that the credit card world continues to churn (heh heh) with or without me, so I’ll be doing my utmost to keep the site up to date with the news in Singapore even when I’m on the road. I’m sure my trusty guestwriters will chip in too (ahem). Come on guys, stock options in it for you.

Happy trails!