Introduction: The Retro-Nostalgic Peregrination
THAI Airways Royal First Class Lounge Bangkok
THAI Airways Boeing 747-400 First Class BKK-SYD
Pier One Sydney Harbour
Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800 2007 Suites SYD-SIN
As with most airline hubs, THAI Airways has their own dedicated door for premium passengers.
In BKK, business class passengers are afforded their own check-in aisle. First class passengers, on the other hand, have a private check-in area.
Before you’re allowed to enter, a staff member verifies your name against a list of passengers either flying in first or holding platinum status with Royal Orchid Plus. Once in, a check-in agent took our passports while a porter took care of our bags. We were directed towards a lounge area of sort, where a staff member brought us chilled bottled water.
While there were plenty of seating available, the décor was rather mediocre and at best looks like a stock Priority Pass lounge. Ultimately though, it’s not an area you’d expect to spend a lot of time in. We spent the short time there taking pictures of the area. The check-in agent noticed this and she recommended taking one in front of their large counter, so here we were:
She handed us our boarding passes and escorted us towards a fast-track lane strictly only for THAI’s business, first and ROP platinum passengers. This is not to be confused with the “regular” fast-track lane serving all other premium, elite and ABTC-holding passengers.
There were only two other passengers using this lane with us, so going through security and customs took a grand total of only 3 minutes. Immediately after was the escalator that led down to THAI’s flagship lounges in BKK, which you can read more about here.
Bangkok (BKK) – Sydney (SYD)
Wedneday, 4 September 2019
Arrive: 0710hrs (+1)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Once on board, the crew greeted us by name and showed us to our seats. As we were settling down, they came by with pre-departure drinks, with water, orange juice and Dom Perignon 2009 to choose from. There was only one acceptable choice, really.
While the other rest of the plane’s other passengers were boarding, I took the time to familiarise myself with my home for the next 9.5 hours. Waiting at the seat already were a blanket and two different sized pillows.
The seat itself was wide and would comfortably seat someone of size. As I was in 1A, the touchscreen panel with the seat controls was to my left. This was where I could easily adjust the legrest and my seat’s recline. The touchscreen though was more of a jab-screen, given it wasn’t as sensitive as modern-day smartphones.
To its side were noise-cancelling headphones from AKG and a Rimowa amenity kit.
THAI is one of the few airlines left offering Rimowa amenity kits – EVA first reduced offering them to only longhaul flights departing Taipei in 2018, and will eventually switch Rimowa out for Salvatore Ferragamo ones. The only other airline within Asia with Rimowa kits is ANA.
The ottoman was wide and spacious, with plenty of room for a plus one to dine comfortably with you. It also meant that when the seat is converted to bed mode, you get a proper bed with no restrictive cubby holes and limited legroom that one tends to get in business class seats.
Above the ottoman was the literature pocket and the TV, which despite lacking HD, was adequate enough to catch a few episodes of Blackish and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
The seats had no doors, unlike newer first class products, but it still felt very private. It did help that we had the entire nose of the plane to ourselves. Even with a full house though, the seats are designed such that it would still be very private for each passenger at their seat.
This was a redeye flight and once the seatbelt sign was turned off, the crew jumped into action to begin the dinner service.
THAI serves both local and international options onboard, but first class passengers have access to their ‘Chef on Call’ service. This, similar to Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook, lets you pre-order from a wider selection of main course options.
Doing so, however, isn’t as smooth. Within SQ’s booking management page, you’d be able to select your dish up to 6 months in advance. You’d also be able to make changes at a whim till 24 hours before your flight departs. THAI, on the other hand, emails you a pre-order menu 2 weeks before your flight, and requires you to email in your selected choice. Any changes will also likewise have to be made via email.
This is THAI’s pre-order menu:
And this is their inflight menu:
Despite the troublesome process in pre-booking meals, the food onboard was really enjoyable.
Prior to the caviar course, the crispy oyster mushrooms that kicked the meal off were highly addictive, as were the atas wanton – the official name for the dish is aumônière filled with grilled tiger prawn and mushroom ragout.
THAI’s first class consists of a total of 9 seats in the nose of the 747. Three seats line each aisle, with another three in the middle. One row of the middle seats are side-by-side honeymoon seats perfect for couples travelling together, with the single throne seat just in front in the next row.
I was travelling with two other friends, and with no other passengers in the cabin, we requested to have our meal in the two middle seats. It’s not very often one gets to fly first class, so we had each pre-ordered a different item to sample more of THAI’s first class menu.
I had previously scoured FlyerTalk for meal recommendations. The roasted duck in curry is a general favourite and has plenty of fans. Many are torn about the lobster thermidor, though for what it’s worth, I enjoyed it very much. The pad thai is a little on the dry side, but this was mainly because we had what was arguably one of the best pad thais in Bangkok the day before.
During our meal, the crew were very lovely, stopping by often to check on us (and keep our champagne glasses filled). Their years of experience were clear to see as they easily made us feel at home, making service personal without being too overbearing.
We enjoyed the food so much our plates were left spotless. When our lovely crew came by to offer us dessert though, we were already bursting by then, and really had to decline. They insisted we try their local desserts, so we shared a single serving. Unfortunately, as delicious as they were, we couldn’t finish those as well.
Bed & breakfast
Right before bed, we asked if we could take a tour of the aircraft. The lovely crew were happy to oblige and we got to check out a few cool features that newer, modern commercial aircraft no longer have. This included what is arguably the best galleys on a plane – large, spacious and even with plenty of windows for great views outside.
When we returned to our individual seats, we found that the crew had already made our beds. There were no individual air nozzles, but the cabin temperature was just right for sleeping – neither too cold nor hot. Having only just three people in the cabin did of course help as well.
I tend to prefer switching sides when sleeping, so the bed was perfect in the sense it was wide enough to accommodate me rolling about when asleep. The seat already felt comfortable when in bed mode, and the addition of a mattress top made sleeping for a solid 4 hours easy. I ordered some iced earl grey tea, which was promptly served, to sip on before I turned in for the night.
The next morning, I woke naturally to a beautiful sunrise about 2 hours out from Sydney. The crew, noticing I was awake, offered me something to drink. She remembered my choice of beverage from the night before and asked if I would like that again.
After the tea arrived, I had my breakfast order taken. I had opted for the soft boiled rice with accompaniments. This comprised:
- Stir-fried lobster with garlic and pepper
- Stir-fried minced pork with Chinese black olives
- Five-spiced braised duck
- Stir-fried pickled radish with eggs
- Salted egg salad with pickled Chinese cabbage
- Crispy pork sheet with flossy pork and fried peanuts
As you can tell, the portions were generous and my stomach couldn’t take such a heavy first meal of the day. I ate what I could before just sitting back to enjoy the beautiful sunset arriving into Sydney.
The crew taking care of my aisle was particularly concerned I didn’t enjoy my meal at all, but I assured her that certainly wasn’t the case. At this point, we were about 45 mins from landing, so I ordered one last iced earl grey tea and changed out of my pajamas.
THAI Airways is struggling, given its fierce competition with low-cost carriers on routes that used to be responsible for a large chunk of its revenue. The airline has been looking to reduce costs in recent years, having to cut routes to Europe and reduce services on regions like Australia. Having been around for a long time, the product also showed signs of ageing.
Despite all that, their first class product – both on the ground and in the air – remains competitive and offers one of the top experiences one can enjoy on a commercial airline. The crew belong to among the best in the industry and the catering, at least ex-BKK, is top notch. If you’d like to fly this product on the 747 though, the airline will be retiring the entire fleet by 2024, so there’s still some time left to do so.
All these coupled with getting to fly in the nose of a 747 made this the perfect start to my Aussie adventure.