I have had the great privilege of trying Thai Airways first class a couple of times and it is no doubt that if you fly a lot, this is a real treat! It all depends on which routing you fly, which plane you get, which crew you have etc but this review is based on experience on first class on an older Boeing 747 and a newer Boeing 777-300ER (leased from Jet Airways). First of all – if you check in at Suvanabhumi airport in Bangkok when flying Thai Airways first class, life could not be any simpler. You just go to the Royal First class check in and they will take your suitcases, your passport and then seat you in HUGE chairs and while you are enjoying a cold drink and a cold cloth, they will check you in and make sure that you get your boarding pass. After this you get guided through airport priority security check and a separate immigration control and once you are through it leads you straight to the Royal Orchid lounge. But for first class passengers it is not enough with a business lounge – you get picked up by a small “car” and driven through the business lounge and into the first class lounge next door. As a relative young and healthy person I could easily have walked this but I guess this is a part of the special treatment
The First class lounge has been voted the best first class lounge in the world but I’m sorry Thai Airways…I have to object and say that this is not correct. The best first class lounge is in Frankfurt (Lufthansa First Class Terminal) but that is a different story that you can read about here (XXX). But the first class lounge in Bangkok is great –you have lots of good chairs, separate rooms if you are traveling in a group, lots of good free drinks (but only Moet and Chandon champagne) and a good selection of food. You can also take showers, get a PC to get online, the wifi is free etc. But there is also a Royal Orchid Spa where you can get a massage complimentary! There is no better way of starting a long flight than having 1 hour full body massage!
When traveling in June 2012 there was a bit of fuzz as we were supposed to travel through London but when we checked in we got another routing via Frankfurt. Luckily the two flights had take-off at approximately the same time and the advantage was that we got a Boeing 777 leased from Jet Airways instead of an old Boeing 747. Due to this we got a first class with separate compartments like you can find on Emirates first class and Singapore first class. There are only 8 first class seats on the 777 (in a 1+2+1 configuration) and we got first class treatment the moment we got in there. The headset was already in the seat together with the duvet, menus etc. It didn’t take long before we got offered some drinks to start with and it is hard to say no when they ask you if you want a glass of Dom Perignon champagne
I was seated in 2A and I got a HUGE seat by the window. It resembles the seat that you find on Swiss airlines first class where you have a big seat and an ottoman in front and when reclining you form one bed. The difference between Swiss and this Thai flight was that the Thai flight included a small compartment where you can close the door to get more privacy around your seat. Like on Swiss the table is HUGE and it is so large that you can actually invite a guest to come and sit with you so that you can dine together and face each other while you are eating –how great is that? The remote on the Boeing 777 were a bit confusing as there is one large remote just to cover the seat adjustments and then there is one regular remote to control the multimedia. The Thai AVOD system is quite good and it was displayed on a large 17” (or is it 20”?) screen so seeing movies etc was not a problem.
It was a bit scary to look behind the seat of the first class seat btw – there was lots of trash there so I’m not sure there are routines in place to handle this – it could have needed a round of vacuuming! The toiletry bag that we got was OK and the TUMI bag included stuff that you normally need: lip balm, mouth freshener, brush, tooth brush etc. When the service started we started getting hot and wet cloths and I can honestly say that I have never gotten that many in my life before! We got these lovely warm and scented clothes both before and after meals!
When the table was set for two it was beautiful with the Thai logo stamped into the butter and fresh bread served. We got real caviar to start with (with garniture), followed but a salmon dish and topped up with a slow cooked beef cheek. One of the pieces of the beef cheeks was quite tough but the rest of the pieces were delicious. We also got an ENORMOUS cheese platter – me and my friend could have easily have shared this and not been able to eat it all but instead we got two large portions of cheese each! The dessert was a bit of a disappointment – I got a small chocolate cream and a pretty dry “muffin” with custard and berries on top.
The great thing about having a small compartment is that it is easy to get some privacy to be able to slip into the pajama that was handed out. The seat with the huge table in front is also perfect for pulling out the PC and working a bit. The only problem in my seat was that someone had stuck something into the power socket so I wasn’t able to get power to my PC and they didn’t have a plug adapter either. The table was a bit hard to move back and forth – so hard in fact that my friend and I had to really put our muscles into moving it. In the process of moving the table I managed to get my finger sliced but the flight attendant was there to patch me up.
The flight time from Bangkok to Frankfurt is about 10-11 hours so there was time for another food serving before landing. This time I started with breasola served with a mix of mozzarella and tomato and it was delicious. After this we got a tom kha gai (a typical Thai chicken soup which is creamy, a bit spicy and a bit sour) and the main dish was a chicken breast served with garlic mashed potatoes. Having chicken breast on flights is normally not a good idea as it normally becomes quite dry but this chicken was actually quite good. Once again the dessert was nothing special and I was a bit disappointed by that. But you can enjoy some very good cognac if you are into that – they served Otard Extra 1795.
The service onboard was great and we were mainly served by two flight attendants and towards the end of the flight they came to say goodbye with a traditional wai. I tried to talk a bit with the one flight attendant to hear what her work schedule was like etc. but she seemed to be very professional and didn’t seem to be interested in getting into personal details which is fine.
All in all this was a great experience. The spa treatment at Bangkok airport is great before going on a long flight and the small suites on board the flight is perfect if you want a bit of privacy for working or for sleeping. As they provide a pajama you can slip into a comfortable outfit while enjoying the great food and drinks served. Thai Airways might not have the same modern layout as you can find on Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa these days but this will change soon when they introduce the new A380 (see presentation here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6Us4r02JRk ). I had a great flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt on Royal First Class and I look forward to flying with them again. If you want to read about a previous experience on Thai Airway first class (on a Boeing 747) you can read this blog entry: http://gardkarlsen.com/blog/?p=497
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