Flight 1 – 08 April 2003 – Air New Zealand
NZ508 CHC 08.55-10.15 AKL 762 (ZK-NBA)
I generally receive excellent service from NZ’s ground crew, but today was a disappointment. At CHC’s domestic check in, where I arrived at 8am, there were 3 counters open in front of me, plus the dedicated counter for Koru Club passengers. Each check-in agent was busy with passengers, so I take my place in line – first as a matter of fact. As I am waiting there, the signs above each of the three counters change from (CHECK IN) to STAFF TRAINING. That’s ok, but from that moment I wonder whether I was invisible. No attention whatsoever from the crew behind the counters, they just took off and disappeared. The Koru Club counter over to the left waved over passengers behind me, and checked them in quite happily.
Maybe I didn’t look like I was travelling anywhere, but with a suitcase and an Air New Zealand ticket folder in my hands, that thought was quickly dismissed.
Finally, I make eye contact with the check in agent at the Koru counter, who waves me over. "Where are you going to today," she asks. "Bangkok," I respond as I put my suitcase on the scales and hand her the ticket. After the usual "Have you packed your own bags etc."-spiel, she asks me three times where I want my bags checked in to. "Bangkok, please," I reply every time, as she flicks through my passport. "So, do you want your baggage checked through to Bangkok?" "Yes," I re-confirmed for the fourth time.
"I see you have requested a window seat – let me see what I can do."
*Sound of boarding passes being printed*
"Here you go, boarding at 08.40 from gate 18 – have a nice flight," she smiles and hands me two boarding passes, with my AKL-BKK flight coupon stapled to the second one. I haven’t had one of those since I checked in for AKL-LHR in Dunedin!
I look at the monitors, gate 18 *check* flight 508 *check* - FINAL CALL – Oh Sh*t gotta run!! Made a beeline for security, and headed straight upstairs. There was a residual line of 5 (or so) passengers, and as I boarded, I realised that I had been given seat 40H. Oh well, you can’t have everything. Pushback was on time, and a short taxi later we departed from RWY 20. The flight seemed full, so I had a read in the inflight magazine, and looked forward to having a proper breakfast in AKL.
On board, the cabin crew were smiling and cheerful. Completely opposite to the weird experience at check in, which was a bit of a mood killer, especially at that time of the morning. The usual Express service with water, tea or coffee was offered, along with a little bikkie. I agree that there is no need for big meals on short flights, but on that occasion I actually wished that there had been one. I had hoped to have breakfast at the café upstairs at CHC, but no.
A smooth approach to AKL’s RWY 23L, and we parked at stand 30. Disembarked, and decided to walk along the blue line over to the international terminal. Aircraft worth noticing was NZ’s 767-300 (ZK-NCG) wearing the Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers promotional livery, parked at stand 4, I believe.
The check-in area for TG992 at AKL was rather empty at this time, which was fair enough considering the flight left at 13.45. I headed over to the counter with my biggest smile and asked for a window seat (as I had been issued with a middle seat in CHC). Not a problem at all, 30 seconds later I walked away with a new boarding pass for seat 35K. Off for breakfast!
Hang on, why not pay the departure tax and get some Thai baht – no line at the Bank of New Zealand. Then, as the teller hands me my boarding pass back (with that AIAL sticker on the back) and counts my USD and Thai baht, my cell phone rings. So there I stand, with boarding pass, ticket stubs, passport, money, you name it, in one hand, and my little Nokia in the other – trying to negotiate the time for a job interview with Hawke’s Bay District Health Board! Ok, I finally convince her that I actually am on my way to Thailand for a holiday, a time is made for Thursday 1 May. That’s a totally different story thought, and I am seriously digressing.
Flight 2 - 08 April 2003 – Thai Airways International
TG992 AKL 13.45-22.55 BKK 743 (HS-TGE)
Seat 35K and 44C
I headed through customs and security early, as AKL landside really doesn’t have too much to offer in terms of time killing factor. Some batteries for my discman and some more food was on the agenda, as well as some coin-spending internet surfing during the wait.
A lady approached me in the paper reading area, asked me where I was going. Bangkok was too far for her, and I would be to no help. Then I get paged, and asked to approach the counter at gate 2 with my boarding pass and passport. I don’t have any status, so it couldn’t be an upgrade at all – Thai seems quite strict on that. I was right – they just wanted my flight coupon before the main boarding started. Fair enough.
My first flight on Thai and my first on a 747-300. A beautifully dressed flight attendant gave me a wai as I boarded. She was also wearing a mask, which I can understand in these SARS times, though this was before the news came out that SARS is not transmitted through inhalation. From what I have read, a mask is totally unnecessary for a passenger between AKL and BKK, but read the WHO website yourself and make up your own mind.
Pushback and taxi whilst the safety demonstration video was screening, in Thai and English inter-changeably. Powerful takeoff from 23L, a left turn and climbed to 37000 feet for smooth cruising to SYD.
I soon built up a little collection of Coke cans with Thai script on them, three of them before the meal, then a fourth one as I was served my noodle concoction with some chicken and veggies. Tasty! The cake was a little on the dry side, but the wine was fine. Madonna’s movie was screening, but I obviously couldn’t care less – as I don’t remember what it was called. The two people next to me seemed to enjoy it though. They were on their way to Paris – with AKL-SYD-BKK-CDG as their routing. Phew!
I must say that Thai’s legroom seems a lot better than that of carriers such as SQ and CX – which are the only two other Asia-based carriers I’ve flown with. OK, Thai doesn’t have PTV’s, but could I care about that? No.
Approached SYD from the south-east and lined up for RWY 34L after some decent right banking. Parked at gate 51, and the lot of us going through to BKK got up and headed for security. Upstairs at the gate, my mate Grant was waiting for me. He had this stop in SYD and the upcoming in BKK as a part of his journey to the UK to work for four years. A kind of goodbye/good luck holiday in Thailand together. Just for the hell of it.
We realised that we were NOT seated together, and approached the gate agent who "would see what he could do". The flight onwards from Sydney was full, at least in Y.
Boarding was called, but we couldn’t go through, as we had left our boarding passes with the GA. When the lounge was empty, we got up, and had been assigned 44B and C. Grant gave me the aisle seat (he must enjoy the obstacle course it is to climb over me every time he wants to move).
The video in Thai and English is quite funky, with little hints of flair such as camera angles, hi-speed and slow-motion, just to spice up an otherwise dry safety demo video. Well done, Thai! I did notice though that we taxied back on to 34L for departure.
Again, my collection of Coke cans with Thai script was impressive (before the meal), whilst Grant sampled the inflight beer. I hope it was Singha, but you can never be too sure, first beer can I’ve seen with a plane on it, and the TG logo as well. Hmmm, got my mind wandering.
A Mr Bean episode was screening. In hospital. Good value for laughs. Then, in order, Evelyn, The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers, and Catch Me If You Can.
Some more yummy Thai cuisine, although the prawns and rice that was served before landing was disappointing. Rubbery and too hot for a soft Westie.
I don’t know about your experiences, but I found that ONE drink after the main meal was a little on the short side, and I started to feel quite dehydrated. It was a good occasion to get up and head for the galley to request a drink, but why not circulate through the cabin more? Lots of drinks prior to the meal, but only one afterwards.
Oh well. Grant directed my attention to some awesome looking thunderstorms below us - we would have been somewhere over Indonesia. The spectacle from 38000 feet – yet the smoothest ride… it even distracted me from LOTR!
The credits for Catch Me If You Can were screening as we touched down on Don Muang International. RWY 03L – not too much to be seen. We had arrived just prior to the major international arrival rush as well, so immigration was deserted in terms of passengers. Baggage delivery was reasonably efficient (a 10 minute wait), and we headed for our limo (well, glorified taxi anyway) to take us into the hot Bangkok night, to the Twin Towers Hotel. (Many towers in this report, eh?)
The return trip will be posted soon. Let me know what you think of this one tho…