Thai Airways International TG 621
Manila – Bangkok (June 8)
A330-300 HS TEJ
Capt. H. Ghorakoan, F/O T.M. Orawanich
Scheduled Dep. Time: 14:40
Actual Dep. Time: 14:38
Scheduled Arr. Time: 16:45
Actual Arr. Time: 16:32
I arrived at the airport at about 13:00 to check in for the 14:40 flight thinking the flight wasn’t going to be that full. Checked the arrival screens to see that the incoming TG flight from Osaka had arrived about 20 minutes early and since that aircraft would continue to BKK, we could expect an early boarding time and possibly an early departure. I passed through the anti-SARS center at the entrance of the airport which basically looked like walking through a metal detector but stopping for a second and looking up rather than just walking through. Put my check in bags into the x-ray machine and it was off to the TG check in counters. It was a sad sight to see the Singapore Airlines check in counters totally deserted with just about two people being checked in for the 14:30 departure. When I got to the TG counters I was very surprised to see a very long line! There were 7 counters in operation; 2 for Royal Orchid Class passengers, 2 for Econ Class passengers, and 1 for AUH bound passengers, and 2 for DXB bound passengers (transit in BKK I presume). I found this layout rather ludicrous and didn’t see any sense in it. After about 30 minutes I finally got to one of the counters and was checked in by a pleasant but hassled lady wearing the Miascor (TG’s ground handling agent in MNL) uniform with a TG pin on her scarf. My baggage was checked in all the way to Kathmandu but I’d have to get my boarding pass in BKK the next day. I was assigned seat 49A and was given a pass to the Royal Orchid Lounge because of my Star Alliance Gold Card. I paid the $11 airport tax and cleared immigration without hassle and proceeded on to the lounge as duty free is pretty dismal in Manila and there are no views from the terminal building. When I got to the lounge I saw a very small and cramped space with every seat taken and luggage all over the place. The lady at the reception was apologetic for the lack of space and since I wasn’t actually flying in Biz that day I opted out and just headed straight to the gate. I usually take TG’s night flight out of MNL and they use the Miascor Lounge for that flight and it must be said that that lounge is much better than TG’s. At 14:00 I cleared security again at gate 10 when my A330 was being loaded with catering. At gate 11 was a JAL B747-400 bound for Tokyo Narita and at gate 12 was a JAL MD-11 bound for Nagoya. A KE B777-300 had just taken off for Seoul and an Asiana B767-300 was in its final boarding process at gate 15. An SQ B777-300 was sitting at gate 6 awaiting its final passengers. At gate 1 there was a delayed Continental Micronesia B737-800 flight to Guam and at gate 2 there was a Saudi Arabian Airlines B747-400. Boarding commenced at 14:10 with families with babies, elderly and disabled people boarding first. I hate this new system they have in place where Premium pax and Star Alliance Gold passengers “may board at their own convenience!” Since the Biz class pax had not been called from the lounge, I boarded when my row was called. Just as we boarded the gate agent thanked all pax for “making Thai Airways International a part of your journey”. I walked down the jet way and entered through door 2L. A smiling FA welcomed me with the usual Sawasdee and I headed on over to my seat. On the way I passed another FA who was smiling and giving Sawasdees as well. Got to my seat and plopped myself down at 49A. Looked out the window and saw the Saudi B747 that had burst it’s tired on landing couple days back. The flight time on the screens showed 4:35 minutes which felt gravely wrong. It was later changed to 2:50 minutes…that’s more like it. Looked around the cabin and found HS TEJ to be in immaculate condition with the bright pink/purple interior blending well with the afternoon sun penetrating through the windows. Pax kept flowing in and I finally discovered that the flight was absolutely full in all classes. One very nonchalant FA breezed through the cabin handing out headphones just merely uttering the words “you want?” at every row. An FA then welcomed us aboard over the PA and the combination of a barely audible PA system and a very heavily accented announcer made for strained hearing. The plane was pushed back 2 minutes ahead of schedule and we made our way slowly to the runway. TG’s safety video was shown and was still showing as the aircraft trembled down the runway lifting off into the sky. The seatbelt sign was switched off about 15 minutes after take off. I saw the incoming TG flight from BKK passing over us. Within 30 minutes the cabin crew were in full action with the drink carts. Asked for an OJ was promptly given followed by a selection of Japanese assorted nuts. The Japanese FA serving my aisle was very nice and had a very ready smile on. She was quite pretty as well, this in stark contrast to her heavily made up gelled short hair Thai counterpart who didn’t even wince a smile throughout the flight. After the drinks service was completed a rather pleasant Thai FA came around handing out pre-packaged towelletes. A group of passengers asked for masks but the crew could only offer three masks. The meal service started and as the cart rolled up to my side there was an A4 laminated piece of paper that was being thrown around and somehow ended with me. It was the menu. Choice of pork or shrimp for the flight, both meals were pictured and both were didn’t look too appetizing. Looking back at TG’s track record with seafood, I opted for the Shrimp. It was handed over to me with a smile. On a side note, I feel it’s very unprofessional for the crew to be fighting over who gets the menu; there was only one menu and each time the FA had to wait for the FA opposite her to give the menu to her before she could continue her service. Couldn’t they either a) just get two of those menus or b) get rid of them all together; they are an eyesore and looked like it came straight out of a cheap restaurant. The shrimp was mediocre at best and the melon like flan dessert left much to be desired. The bread was warm and good but the salad was almost frozen. One of my worst meals on TG no doubt…very bad for Thai’s high catering standards. Rounds of wine and coffee/tea were offered throughout the meal service while the utterly boring and predictable “Evelyn” was aired on the main screen and drop down TV monitors. I had a very strained view of the monitors from my seat so I didn’t bother after a while. I tried to listen to some of the audio entertainment on offer but that too was dismal. This is one area where TG must really catch up to its regional competitors who are way ahead of TG. The likes of Cathay Pacific, Singapore or Malaysian Airlines come to mind. The meal service had to be suspended numerous times due to turbulent weather…it wasn’t so bad…a few drops here and there. I don’t know if this is a new policy with Thai, but every time the seat belt sign goes on service is suspended…even if the bumps are very minor. On previous flights with TG and other carriers, the crew don’t take their seats unless told so by the flight deck which in most cases is in pretty bad turbulence. So because of this, service had to be suspended 4 times. The trays were collected as we over flew Vietnam. Something interesting to note is that whenever the crew collected used trays or glasses, they had gloves on, probably as an anti-SARS measure as I never noticed this before. Immigration forms were handed out as well as customs declaration forms. Once ‘Evelyn” finished they aired the arrival video for Don Muang Intl. We commenced our descent at about 16:15 and over flew much of the Thai countryside before making a smooth as silk touchdown at 16:32. Taxied past the famous golf course in between the runways and taxied away from the terminal. Damn it…that meant we were assigned a remote bay. And remote it was. Taxied past all these Thai aircraft and parked at the last parking stand right at the corner of the airport right next to Thai A300 HS-TAA which I had flown my last Thai flight with. The moment we stopped the captain, who incidentally did not speak a word on this flight (which I thought was unprofessional), turned off the engines and cut power to the cabin completely which I found a bit odd. The air-conditioning went off along with the lights. All the emergency aisle, seat and exit lights came on. Exited through door 2L and was greeted by typical Bangkok humidity. Walked down the staircase and waited for a bus to come. An old, dilapidated bus came and picked us up. A long ride to the terminal ensued. Passed by MD-11 HS-TMD, an Orient Thai L-101 and B747-200, scores and scores of Thai B737-400s, A300s and B777s. Saw a Qantas B747-400 parked side by side with a British Airways B747-400, also saw an Indian Airlines A320, Vietnam Airlines A320, Cathay Pacific B777-300, Eva Air B747-400, Air India B747-300 Combi, PB Air F-28, Phuket Air B737-200s and a Gulf Air A340. Got to the terminal and cleared immigrations within 20 minutes got my one piece of luggage checked to Bangkok as it was first on the belt thanks to the Priority tags and headed off to the Marriott for my overnight transit stay. I noticed the complete lack of any SARS screening what so ever though which I was not expecting. Overall the flight was mediocre; food was below par but the crew was good with the exception of that one FA, and punctuality was not a problem as usual. TG can do much better though.
Trip report for TG 319 to KTM coming soon.