Here is my promised report on my return to US flights on Thai Airway’s Royal Silk Class/Business Class from Hong Kong to Los Angeles via Bangkok. The routing is a bit off, but surprising, TG offers a very competitive roundtrip Business class fare of $14,400HKD (around $1900USD). My previous experiences with Thai leaves me bitter, so I honestly don’t carry any high expectations, even on these supposedly key routes for TG. I can’t deny the comfortable new seats and the much improved entertainment system, but the meal planning is rather poor and on these fifteen hours flights only one main meal and one light meal are scheduled, and the snack basket contains fruits. Yes instant noodles are available upon request, but unless using the call button, no one seems to want to bother you even if they see you are awake. My empty water glass from dinner remained on the tray table throughout the fifteen hours flight. I found TG service as very rushed and the super long haul flight to LAX is a bigger disappointment service and catering wise, and lots of work needs to be done with TG. Here is the full report.
September 7, 2006
TG 629 HKG-BKK 1410 1550 Airbus A330-300 HS-TEC (Classic livery)
I used the Airport Express check-in as usual, and CX is Thai Airways’ ground agents in HKG. No line guaranteed a very efficient check-in, but the agent forgot to put on Thai Airways’ own Business class tag, and only the Star Alliance orange tag, which proves to cost quite a wait for me for bags at LAX. I arrived at the airport with two hours to span and did a bit of plane spotting. Due to the rains, I did not take many photos. The Royal Orchid Lounge at HKG was actually quite nice with separate first and business class sections, and the lounge was quite busy, but everyone got a pair of seats, and the food buffet is excellent, even compared with Thai’s own lounge at Bangkok. The food buffet features assorted Chinese dim sum, pan-fried chicken steak with mushroom sauce, stir fried vegetables with spicy sauce, deep fried sweet taro balls, steamed brown rice, cream of pumpkin soup, sandwiches, a full salad bar, fruit plate, and desserts (jelly and pudding of some sort), and then there is a non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage bar.
Our plane arrived on time from Seoul Incheon, and parked at gate 42 between two Japan Airlines jet both with the new livery – JA8079, a 747-400 to NRT, and JA8976 a Boeing 767-300ER heading to Osaka. Boarding began at 1:38pm with separate business and economy class lines, and it is strictly enforced. The flight was full in J today and I took my window seat quickly, as the flight was quite full and I was boarding late. Door was closed at 2:14pm, but due to air traffic congestion, we did not push back till 2:32pm. Since all the US flights are boarding from the 40-59 pier, here is the list of CX’s a/c heading to North America when my plane passed by that section (I know I am a bit obsessive, but CX is my home airline and I am always interested. I will miss CX as I will move most of my travels to Star Alliance next year): CX 872 to SFO operated by B-HOT, CX 888 to YVR/JFK operated by B-HOY Asia’s World City livery, CX 838 to YVR operated by Airbus A340-300 B-HXN, and CX 882 to LAX B-HUD. Our aircraft slowly taxied towards R/W7R, and the line for takeoff was long: MU Airbus A340-600 B-6060, Nippon Cargo Airways’ Boeing 747-400F, HK Express’ EMB-190 B-HXD, CA’s 737 B-2905, and Dragonair’s Airbus A330 B-HWI. Then we took our turn at 2:53pm. The line continues: CX’s Boeing 777-300 B-HNQ to BKK, JL New 744 JA9079 to NRT, Airbus A330-300 B-HLL, Airbus A340-300 B-HXE, and CX 744 B-HOO, a China Southern’s mini-Airbus and Dragonair’s A320. What a busy day!
Seat belt sign was turned off at 2:58pm, and the service began with smoked salmon and beverage cart, followed by the appetizer tray with bread (garlic bread, soft rolls, and wholemeal rolls) and crackers. Then entrees were passed out and I had the beef entrée, which was okay. After entrée, cheese and fruit plate passed out – milk, cheddar, strawberry, plum, dried pineapple ring, and celery stick. Finally, dessert tray was passed out, which featured mango tart, raspberry tart, and two kinds of chocolate pralines passed out.
Marsannay Louis Latour 2000
Chateau Senilhac Cru Bourgeois Haut-Medoc 2000
Saint Aubin 1er Cru 2003
Marinated Roast Chicken Breast salad
Stir-fried beef with black bean sauce, stir-fried rice noodles, broccoli, carrot
Tilapia Fish in Curry Sauce “Chu-chee,” Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, salted egg, carrot, sugar snap pea
Assorted breads, Crackers, butter
Cheese and Fresh Fruits
Assorted Mini Tarts
TG 629 Menu E MAR/SEP
The flight attendants are mostly efficient and polite, and one particular Chinese speaking F/A is especially great and keeps on working throughout the flight. However, there is no second hot towel service after meal, like most Asian airlines. Personal entertainment system was turned on with only short subjects are shown. The main screen shows a few television shows, and then air show was shown. Descent began at 3:36pm Bangkok local time (an hour behind from Hong Kong), but then our landing time was pushed back because of air traffic congestion. Finally we landed on R/W21L at 4:30pm, and then parked at gate 22 nine minutes ago.
TG 794 BKK-LAX 1910 2040 Airbus A340-500 HS-TLB
With a three-hour connection time, I took my time around the terminal and did a few plane spotting. JL’s Boeing 767-300 new livery JA604J has just arrived from Kansai, as well as an Austrian’s A330-200 OE-LAP towing to the remote stand for an afternoon “nap” before heading back to Vienna near midnight, but it is a surprise to see an OS’ A330-200 instead of the usual Airbus A340-300. My aircraft to LAX, HS-TLB, was already parked at gate 55 and arriving from JFK. Air France’s Airbus A340-300 F-GNIG was pushing back for a short trip to Vietnam. SQ’s Boeing 777-300 9V-SRM operated as SQ 973 has just arrived from Kansai, and the twin warriors heading “Down Under” to SYD, BA 744 G-BNLJ and QF’s Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEG, preparing for its onward journey to Sydney. Gulf Air’s A340-300 A40-LE (new livery), Ethiad’s 77W (A6-ETA), and SQ 772 (9V-SQM) all arrived on time from HKG, Aba Dhabi, and Singapore respectively.
As promised, the Royal orchid lounge near gate 55 was brand new and featured a petty good space with Thai inspired but modern décor and arts. There were six slumber stations with flat sofas, and two message chairs (what is this obsession with message chairs?), as well four internet-connected computers (all are connected to a printer). Complimentary wireless access was available at this lounge. There is a full alcohol and non-alcoholic bar, but the food is not well spread like the Orchid lounge at HKG. There are basic snacks, yogurts, and some warmed pastries. Shower rooms were also available, for those desired a hot shower. I really like the bamboo furniture and the décor is modern yet retained some Thai elements. Too bad, this will be my last visit, as my next trip should see the new airport.
I arrived at the gate an hour prior to arrival because I was not sure what kind of security was set up. The gate area was pretty quiet, as we were in between traffic rush periods (the 5-6pm last bank of Asian bound flights and the famous midnight rush to Northeast Asia, Europe, Africa, and Middle East flights). Six stations were set up with two staffs at each, and some runners too. After a passport check, there is a full bag check, as well as hand search. Thankfully, there was not much a line and the staffs were very friendly. I honestly recommend folks to carry less stuff, and if you have a roller bag, please allows a bit more time and be at the gate at least forty-five minutes prior to schedule.
For our flight, the J cabin was about 80% full and Y looked like the same too. Not 100% full for sure! The aircraft, as said earlier, arrived at BKK from JFK since 4pm, but I noticed that all the cargo containers were lying on the tarmac and nothing was being loaded, and it was already 6:30pm, so I imagined the security checks were running behind and TG needed to do better in the ground planning, despite I knew something were out of the control. However, the aircraft has honestly been sitting at BKK for two and a half hours at that point. For passenger boarding, it took place at 6:40pm and priority boarding was offered and somewhat enforced. Two jetways were used and I was seated in the first section. I managed to snap two pictures of the cabin, but unfortunately, due to the really somewhat dimmed cabin, I can’t take many pictures of the seats and the cabin itself, as I don’t really want to use the flash and get unwanted attention. But if on my return flight, the arrival time is morning and hopefully, the J cabin will be less full and I will have more time to take some seat pictures. My first impression of the cabin is very nice, compared to the “ancient” business class seats that TG still uses on many of its regional and international routes. I like the use of lighting, despite they can be a bit brighter during the boarding phase, and the new seat is very nicely designed with the seat control on the one side of the seat and it is easily accessible and easy to use, and then the tray table is located on the other side and takes up less space than the traditional one that comes out from the armrest. It is like a “sliding tray tables” that you can pull on easily from the side. There are two magazine stowage area, and a small side stowage that can fit a small pouch or a small camera. The tray console is pretty large, and both my seatmates and I don’t need to fight for spaces. There are the typical water bottle consoles in the middle, but TG is a bit cheap by offering Evian waters, but the mini bottles of 250ml, not the medium sized bottles that the design called for. There is an individual reading light on the side as well. The only poor design is the divider, which honestly can go a bit higher and further out. The other key factor that we are all concerned is the sliding factor, and unfortunately, the seats are titled till other “sliding” full flat seats, and the AY seat is less sliding than TG, as well as NW and SQ. I still rates SQ Skybeds better than TG. When I went to sleep, I chose the more typical reclined position, over the fully flat position that is honestly very tilted. However for Thai Airways, we can’t expect much because it is TG. I am thankful for the new seats.
After being seated, a Biotherm amenity kit was already placed on each seat, but unfortunately, the problem came up later that some of the seats did not have the pre-placed amenity kit. Either the ground staff did not do a good job, or the ground staff tried to place the amenity kits according to the passenger manifest issued early on, but then there are last minute passengers and seat changes that they can’t accommodate for. Unfortunately, my neighbor did not have a pre-placed amenity kit, and she asked for it after takeoff, but the F/As tried to look for it, but the dinner was starting, so I offered her my kit first, and then the F/As would look for it after dinner. Of course, I had to call them later and the F/A explained to me that they did not stock extra amenity kits (I guess to save stowage spaces), but she ended up getting me a kit from the return flight stock. Another poor TG management decision – if they want the F/As to focus on other duties, then they should just place one amenity kit at each seat and don’t bother dealing with manifest during pre-flight, when operational upgrades happen and there were last minute passengers and seat changes. Or they can have the F/As passed out a new one to each passenger during the boarding phase, and then prior to the door being closed, the F/As can just return the extra amenity kits to the ground staff. Honestly, I think it is too much hassle just to save a few bucks. Just place one amenity kit at each seat, or do the traditional system, handling out amenity kit to individual passengers just like they do the menus and newspapers. If not, they need to be more vigilant in making sure the ground staff doing their jobs and have a supervisor doing a more thorough second check.
Typical pre-takeoff drinks were offered, as well as newspapers and later the menus, and no one bothers to explain why the door was still not closed, even though everyone was boarded by the scheduled departure time. Anyhow, the entertainment system was already turned on by now, and I immediately went to the airshow function, and it was the very high tech system, and even better than then earlier generation of zooming in and out. There is one additional pilot’s view (3D view) function but the problem with the system is a bit slow in responding to commands. There are ample choices of movies, television shows, audio channels, audio on demands, single and multiple player games, and cartoons. But no noise-canceling headphones were offered. The system is pretty good, but of course, nothing beats Emirates’ ICE system, as well as SQ’s KrisWorld. But for Thai and a less than $2000 ticket, it is pretty good.
Door was finally closed at 7:30pm, and we pushed back two minutes later. With not much traffic, we took off from R/W21R at 7:43pm. This ultra long haul airbus used almost every feet of the runway before soaring up to the sky, and this airbus climbed much faster than the first generation of Airbus A340-200/300. The routing was typical transpacific fare with a vector towards Southern Taiwan, and then passing Okinawa Islands, traveling along the eastern coast line before heading directly towards the Bay Area and then LA. We first climbed to 10,000m, while crossing Udon Ratchathani, and then Danang of Vietnam, and crossing the Southern most tip of Taiwan, and then climbing to 10,600m while crossing Matsubara, and then throughout the night, we climbed up to 11,210m, 11,520m, 11820m, 12130m, and then 12430m before crossing Monterrey and King City.
The service sequence of flight began with the typical dinner, and the hot savories include a very delicious shrimp toast and deep fried chicken meat ball, followed by the appetizer tray, which was a very nice shrimp medallions with a small but fresh mesclun salad side. The breadbasket features garlic bread, wholemeal rolls, soft white rolls, and pretzel rolls. It made a few pasts. Followed the appetizer, the entrees were passed out in TG’s casserole dishes, and I had the chicken, which was tender and moist and the rice was not dried out. The vegetable side was a spicy pumpkin stirfry. Then there was a full cheese and fruit tray, unlike a pre-plated version on the shorter BKK-HKG flight, and the choices of cheese include camembert, blue cheese, and white cheddar, and Bran table crackers were already pre-placed on the tray, and carrot sticks were offered, as well as grapes. The fruit selection included sliced melon, apple, pineapple, and pomelo. Followed the fruit and cheese dessert, trays were collected, and then dessert, tea, and coffee were offered, and there is no second hot towel service after meal like most top world airlines. This main meal is pretty good, and nothing to complaint about, but then for the rest of the flight, the meals seem to go according to the F/A’s own desires. The second serving/breakfast was served prior to landing, and the third serving (a pizza snack) was never offered. I really don’t know what is going on.
The wine list is the same as HKG-BKK, but there is one more kind of white wine offered. The wine list information (and I guess the menus to some extend) does not really reflect the latest updates.
King Prawn Medallions and Caesar Dressing
Bouquet of Tender Garden Greens with Italian Tiziano Dressing
Pan-fried Snow Fish with Thyme Beurre Blanc Sauce
Saffron Rice, Ratarouille, Nicoise
Pork Spareribs and Ginger with Black Bean Sauce
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Sautéed Taiwan Cabbage
Fried Marinated Chicken with lemon grass
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Vegetables
Fillet of Beef with Fresh Green Peppercorn Sauce
Potatoes Au Gratin, Carrot and Spinach
Assorted Bread, Garlic Bread, Butter
Assorted Cheeses/Fresh Fruits
Marjolaine with Orange Sauce, Blueberry and Raspberry
Tea, Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino
Instant Noodles Soup and Garnitures
(Barbecued Pork or Fish Balls or Shrimp Balls or Shrimp Wonton Soup)
Shrimp Wonton Soup
(Available on Request)
Fresh Fruits, Fruit Yogurt
Pancakes and Maple Syrup, Chicken Sausage
Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Egg, Seafood in Dark Soya Sauce
Iri-tamago on cabbage, vegetables
Steamed Japanese Rice Roll with Sesame Seeds, Vegetables
Roll, Croissant, Danish Pastry, Butter, Jam
After dinner, a fresh fruit basket with green oranges, grapes, and bananas were set up in front of Door 2R, and that is the extent of snacks on demand. For the ultra long haul flights, sandwiches, and some packaged snacks should be placed in various spots of the cabin for some mid-flight cravings, and people who do not want instant noodles. Then the F/As walked around the cabin throughout the flight, but mostly to head to the resting area in the back or to the front galley, and no one was really doing beverage rounds and/or asking awakened passengers if they want a snack or something more to drink. Even when the J F/A did the round, they did a “model catwalk,” which means they just walked down the aisle with their heads up and not collecting empty glasses or making eye contacts with passengers, if they need anything. I slept about first half of the flight, and then I woke up to watch television and nobody seemed to want to offer me anything. So for future TG passengers, you have to use the CALL BUTTON for anything, and most importantly, the breakfast was pretty pathetically small. So if you are a big eater, you definitely need a snack.
The breakfast was a disappointing one tray affair and the fruit bowl is “melon balls in a melon bowl,” the most uninspired J class breakfast fruit appetizer, and then there is a fruit cocktail yogurt, and the seafood noodle entrée was fine, and there were some shrimps, squids and sliced fish fillets. The breadbaskets featured Danish, croissants, and wholemeal rolls. The whole breakfast was just too small for a full meal after thirteen hours. About the third serving, never see it and don’t know what it is about, but pizza is usually bad news.
Then the F/As went around and collected the menus, which did not happen on regional flights. Anyhow, the new Thai business class menus were reduced further in size and the wine list is a small folded paper insert. I don’t see the reasons and hope that TG does not reuse the menus. Anyhow, TG F/As were almost obsessive when they came to recollecting stuff. However, the TG menus were also colored similar to the safety card, the seat manual, and the stationary folder, so they just did one quick round because they could not collect everything unless digging into everybody’s seat pockets. I of course saved my own copy, even asked for a second copy, which was happily obliged. I even asked for two sets of playing cards.
Descent began at 8:11pm LA time, and then we passed through Malibu and then returned to downtown before making the obligatory turn towards R/W24L, and we landed almost on time at 8:43pm. Of course, Tom Bradley and the tow gate made the taxiing time obsessively long. We parked at gate 104 at 9pm. TBIT was filled with interesting the planes with SQ’s Airbus A340-500 9V-SGD, Philippine Airlines’ Boeing 747-400 N753PR, China Airlines’ Dreamliner B-18210, and Qantas’ Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEI parked at T-4.
1. TG seems to be heading to the right direction in terms of seat upgrades (except not being innovative with a full flat J seats), but expecting TG to be innovative is just a fantasy. However, the new Airbus A340-500s are nice in terms of décor, lighting, and all the J bathrooms feature a full sized mirror, more space, and a window.
2. The service was polite, but never personable. No use of last name, even when entrée orders are taken. The F/As were rushed at times, and you have to request anything. They are fine when you use the call button, but don’t expect them to ask you if you need anything on their owns, like most CX or SQ F/As.
3. The catering is just poorly planned, and F/As served meals at their own desired times. There is a lack of snacks, and here is a list of things for TG to think:
a. Most important aspect on a super long haul flight is having a good amount of snacks. The instant noodle soups and shrimp wontons are nice (better if F/As are more aggressive in serving them), but a proper snack basket with sandwiches, fruits, and various packaged snacks should be placed at various key spots, like in front of both Door 2R and 2L, and the fruit basket currently offered was just pathetic.
b. Make up your mind about having how many servings! I think TG should adopt SQ’s meal arrangements with two full main meals in the beginning and end of the flight, and then snacks on demand, and a proper snack area at galleys. The third serving seems redundant and in our flight, wasted because F/As chose to do their own things.
c. I can’t emphasize enough on how pathetic the breakfast looks, especially at the end of an fifteen hour flights! The fruit plate needs to be more varied, and it should be served in two courses. Cereals should be offered as well.
4. Stocked enough amenity kits, in case of ground staff mistakes, and slippers should also be offered separately.
5. Most importantly, for $1800USD RT, the service is okay and I will tell friends to fly them if you get a deal below $2500, but anything above $2600USD, the service is insufficient at best and I don’t recommend anyone considered paying full fare to fly TG’s BKK-LAX/JFK service, unless time is a KEY factor, and go save your money and fly SQ instead.
I hope you will enjoy this report. I think the next report will possibly be Jetblue’s inaugural Tucson flight in October. And no more long haul report till November!
Thanks for reading!