Here is my recent Asian trip report, and I decide to write only the flights that are more interesting. I started off with my Thai’s return flight from LA to Bangkok, which is significantly better than the inbound, and the service was a bit better despite a rough start in terms of ground service (or the lack of). Then I wrote about China Airlines’ Dynasty Class from Hong Kong to Bangkok, which is a really pleasant experience and the meal is better than CX or Thai. It is actually a recommendable flight. Then I wrote about my return flight from Incheon to Los Angeles, which was excellent as usual and the onboard service is excellent. There is pajama now, but the amenity kit has become historic. I don’t know which is better.
November 5, 2006
TG 795 LAX-BKK Lv2230 Arr0640+2 Airbus A340-500 HS-TLC
I arrived on AA from Dallas Ft Worth around 6pm, and TG’s check-in counters did not open till 7:20pm, and there were separate Royal Silk (Business), Premium Economy, and Economy class, but the problem lied on the lack of staffing. There was only one agent handling J pax, and then another one for Premium Y, and two agents for Y. You could imagine how long the line was for J passenger, and with one Premium Y passenger having problems, the line for the premium class was not moving. Then one agent came out to help with Premium Y, but no one ever came out to help the J passenger. I waited 40 minutes, which was unacceptable for Business Class passenger, but the conversation between two passengers in front of me really illuminated the problem.
Passenger A: So where are you heading today?
Passenger B: Going to Phuket! So the line was certainly long though, and where are you heading?
A: I am heading to Singapore and actually just need a boarding pass issued by TG.
B: I see you already have a boarding pass. Why are you here?
A: Well TG required you to get a new boarding pass issued by them, and they need to trace my bags.
B: Why don’t you take SQ? They flew nonstop.
A: Well TG is cheaper, and you know that is why we are still in line after thirty minutes.
B: (Laughed a bit) I definitely agree. SQ is excellent, but is really expensive.
A: I guess we paid for what we bought for.
I love this conversation, especially we all stood next to SQ’s check-in counters, which were super organized. The agents were all friendly, and handicapped passengers were immediately seated. (Of course, the agent brought out folding chairs). Raffles’ passengers were helped immediately and there were three agents handling premium check-in. Compared to TG’s chaos, agents were rushing around or inactive. There were lack of smiles and one can tell the difference between the world top airline and a second-rated Asian airline. It is sad to see TG falling into the second tier. Check in itself was efficient because I had no bag to check. Boarding passes were issued and lounge invitations were given out. By the time I went through TSA security line, I was at gate 118 (the shuttle to Interim J lounge) after an hour and twenty minutes. Nevertheless, I decided to head over to the Interim J lounge, as to report back on it.
The Interim J lounge was pretty busy in the evening hours, as there were tons of flights heading to Asia and Pacific region at this time. The lounge is basically like a construction office (wooden) and definitely a temporary structure. The furniture is IKEA and the food selection includes lots of junk food, cookies, pastries, cup noodles, sandwiches, and fruit slices. Drink selections include soft drinks, juices, bottled waters, mini wine bottles, sparking wines, Johnnie walker RED, Smirnoff, VSOP Cognac, Gin, and okay selection. The staffs are very friendly. It is certainly busy, I don’t have problems finding a place to sit. The Internet connection is available but not free.
I headed back to the gate at 9:45pm, as we needed to take a shuttle back, which took times. Also wanted to see a few planes. Plane-spotting includes LH’s 340 flight to Munich D-AIGS, China Airlines’ Boeing 747-400 B-18212, EVA Air’s Boeing 747-400 B-16410, CX’s 744 B-HUG operating the late flight to HKG, and the Red liveried MH 747-400.
Boarding began at 10:04pm at gate 103, and priority boarding is strictly enforced. J was pretty full, same as Y, but Premium Y was not too busy this evening. For unknown reason, I was moved to seat 21J, the second last row in the second J cabin, and I had a neighbor. The F/As were friendly with pre-takeoff activities, such as passing out pre-takeoff beverage immediately. A bottled of Crystal Geyser water and headsets were already placed at each seat. Boarding seemed to be completed around twenty minutes, but we were waiting for lots of last minute passengers and cargo loading, which were not surprising due to the crazy scene at the check-in desk. If TG was running a bit low on staff, it made sense to open the counters four hours prior, but I guess TG is not about logical, but about what the staff feels like doing? Anyway, newspaper and magazine trolleys rolled out next and menus were passed out, as long as amenity kits. A BIOTHERM amenity kit is given to each passenger, and at restrooms, toothbrush sets, and the usual array of lotions and cologne and moisturizing sprays were available and well stocked. Door was closed at 10:48pm and we did not push back till 10:58pm, due to busy activities in the alley between Terminal 4 and TBIT. We started to head down to R/W25R at 11:04pm, and took off at 11:14pm.
Flying time was sixteen hours and fifty-one minutes. The routing took us a bit inland over Ojai Valley, and climbed towards 32,000feet during the cruising along the West Coast. Then we passed through the Bay area, Danville, Oakland, Ukiah, Rohnerville/Eureka, and climbed to 10,400m, as we headed towards Alaska, Anchorage and Kenai, as we climbed further to 10640m, and crossed into Siberia, Magadan, Sea of Okhotsk, Khabarovsk, and then into Harbin, China. We further climbed to 12,000m, as we passed through Chengde, Beijing, Tangshan, Puyang, Wuhan, Loudi, Guilin, and Nanning, but descending into 11,900m, and into Thai Nguyen and Viet Tri (N of Hanoi), Vietnam, and climbed into 12,225m, and then into Vietianne, Laos, and then into Bangkok.
Seat belt sign was turned off at 11:20pm, and then beverage service immediately began, and a third F/A passed out packs of Fisher’s mini-pretzels. Then plates of hot savories were passed out, which were definitely highlight of TG’s meal services, and then the meals passed out with linen placed on each try, with appetizer and salad, followed by pre-plated entrées’ casseroles, and then trays of fresh fruit and cheese, and then dessert. Here is the menu transcript:
(TG 795 C – MENU E: MAY/NOV)
Chicken with Sugar Cane Stick
Shrimp Lemon Grass Skewer
Calzone Italian Sausage
Excellent hot savories!
Foie Gras Fondant in Port Wine Jelly
Smoked Chicken Slice and Mushroom Salad
Interesting goose liver terrine, and I like the mushroom salad with smoked chicken slices.
Mixed Green Salad with Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing
A very fresh salad – Iceberg lettuce, red onion rings, cucumber slices, & radish slices!
Grilled Duck Breast with Peppercorn Cream Sauce
Roasted Red Skin Potatoes, Carrot Balls, Zucchini Chateau
I chose the duck breast, which were quite nice. Not overdone and duck remained tender and juicy.
Grilled Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce
Steamed Japanese Rice Roll, Carrot and Snow Peas
Roasted Chicken Thigh with White Wine Olive Sauce
Roasted Red Skin Potatoes, Manhattan Medley Vegetables
Stir-fried Prawn with Red Chilli Paste and String Beans
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice
Assorted Roll, Garlic Breads, Butter
Assorted Cheese, Fresh Fruits
Soft wheat, French rolls, and Garlic Bread
Cheddar & Camembert cheese wedges w/carrot sticks and Carr’s crackers
Cantaloupe, Mango, Strawberry, and Grapes
Tea, Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino
The lemon tart is very disappointing, and a bit too sour, but the meal overall was really nice.
Chocolate or Noodle Soup with Garnitures (Nissan’s Cup-O-Noodles) (Available Upon Request)
After the lights were turned off, the F/As actually did regular checks on folks and I was confident that you could ask for everything. The male F/As were actually more attentive, and when they were on duty, he actually did an OJ/water/coke runs. The mid-flight snack basket contained apples, bananas, and bags of mini-pretzels, which were minimal. The personal television system is on demand, but the November program is still not loaded (because everything was same as September). Lights were turned back on at 8am PST, and the breakfast/second serving was served in two courses – first, fruit and yogurt, and then second, entrée is served.
Fresh Fruits/Fruit Yogurt
Grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, and strawberry
Danon’s La Crème Raspberry Yogurt
Vegetable Omelet and Tomato Stew
Rosemary Roasted Potato, Jalapeno Sausage, Tomato
Boiled Rice with Chicken, Spring Onion Chopped
I decided to go for the lighter option, which was okay and the fish sauce gave it a needed kick.
Stir-fried Pork with Garlic and Pepper
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Sautéed Mixed Oriental Vegetables
Breakfast Roll, Croissant, Pastry, Butter, Jam
Tea, Coffee, Ovaltine
The bread selection includes croissants, Almond Danish, and wheat rolls.
Then the lights were turned off again, as we still had eight hours to go. I went back to my nap and then woke up with three hours to go, as I played a few video games till the third serving – lunch or light meal? Lights were turned on again at 2:20pm PST with hot towels again. It was a one-tray light meal and linen was used to cover the table, unlike breakfast.
Mixed Green Salad with Italian herb dressing
Another fresh salad – Mesclun greens with cherry tomato, red & yellow pepper strips, and endives! There was a side tray of fruit (pineapple and grapes).
Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Prosciutto
Chinese Roast Duck
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Kale in Oyster Sauce
I also chose the roast duck, which are more Thai style than Chinese. But it was good as usual, and juicy and tender meat, with nice steamed rice. The Kale is no longer green colored, but it was okay.
Soft Roll, Butter
Assorted Petit Fours
Assorted jam tarts, lemon tarts, and chocolate hazelnut tarts…
Descent began at 6:40am Bangkok local time, and seat belt sign was turned on at 6:46pm, and then we landed on the R/W1R of the brand new Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 7:05am. The new airport was really nice in terms of exterior, and was very modern compared to the old airport. We slowly taxied to Concourse D, and parked at Gate D2 at 7:13pm, and parked next to All Nippon’s Boeing 777-200ER JA707A and SQ’s Boeing 777-200ER 9V-SQD. Two jet bridges were used and we exited quickly. The new airport was cool and the sign was somewhat clear. However they need to have a board showing the locations of transit desks of various airlines, because they were really spread out and this airport was much larger and lots of walking can be involved. The thing that bothered me the most was the cement that did not seem to receive a proper finish, and looked very moody and the floor did not look like brand new and properly cleaned. The interior was really cold, compared to the supposedly warm Thai culture. There was also no longer any flat window for taking plane’s pictures, which the old airport allowed many nice photo-taking spots. Since my transit was relatively short, I did not have time to visit the Royal Silk Lounge. I headed towards gate D7 immediately.
November 7, 2006
TG 600 BKK-HKG Lv0800 Arr1140 Boeing 747-400 HS-TGK
After walking down a corridor, the boarding process was as chaotic as usual. There were two glass entrances, and it should be set up as one separate F/J/elite line and one separate Y line. Since Thai had lots of excessive staffs, why don’t they just staff both entrances and labeled one as “Elite Access”? Boarding began a bit late at 7:36am, and I was surprised to find a reconfigured Boeing 747-400 with new F and J class cabin but no AVOD and PTV in Y. The flight was full in all three classes, but there were not many Hong Kong locals (not more than 5%). I guess most HK tourists will take the late evening flights to take advantage of a full day at BKK. The upper deck was pretty nice and the F/As immediately helped with cabin bags but no newspapers were passed out. They passed out juices and water for the morning flight, and menus were passed out later, as long as headsets. Door was closed at 8:11am and the captain apologized for the late departure due to late cargo loading. We pushed back at 8:13am, and taxied towards R/W1L. There was a long queue and we took off at 8:31am.
Flying time was two hours and sixteen minutes, with a cruising attitude of 41,000feet. The routing was the typical Vietnam, Hainan, and Hong Kong. Service immediately began after takeoff with juices, cold trays, breadbasket, tea/coffee, entrée, and more tea/coffee, and then the disappearing act. The meal itself was excellent, and I love Chinese Doughnuts on a plane, which was definitely a novelty. The Chicken rice was delicious, and I could not help finishing the whole tray of rice. Breadbasket had croissants, wholemeal rolls, Danish, and Chinese doughnuts with condensed milk. The fruit tray features half papaya, grapes, melon, and pineapple, and the yogurt is a really sweet fruit cocktail Thai brand.
(TG 600 C – FEB/MAY/AUG/NOV)
Fresh Fruits and Fruit Yogurt
Steamed Supreme of Chicken Breast Hokkien Style
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice in Chicken Broth
Crepe filled with Herb Scrambled Eggs
Grilled Back Bacon, Vegetable Nugget
Roll, Croissant, Danish Pastry, Butter, Jam, Chinese Croissant
Tea, Coffee, Ovaltine
Entertainment system was turned on after takeoff, but the AVOD mode was not turned on. I guess the purser was not familiar with it. Descent began at 11:14am Hong Kong time, and we landed on R/W7L at 11:47am, and parked at gate 40 at 11:54am.
Well Thai scored a bit better on the return flight, but LAX needs to clean up their ground operations and if they continue to have this staffing problems, they need to hire more folks or open the counters a bit earlier. The in-flight service was better and I am glad that the F/As served all the meals. But will I fly this flight again? Only if the price is cheap! I won’t pay anything more $2500USD for their J services.