18 June 2004
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) – Chiang Mai International (CNX/VTCC)
Orient Thai Airlines OX 128
Economy Class, Seat 21A
Having never flown on a B747-100, I decided to make a few trips with Orient Thai Airlines and their One-Two-Go domestic operation. Out of their eight Boeing 747s, two are series 100 aircraft. The fares are low to boot – Chiang Mai was 999 Baht while they had a promotion to Phuket for only 600 Baht one way.
After confirming with the Orient Thai reservations line that the evening flight back from Chiang Mai would be operated by a 747, I hopped onto the A3
airport bus. It’s convenient enough if you are staying in Sukhumvit (stayed at the Westin again), and only costs you 100 Baht instead about double that for a taxi. We hit the highway at soi zero and despite some weird noises, the old thing made it to the airport in about 20 minutes.
Orient Thai ticket desk had a queue of 18 passengers in front of me, all buying tickets to Chiang Mai I believe. OX
operates a very sophisticated booking and ticketing system for domestic flights – they enter manually your details into an Excel sheet and the laser printer then spits out your ticket. Check-in had a small line – the friendly agent had no clue when I asked if she’d have any window seats left, but managed to get me one. OX
style of course – cross over the appropriate seat number from the paper sheet and input the info into yet another Excel sheet. A few moments later, I was the proud owner of my first ever Orient Thai boarding pass.
had no ID
check before security – a Thai International agent waved me through. I then made my way to the end of the domestic concourse as I had some time before boarding was supposed to begin. The crew was sitting at the gate – it was now past our departure time and nobody had any idea where the aircraft was. Gate agents were clueless as well. The purser was running around with his mobile phone, and probably called operations before coming back with the good news for the pilots. The 757 should be landing within the next 15 minutes.
Meanwhile it had started raining outside – it’s not often I have seen such a thundershower. You couldn’t see from the end of the domestic concourse to runway 21R/03L. A few minutes later, the familiar colors of My Travel appeared from the rain, as our Kampuchea Airlines B757-200 was taxiing to the gate. This airplane has a very exotic color scheme – basic My Travel colors, “One Two-Go by Orient Thai” titles and another “Operated by Kampuchea Airlines” sticker.
Needless to say that boarding started late, and the 757 was full for the afternoon OX
128 to the north. The cheerful young crew greeted me as I entered the cabin – the seats and the interior didn’t look as pleasant though… Once I made it to my seat, I had the pleasure of experiencing what it feels like to sit on a 757-200 with 233 seats. The pitch was absolutely terrible. The seats looked worn, as did the rest of the interior. Some old British pop songs were playing over the PA, must have the same ones My Travel used when the aircraft was operating for them.
We pushed back at about 4pm, and taxied to 21R for takeoff as usual. I was one of the very few farangs onboard this afternoon. Two classics, a Thai MD
-11 and Orient Thai’s 747-100 HS
-UTH were waiting to get fixed in front of the Thai maintenance hangars. Our 757 took off after a Thai Triple Seven for the 55-minute sector to Chiang Mai International Airport.
Once the seatbelt sign was switched off, the American cockpit crew welcomed us aboard “the one-twenty-eight” bound for “Chang May” (That’s about how he pronounced it). I doubt many of the Thais onboard had any clue what he was talking about. The young crew sprung into action shortly thereafter and served us soft drinks and Orient Thai brand peanuts. Service was very friendly, and everybody on this flight seemed to be in good mood. Even as we were on approach to CNX
, the purser was still running around with drink refills.
Before final approach, an announcement was made in very broken English thanking us for choosing Orient Thai while the ladies were standing and performing the “wai” gesture in the aisle. This was repeated on all of my OX
flights. We landed late on runway 36, and quickly taxied to the terminal. Thai’s A330, A300 and ATR-42 were present as well as a Phuket Air YS
-11. We deplaned via stairs, and buses took us to the arrivals hall. The purser made sure to thank me once more for flying OX
and wished me a nice day.
I took a taxi to the downtown/night bazaar area for an hour or so after buying my return ticket. It had my name wrong and said CHAING MAI but never mind… I was planning to go to a bar where I knew a few people for a drink, but the whole area was demolished. Managed to find another bar though, and after a Bacardi Breezer I was sitting in a tuk-tuk back to the airport.
18 June 2004
Chiang Mai International (CNX/VTCC) – Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD)
Orient Thai Airlines OX 121
Business Class, Seat 15A
Check-in for OX121 was deserted, although I made it there only an hour before takeoff. I told the agent I want to upgrade – this was a big surprise for her… Paid the 600 Baht for the upgrade, and she handed me a Miscellaneous Charges Order (MCO
) form with the words “PAY UPGADE 600B”. Close enough to upgrade I suppose… I was given 15A on the upper deck of HS
, which would be operating the flight.
Tried to get to the Thai lounge with my Lufthansa Gold card – no way. Not that I was expecting anything else. A Bangkok-bound TG
777-300 was boarding, so the departure lounge was rather busy. Boarding time came and went – no aircraft was present at the gate of course. Half an hour later, the terminal was filled by noise that could only come from a 747… Sure enough, the classic taxied in a few minutes later. The huge white nose soon turned towards the gate with the red rotating beacon flashing behind the small upper deck.
Load from BKK
was less than 100 passengers for sure, so they were soon ready for boarding. The captain had a chat with the gate agents first, announcing that they had again problems with the aircraft at Bangkok. No boarding announcement was made, but the masses started moving shortly, so I made my way onboard as well. Two young ladies were greeting passengers at the door, neither had any clue where seat 15A would be. I told them it’s on the upper deck so they let me turn left.
The economy class seats were straight from the seventies – oldest style seats I have ever seen, and the seat covers were bright yellow, red etc. On the bulkheads were some paintings that JAL obviously thought were attractive back in 1975. I then climbed to the upper deck behind the captain – he was rather surprised to see that there would be a passenger in business class tonight.
It was my first time on the small 747 upper deck – what a nice and private place. This particular jet was fitted with 12 old Japan Airlines first seats with extremely generous pitch. All the galley equipment had JAL logos… The bulkhead brochure holder said “About Japan Airlines”. The Seiko clock device on the back bulkhead was displaying the local times for TYO and HKG
– wonder if the last flight with JAL was HKG
So, tonight there was a grand total of one passenger and one flight attendant on the upper deck. Needless to say that service was great. She offered me a pre-departure drink, as well as a choice of exactly one magazine (some convention planning magazine from Thailand). We were pushed back about half an hour late, and the distinct whine of the old Pratts soon filled the upper deck.
Taxied to runway 18 for takeoff, and it was rather noisy on the upper deck as well during takeoff. Our flight time to Bangkok would be 50 minutes this evening. Service in OX
business class on domestics is nothing special – I was offered six packs of “Orient Thai Premium Cocktail Snacks” (rice crackers) and six packs of peanuts. My glass of Sprite was refilled constantly.
Once I told the flight attendant that I had enough of soft drinks already, she went downstairs to chat with her colleagues (I guess). It was like a private plane being alone on the upper deck. Decided to check out the lavatory – it was by the spiral staircase right next to the cockpit door. The upper deck floor in that area made some cranking noises, like an old wooden house floor if you get what I mean. The FAA/TSA
would probably love the idea of passengers staying alone on the upper deck of B747s…
All too soon, we started our descent into Don Muang… I could have handled a longer flight onboard this old bird. Soon the Filipino captain decided we need a steeper angle of descent – this one made the bizarre China Airlines B747 approach I experienced at HKG
look good. The flight attendant soon took the jumpseat and we chatted for a while about her job and Orient Thai. Nice lady from Udon Thani province, and seemed to enjoy her work greatly with OX
. A funny comment was when she said they want to fly to Europe “but airplane too old”.
Soon, the pilots slammed the poor old 747 down on 21L – quite a rough landing to be honest. We then taxied to a remote stand in the cargo area, and there would be bus transport to the domestic terminal. I thanked the crew for a nice flight, and the purser made sure I was the first one off the plane and said “Mr. LH747, thank you for flying with us tonight and see you soon.” I wonder when our wonderful low cost carriers such as Ryanair address their passengers by name…
20 June 2004
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) – Udon Thani (UTH/VTUD)
Thai Airways International TG 008
HS-TAD “U Thong”
0630-0740 – On Time
Economy Class, Seat 49K (Exit Row)
As mentioned earlier, I needed some miles for the LH
Senator upgrade. Thai W-class specials were just 1000 Baht to KKC/PHS and 1200 Baht to UTH/UBP. I booked a same plane turn to Udon Thani, followed by a trip to Khon Kaen.
Took a taxi again very late from the Westin, arriving at Don Muang domestic at about 5:50 am. Star Gold/Business line had someone in line, so I was waved over to the MP
/Senator check-in. I asked the agent to check me in for the return flight as well – no problem but her face was priceless when she realized I was coming back on the same aircraft.
I then went to the Thai Domestic Royal Executive Lounge – it was rather busy with all the upcoming early-morning departures. A cup of tea and two pastries later, I decided to head to gate 61 where TG
008 would be boarding in a few minutes. HS
-TAD was waiting, with its sister HS
-TAC waiting for the morning Khon Kaen run. TG
008 was going to be rather light this morning – but boarding started on time after the sole Buddhist monk on this flight had been pre-boarded.
I made my way to the first economy class cabin – row 36 and seat K to be more exact. HS
-TAD has the small business class cabin, and two economy class cabins with the older Recaro seats. Same seats can be found on B747s in 7431/7441 configurations I believe. The business class cabin seat covers are light purple, first economy cabin spots a pleasant purple color scheme while the seats in the back are bright red. Legroom is a far cry from the generous 747 seating, but still quite decent.
As soon as the doors were closed, one of the flight attendants invited me to move to the exit row – a nice touch from him. The flight attendants on TG
008/009 were all excellent – one of the nicest Thai crews I have encountered so far. Captain Suriya soon welcomed us onboard and apologized for a short five-minute wait as the Chiang Mai morning flight was just being pushed back from a nearby gate. Meanwhile, a full selection of Thai newspapers was available as on all Thai domestics.
A few minutes later, we were pushed back and the old Airbus widebody started its long taxi to 21R for takeoff. There was no queue for departures this early, and we took after an Eva Air A330-200 without delay. A few minutes after takeoff, the seatbelt sign was turned off, and service started. Capt Suriya then welcomed us onboard again and explained the usual stuff – we’d be flying over Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen straight to Udon airport at a cruising altitude of 31000ft.
Business class on this flight is served a hot breakfast, while a large snackbox was served in economy class. The breakfast consisted of a pork burger, some salad and some jello-type Thai sweets for dessert. Also in the box were a cup of fruit juice and water. Orange juice, water and coffee/tea were served constantly during this 55-minute flight.
After finishing the meal, we were already on descent into Udonthani Airport, and soon the endless rice fields of the northeast came into view. Flight attendants came around with sweets before landing – good old Royal Orchid service… After final landing checks of the cabin, the big ‘bus touched down smoothly on Udon Thani’s sole runway. We then taxied to the terminal, and parked at the only marked remote stand of the airport.
I deplaned via the rear stairs and walked to the terminal building. Extension of Udonthani Airport is under construction – it’s amazing how many flights there are to this relatively poor Isaan city starting in July. Thai sends two daily A300s and one B734 usually, Nok Air will fly 3x daily B734, Thai Air Asia flies 2x daily with B733s and Orient Thai flies a sole daily B757 or 747. Just a year ago, just the three daily Thai flights existed…
20 June 2004
Udon Thani (UTH/VTUD) – Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD)
Thai Airways International TG 009
HS-TAD “U Thong”
0830-0930 – On Time
Economy Class, Seat 33A
I went for a walk outside and snapped a few pictures before clearing security and returning to airside. By now, by looking at the amount of passengers in the terminal, it was obvious that the return flight would be packed. Boarding soon started via the only gate at the old terminal – the one of the gate agents personally escorted me as a Star Gold and any business class passengers past the long lines. Never thought this would happen at Udon airport of all places…
I boarded via the front stairs this time, and the purser welcomed me back onboard and asked why on the earth I stayed here only one hour. Told her I need the miles and she wished me a nice flight. I took my seat in row 33, and soon the aircraft filled up with the exception of business class. The stairs were then pulled away, and we started taxiing as the safety video was being played.
A powerful A300 takeoff followed, and as soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off, the crew sprung into action again. Khun Suriya from the cockpit made his welcome announcement – basically the flight would follow the exact same route as we took from Bangkok to Udon earlier.
The lunchbox on this flight had different contents – a chicken pastry and some corn salad as well as some cake for dessert. Service was excellent again, and the crew didn’t stop serving drinks until we were on approach into Don Muang. The Bangkok area was cloudy, so not much to be seen during approach.
We landed smoothly on schedule on runway 21L, and had to wait a little to cross the active departure runway, 21R. HS
-TAD then taxied to one of the remote stands in the cargo area, next to a company 747. An ancient Thai bus took us to the domestic terminal.
20 June 2004
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) – Khon Kaen (KKC/VTUZ)
Thai Airways International TG 044
1330-1430 – On Time
Economy Class, Seat 62A
I decided to check-in for my flight to Khon Kaen first, before thinking about how to spend the four hours at the airport. Since I had no checked luggage, I decided to use the Royal eService machines. Plenty of TG
staff members were guiding passengers on how to use the kiosks. After selecting “Check-In” instead of “Purchase ticket and check-in”, I swiped my credit card, and my reservation details were promptly displayed. I was impressed, as for example Qantas kiosks are usually not able to retrieve your reservation if you have multiple same day bookings under the same credit card number. There is however no seatmap option with TG
, just window or aisle. I chose a window, and my frequent flyer details were then displayed on the screen with LH
*GOLD* in caps.
I decided to head over to the international terminal as I had time to kill – one of the club cars whisked me through the connecting walkway in a minute or so. I decided to look for a Philippine Airlines office, as there was a problem with my upcoming booking. After finally finding it, I was quite shocked when the guy confirmed that everything is ok with my reservation. More on that later.
I then headed back to the domestic terminal and surfed the net at the post office for an hour so. After a friend asked if there is any chance for me to get back to Phuket and Flyertalker and ex-Orient Thai pilot mtacchi
confirmed that OX
266/267 would operate with B747s, I made the decision to head down to Phuket again the following week. However, getting tickets issued in OX
can be quite an ordeal.
None of the agents had any clue whether there would be OX
267 on a Wednesday, so they told me to call the call center. Call center told me no such flight exists, and I can’t get the promotional fare even if it does exist… Hmmm. Back to the post office, booked my flights at onetwo-go.com – the site gave me a record locator and a note that a representative would contact me shortly. The only funny part was the price – my math tells me 2 x 855+taxes equals a bit more than the 855 quoted on the confirmation page…
I then went back to the Thai lounge – one of the agents later came to chat with me as she remembered me from the earlier visit that morning… A few drinks and pastries later, I decided to go to the gates for some spotting, as the lounge is really nothing to write home about. Traffic was interesting at Bangkok as usual, and about an hour later TG
044 to Khon Kaen was ready for boarding at bus gate 9 downstairs.
We were bussed to HS
-TAS sitting at a remote stand, and boarded via stairs again. Flight attendants on this flight weren’t particularly friendly when greeting the passengers and service was nowhere near the levels of my Udon Thani flights. The crew overnighted in Khon Kaen as well, and was on my return flight the next day. HS
-TAS has the newer Recaro seats, and seat pitch was considerably better. Airshow was turned on for the duration of the flight as well.
Same procedure as usual followed – long taxi past the international terminals to 21R and an immediate takeoff. I fell asleep as soon as we had lifted off – too early mornings are definitely not my thing. I somehow managed to wake up for yet another lunchbox though – another puff pastry, some salad, cake and fruit juice.
The captain welcomed us aboard “Thai Airways International and Star Alliance flight TG
044” as I was eating my lunch – we were cruising at 27000ft over Nakhon Ratchasima province. Descent into Khon Kaen would commence a few moments later.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, I found myself staring at the Isaan rice fields below again.
We landed on time on the sole runway at Khon Kaen, a rather smooth touchdown this time. As there are no parallel taxiways at the airport, we taxied to the very end of the runway, and made a u-turn before taxiing to the terminal. A few cows were enjoying their day right by the runway – a very good spotting location indeed! I was in the Thai countryside again.
Khon Kaen has a rather modern terminal, and there was a jetway as well unlike at Udon Thani. A Sofitel representative was waiting at the arrivals hall, and she told me to wait by the door while she would wait for any other passengers going to the Sofitel Raja Orchid Khon Kaen. Meanwhile, our crew took a van to somewhere as well – no idea whether they were staying at a hotel or were Khon Kaen based.
Sofitel Raja Orchid Khon Kaen
I booked this hotel via Accor Asia website – 1700 Baht with breakfast. This Sofitel is undoubtedly the most luxurious hotel in Northeastern Thailand. I was assigned a king-bed non-smoking room on the 6th floor. Nice enough but I requested high floor when booking. Otherwise, everything about this hotel was just great. Definitely a true 5-star property in my opinion. The room was large, and was well equipped and furnished. The bathroom was large as well, with a huge walk-in shower cubicle in addition to the usual bathtub.
Khon Kaen was quite a bit smaller than I expected, but a very pleasant Thai city. I just walked around the downtown area for a bit of sightseeing and snapped a few pictures. The Sofitel has plenty of restaurants and bars – I decided to go to their disco at around 10pm as it was supposed to be a happening place. I was the only customer there for the entire hour I stayed. Went to look for some other bars – there are plenty nearby, but don’t expect anything Bangkok-style… I ended up at some disco – packed to the gills – and ordered a bottle of 100 Pipers whisky for 350 Baht, mixers included. A good way to guarantee that I’d feel terrible the next morning too…
21 June 2004
Khon Kaen (KKC/VTUZ) – Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD)
Thai Airways International TG 045
1440-1540 – On Time
Economy Class, Seat 44K
I took the complimentary Sofitel shuttle back to the airport, and arrived about an hour before the scheduled departure time of TG
45 down to Bangkok. Check-in was quick, and I was assigned seat 44K. Thai uses some older style boarding pass printers at KKC, and you get a totally different looking boarding pass here. My frequent flyer info showed up in the seating part of the boarding pass – LH
*G is apparently a smoking First class seat. TG
people must have visited the Lufthansa lounges!
I then headed up to the bar/restaurant upstairs, and ordered myself fried rice with pork as well as a Pepsi. Quite reasonable airport lunch at about $2. The week before, I met some guy at a Bangkok bar – he was booked on TG
45 as well. We were supposed to meet for a beer or two at this restaurant, but he was running late…
I then headed through security, and was shocked to see a Thai Royal Executive Class Lounge at this small airport. It was just like other Thai domestic lounges, but very small with about 20 seats. Pastries and soft drinks were available as usual. I would have come here instead of the upstairs restaurant should I have known such a lounge exists.
I headed to gate 2 about fifteen minutes before scheduled departure time – boarding hadn’t started yet. My friend had also arrived – he barely made the flight due to some work assignments running late.
Boarding started a few minutes later, with no efforts made to pre-board business class or elites. I cut to the front of the line anyway, no problems as usual. The same crew was greeting me at the door as I stated earlier. The aircraft, HS
-TAL, featured the older interior and looked very worn indeed. The flight was 100% full in economy class, with business being more or less empty. We were pushed back a few minutes late, with Air Asia’s B737 9M-AAM waiting for its turn next to us.
We then quickly taxied to the runway, and the engines spooled up once we were correctly lined up for departure after the u-turn procedure. Takeoff was powerful with no flaps used, and we then climbed to the cruising altitude of FL270 again. This snack flight featured the smaller box – the contents being a slice of cake, some pineapple jelly and a cup of fruit juice. Orange juice, water, coffee and tea were served numerous times throughout the flight.
It was cloudy along our routing, so there was nothing to be seen until we were about to touch down at Don Muang. The flight was pretty much an exact copy of TG
44, but in opposite direction, and even with the same crew. We started our descent about 20 minutes out of Bangkok, and landed on time on runway 21L. We then taxied to gate 61, the exact same gate where I boarded HS
-TAD to Udon Thani the day before.
Getting a Ticket from Orient Thai
Having received no call from Orient Thai regarding the Phuket tickets, I decided to head to their ticketing counter to clear things up. The conversation was rather interesting… “Sir we not call because computer down for three days”. They do have a brilliant system, obviously booking flights is no problem with system down as the website accepted my booking just a day earlier and gave me a record locator.
He said he would rebook me right there. Obviously no reservation system needed for that either… It makes me wonder if OX
actually has a booking system for domestic flights at all. A note was hanging from the wall “Effective immediately OX
267 only operate Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday”. So, there would be no flight on the 23rd, a Wednesday. But it’s not that simple on OX
. After going through a pile of papers, the guy decided to sell me a ticket for OX267 on 23JUN. “But sir promotion price not valid this flight.” Whatever.
A minute later, he asks for payment, and hands me the tickets. The restrictions part has my phone number on it, and next to it is my record locator. “PNR: CONFIRMED SEAT”. I have now completed the mission to get advance tickets for Orient Thai Airlines, yet I have no idea if the flight actually exists.