10 April 2005
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) - Phuket International (HKT/VTSP)
Thai Airways International TG 921
Airbus Industrie A340-541
HS-TLA "Chiang Kham"
Premium Economy, Seat 34A
Photo © French Frogs AirSlides
Photo © French Frogs AirSlides
I had to wake up at 6am - wondering why on the earth I had consumed too many bottles of Beer Chang the night before again. A quick ride to Don Muang from Sukhumvit Soi 11, and I was again in the hustle and bustle of the domestic terminal. Fearing the worst, i.e. A300-600, I was one happy camper when the check-in agent confirmed that the flight will indeed be operated by the new Airbus. However, I was informed that they have some problems with the new Royal Silk Class seats and they'd need to downgrade me if I want to get on this flight. Another option was escorting me to the B737 leaving in 2 minutes as it had business class. Not a very tough choice really! With a boarding pass in hand and bag priority tagged to HKT, I headed to the lounge where somebody would contact me about the downgrading compensation.
The domestic lounge has new tableware - the kind used on the new international lounges as well. Drinks are also self service nowadays, and a new buffet area has been set up in the corner opposite the old drink ordering desk. The lounge was quite empty this morning, and soon some guru in a suit approached me and handed me 1000 Baht with approximately 10 sets of apologies for the downgrade. 1000 baht is the difference between Y and C on domestic routes nowadays. I downed a hot dog and a coke for breakfast, and headed out to the departures area. TG 921 would be using gate 8 with OX 267 to HKT leaving from gate 9.
Orient Thai started boarding first although they depart later. They seem to have acquired another "new" bus from SATS - you can still see where the SATS logos were. The other huge one (OX-35) had had a window smashed, it had been conveniently repaired with a few Orient Thai Airlines stickers. OX never ceases to amaze me. No information was given why our flight was late, although there were six TG employees behind the podium looking bored. Finally, around 7:50, the doors were opened and soon I was riding on a bus to the new beauty. It was parked almost as far from the domestic terminal as possible - near the maintenance hangars.
I snapped a few pictures and boarded via the second door. The aircraft interior is very nicely done. I don't particularly like the yellow economy class seats, but especially Royal Silk class and the Thai artwork on the bulkheads looked very classy. Royal Silk consists of two large cabins, and takes up a lot of space. Premium Economy follows with only the rearmost cabin left for regular cattle class. It's hardly cattle class with 36" seat pitch though. I was seated in the premium section - not a bad deal to get the fare difference back and still a much better seat than business class on 734/AB6/743/7441/M11. Pitch is 42", and there is a proper legrest, adjustable headrest and a huge PTV. The same PTVs are also installed on the regular economy class seats. This was my first time on any Airbus widebody with the newer style interior - much nicer than the older one.
We sat at the parking position for quite a while for some reason, and meanwhile guys from the maintenance hangars came to see our pushback. The A340 was surrounded by a bunch of TG Jumbos, and the Thai Sky TriStar was also parked nearby. According to Amadeus, we were pushed back at 8.23am and took off ten minutes later from runway 21R. The A340-500 feels very powerful, yet quiet on takeoff. As we were probably super light for this plane type, climb was very steep and soon we were passing the cloud layers over the Thai capital. Royal Silk Class was not used at all as I said above, premium economy had meybe 30% load and the regular economy class cabin was packed. I assume all of us that were downgraded were seated in the premium economy cabin. After takeoff, the Inflight manager gave a long speech about the flight and how this is the first A340-500 flight of Thai. Captain also gave unusually much information. But it seemed the mostly European tourists aboard this flight didn't care at all... (TG 921 originates at Frankfurt/Main)
Service consisted of the larger version of the snack box - another hot dog similar to those in the lounge, some vegetables and two slices of fruit. Water, orange juice, coffee and tea were offered a few times during the service. After the boxes were collected, I had a look at the other cabins and took photos. The abovementioned inflight manager offered to take one of me as well in the empty forward Royal Silk cabin - nice touch. Meanwhile a mechanic was trying to solve the issues they had with the new seats. After returning to my seat, I played around a bit with the new AVOD system - the PTV is very large to start with. The system has AVOD music, movies and TV as well as games and other stuff. The Skymap is interactive in the sense that you can choose what kind of view you want and it's also possible to zoom in/out. There is also a nose camera.
Approach to Phuket was the scenic one this time (runway 27), but it was pretty cloudy and I was sitting over the wing, so not much of a view. The A340 touched down very gently on runway 27 at 9:28am - smooth as silk. We had to wait for a Lauda 767 to be towed to its gate before parking at gate 3 seven minutes after touchdown. Great flight on a very nice aircraft - seems like Thai is finally getting it when it comes to premium seating for example. However, I'm appalled to see the newly configured jumbo retains the ancient Recaro seats with no winged headrest or PTV in economy class. Looks like they just changed the seat covers.
My bag arrived quickly thanks to the priority tag, and I went upstairs to but the return ticket before taking a metered taxi to Patong. Inquired at the Orient Thai counter whether tomorrow's flight is a 747 or not (the website is confusing to say the least). "Sir, this is Orient Thai Airline, fly 747". I was shocked to see they have implemented a reservation system in place of the old manual Microsoft Excel ticketing... OX 266 back to bangkok tomorrow evening. Will post my SQ/LH/TG/TR/3K/PR/OX experiences when I get back from my trip.
Hope you enjoyed,