I could start this with a page long rant about the differences of getting Thai visas in various Asian countries, but I’ll spare you all from that. Bottom line was this was another visa run since our son doesn’t have a visa yet.
Yet, I can’t help but rant about Cathay Pacific here before starting the actual report. I had a terrible J class experience with them in June, but they were still my no. 1 choice for this trip, being just 1000 Baht more expensive and with better times. Yet, I ended up with Finnair due to CX’s Singapore promotion being completely ridiculous. The business class fare is for Asiamiles members only, perfectly ok with me. Airline gets the passenger sign up and the personal information – why not. But with Cathay, you can also only credit the miles to Asiamiles! I questioned various people about this and said I’ll just change the number to AA at check-in – finally had enough when the agent at their BKK CTO basically laughed me out of the office. CX would also have charged a credit card surcharge – plain ridiculous.
I have booked more “Miles&More members only” fares with LH Bangkok than I care to remember, and always changed the number to United MP right at the office – never had any problems. CX really needs to get over their attitude which only seems to get worse with more “Airline of the Year” and other awards. I guess I could have taken chances and booked CX anyway, but I need the miles for AA requalification, So, I booked actually 7 business class round trips to SIN with Finnair instead of CX.
09 September 2006
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) – Singapore Changi (SIN/WSSS)
Finnair AY/FIN 097
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
1440-1800 – On Time
Business Class, Seat 5J
Photo © Xu Zheng
Photo © K.L.Yim
Pictures here: http://lari.pp.fi/AY97_09SEP/index.html
We took a taxi to Don Muang at around 11.30 am – it was the usual quick ride of about 30 minutes. A pleasant Lufthansa agent checked us in, and confirmed that seats 5JL have the bassinet fittings in the bulkhead in front. Immigration had horrible lines – you could hardly squeeze yourself into the waiting area after paying the departure tax. Alas, families with children can bypass these, so we went straight to the special desk past the normal ones. Quick and painless.
The lounge choices were Cathay, Qantas and Lufthansa (due to my status with them) – AY gives invitations to the Qantas Club. However, QF only opens it at 1pm, leaving Finnair passengers just one hour to use it before SIN/HKG and next year KUL departure. So we went to the LH lounge, and the agent of course said we could use the much nicer Qantas Club. After I pointed out it’s usually not open, she phoned QF and told me “It’s absolutely ridiculous they aren’t open since Finnair is paying them for it!”. I agreed. That was quite refreshing considering most Thais just accept everything with “mai pen rai” and wouldn’t question such things.
So, we were alone in the LH lounge before moving over to the Qantas Club at 1pm. We were the only guests there for quite a while as well. OH-LGD arrived from Helsinki on time, and docked at gate 35 – too far from the lounge for my liking. Usually Finnair tends to use the pier 5 gates which are perfect for the QF lounge. Boarding started late, and we made it to the first row of the small business class cabin behind the galley. I don’t particularly like it since the economy class passengers pass through during boarding, and you won’t get pre-departure drink refills or any attention really because of the boarding procedure. But the front cabin was full by the time I booked. Drinks finally arrived, and so did the infant life west and seatbelt. In addition to the usual service chefs, a friendly Thai F/A was also serving the business class cabin.
Doors were closed on time despite the late boarding, and the mini-cabin was quite nice from now on with just a couple of other passengers. Since all AY MD-11s now have the new seats – we obviously had them also. At first, a few months ago, I thought they were a bit hard and narrow, but on these flights I actually thought they weren’t all that bad. The angle is less steep than on CX and LX, but I still think the SQ Spacebeds have less of that sliding factor. The Majesty seats have all the bells of whistles you can ask for – lumbar support, adjustable headrests, privacy divider, snake lights, bottle stowage, magazine stowage etc. The power port remains an empower one – useless if you ask me. LH had proper plugs even in their old business class. LGA-D have non-AVOD PTVs while LGE-G have tables for DVD players. Actually, I think the DVD players are better since the selection is rather large and they are obviously on demand.
Seat pictures from a previous trip: http://lari.pp.fi/aylieflat/index.html
We taxied past all the usual Don Muang variety, including three Thai Sky TriStars. A MD-11 signature take-off from runway 21R followed and the seatbelt sign was switched off just minutes later. Service started with hot towels – but no pre-lunch drinks/nuts. Why AY can’t ever do that – I don’t know. No menus were offered on either flight, so whatever I’m writing here is my description. Lunch is served on BKK-SIN:
Chicken fillet with apple and Thai style noodles
Fillet of salmon with creamy mushroom sauce
served with duchess potato
Beef curry with mixed vegetables
served with steamed rice
Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale Brut Vintage 1999, France
Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaucopins 2003, France
Riesling Zobinger Heiligenstein 2003, Austria
Osoyoos Larose 2002, Canada
Grandarella Apassimento IGT 2001, Italy
Chateau Guiraud 2000, France
Niepoort 20 years old Tawny Port, Portugal
Balvenie Founders Reserve Malt
Bombay Sapphire Gin
St Brendan’s Irish Cream
Martell Cordon Bleu
Calvados Roger Groult 20 ans d’age
Koff and Lapin Kulta Beer
Asahi Beer (only on routes to and from Japan)
Sake Osakaya Choubei (only on routes to and from Japan)
Tsingtao Beer (only on routes to and from China)
Spring Soda and Tonic Waters
Orange, Apple, Grapefruit and Tomato Juices
Coca Cola, Coca Cola Light, Fanta and Sprite Soft Drinks
The appetizer was decent, and the salmon main was excellent. My wife had the beef and said it was good as well. I had some of the Canadian red wine on offer as well as champagne with the meal, and rounded it off with some coffee and calvados. The rest of the flight passed quickly as I filled up the Singapore immigration forms and had some more champagne. We landed on time, and docked at a far-away gate in the D-concourse – these must be cheaper as the Finnair MD-11 always sits the 3-4 hours at one of the furthest gates.
A CIAS agent retrieved the baby stroller, and after a few minutes’ wait at immigration, we were soon on out way to the Singapore Marriott.
Singapore Marriott Hotel
Perhaps my 10h stay in about as many months… I know nowadays to really push it for upgrades here – a non-renovated executive level room is the standard upgrade for even Marriott Platinums it seems. Managed to get a suite on the executive floor this time, and it was pretty nice. It still escapes me how this property can charge SGD 320 for a standard room when even the Ritz Carlton Millenia is only SGD 265 on weekends. We hit the lounge at around 7.20pm – their food service should be available till 7:30. Not really – everything was finished when we got there, and was not replenished. Completely appalling for a hotel charging this sort of prices. My final order for wine about 20 minutes later was met with “I should be charging you for this but it’s ok”. Excuse me – I should have been eating at 7:20 as well!
The lounge has been renovated – not too impressive at all in my opinion, the tables are so close to each other it looks like a school cafeteria. There’s no comparison between the lounge in Singapore Marriott and the exemplary lounges at JW Marriott Jakarta and JW Marriott Bangkok. These two also serve food/drinks way past the 7:30pm cut-off. I seriously expected more when I heard about the renovation. A request for late check-out at 4pm was met with “that will be half day charge sir, actually we can only give 1pm”. That goes beyond pathetic considering with Starwood, Platinum, Gold and even Preferred Plus have guaranteed 4pm check-out regardless of the booking situation. Marriott Platinum requires 25 nights more than Starwood’s equivalent.
The renovated room and suites are nice, but I’d expect things like decent upgrades and 4pm checkout to be the norm for Platinums. Instead, you always need to really push for them. Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and even Phuket JW always do even 6pm check-out it if I need it. Will stay at the Ritz Carlton Millenia on my next upcoming trip.
10 September 2006
Singapore Changi (SIN/WSSS) – Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD)
Finnair AY/FIN 098
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
2150-2310 – On Time
Business Class, Seat 1J
Photo © Antti Salo
Photo © Jaakko Ypyä
Pictures here: http://lari.pp.fi/AY98_10SEP/index.html
After some lunch and strolling around Orchard Road, we headed to Changi airport around 4:30pm. Thanks to Finnair’s early check-in, we were able to get out boarding passes right away, and headed through immigration to the Qantas Club. Finnair gives invitations to the Skyview Lounge, but in my opinion the QF/BA lounge is much nicer so I tend to use it. Qantas doesn’t like it though, and this was yet another time they almost tried some BS how we should be using the Skyview Lounge before another agent corrected her. CX/QF give basically zero premium class award availability to partner oneworld programs, and they don’t seem happy with other benefits quite often too. Star Alliance carriers seem much better in these aspects in comparison based on my experiences. Though the AAdvantage program is so generous I can live with BA First awards instead of CX. Haha.
The QF/BA Singapore lounge is perhaps the biggest I’ve been to – absolutely massive. There’s a main food buffet with rather limited choices – pizza, sandwiches, cheese, fruit and some soup. There’s also a full service bar. I found us seats near one of the TVs – I definitely wanted to watch the F1 Italian GP so this was good. The Singapore Slings from the bar were pretty nice, but unfortunately we had to leave with four laps of the race left. Schumi leading and Alsonso out – definitely an interesting result for the rest of the season.
It was a full marathon from the lounge to gate D36 – where a long line was waiting with screens flashing “Gate Closing”. I absolutely hate this about Changi! Also I really don’t understand why premium passengers should be subjected to the same wait – surely the boarding pass/passport checkers could escort us past the lines. Don’t know whether the guys heard my protesting or if it was because of our son – but we were soon escorted past the lines. Unfortunately Suvarnabhumi will have gate screening as well – I really prefer a large and efficient screening point after immigration like at Hong Kong. In HKG, CX enforces briority boarding in an exemplary manner as well.
OH-LGE was waiting at the gate this time, and we had seats in the first row. A very friendly purser greeted us at the door. These non-PTV birds (LGE-G) have a different seat config as well – only three rows on the J/L side in the front cabin which means legroom in 1J/L is absolutely massive. But the bassinet fittings are different too – none in front of 1J/L unlike on the original Finnair birds. However, the crew said it’s ok to keep the bassinet on the floor in front of us. Pre-departure drinks were soon offered, and so were newspapers – I always enjoy reading the Finnish papers on these flights as I don’t really get to read them in Bangkok. Infant life vest and seatbelt were given of course as well.
Pushback was a bit early, and it looked like a full house in business again. A very powerful takeoff as usual, and service started soon after the seatbelt sign went off. Hot towels, wine lists but no menus again. Here’s my version of the latter:
Lamb with seasonal greens
King prawns with asparagus and glass noodle salad
Tenderloin of beef with creamy potatoes
Chicken curry with steamed rice
Fish with rice
The food was really excellent, and I’m glad to see they still offer two choices of starters as well. I had the prawns and steak while my wife had the lamb and steak. I had pretty much the same drinks as on BKK-SIN, and service was again very good and attentive. We flew by Pattaya, Suvarnabhumi Airport and then circled somewhere east of Don Muang because of the arriving traffic at the old Bangkok International Airport. This would be my second last time arriving at Don Muang, and my wife’s and son’s last arrival there.
After a few minutes in the holding pattern, the usual “cabin crew prepare for approach” was announced, and a few minutes later the good old MD-11 touched down on runway 21L. Our arrival gate was again in pier 3 – gate 32 to be more exact. This worked nicely for immigration. The same friendly purser thanked us, and a LH agent retrieved the stroller and delivered it to the gate. Immigration was very quick considering we could use one of the official lines.
The taxi ride home was something I didn’t really need – my second time with one of those screwed up meters that have a switch somewhere. It would go one km normally, then always jump the next. I informed the driver of this in a not so nice manner, and suddenly his meter of course started working. What a f***ing moron. I was really tempted to rip out the darned thing from his car. He ended up getting 5 baht less than I usually pay with tip and collecting half of the money from somewhere between his feet and the pedals, but he was probably too happy to care after ripping off the guy going to the airport – 373 Baht and 65 km – and I bet he was coming from a downtown hotel. These scam artist lowlifes, while rare, give a bad name to all taxis here.
Verdict on AY
- The seats are excellent for BKK-SIN where most carriers have regional seats
- Service was professional and friendly
- Food was excellent
- The flights were on time, though BKK flights usually suffer if one MD11 goes tech
- The QF lounges at both ends are nice
- This Finnair I-class fare offers unbeatable value on BKK-SIN (and BKK-HKG for that matter)
- Qantas Club Don Muang opening times
- No menus
- No pre lunch/dinner drink service
- Late evening departure from SIN
Overall very happy with Finnair on this trip, hope you enjoyed reading.
15SEP BKK-SIN CX 713 J 744
- Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore
16SEP SIN-BKK AY 098 J M11
Obviously ticketed with AY since CX would only sell such a fare with this Asiamiles crap.