airpearl
Topic Author
Posts: 849
Joined: Tue May 01, 2001 7:42 pm

Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 3:40 pm


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Fifty Years Strong - May 1, 2010
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May Day in Bangkok. Not too many miles from where I'm writing this, workers and peasants clad in Socialist red - but amply funded by a capitalist-billionaire-fugitive who carries a number of passports - are trying to overthrow a largely nice but unelected government that goes by the name Democrat. Another group of former-but-would-again-be protestors - waiting in the wings with yellow shirts at the ready to counter-attack - are advocating the use of force against these red-shirted "terrorists". The yellow team - styling themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy - are keen on martial law for the "stability of the crown". The great proletariat revolution used to be far less complicated fifty years ago.

The Kingdom of Thailand is in a right royal mess - and it's hardly the time for celebration. Yet, that's precisely what I'm about to do. Thai Airways International is celebrating its birthday today, and isn't letting a little local difficulty spoil the party. When TG first announced a "nostalgic" flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong on a retro-liveried B744 - to re-create the airline's first commercial service fifty years earlier - nobody had envisaged the capital city today in the cusp of civil war (to be fair, it's mainly foreign media calling it that; many Bangkokians just sigh and prefer to believe it's only a little local difficulty). So perhaps I needn't have worried: short of another sit-in protest at Suvarnabhumi - and that's not imminent - TG would never think of cancelling the highlight of its anniversary year.

After all, Thai Airways is no stranger to conflict; it has not only survived but managed to thrive amid political upheaval and a multitude of coups and attempted coups. When TG started flying in the 1960s and into the '70s, vicious wars were raging in neighboring Vietnam and Cambodia, with dire predictions for Thailand as the next one to fall. That didn't happen of course, but the country's succession of military coups over the decades acted as a turbulent backdrop to Thai Airways' "smooth as silk".

My own history with TG is much more recent, but even there, aviation milestones are sometimes intertwined with political ones. I will always associate my longest nonstop flight - from Bangkok's Don Mueang to JFK - with the night in September 2006 when Thai army tanks rolled in to overthrow the government of Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup. Aboard the transpolar A345, it was business as usual like nothing happened, and the legendary royal orchid service didn't falter for a second. The airline's amazing resilience is a fact that's often overlooked when it's compared with neighboring SQ, CX, and MH. None of those carriers have anything close to the challenges TG faces.

Personally, TG - with all its many imperfections and faults - has become as familiar as an old friend. It remains my top airline, by default, if the number of flights is the gauge. However, what statistics can't measure is the feeling one gets when boarding a TG flight in Kunming, or Rangoon, or Islamabad after a rough trip: I may be sitting in the last row of a tired PTV-less A300, but those flights are extra special - they make me feel like I am already home. That's when I realize I've probably found my favorite airline.
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"Welcome to Royal Orchid Service"
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Click here for "Touched By Thai", the airline's official 50th anniversary music video.
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Airport
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10.54 a.m. Suvarnabhumi. I still can't believe I'm here. This flight falls smack in middle of a scheduled week-long business trip. Furthermore, the only way to get aboard is to book a place in a 'Thai-nationals only' 3-day special package tour to Hong Kong. When I ask if the airline makes exceptions on nationality, TG's Kuala Lumpur office doesn't even bother to revert to me. Everything points to a no-go. But then the damnest things happen and about two weeks ago, pieces start falling into place: my work trip gets cancelled; while a chance email to Royal Orchid Holidays in Bangkok (which I expect to be ignored) is promptly answered. Of course, you're most welcome to join the celebrations, replies an enthusiastic-sounding Khun Panida, who takes the liberty to reserve my hotel room as well. Within a day, I'm already set to go!
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Although the airport is operating as normal, it feels wonderfully abnormal. At the door, there's no need to look up the departure boards for this flight - there are ample signs featuring the airline's original 'Dancing Man' logo leading the way. Check-in zone A is usually reserved for TG's Business Class passengers but today, every one aboard TG606 is a premium passenger.
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I love these old-style promotional posters: this is the first of many to get passengers into the mood. Turning the corner from here, there's a hive of activity at the usually quiet premium check-in area. A large number of the check-in desks are now dedicated to serving one flight alone - without class differentiation. I am initially misdirected to a "normal" J class desk - perhaps I didn't look retro enough - only to be told I should be further along, checking-in at the specially allocated desks for TG606.
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My new check-in agent is a cheerful lass in TG's early 1960s ground attire, and looks remarkably smart despite the heat. It's the hot season in Bangkok, and I am wilting and dripping sweat already despite wearing a cotton shirt in air-conditioning. I can't imagine how it must have been like back in those pre A/C days - it can't have been very much fun dressed in this costume in 36 degree heat!
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My bag is tagged to Hong Kong, and another tag identifies which hotel I'll be staying in. I am issued with a current Business Class boarding pass - what a shame these couldn't have been printed retro-style as well. (Of course, there wasn't such a thing as Business Class then either.) There's also no need for a special invite to the VIP lounge, I'm told, every passenger from the flight is invited. Below, check-in agents all looking sharp for passengers on TG's flagship service today.
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The pre-747 days of the sixties were a time when flying was glamorous and always an 'event'; passengers were immaculately turned out, and airline pilots idolized as heros. It's no different today at Bangkok Airport. Believe it or not, these ladies (who've all dressed in polka-dot lilac as a tribute to TG) are all accountants at banks and multinationals. At the center of attention, the young TG pilot - who's also dressed in period uniform - does look just a little intimidated though.

All around, there's evidence that today is special indeed. Early posters advertise the new service to Hong Kong offering "luxurious and colorful interior decor... courteous multilingual hostesses" and piloted by "experienced SAS-trained flight crews." The first TG flights offered a "luxurious First Class with passenger lounge" and "spacious Tourist Class with ample leg-room and folding tables."
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Retro detour... Thai International started service in 1960 with three Douglas DC-6Bs (HS-TGA, HS-TGB, HS-TGC) leased from SAS. The 60-seater powered by four Pratt & Whitney 2,500hp R-2800-CB17 twin row radial piston engines had a cruising speed of 507 km/hr and range with maximum payload of 2,610 nm, putting Bangkok-Hong Kong well within its capability. HS-TGC (below) was returned to SAS (as SE-BDT) in 1964 when TG's Caravelles arrived. Incidentally, the same registration was later adopted for a B747-2D7B, in TG service between 1980 and 1996.
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Passengers dressed in their Sunday best for the special flight are just arriving, and I would have liked to hang around the check-in area for more photos, but it's unbearably hot here so I escape to the lounge. As for attire, I had brought a suit along and borrowed a 1960s skinny tie from my dad - hoping to at least try to look the part - but am now relieved I didn't wear them in this heat. (The itinerary asks for period costume, but as Khun Panida from Royal Orchid Holidays responds in a cute email to me: "the dress code is not a mandatory condition of travel. No need to buy your new dress.")

The dedicated TG fast track immigration counters are just beyond check-in zone A. At security check, the 2010-standard routine of no liquids, belts and shoes off and laptops out inject a big dose of reality into this retro party. I am ushered down the escalators into the airline's largest premium lounge at Concourse D, which is reserved just for TG606's passengers today.
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11.13 a.m. Royal Silk Lounge. "Khun suay mak mak," a retro-attired lounge agent says to me as I enter, which is rather worrying considering the phrase 'you're very pretty' is something you'd probably only say to a Thai girl. (Hmmm, perhaps I should have gone with the suit and tie...) Still, I return the compliment, which pleased her.

The lounge is still quiet at this time, more than three hours to departure. A stage with backdrop, rostrum and some seats are being prepared to one side of the facility for the President's welcoming speech later. A few remaining transit passengers from earlier flights start making their way out, while those on TG606 start trickling in.
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At check-in earlier, I had been given my first souvenir of the day. I have time now to examine the loot: a very nice retro airline bag (women are given retro make-up bags) in the original Thai logo, and a lavishly illustrated 140-page commemorative book that contains the history of the airline, and 50 "Untold Stories" like that of the first baby born on TG (between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in 1968) or how passengers chipped in to help pay for fuel in Baku when a TG MXP-DMK flight in 2002 diverted there on a medical emergency.
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The BKK departure board shows that most of the flights leaving at this time are bound for regional destinations, like in the early days of TG operations. By the end of the 1960s, the airline was a regular visitor to all the destinations shown on the board. Interesting to note too that in all these cities, the airports TG first flew into in the '60s have been replaced by much bigger facilities.
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Retro detour... The arrival in 1964 of the first of five 72-seater SE-210 Caravelle IIIs - leased from SAS - signified the start of the jet age for the airline. They also coincided with a period of rapid expansion that included forays into then 'wild' Bali and Kathmandu. An article on TG's web site gives an insight into airline ops in those heady days: "the fleet of Caravelles could land and take off almost anywhere and for Bali, the landing Caravelles popped out a parachute from the tail to slow down the aircraft. It was an ingenuous method that worked." A Caravelle also became the airline's first fatal accident - on Jun 30, 1967, HS-TGI inbound from Haneda and Taipei crashed into the sea just short of Hong Kong Kai Tak's runway in poor weather. 56 of the 80 on board survive the crash.
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With time to spare, I wander into the main airport departures concourse. It's quieter than usual - not surprising seeing many governments have issued travel warnings for Thailand due to the protests. I also notice ground staff there carrying signs to help direct TG606 passengers, who may have gone astray, to the lounge.

When I return, I find a much busier place - a bit like an open cocktail party with guests dressed in an assortment of colorful costumes - and TG President Piyasvasti Amranand mingling with the guests, looking sober and a little like a reluctant celebrity. Many take the opportunity to have their photos taken with the airline's top executive - the gentleman in the Thai outfit below later wins one of four prizes for best costume (a pair of return Business Class tickets from Bangkok to Paris).
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"Take to the skies on the wings of Thai/Soaring high on the wings of Thai," go the strangely appropriate lyrics of a song playing in the background. It's turning out to be quite the sixties party and reliving them best are those who can actually remember those swinging days. President Piyasvasti interrupts the merry-making with a short welcoming speech in Thai and then wisely lets everyone get on with the party. Ominously, I notice that the hot sunny morning outside has given way to heavy torrential rain - and this isn't looking good for plans.
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1.25 p.m. Gate change announcement. The inevitable happens due to weather. Since the first email from Khun Panida, I had known the departure gate for this flight would be D1a - one of Suvarnabhumi's bus gates. This means plenty of photo opportunities on the tarmac and we get to properly board the B744 retro jet like she should be boarded - by stairs. But even as the rain is easing, I already spot HS-TGP being towed in the distance towards an aerobridge gate.  
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Outside the lounge, the pre-prepared signs for TG606 are still directing passengers to the originally allocated gate D1a - making it look hopeful - but when we get there, the bad news is confirmed. The new gate is D6.
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Despite initial disappointment with the gates, the first full view of HS-TGP is nonetheless exciting, even though it's through Suvarnabhumi's spotter-unfriendly concave panes. I must admit I wasn't bowled over when I first saw pictures of this 16-year old B747-4D7 in the retro livery, but it's different and more vibrant in real life: not so bad actually. (Whether or not this view is perhaps rose-tinted by other senses on this auspicious day is debatable). Earlier - back at home when I was a lot more cynical - I thought the only widebodies in the current TG fleet that could wear this livery well were the A346. I thought that in shape and design, they're probably the closest to the DC8, which was the last in the fleet to see this livery in everyday use.
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Retro detour... The introduction of the faster and more economical DC8s in 1970 significantly changed Thai's route network, and allowed the airline to start flights outside Asia for the first time. Flights from Bangkok to Sydney via Singapore were inaugurated in April 1971 and Copenhagen was started in June 1972. A fleet of DC8-33s, joined later by DC8-63s, became the mainstay of the fleet for much of the 1970s. The last of the DC8s were retired in 1984.
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1.48 p.m. Departure Gate C6. Passengers trickle in to be greeted by more ground staff in 1960s uniform. If there's some disappointment among the passengers over not being able to board the plane via stairs, it's certainly not showing. Everyone's still in a buoyant mood. I had much earlier fantasized that we - all 300+ of us - would be about now standing behind a massive banner and having a group photograph taken with the plane as a backdrop. (Wasn't this the '60s and '70s group tour thing to do?) But alas, that's not to be. 
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Well, at least we get to see the plane through - for this airport - surprisingly clean glass. HS-TGP is also a new addition to my planes flown list, which is a nice bonus too. The rain seems to have stopped - pity it didn't do so earlier before the decision to change gates was made. Here are a few shots of the retro livery for you to enjoy. Chances are she'll probably be visiting an airport near you soon.  
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Retro detour... The original 'Dancing Man' logo was replaced in 1975 by a dramatic, new purple, pink and golden yellow livery designed by Walter Landor & Associates - easily one of the most attractive color schemes of any airline. And it's one that appears to have withstood the test of time, looking as fresh in 2000 as it did in the 1970s. Thirty years on in 2005, Thai relaunched its corporate identity that accentuates the color purple, but wisely kept its logo intact. The airline's been slow at repainting though, with a portion of the fleet still in the older livery in 2010.
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2.02 p.m. Boarding. I wonder how they boarded flights in the 1960s. Did First class get priority? I had actually expected some differences, but today's flight boards like any other TG service with F, J and Star Alliance Gold members at the front of the queue. Economy class boards by seat row numbers - which I bet didn't happen in 1960. It's a reality of the day brought on by the advent of wide-body planes: we are 375 passengers today against 60 on the first flight.
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Still, boarding a Thai flight is always a welcoming experience. Today, it is even more so because in addition to the gracious "wai" from a flight attendant, a pilot (who looks really familiar) is also at door 1L dispensing a formal salute, like how it used to be 50 years ago. It certainly adds a sense of occasion to this flight - Bangkok to Hong Kong this afternoon has been elevated from a routine short hop to the airline's flagship route. Both pilot and stewardess aren't wearing TG's retro uniforms but, as I find out later, there's more than one set of crew on board.
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This is also the first time I am sat in the front row of Royal Silk Class on the lower deck, and I must say it's a strange place to be - but it is probably the best vantage point for observing all that's happening today. There is no fixed partition seperating J and F classes which means that, with the curtains open, one gets to see right through to the nose of the plane, even without travelling in one of the ten Royal First Class seats. A number of VIPs are seated at the pointy end, including Dr Piyasvasti and his wife at 3E & F. Seated just ahead of them are former TG President Chatrachai Bunya-Ananta, who arrives on a wheelchair, and his wife. Mr Chatrachai was aboard the first TG flight to Hong Kong in 1960.
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Retro detour... In 1977, Thai became one of the first Asian carriers to choose the new twin-engined wide-body A300 for regional flying, like to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. This was pioneering stuff then considering many of the intra-Far East routes were over water, and its regional competitors were all flying quads (747, 707, DC8) or trijets (DC10, Tristar). An Airbus advert from the 1980s below shows just how colorful the early TG A300B4 interiors were in First Class.
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The pre-take off service is classic TG at its best. Hot towels and menus are dispensed, while headsets for the AVOD IFE in the seat pocket are left untouched. An offer of bubbly is not refused - it's the first of a couple. Appropriately, this picture turns out rather blurry. 
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Departure
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Bangkok to Hong Kong
Thai Airways International flight 606 in Royal Silk (Business) Class
B747-4D7 "Thepprasit" in Retro Livery
Dept 14h40 Arrv 18h15 (on time)

With a full flight, we are running a little late, but no one is in a hurry. Door 1L is closed shut a few minutes after scheduled departure and we push back about ten minutes behind, with a safety video like this playing in the distance. I realize then why the pilot who saluted me earlier looks so familiar - he's only on every TG safety video!

Flight time of 2 hours and 15 minutes feels a little too short today. Next door, the routine traffic at Suvarnabhumi goes on as usual. Fellow Star Alliance partners like Swiss, disembarking passengers from ZRH at D7, benefit from some of best gate space at the airport.
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Around the corner is another A343 belonging to another Star Alliance carrier. Only that SAS is not just another airline - in the TG context, it is a significant contributor: co-founder and provider of much of the airline's early technical support. For 17 years since its foundation, Scandinavian had also been a key shareholder in TG - with a 30% stake initially, later diluted to 15% that was sold to the Thai government in 1977. (It's not a coincidence, our retro livery today looks more than a little "Viking"!) It's a surprise to me therefore that except for being parked at an adjacent gate, SK seems to be completely absent from these celebrations. I wonder why. (On a personal side note, my parents consistently claim they flew SAS - even though I insist it must have been Thai - for their honeymoon between Bangkok and Hong Kong, which lost their bags, and that resulted in a free ticket as compensation, and personalized letter of apology. "Thai, SAS, it was the same airline back then... you weren't even born, how would you know?" says my dad.)
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Even without trying, random pictures airside Suvarnabhumi will yield a rich assortment of diverse carriers. There is little doubt that Bangkok is South-East Asia's preeminent air hub (sorry Singapore). This KLM B744 (departing for its daily service to Taipei, for which it has full fifth-freedom rights) is one of the many examples of competition TG has been facing for decades. Among the legacy "national" carriers in the region, TG probably faces the most intense competition at its home base - and amazingly it thrives, while its penchant for pioneering unusual solutions to difficult problems is often way under-rated. A.net critics rightly point to the mess of political interference in TG's decision making over the years - but the fact that it remains among the world's top airlines despite these shortcomings is quite impressive. Just imagine what this airline could have achieved without them. Below is an airline with even more challenges: an LY B772ER, which had come in on a Friday afternoon, takes a long rest through Shabbat before returning to TLV tonight.
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Retro detour... Thai achieved a number of 'firsts' through its first 50 years. Among them, by the mid-1960s, TG was flying the region's first all-jet fleet; while in 1980, the airline's gutsy decision to start U.S. services with flights to Dallas Ft Worth via Seattle was nothing short of revolutionary. (It actually started with LAX via SEA but within a few months, added DFW as well. LAX was later suspended - and then reinstated in the 1990s.) Those seemed like great old decadent days: the summer 1984 timetable below shows a now unimaginably generous turnaround time in DFW, with the 4X weekly schedule requiring the deployment of no less than three B742s!
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Back aboard this B747, the cabin is being prepared for departure. As you can see, there's acres of legroom between me and the seat in front, which is in First Class. Crew jump seats (there are 4) are unusually located in the middle of the cabin, behind row 3. It's a relatively quiet period of the day at the airport, so there's no queue at 19R when we roll on, and are very quickly airborne. Immediately after take off, a huge wall of curtain is unravelled seperating the classes. It's a very strange design that gives me a great deal of room but - judging from the slightly amusing sight of an assortment of shoes and socks sticking into Business Class as they try to maneuver around the curtains - it's probably a little bit cramped on the other side!
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3.32 p.m. Lunch. Time flies when you're having fun, or trying to solve Thailand's political stalemate. My neighbor, whose company is a key TG business partner, is an informed and talkative seat-mate. By the time lunch comes around, we have discussed three possible scenarios from the current protests, a whole series of rumors concerning Thaksin, but worryingly, no solutions. I suspect many others on this plane are discussing this very same thing too.

I like the menu card. The nice colorful retro cover provides a cheer - another special item for my collection. The food on offer doesn't look particularly special though, even if I had pre-ordered the prawn curry "chu-chee" in advance.
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I am not sure about fifty years ago but ever since I can remember, nobody raves about airline food. When it's good, passengers will often say that it is "surprisingly" good. When it's not so good, we will shrug it off as "just airline food". Most of the time, it is mediocre, at best. So, in the best traditions of mediocrity, TG's fiftieth year nostagic flight presents an uninspiring fried snapper and lobster appetizer (above), and a decidedly over-cooked prawn curry (below) - neither of which I can finish. The chocolate coconut rolls at least come with a collectors' box.
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Retro detour... In 1983, Thai introduced its new business class service called Royal Executive Class. Unusual at the time, the carrier also stopped selling First Class on most regional flights, ahead of most of its Asian competitors, and renamed the premium front cabin Royal Executive. The business cabin was rebranded Royal Silk Class in 2005.
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The meal continues with cheese, crackers and fruit, and finishes with a decent orange truffle cake. There's already a lot of activity at this stage as crew push trolleys up and down the aisle or drag huge holdalls from storage areas to the galley. It is what everyone's been waiting for: inflight entertainment is about to happen. (Incidentally, on the main screen, an episode of the Dean Martin Show is playing.)
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Inflight entertainment - continues below
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airpearl
Topic Author
Posts: 849
Joined: Tue May 01, 2001 7:42 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 3:41 pm


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4.28 p.m. Fashion Show. By a whole different set of crew who had been holed up somewhere on this plane for the past two hours or so. TG is one of the few airlines (KLM is another) which has a huge longitudinal galley on its B744 between doors 1R and 2R - and now we know why.   The music is full-blast hip hop while the models - including some of the most attractive flight attendants (or were they called air hostesses then) I'd ever seen on Thai, wow - parade down the catwalk, taking an anti-clockwise route starting in First Class.
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The wall of curtain has now been withdrawn, making the view from my seat as grandstand as you can get. There's no narration, just loud music and a lot of flash photography - and so I just follow suit and snap away. As you can see, the models are very obliging to the paparazzi. The first uniforms to be paraded are those worn by crews in the late 1960s when the airline operated Caravelles.
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Moving down the years - the groovy seventies saw the airline with a new logo, and these are uniforms you might have encountered as you head towards those DC8s - or if you're really lucky - the gorgeous DC10s that flew intercontinental routes.
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The early 1980s saw TG enter the jumbo age and a new deep purple uniform (below right) designed by Pierre Balmain, the same French couturier who created the sarong outfit for Malaysia-Singapore Airlines that became the world-famous 'Singapore girl' look. This must be one of his less inspiring designs, for TG quickly replaced it before the end of the decade with one designed locally (below left). By this time, the first of the B744s were pending delivery.
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Retro detour... During the summer of 1984, Thai was flying to seven European destinations, all by B747. Significantly, the airline was an unsung pioneer of nonstop Asia-Europe flights: at a time when most carriers were still plying multi-stop milk runs with refueling stops in the Gulf or Indian sub-continent, the vast majority TG flights from BKK went straight into ATH, FCO, CPH or FRA.
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The current uniforms were introduced in 2005 to usher the arrival of a fleet of ultra long-haul A340-500s, and a new phase in the airline's development with the imminent opening of Bangkok's new airport at Suvarnabhumi. Thaksin Shinawatra (who is now a fugitive and blamed for financing much of the current protests in Thailand) was in power, and quickly turning into another one of Asia's infamous long-term dictators.
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Retro detour... To keep up with the Joneses - or rather the Tans - down the street, TG took delivery of the first of four A345s in 2005 to fly ultra long-hauls from Bangkok - first to New York, then Los Angeles. But with oil prices soaring, this turned out to be one of airline's biggest miscalculations in recent times: the turbulent story of TG and its on-again-off-again plans for its A345s and U.S. routes is well documented and argued in many recent A.net threads. New York is no longer served, but the four lavishly-configured A345s are still flying with TG, for now.
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When the models have moved on to parade upstairs, I notice a trolley being rolled into First Class with what looks like rather substantial souvenirs. I wonder if the rest of us will get them...

Although spirits are high in the premium classes, I knew the real action would be in down the back. When I get there, the models are only just finishing their tour of the upper deck - some impatient passengers decide to take matters into their own hands, and start parading down the aisle themselves to applause from the rest of the cabin!
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Pretty and glamorous, what a wonderful time the '60s must have been for an air hostess, or indeed to have been a passenger flying with them   Note the retro feel extends to the head-rests printed with the original logo.
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All the 'models' aboard are actual TG staff, I am told, and that includes the pilots parading in the old uniforms. By the time I took my first flight on TG in the late 1980s, the crews were attired in the outfit modelled by the stewardess below.
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Retro detour... The 1980s were a busy period of expansion for the airline but not all services were successful. A twice weekly Bangkok to Cairo DC10 service would appear to be a route with potential, but turned out to be the most short-lived of three new routes TG started in 1985. The others - from Bangkok to Riyadh and Bandar Seri Begawan - were also subsequently dropped years later.
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Nobody said you can't touch the models, and so they do. Rather than just photographing them, passengers start moving into the aisles to pose with the very obliging air hostesses. There's so much demand that the models have to come round a second time.
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Everyone can act like a movie star today - just get one of the models right next to you.   There's so much traffic along the aisles that it's difficult for the 'real' service to continue. But the regular crew in TG's usual 'on-board' Thai silk outfits are in high spirits too. Here they are passing out hand-written old style Thai Airways International tickets. The retro crew also help to distribute the souvenirs.
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Retro detour... Back to the '80s. A rather clever advertisement in 1988 announces the new weekly DC10 service to Cairns, one of a number of unique destinations in Australasia and the Pacific that the airline started (and subsequently suspended). The Cairns frequency was increased to twice weekly the following year (1989 northern winter timetable below), at a time when the airline also flew to Christchurch. Service to Noumea in New Caledonia had at this time already been suspended.
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An announcement is made that we will soon be making our descent into Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok. Even so, the passengers don't seem to have got enough of the models and they make their appearance down the aisle one last time. This flight is feeling far too short for all that's happening around us. The inflight entertainment today on Thai beats the best AVOD IFE - yes, even Emirates' ICE.  
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Meanwhile more gifts are being distributed, including a very posh-looking box I saw earlier in First. All passengers get a soft leather Salvatore Ferragamo travel kit - a very nice souvenir. Also being passed out is a set of anniversary first day covers with today's date stamp.
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When I get back to my seat, we are already close to the airport. It is now past 6 p.m. Hong Kong time (which is one hour ahead of Thailand) and the sun is setting on the outlying islands. I then realize I didn't get any of the souvenirs the crew were passing out, but that is quickly rectified after a quick visit to the galley. My personalized retro ticket appears to be missing, but I hope to get a new one via post soon.
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6.10 p.m. Landing at 07L. As expected, passengers break into applause as we touch down. Chep Lap Kok is not quite Kai Tak, but we've made history of sorts today. I am amused that story number 47 of the 50 "untold stories" in TG's anniversary book is the one about this flight. Written in the past tense, an over-zealous copywriter decided to write history before it happens! It concludes: "While the standards of comfort on a B747-400 have certainly advanced since the time of the DC-6Bs, THAI's celebrated Royal Orchid Service remained as an unchanging feature to remind travellers of why THAI has always been one of the world's favorite airlines." A bit corny, but I have to agree.
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I crack a smile when one of first planes I spot is an AirAsia 'Bank Rakyat' promotion livery jet - I recognize her as the painful experience from KUL to HKG last year that taught me there's a cut-off point (of about 3 hours) where tight-pitched LCC travel changes from barely bearable to absolute murder. Today's flight can't be more of a contrast.

In the fading light, I take a shot of Cathay's 100th aircraft, an A333 registered B-LAD, which is significant for being the only special livery plane delivered in 2006, the airline's 60th anniversary. CX also featured retro uniforms on many of its flights during its anniversary year. I don't realize it until examining the pic later, but it seems there's at least one Hong Kong spotter recording our arrival for posterity.
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This is the usual United B744 gate at HKG, which is adjacent to TG's regular. We don't know it then, but this is another livery that'll soon be "retro" too - the announcement of the UA-CO merger is only two days away. Below, our reflection on HKG's glassy walls as we head for gate 40.
.

.

.
Retro detour... Talking about mergers: until April 1988, there were two 'Thai's - Thai International (TG) operated international flights while Thai Airways (TH, parent of Thai International) was predominantly a domestic carrier. The amalgamation added a host of domestic points and 11 aircraft (and 4 new types) to the fleet of surviving carrier TG - it also set the foundation for what is now one of the most diverse fleets of any mid-sized airline! In 1988, the TG fleet already consisted of B747-300 (2), B747-200 (6), DC10-30ER (3), A300B4 (11), A300-600 (7), A300C4 (1), A310 (2), B737-200 (3), Shorts 330 (4), Shorts 360 (2).
.

.
We're at the gate right on schedule, but it's not the end of festivities yet. The doors are quickly opened, and we say our goodbyes to the wonderful crew. The regular staff will be working the scheduled return as TG607 tonight, but the retro-dressed models will be joining us at a special cocktail reception at the airport's Regal Hotel. Welcome to Hong Kong!
.

.

Arrival party
.

After immigration clearance and collecting luggage (apparently some passengers left without picking up theirs because they assumed 'it'd be taken care of' like in the '60s!), I follow signs for the TG reception at the Regal that's linked to the airport. Here, the bags are dropped off to be transported ahead to the hotel our choice while we enjoy the party.
.

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In keeping with the mood, the theme is very much one of a 1960s Hong Kong. Visions of Suzie Wong's hometown are everywhere, with a rickshaw complete with relevant backdrop and driver available for photo ops, and pretty Chinese girls dressed in shiny cheongsam.
.

.
7.23 p.m. Ice sculpture. Just outside the ballroom, a large, quietly melting ice sculpture welcomes us all. I wonder if anyone else was standing here thinking about that strange plane... could it be a vision of TG's future (a twin engined A380), or of missed opportunities in the past (a jet-engined Stratocruiser)? I guess it pleases both Airbus and Boeing supporters  
.

.

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Inside the ballroom, the food is served from dai pai dong, the roadside open-air food stalls that used to be - but are no longer - common in Hong Kong. There's about more than a dozen of these stalls lining the wall on each side of the room and they're serving everything from Cantonese dim sum, congee and noodle soup to sweet fried desserts. The bar is free flow and waiters - in keeping with the theme - are dressed in their undershirts!
.

.

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This is a general view of the ballroom. I also notice that there are some here who're not from the flight: TG had invited its guests from Hong Kong to join the celebrations. It dawns on me that this event in Hong Kong is equally as significant being the first ever overseas destination for TG, now exactly fifty years later. Services to the city have continued uninterrupted for the entire period.
.

.
Retro detour... Not all TG destinations are like Hong Kong. The latter part of 2002 was particularly notorious for new cities that didn't last long in the network. Of routes to the five airports started between October and December that year, only Xiamen in China survives as a TG destination today, with a thrice-weekly service from Bangkok.
.

.

.
The festivities continue on stage with a lion dance and an auspicious dotting of the lion's nose by Dr Piyasvasti and Pruet Boobphakam, TG's Executive Vice President, Commercial. There are a number of cabaret acts, after which prizes are awarded to passengers with the best costumes: this lady wins two return J class tickets to Paris.
.

.

.
This gentleman deserves a prize for flying all the way to Hong Kong today looking like that: he gets two return J class tickets to Los Angeles, as does the lady below. In addition, a lucky dip has the top draw of two J class tickets to soon-to-be reinstated Johannesburg, and World Cup tickets. Second prize is two J class tickets to Sydney.
.

.
A cake-cutting ceremony and toast by Thai's present and former management end the evening's proceedings. A nice ending to a special and very memorable day.
.

.
Retro detour... Ok, just one last little rant. In the the eyes of plane nuts, TG is probably most notable for its quirky decision making (in the past, of course); and one that irks us more than others is your decision not to equip PTVs in economy class on many of your medium- and long-haul planes. Below a 2008 pic of a PTV-less Y class cabin aboard a TG B744 still holds true today - and since a fashion show cannot be guaranteed on every flight, it does sometimes make for a boring PTV-less journey. So if you're reading this TG, you'll know what we're asking for. Appreciate it asap, thanks.  
.

.

.
Ushered onto coaches, we are driven to our hotels (there are about half a dozen) in Kowloon. I can't remember the last time I'd been on a "tour", much less one conducted entirely in Thai! But it's a nice change not having to worry about hotel check-ins (already done) or bags (outside room) when I arrive. Ground organization is superb. And to top it off, a letter from the President in my room...
.

.
10.15 p.m. Kimberley Hotel. Finally - important stuff this - here's the total loot from this trip (but still awaiting that retro ticket). Not bad eh?
.


.
Last words
.
Special events like this don't come often. That it even happened in the midst of political upheaval in Thailand makes it incredible. But such is TG's strength - a fun, optimistic, resilient and resourceful carrier that so much reflects the best and most endearing traits of the Thai character. This trip had been a wonderful experience. Even though many of the events - like the fashion show aloft - were not a surprise, the meticulous detail and planning that went into the trip was impressive. Thank you so much TG!

.
Happy 50th Birthday. May the next fifty be smooth as silk.
.

.

.

Reelin' In The Years*
A collection of TG Facts, Figures and Trivia
.
Some Milestones
.
1960 - First THAI flight by DC-6B to Hong Kong
1972 - Starts first service to Europe
1975 - First widebody, a DC10-30 enters service
1979 - First B747-200 jumbo enters service
1980 - Starts first service to North America
1988 - Thai International (TG) and its parent mainly domestic Thai Airways (TH) merge
1991 - Thai is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand
1997 - Star Alliance is established: TG is one 5 founding airlines
2005 - Inaugurates polar BKK-JFK, one of the world's longest nonstop routes. Service is suspended in 2008.
2010 - Celebrates 50 Years Flying 'Smooth As Silk'
.

International destinations by first flights (excludes suspended/terminated ports):
.
1960-1969
Hong Kong, China - May 1, 1960
Rangoon, Burma - May 2, 1960
Kolkata, India - May 2, 1960
Taipei, Taiwan - May 3, 1960
Tokyo, Japan - May 3, 1960
Singapore - May 5, 1960
Phnom Penh, Cambodia - May 6, 1960
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - May 7, 1960
Manila, Philippines - Aug 11, 1960
Jakarta, Indonesia - Nov 6, 1960
Osaka, Japan - May 7, 1964
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - May 5, 1965
Dhaka, Bangladesh - Nov 1, 1965
Penang, Malaysia - Oct 4, 1966
Bali, Indonesia - Dec 24, 1967
Seoul, Korea - Mar 17, 1968
New Delhi, India - Jul 2, 1968
Kathmandu, Nepal - Dec 4, 1968
.
1970-1979
Sydney, Australia - Apr 1, 1971
Copenhagen, Denmark - Jun 3, 1972
London, United Kingdom - Nov 2, 1973
Frankfurt, Germany - Nov 6, 1973
Rome, Italy - Apr 16, 1974
Athens, Greece - Nov 3, 1975
Paris, France - Nov 4, 1975
Karachi, Pakistan - Apr 1, 1976
Colombo, Sri Lanka - Nov 3, 1978
.
1980-1989
Los Angeles, USA - Mar 30, 1980
Munich, Germany - Mar 30, 1980
Melbourne, Australia - Apr 4, 1980
Guangzhou, China - Apr 2, 1981
Perth, Australia - Mar 31, 1982
Brisbane, Australia - Apr 2, 1982
Beijing, China - Mar 29, 1983
Muscat, Oman - Jun 7, 1984
Zurich, Switzerland - Nov 1, 1984
Vientiane, Laos - Apr 4, 1985
Stockholm, Sweden - Oct 30, 1986
Auckland, New Zealand - Dec 5, 1987
Madrid, Spain - Dec 5, 1987
Hanoi, Vietnam - Apr 4, 1988
Nagoya, Japan - Oct 30, 1988
.
1990-1999
Kunming, China - Mar 30, 1992
Fukuoka, Japan - Oct 1992
Shanghai, China - Nov 2, 1993
Dubai, UAE - Nov 3, 1993
Lahore, Pakistan - Jul 1, 1994
.
2000-2010
Mumbai, India - Oct 31, 2001
Chengdu, China - Jan 2, 2002
Busan, Korea - Mar 31, 2002
Xiamen, China - Oct 29, 2002
Chennai, India - Oct 11, 2003
Bangalore, India - Mar 29, 2004
Milan, Italy - Nov 4, 2004
Moscow, Russia - Nov 1, 2005
Islamabad, Pakistan - Nov 2, 2005
Hyderabad, India - Oct 30, 2006
Johannesburg, South Africa - Oct 31, 2006
Gaya, India - Oct 28, 2007
Varanasi, India - Oct 28, 2007
Oslo, Norway - Jun 15, 2009
.

There's also an equally 'impressive' list of suspended/terminated international destinations:
.
Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Baghdad, Bahrain, Bandar Seri Begawan, Barcelona, Brussels, Cairns, Cairo, Christchurch, Chittagong, Dallas Ft Worth, Danang, Dhahran, Dusseldorf, Geneva, Guam, Helsinki, Istanbul, Jinghong, Kaohsiung, Kota Kinabalu, Kuwait, Langkawi, Luang Prabang, New York, Noumea, Riyadh, Seattle, Surabaya, Toronto, Vienna
.

Financial & Operational Track Record

Except for 2008, the airline has remained in the black every year in the past decade.
Net Profit/(Loss) in billion of Thai Baht:
2009 - 7.3
2008 - (21.4)
2007 - 4.4
2006 - 9.0
2005 - 6.8
2004 - 10.1
2003 - 12.1
2002 - 10.2
2001 - 1.9
2000 - 4.7

(USD/THB at approximately 32.2000)

Total Passengers: 18.48 million (2009) vs 18.71 million (2008)
Total Flights: 85,462 (2009) vs 86,657 (2008); latest 7,008 (Feb 2010) vs 6,535 (Feb 2009)
Cabin Load Factor: 73% (2009) vs 74.8% (2008); latest 82.3% (Feb 2010) vs 77.2 (Feb 2009)
Cabin Load Factor by region (Feb 2010): Domestic 86.1%, Regional 80.7%, Australia 68.2%, Europe 89.8%, North Pacific 71.0%
.

TG & Me - A Personal History
.
First flight: Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok (Late 1980s, A300B4, registration unavlb, TG/MH416)
Longest flight: 7540 nm Bangkok-New York JFK (Sep 20, 2006, A340-500, HS-TLA, TG790)
Shortest flight: 65 nm Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son (Feb 13, 2006, ATR72, HS-TRB, TG190)
Note-worthy flights: Chiang Mai-Suvarnabhumi (temp IATA code NBK), on one of a few special test flights before airport opening (Jul 29, 2006, A300-600, HS-TAK, TG2772)... and now, this 50th anniversary flight too!

Type firsts on TG: MD11 (Jul 27,1997, DMK-SHA, registration unavlb, TG664); ATR42 (Sep 1999, PHS-MAQ, registration unavlb); A340-500 (May 22, 2005, DMK-CNX, HS-TLB, TG126)

TG equipment flown (by first flights): A300B4 (Late 1980s), B747-400 (1991), B737-200 (1991), B747-200 (1992), B737-400 (1992), A300-600 (1996), A330-300 (1996), MD11 (1997), ATR42 (1999), B777-300 (2002), B777-200 (2002), A340-500 (2005), ATR72 (2006), A340-600 (2006), B747-300 (2007), B777-200ER (2008)

Previous TG-featured Trip Reports On A.Net (they're much shorter than this one!):
Flying On Borrowed Time: Thai A340-500 (Dec 2008)
From Song Thaew To 747: Domestic On Thai Airways (Apr 2008)
How The Other Half Lives: F Class On ANA & Thai (Apr 2008)
.

(*- With apologies to Steely Dan)

.

 
PlaneHunter
Posts: 6512
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 3:17 am

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 4:25 pm

Hi Airpearl,

thanks for posting this absolutely stunning report, what an impressive piece of work! Good to see that TG chose an appropriate way to celebrate its birthday - and you perfectly reported about this event. All these old ads are just amazing, too.   

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
An Airbus advert from the 1980s below shows just how colorful the early TG A300B4 interiors were in First Class.

Very nice picture.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
All passengers get a soft leather Salvatore Ferragamo travel kit - a very nice souvenir. Also being passed out is a set of anniversary first day covers with today's date stamp.

Really impressive!


PH
Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
 
SeaMeFly
Posts: 249
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 4:26 pm

Impressive!!! Thanks for sharing! :p
 
LAXintl
Posts: 20183
Joined: Wed May 24, 2000 12:12 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 5:19 pm

Nice report.

I watched HS-TGP take off in Tokyo last week. It was nostalgic for me not because of Thai, but made me remember SAS and its 747 fleet which I often flew in the 70 and 80s.
From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
 
SQ772
Posts: 1647
Joined: Wed Nov 07, 2001 5:16 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 5:24 pm

This is what I call a trip report that is written with sweat and heart. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and for recording this voyage with the panache of a seasoned trip reporter. I enjoyed the history lesson (yet again) and truly appreciate the amount of research you've put in to present this so beautifully to this particular member who frequently flies an airline that has not had an air hostess uniform change since inception... which leads me to realise that my airline of choice will never be able to pull off a fashion show down the aisle like what TG has done. Perhaps the only way the former could have depicted their evolution would be by the hairdo of their crew?

Thanks also for those unforgettable TG print ads. I remember seeing them as a boy, when dad used to bring home travel and airline magazines from the office. My first flight on TG was on a DC8 back in the mid seventies. My only memories of the cabin interior were the curtained windows...

I am on the verge of kow-towing to you after reading this report...

[Edited 2010-05-07 10:27:29]
There's always a better way to fly...
 
akhmad
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 5:33 pm

Hi Airpearl,

Amazing! Just truly amazing! I enjoyed every single word of your story. You have gone the most detailed way to describe the TG history and I really appreciated it. Thank you so much for all the efforts on bringing about this report.   

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
with the night in September 2006 when Thai army tanks rolled in to overthrow the government of Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup.

I was in Thailand at that time. I can recall armed guards along the roads while touring. I was not really at ease that time.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
Back to the '80s. A rather clever advertisement in 1988 announces the new weekly DC10 service to Cairns, one of a number of unique destinations in Australasia and the Pacific that the airline started (and subsequently suspended).

I remember this ad. It caught my attention instantly as a eight year old boy.

Thanks again. My weekend can get started nicely.

Cheers,
Suryo
Friends forever
 
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sultanils
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 6:45 pm

Hi Airpearl

What an amazing story you wrote down! Gives a good impression about the joy of flying back in the old days.
I wish the retrojet would visit my home airport (BRU) one day.
Thanks for posting.

(Sulta)Nils
In thrust we trust.
 
9MMAR
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 7:03 pm

Dear Airpearl,

You really need to know that this flight report is beyond spectacular and it deserves more than a return J class ticket to Paris or Los Angeles. I have been on a special occasion flight too but it was not at all near this magnitude.

The statistics, facts and trivia are amazing! You have been telling everyone that CX is your favourite airline but the beholding truth is that TG will always be the love of your life. And yes, I am in complete agreement with you that all the air hostesses in the retro uniforms are a lot prettier than the current Miss Thailand Universe (no offense to her).

As a proceed, it makes me wonder, has MH or SQ ever organised a flight of this sort for their anniversaries?
 
jumpseat2l
Posts: 14
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 7:33 pm

Airpearl,
Well done! What an amazing report and an even more incredible experience. Thank you for capturing in word and photo.
Cheers,
Jumpseat2l
 
TravellerPlus
Posts: 139
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:45 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 10:00 pm

My other half and I thoroughly enjoyed this report. We were tickled pink (or should that be purple) by the way the passengers got into the spirit of the event. Thank you for sharing.
What goes around comes around....unless your luggage is not on the carousel...
 
staralliance38
Posts: 1112
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 11:09 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Fri May 07, 2010 11:30 pm

Amazing report! Thank you so much for sharing! Great pics and great party. Really over the top!

Congrats to TG!
Roar, lion, roar
 
Flightsimboy
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2005 12:49 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 12:34 am

WOW!! WOW!! What a spectacular red carpet event in the air!! Not only is this on board the retro Boeing 747-400 (obviously) which I think is gorgeous (and I'm hoping for a 1:200 scale version), but it comes with all those excellent pics of retro cabin crew pics, which for a cabin crew papparazzi like me is too much to handle!!    What a fine looking lot and the retro colours as well as the present one is such a pleasure for the eyes!

I loved those Retro Detours, such a brilliant idea. You definitely have put a lot of effort like this and honestly TG needs to read this, and award you with a J class round the world ticket!! I really have no words to describe this report, and it will be book-marked to read a couple of times!! I agree with you that the livery on the Airbus A340-600 would have looked super duper! Thank you once for this star studded report! Brilliantly done   
 
airpearl
Topic Author
Posts: 849
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 2:45 am

Hey guys

Thanks so much for the very nice words. I am glad you enjoyed the report for what was a very special event. I do have to apologize though that it is a little more self-indulgent than usual, but seeing it was an anniversary flight, I had put in more info (particularly on personal stuff) than necessary. Hope that didn't detract from the enjoyment of it. Re-reading it now, my impressions of TG also seemed partial - certainly a bit more partial than I'd like to be - but it was difficult not to be impressed by TG's effort to remember its past. Even though we paid for the tour which is priced like a normal package, I'm sure all the planning, elaborate detail and special events didn't come cheap for the airline. It felt like I was being part of aviation history.  
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 2):
Good to see that TG chose an appropriate way to celebrate its birthday - and you perfectly reported about this event. All these old ads are just amazing, too.

Thanks PH, glad you like the old ads. For many of them, I have to thank my dad who still doesn't throw his ancient Time, Newsweek, Asiaweek and Far East Economic Review magazines away!

Quoting seamefly (Reply 3):
Impressive!!! Thanks for sharing!

Thanks seamefly. Glad you enjoyed it.

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 4):
It was nostalgic for me not because of Thai, but made me remember SAS and its 747 fleet which I often flew in the 70 and 80s.

Hi LAXintl, SAS was the first my thoughts too when I saw the a picture of the retro B744 for the first time! Those were wonderful days - it now seems quite unthinkable that SAS is operating a 747.

Quoting SQ772 (Reply 5):
This is what I call a trip report that is written with sweat and heart.

Hey SQ772, thanks for your nice comments and I'm glad I was able to bring you down memory lane a bit in the process. Doing this report was enjoyable too - though I admit it was a little time consuming. It gave me the perfect excuse to open dusty boxes and relive the old days!

Quoting SQ772 (Reply 5):
this particular member who frequently flies an airline that has not had an air hostess uniform change since inception... which leads me to realise that my airline of choice will never be able to pull off a fashion show down the aisle like what TG has done. Perhaps the only way the former could have depicted their evolution would be by the hairdo of their crew?

Hahaha... that it would be very difficult for SQ! It'd have to go back to the Malayan Airways days for a retro outfit - and from the pics I've seen, it wasn't so glamorous in the austere 1940s  
Quoting SQ772 (Reply 5):
Thanks also for those unforgettable TG print ads. I remember seeing them as a boy, when dad used to bring home travel and airline magazines from the office.

The old magazines were usually filled with these adverts. I would wait anxiously for them too - not for the news but the newest airline adverts!

Quoting SQ772 (Reply 5):
My first flight on TG was on a DC8 back in the mid seventies. My only memories of the cabin interior were the curtained windows...

Wow I am impressed. That must have been quite an experience - I've never been on a plane with curtained windows!

Quoting akhmad (Reply 6):
Thank you so much for all the efforts on bringing about this report.

Hi Suryo, thanks for your nice words and glad you're enjoying the read.

Quoting akhmad (Reply 6):
I was in Thailand at that time. I can recall armed guards along the roads while touring. I was not really at ease that time.

Ah, you didn't pose with the tanks then?   I fear the situation could turn worse this round, but I hope not. Thaksin seems determined to bring the country down to its knees.

Quoting Sultanils (Reply 7):
I wish the retrojet would visit my home airport (BRU) one day.

Thanks Nils for your kind comments. BRU is listed as a former destination but I have no recollection of the frequency, routing or equipment? Do you remember it?

Quoting 9MMAR (Reply 8):
I have been on a special occasion flight too but it was not at all near this magnitude.

Hello 9MMAR, thank you once again for your very nice words. I take this special occasion flight you talk about is different from the D7 inaugural we were on?

Quoting 9MMAR (Reply 8):
You have been telling everyone that CX is your favourite airline but the beholding truth is that TG will always be the love of your life.

Hahaha, it does look like I'm a tad unfaithful! But I love them both for different reasons, and hey even MH on the right day  
Quoting 9MMAR (Reply 8):
As a proceed, it makes me wonder, has MH or SQ ever organised a flight of this sort for their anniversaries?

Nothing I can remember. SQ painted a special livery B772 for its 50th, and as you will recall, MH had "50" painted by the back door of all its planes - but nothing quite as elaborate as TG. I am now hoping MH will do retro livery for its 60th - the original 1972 red stripes of 'malaysian airline system' look great.

Quoting jumpseat2l (Reply 9):
What an amazing report and an even more incredible experience.
Quoting staralliance38 (Reply 11):
Really over the top!

It was a fantastic experience! Thanks for your comments guys.

Quoting TravellerPlus (Reply 10):
We were tickled pink (or should that be purple) by the way the passengers got into the spirit of the event.

Hehehe... both pink and purple are approved TG colors, so either's fine! I think the flight could have gone on for another hour and the passengers wouldn't have had enough of the retro fashion show. It was really fun. Thanks for reading TravellerPlus.

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 12):
Not only is this on board the retro Boeing 747-400 (obviously) which I think is gorgeous (and I'm hoping for a 1:200 scale version), but it comes with all those excellent pics of retro cabin crew pics, which for a cabin crew papparazzi like me is too much to handle!!

Hi flightsimboy, you know, a scale version of the retro jet was a souvenir (greedy me!) I had expected but didn't get. But you're right, all the excitement over the fashion show was already overwhelming. You would have loved it!

Quoting flightsimboy (Reply 12):
loved those Retro Detours, such a brilliant idea. You definitely have put a lot of effort like this and honestly TG needs to read this, and award you with a J class round the world ticket!!

Haha, I hope so... and promise to write a trip report   Thanks again for the very nice words - I am glad you've enjoyed it.
 
9MMAR
Posts: 1728
Joined: Sun Jul 23, 2006 7:18 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 3:47 am



Quoting airpearl (Reply 13):
I take this special occasion flight you talk about is different from the D7 inaugural we were on?

Yes. It was a special flight to mark the deployment of MH's B744s out of TGG for hajj pilgrims from the East Coast region. MH organised a return flight KUL-TGG-KUL (from 1 of its daily B734 run) on a B744 (9M-MPK Johor Bahru) on 11 October 2008 to mark the occasion, complete with goodie bags and certificates for each sector and also performances upon arrival at TGG. It was the first time I get to fly aboard the upper deck.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 13):
Nothing I can remember. SQ painted a special livery B772 for its 50th, and as you will recall, MH had "50" painted by the back door of all its planes - but nothing quite as elaborate as TG. I am now hoping MH will do retro livery for its 60th - the original 1972 red stripes of 'malaysian airline system' look great.

I thought so. Painted a special livery on an aircraft is fine I guess but passengers can't be part of it. Anniversaries, especially those special numbers like 25th (silver jubilee), 50th (golden jubilee) or 75th (diamond jubilee) should be marked with a special flight like what TG organised. In addition, MH and SQ have a longer history than TG, dated back as far as from 1947 during the Malayan Airways days.

Moving forward, I bet my money on the recently leased (3) ex 9W B77Ws on the First Class as your next TG trip report assignment. *wink wink*

[Edited 2010-05-07 20:54:47]
 
Carfield
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 4:40 am

This is just an amazing trip report filled with good historic information regarding Thai Airways. 50 years is no easy achievement... despite my personal issues with TG, this flight sounds like an excellent one and it proves that TG can do a good job if it chooses to do so!

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos again!

Carfield
 
ronerone
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 10:11 am

Airpearl,

A truly superb Trip Report on an unbelievable idea for a 50 year celebration flight! ..

This Trip Report has brought many different emotions, that i am still quite 'high' after reading it   ... I have also forwarded it to some friends and i would assume it is currently being circulated around EK and EY staff  

Everything about this trip seemed absolutely perfect, except i would have wished it to be a longer flight. I know how much effort is put into coordinating such events, and something as elaborate as this probably required a lot of dedication on TG's front! Hats off to TG!

I am always fascinated by the retro style of the 60's and its overall atmosphere, that sometimes i feel strangely nostalgic for an era that i was not even a part of! The fashion show on your flight gave me this very feeling! WOW! And i totally agree with you, no other IFE comes close to what you had ... ICE who???

Well done on your extensive efforts to compile an outstanding blast from the past on TG's story. I have been too distracted by the SQ's CX's and EK's of the world that i sometimes forget there's even a TG! ... I know i am one of those who did not believe in this airline's non-traditional decision-making, but i must admit my thoughts have slightly changed after this report  

Moving on, while i am used to you on CX, i am surpringly not used to you being in Hong Kong! .. Hope you have enjoyed your time there!


Thanks for sharing one of your best Trip Reports! A truly glamorous experience!

Regards,
Roni
Fly Roni. Aviation Journeys. Photos. Videos.
 
gardermoen
Posts: 1333
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 1:29 pm

What a thoroughly enjoyable report. It was a pleasure to read this.
I like how you included historical ads throughout the journey.
I really like the ad for Cairns, sure looks creative. Back in the 80s and 90s, airlines seemed to be a lot more creative when advertising their destinations.
Also, I love the classic uniforms.
 
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turk223
Posts: 373
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 4:16 am

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 2:44 pm

The most wonderful report ever! I wish I could somehow "save it"...
Awesome!
 
N178UA
Posts: 1689
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2001 9:56 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 08, 2010 10:05 pm

Air Pearl

This is an amazing piece of work, your story are superb and engaging, photos professional and entertaining and even with good statistics. An excellent Report.

Have you been aproached to present this excellent TR on any magazine? I am more than happy to keep you in touch with some Airline magazines editors.

Your TR brought back memories of my first TG moments in late 90s till now.....what a long way TG has came! I really think this is the best TR I've seen a long time, perhaps I am a bit biased and share the common love of TG. Well Done !!!

Cheers

Sam
For more of myself and my flight reviews visit http://www.SamChui.com
 
lawair
Posts: 152
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 10:59 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 1:51 am

I agree with everyone here. Your writing is beautiful, and for someone like me with close personal ties to Thai, it was all quite moving. Thank you for sharing the experience in such a nostalgic, eloquent way.
 
Econojetter
Posts: 356
Joined: Thu May 24, 2001 11:24 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 3:21 am

Thanks for a most loving tribute to an airline!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
However, what statistics can't measure is the feeling one gets when boarding a TG flight in Kunming, or Rangoon, or Islamabad after a rough trip: I may be sitting in the last row of a tired PTV-less A300, but those flights are extra special - they make me feel like I am already home.

... and here we see why the airline is so deserving of such a grand trip report. There are a few airlines that have been special to me at one time or another, but the feeling comes and goes.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
But then the damnest things happen and about two weeks ago, pieces start falling into place: my work trip gets cancelled; while a chance email to Royal Orchid Holidays in Bangkok (which I expect to be ignored) is promptly answered.

Hahaha... here I was expecting some report of a regional prop/jet flight into some exotic inland locations. All of a sudden we get retro glamor from the 1960s. Not complaining though! *biggrin*


I think some of the guests overshot in the time machine. Some of them look a little 1920s to me... *biggrin*

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
This means plenty of photo opportunities on the tarmac and we get to properly board the B744 retro jet like she should be boarded - by stairs. But even as the rain is easing, I already spot HS-TGP being towed in the distance towards an aerobridge gate.

Trust a tropical downpour to put a damper on things. Boarding by airstairs would have been awesome for an event like this!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Economy class boards by seat row numbers - which I bet didn't happen in 1960. It's a reality of the day brought on by the advent of wide-body planes: we are 375 passengers today against 60 on the first flight.

Most of us have widebodies to thank for longhaul air travel being as accessible as it is today. I think many of us cannot remember a time when there wasn't a widebody in the sky. Boarding a huge jumbo with everyone dressed and behaving in the spirit of the early 1960s would be fantasy situation. Just imagine if TG were using an A380 for this event!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
(On a personal side note, my parents consistently claim they flew SAS - even though I insist it must have been Thai - for their honeymoon between Bangkok and Hong Kong, which lost their bags, and that resulted in a free ticket as compensation, and personalized letter of apology.

Hahaha... it was written in the stars - your special relationship with TG. And on a sadder note, what has become of SK today... they helped to spawn a major global airline and today their own viability is being questioned.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
So, in the best traditions of mediocrity, TG's fiftieth year nostagic flight presents an uninspiring fried snapper and lobster appetizer (above), and a decidedly over-cooked prawn curry (below) - neither of which I can finish.

A pity that the catering didn't rise to the occasion on this special day...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
To keep up with the Joneses - or rather the Tans - down the street, TG took delivery of the first of four A345s in 2005 to fly ultra long-hauls from Bangkok - first to New York
, then Los Angeles.

Uhh... more like the Lees down the street.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
The inflight entertainment today on Thai beats the best AVOD IFE - yes, even Emirates' ICE.

No contest here, nothing beats live entertainment. But sometimes it takes some co-operation from the weather gods as well. It wouldn't have been fun had turbulence forced the models to remain strapped in.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
I crack a smile when one of first planes I spot is an AirAsia 'Bank Rakyat' promotion livery jet - I recognize her as the painful experience from KUL to HKG last year that taught me there's a cut-off point (of about 3 hours) where tight-pitched LCC travel changes from barely bearable to absolute murder.

Hear hear... a friend recently suggested the new Jetstar Asia flight to KIX via TPE. "NO!"


Wow... the celebration almost looks even more lavish in HKG.

Great job! I, too, think this definitely deserves to be published in print.
 
777way
Posts: 6470
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:38 am

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 3:54 am

Fantastic, I have never seen anything like this and that too from an Asian airline, what a party.
 
airpearl
Topic Author
Posts: 849
Joined: Tue May 01, 2001 7:42 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 5:01 am

Quoting 9MMAR (Reply 14):
MH organised a return flight KUL-TGG-KUL (from 1 of its daily B734 run) on a B744 (9M-MPK Johor Bahru) on 11 October 2008 to mark the occasion, complete with goodie bags and certificates for each sector and also performances upon arrival at TGG.

Sounds like you had a blast. Landing at TGG on a B744 is something I cannot imagine even if I know the runway had been extended - I still remember the days when the runway there was so short even a landing B734 runs the risk (at least from a passenger's perspective) of ending up on the beach!

Quoting 9MMAR (Reply 14):
Moving forward, I bet my money on the recently leased (3) ex 9W B77Ws on the First Class as your next TG trip report assignment. *wink wink*

I am not sure actually - they probably wouldn't be something I will actively try to get aboard, since I've been on two already in their short stint with GF. It feels like I'd flown a lot of 9W, even without flying 9W! Except for the A345s, I haven't really gone out of my way to try new types on TG but often get them on a surprise from the vagaries of its strange scheduling - so who knows, they'll probably be on my next BKK-CNX hop... after all, I added 8 TG B744s to my list just on that sector alone!

Quoting Carfield (Reply 15):
This is just an amazing trip report filled with good historic information regarding Thai Airways. 50 years is no easy achievement... despite my personal issues with TG, this flight sounds like an excellent one and it proves that TG can do a good job if it chooses to do so!

Hi Carfield, thanks very much for your nice comments. I can understand your frustration with TG and totally agree that this airline could be so much better. A combination of the best in Thai hospitality with all its traditional elements, and a clear fleet and growth strategy will be such a potent force - it will be almost unrivalled in this region imho. Still, the observer and selfish airline geek in me doesn't mind TG as it is - a bit unfocussed, with decisions made and then un-made, and most of all, the world's most diverse fleet that continues to get more diverse.  
Quoting ronerone (Reply 16):
This Trip Report has brought many different emotions, that i am still quite 'high' after reading it   ... I have also forwarded it to some friends and i would assume it is currently being circulated around EK and EY staff

Hey Roni, thanks for your great comments! I am glad this report made you 'high' - good thing it was still the weekend hehehe... Judging from your comments at EK's A380 inaugural, I sense ulterior motive in sending this to your friends down the road   It'll be many decades yet before either EK or EY celebrate their 50th anniversary (though this year is EK's 25th, no?) - but I would think an impending EY A380 launch ought to be a lot grander than EK's, don't you? 
Quoting ronerone (Reply 16):
I know how much effort is put into coordinating such events, and something as elaborate as this probably required a lot of dedication on TG's front! Hats off to TG!

Agreed, it was very impressive. Beats any other special airline event I'd been to, bar none. Apparently, staff had been working on this project since the beginning of the year. And there are more celebrations to come, across the TG network, so it's also not an insubstantial sum the airline is spending either.

Quoting ronerone (Reply 16):
I am always fascinated by the retro style of the 60's and its overall atmosphere, that sometimes i feel strangely nostalgic for an era that i was not even a part of!

It's quite funny, isn't it? I guess the 1960s were really watershed years - it was the real start of the jet age and the 747, which came right at the end of the decade, changed everything. Until then, flying was a very priveleged affair.

Quoting ronerone (Reply 16):
I have been too distracted by the SQ's CX's and EK's of the world that i sometimes forget there's even a TG! ... I know i am one of those who did not believe in this airline's non-traditional decision-making, but i must admit my thoughts have slightly changed after this report

Hehe... but don't change them too much my friend. There's only so much nostalgia will carry you and, much as I love TG, this is just one special flight on a special day. With political change imminent in Thailand, I suspect the non-traditional decision making will continue.

Quoting ronerone (Reply 16):
while i am used to you on CX, i am surpringly not used to you being in Hong Kong! .. Hope you have enjoyed your time there!

Haha, yes most of my stays in HKG are very short, as this was. I did go on a TG "tour" though and did some spotting on departure - might post those pics later when I get the chance.

Quoting gardermoen (Reply 17):
I really like the ad for Cairns, sure looks creative. Back in the 80s and 90s, airlines seemed to be a lot more creative when advertising their destinations.

Gardermoen, thanks much for the kind words. I agree with you and like that Cairns ad too - it's so well-done, including the attention to detail for the front end of the DC10 (at least for those bits which didn't turn into a marlin!)

Quoting turk223 (Reply 18):
The most wonderful report ever! I wish I could somehow "save it"... Awesome!

Hi Turk223, thank you for your comments - glad you enjoyed the report!

Quoting N178UA (Reply 19):
This is an amazing piece of work, your story are superb and engaging, photos professional and entertaining and even with good statistics. An excellent Report.

Hey Sam, good to hear from you and thanks for your comments. I hold you in high esteem for your many special trip reports both here and in your own site, so this is high praise indeed. Thanks!

Quoting N178UA (Reply 19):
Your TR brought back memories of my first TG moments in late 90s till now.....what a long way TG has came! I really think this is the best TR I've seen a long time, perhaps I am a bit biased and share the common love of TG.

I'm really glad it brought back those memories for you. It's a very special airline.  
Quoting Lawair (Reply 20):
for someone like me with close personal ties to Thai, it was all quite moving. Thank you for sharing the experience in such a nostalgic, eloquent way.

Hi Lawair, thanks your kind words and I'm thrilled it evoked those feelings. Are you still linked to Thai now?
 
airpearl
Topic Author
Posts: 849
Joined: Tue May 01, 2001 7:42 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 6:12 am

Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
.. and here we see why the airline is so deserving of such a grand trip report. There are a few airlines that have been special to me at one time or another, but the feeling comes and goes.

Hey Econojetter, I felt that any airline doing something as lavish as this deserves a little 'effort' on my part. Of course you're right, TG does have a special place in my heart, alongside a couple of others. Thanks for your nice words.

Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
here I was expecting some report of a regional prop/jet flight into some exotic inland locations. All of a sudden we get retro glamor from the 1960s.

I am just as surprised, believe me! I had long written off the possibility I'd be part of this flight, but who would have guessed how things turned out. I still have that unused prop ticket...  
Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
I think some of the guests overshot in the time machine. Some of them look a little 1920s to me..

  

Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
Just imagine if TG were using an A380 for this event!

That didn't cross my mind at the time, but it could well have been a possibility this year had TG not defered delivery, and Airbus not been so backlogged in its 380 delivery schedule.

Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
And on a sadder note, what has become of SK today... they helped to spawn a major global airline and today their own viability is being questioned.

Interesting observation there. SK, I know, is one of those 'special' airlines for you but one option for survival (taken here with a large pinch of nostalgic salt) is for a reverse-takeover from Thai and a revival of the Thai-SAS relationship?

Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
Uhh... more like the Lees down the street.

Oops, sorry yes that's who I meant!

Quoting econojetter (Reply 21):
Hear hear... a friend recently suggested the new Jetstar Asia flight to KIX via TPE. "NO!"

Isn't there a law against spending too many hours in a narrow-body?

Quoting 777way (Reply 22):
Fantastic, I have never seen anything like this and that too from an Asian airline, what a party.

Yup 777way, it was definitely the best airline party I'd been to  
 
jayeshrulz
Posts: 349
Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2007 7:36 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 9:10 am

I LOVED IT!!
WOW, its a fantastic trip report!!

I am lost for words for describing the celebration!
must say, its one of the best!!

I hope this "Smooth as Silk tradition continues" and becomes a milestone !!

I am sure this beats the SQ A380 first flight, the thai way!!  
Keep flying, because the sky is no limit!
 
dlramper
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 10:01 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 3:37 pm

BRAVO, Obviously the best TR I have ever read. Thank you so much for the time and effort to create this wonderful report. I am truly speechless..........
Thanks Again!!!!
 
JL418
Posts: 401
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:20 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 10:00 pm

Hey Airpearl, what a trip report! I was missing your dispatches here, but this was really worth all the waiting. It was superbly written and the pictures were equally good, even the blurry one.

Your words gave me the feeling of what kind of the general feeling of the flight - and, I think, the feeling which dominates every flight made by an a.netter: pure enjoyment, despite the lack of PTV, the sweltering hot (strange, though, wasn't A/C turned on?). By the way, I would have given the first prize to the chap dressed up like a Jackson Five tribute band member... was there a sort of popular jury or did the TG manager do the balloting?

The retro bag, that's what I'm most envious of! I've seen a bag like that in a London's Baker street vintage shop, but I decided to pass on. It was quite girly, wouldn't have worked as a laptop case, I was short on money and I preferred to buy an original Nottingham Forest track zipper... Still, I'm unsure whether I did the right choice  
 
767747
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 10:35 pm

What a great report on Thai's 50th Birthday! What great coverage of the exciting event. Your pictures are awesome!

767747
I love to fly!
 
AI151
Posts: 287
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 10:43 pm

Hi airpearl, echoing what everyone else has said, this simply is one of the best TR's I have read. If anything it has made me want to travel with TG even more so than before. It is a shame that with the likes of CX, SQ, EK and EY that TG have been forgotten. I think that even without any writing of you're own, the pictures would have done enough justice!

If only other airlines would follow TG in celebrating their anniversaries in a special way like this! Also a very nice touch to hand out the souvenirs which you would hardly get nowadays.

Sandeep (AI151)
Modern Vision. Timeless Traditions...
 
lukeyboy95
Posts: 1058
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:07 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 09, 2010 11:04 pm

Airpearl -

Really this was a most enjoyable report. It took me three full days to give it full justice and fully take in the superb content and narrative of this wonderful trip of yours. This sort of lavish celebration in quite a dire time is a perfect indication of Thai's resilience. The depth of research and personality you put into the report really made it a solid piece of literature! Thank you for investing your time into this report... I am sure you needed your Balinese masseuse more than ever after writing the last sentence... It will forever serve as not only a pleasure for readers - but also as a journey for you to personally relive. Hurrah!


Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
. Of course, you're most welcome to join the celebrations, replies an enthusiastic-sounding Khun Panida,

So this sums up perfectly the inclusive warmth of Thai hospitality so perfectly.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
TG President Piyasvasti Amranand mingling with the guests, looking sober and a little like a reluctant celebrity.

Yes - he will have to be a rock in the company at the current time. I hope he does not loose any hair over any of the stresses - personally I think Willie Walsh's bouffant has thinned out somewhat.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
including some of the most attractive flight attendants

Really... really. This is so beautiful... these girls are just dreamy. It makes me furious about the seedy industry side of things in Thailand when the females are so radiant like this...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 1):
A twice weekly Bangkok to Cairo DC10

My favorite of the adverts

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
Inside the ballroom, the food is served from dai pai dong, the roadside open-air food stalls that used to be - but are no longer - common in Hong Kong.

Yes - when I was Hk it was a little sterile. I would have loved to have had carte Blanche on some of these stalls...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 23):
Reelin' In The Years*

It must be the icing on the cake that you should quote one of my favorite bands!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 13):
I had put in more info (particularly on personal stuff) than necessary.

No no.... this is what gives TR's strength... personality.... your personal signature. Otherwise we'de just go on the Thai Airways website....

Well done

Luke
Breaking down the stereotypes - one by one
 
Ryanair!!!
Posts: 4071
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2002 8:55 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 10, 2010 12:13 am

Wow... I mean... WOW.

TG has largely been a part of my family's history as much as SQ, GA and MH due to the fact that half of my mum's side has Thai relations. Growing up, I have seen Don Mueang from the days when it was strictly deboarding by stairs only, to the eventual construction of Terminal 1 and 2... And now the present day Suvarnabhumi. And by default, TG was always there to shuttle us to BKK. DC8, 742, DC10... Ah... Memories.

So I feel your nostalgia too.


Man look at these "khunyings"... I would normally say the lilac polka dots are a tad OTT but given the occassion, they are forgiven.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
"Khun suay mak mak," a retro-attired lounge agent says to me as I enter, which is rather worrying considering the phrase 'you're very pretty' is something you'd probably only say to a Thai girl.

I once got that phrase whispered into my ear at a go-go bar... and my cell phone mysteriously disappeared from my pocket soon after. Magical, isn't it?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
This is also the first time I am sat in the front row of Royal Silk Class on the lower deck, and I must say it's a strange place to be - but it is probably the best vantage point for observing all that's happening today.

So did the fashion parade go up to the upper deck as well?

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
On a personal side note, my parents consistently claim they flew SAS - even though I insist it must have been Thai - for their honeymoon between Bangkok and Hong Kong, which lost their bags, and that resulted in a free ticket as compensation, and personalized letter of apology. "Thai, SAS, it was the same airline back then... you weren't even born, how would you know?" says my dad

I have a black and white photo of me (naked) in the cabin of the Thai DC8 circa 1975... Wait... or was it SAS? Maybe it was Thai... No... SAS... Hmm... Now I am not sure.


I think the guy has on more make up than the girl. There's a lot going for a flight which is only about 2 hours! Wow... Kudos to the cabin crew for keeping everything on cue though!


Wow... she is stunning.

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
After immigration clearance and collecting luggage (apparently some passengers left without picking up theirs because they assumed 'it'd be taken care of' like in the '60s!),

Hahahahaa.... Why am I not surprised if the lilac-khunyings were some of those who thought that?

Congratulations on what seems to be the BEST report I have read from you, and perhaps the BEST on this forum. If you could see me now, I am bowing in admiration.

Cheers
Ryan

Chok-dee khrap!
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
 
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vivekman2006
Posts: 400
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 10, 2010 4:15 am

What a fantastic Trip Report, Airpearl!

Brilliant narrative (especially those retro detours) and great pictures. Superb work. Thanks for sharing!  

- Vivek
 
kurt
Posts: 402
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2001 10:04 am

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 10, 2010 3:38 pm

I'm speechless - what a great report!
 
airpearl
Topic Author
Posts: 849
Joined: Tue May 01, 2001 7:42 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 10, 2010 3:50 pm

Hi all, thanks for the kind comments. I truly appreciate it.

Quoting jayeshrulz (Reply 25):
I am sure this beats the SQ A380 first flight, the thai way!!

Hi jayeshrulz, thanks for reading. I wasn't on the SQ 380 inaugural but that looked very nice too from the A.net reports I read. Much as this trip was fantastic, I think the events really can't be compared - the first ever commercial flight of the A380 (even if it didn't have any extra frills) would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Choose an auspicious number and anniversaries can happen, well, almost anytime  
Quoting dlramper (Reply 26):
Thank you so much for the time and effort to create this wonderful report.
Quoting 767747 (Reply 28):
What great coverage of the exciting event. Your pictures are awesome!

Thanks guys. It looks like time and effort well spent... hehehe

Quoting JL418 (Reply 27):
pure enjoyment, despite the lack of PTV, the sweltering hot (strange, though, wasn't A/C turned on?)

Hi JL418, thank you for your kind words again. Haha...you've obviously not been to Suvarnabhumi, at least not in the hot season. I wonder though if it's also not due to too much excitement on my part  
Quoting JL418 (Reply 27):
By the way, I would have given the first prize to the chap dressed up like a Jackson Five tribute band member... was there a sort of popular jury or did the TG manager do the balloting?

Yeah, he was definitely a daring one and well-deserved winner. (I wonder if he had to remove the wig at security?) And oh dear, you touch on the murky world of judging... shall we not go there and spoil the mood?

Quoting JL418 (Reply 27):
It was quite girly, wouldn't have worked as a laptop case,

Haha... my feelings entirely - I think I'll just have mine framed 
Quoting AI151 (Reply 29):
If only other airlines would follow TG in celebrating their anniversaries in a special way like this! Also a very nice touch to hand out the souvenirs which you would hardly get nowadays.

Maybe those other airlines can take a cue from TG now. Souvenirs are some of the things I miss most from the old days, even in Y class - they don't need to be expensive, just ones with the airline's logo will suffice for me. Thanks for dropping by Sandeep.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 30):
Thank you for investing your time into this report... I am sure you needed your Balinese masseuse more than ever after writing the last sentence...

Hi Luke, you're very welcome; truly appreciate your comments. My Balinese masseuse has been working over-time recently  
Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 30):
Yes - he will have to be a rock in the company at the current time. I hope he does not loose any hair over any of the stresses - personally I think Willie Walsh's bouffant has thinned out somewhat.

Haha... yes, these guys have to deal with real problems - not quite like at the A.net academy of airline management. Dr Piyasvasti seems a decent chap though, and I do wish him well. I tried getting some private time with the boss to ask those burning questions A.net members care about, but alas (despite him saying yes at first, and agreeing to a meeting on board) it didn't happen. But understandable though - he's the man of the moment, and was in demand everywhere.

Quoting lukeyboy95 (Reply 30):
It must be the icing on the cake that you should quote one of my favorite bands!

Cool, like your taste in music.   Thanks again for the comments.

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
Wow... I mean... WOW.

Hahaha Ryan, I somehow KNEW this would hit the right notes for you   I am glad you enjoyed it - and the nice words are highly appreciated!

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
Growing up, I have seen Don Mueang from the days when it was strictly deboarding by stairs only,

I don't think I've ever seen that, but the first time I was there, there were just a few (maybe 3 or 4) aerobridges, that's it. What a difference now.

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
Man look at these "khunyings"... I would normally say the lilac polka dots are a tad OTT but given the occassion, they are forgiven.

Now, now, that's a word I'd been trying very hard to avoid using this whole TR, and trust dear old irreverent Khun Lai-yen to bring it up! There were indeed a few (ok more than a few) of those I would term khunyings among our group, but to be absolutely fair, these ladies in the picture weren't among them. They were a pretty cool bunch actually and knew how to have a good time.

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
So did the fashion parade go up to the upper deck as well?

Yes it did, just after the lower deck J, and before Y. I opted for downstairs because somehow I thought you'd be missing out on the fun sitting up there.

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
There's a lot going for a flight which is only about 2 hours! Wow... Kudos to the cabin crew for keeping everything on cue though!

Very impressive performance - the last 15 minutes of flight was a mad dash but amazingly, they managed to secure all the models before landing!

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
I have a black and white photo of me (naked) in the cabin of the Thai DC8 circa 1975

Can we see that posted here? - for, ahem, posterity sake of course...

Quoting vivekman2006 (Reply 32):
Superb work. Thanks for sharing!
Quoting kurt (Reply 33):
what a great report!

Thank you guys, glad you enjoyed it.
 
JL418
Posts: 401
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:20 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 10, 2010 7:13 pm

Quoting airpearl (Reply 34):
Haha...you've obviously not been to Suvarnabhumi, at least not in the hot season.

No, I haven't been there indeed. But I guess it will be more or less like Northern Italy on June, just worse. Maybe the architects should have thought a little bit of energy efficiency and not about "coolness". I mean, glassy corridors are an absolute pleasure for the eyes, but if they get hotter than micro-waves ovens, all the eye-candiness get a little bit spoiled imho.

Quoting airpearl (Reply 34):
Souvenirs are some of the things I miss most from the old days, even in Y class - they don't need to be expensive, just ones with the airline's logo will suffice for me

I couldn't agree more. I'd be more than happy to pay a couple of quids more on an average fare just to have a little reminder of the trip, it'd be a good gift for kids as well... unfortunately, all you can have as a souvenir these days are the airline's postcards, where available of course.
 
Ryanair!!!
Posts: 4071
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2002 8:55 pm

RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Tue May 11, 2010 12:49 am

Quoting airpearl (Reply 34):
Hahaha Ryan, I somehow KNEW this would hit the right notes for you

Any trip reports on the airlines I mentioned would get my special attention, let alone one of a retro theme!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 34):
Now, now, that's a word I'd been trying very hard to avoid using this whole TR,

Ooooooooooooooi! Penahraai jaaa?? I meant khunying with absolutely no irreverence at all. But given my reputation on a.net, even a casual reference to a soft fruit would be termed irreverent by you eh? Perhaps with a dash of sexual connotation as well for good measure. Hehehehe...

Quoting airpearl (Reply 34):
Can we see that posted here? - for, ahem, posterity sake of course...

Images of my body parts where the sun don't normally shine on are reserved for a few privileged ones only. Access doesn't come easy, you got to work for your keeps.  
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NZ107
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Tue May 11, 2010 8:17 am

Hi Airpearl,

Brilliant, extremely well detailed TR! Thanks for the in-depth walkthrough of the special TG celebration! It felt like we were all there. The history behind TG is impressive and it's great you were able to include it here. What a story being able to not only get on this flight but also land yourself in F! It looks far more extensive than what CX did for their 60th anniversary.. Although with my grandfather being one of the top 10 frequent fliers with them, he received a perspex box full with all the models they released for the anniversary. And guess who he gave them to! Those uniforms look amazing and there's a lot of nostalgia I sense from this whole celebration. You were really lucky to be given the space to take the pics in F compared to those taking pics in Y!

Unfortunate the food couldn't live up to the expectation onboard. But the IFE surely made up for it and you're right - that would beat ICE any day for that short hop to HKG!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
In keeping with the mood, the theme is very much one of a 1960s Hong Kong. Visions of Suzie Wong's hometown are everywhere, with a rickshaw complete with relevant backdrop and driver available for photo ops, and pretty Chinese girls dressed in shiny cheongsam.

And a chance to get run over by Hong Kong traffic so it seems!  


Thanks again for providing us the insight into this very special flight I think we wish we all could have been on too! So many freebies which will surely be kept as a memory of this fantastic day.

Indeed, I also think it's your finest TR on here. Well done.


Regards,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
midcon385
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Tue May 11, 2010 9:19 am

Fascinating! Great to see this amazingly detailed and well-written TR! Thanks!

Tim
MidContinent Airlines: We Know How To Fly!
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Tue May 11, 2010 2:15 pm

Quoting JL418 (Reply 35):
But I guess it will be more or less like Northern Italy on June, just worse. Maybe the architects should have thought a little bit of energy efficiency and not about "coolness". I mean, glassy corridors are an absolute pleasure for the eyes, but if they get hotter than micro-waves ovens, all the eye-candiness get a little bit spoiled imho.

Haha, yes indeed. I would imagine it's probably a lot more humid too here than Northern Italy. Where the design is concerned, Suvarnabhumi really is not one of my favorite airports - the place is unevenly cooled, there's lots of wasted space and quite a few dark, dingy corners and despite all the windows, good spotting from inside the terminal is almost impossible. There's very little to love, I'm afraid.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 35):
unfortunately, all you can have as a souvenir these days are the airline's postcards, where available of course.

Even this is getting rarer. That's why I appreciate airlines like LH that has postcard racks (and postcards for the taking) at the front of the cabins of its long haul planes - in today's world, that's real quaint.

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 36):
I meant khunying with absolutely no irreverence at all. But given my reputation on a.net, even a casual reference to a soft fruit would be termed irreverent by you eh? Perhaps with a dash of sexual connotation as well for good measure. Hehehehe...

Oops sorry! I do know the original word is proper enough - but it's just that every time I hear khunying being used among Bangkokians, it's in a bitchy sort way  
Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
What a story being able to not only get on this flight but also land yourself in F!

Hi Nicholas, thanks for the great comments and kind words. I consider myself really lucky to have been aboard this flight - but I have to correct you, I was in J, not F. But where I was seated, it did feel a little like I was a stowaway in F!

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
It looks far more extensive than what CX did for their 60th anniversary.. Although with my grandfather being one of the top 10 frequent fliers with them, he received a perspex box full with all the models they released for the anniversary. And guess who he gave them to!

Wow that's great, now it's me who is envious. And your grandfather a top 10 frequent flier on CX? That's really an impressive feat and not easy at all on CX! I still remember the CX 60th as some crews turning out in retro costumes for their regular flights, but that's pretty much the extent of it, at least from a passenger's perspective.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 37):
And a chance to get run over by Hong Kong traffic so it seems!

Things moved a lot slower in those days  
Quoting Midcon385 (Reply 38):
Great to see this amazingly detailed and well-written TR!

Thanks very much Tim, glad you enjoyed.
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Wed May 12, 2010 1:32 am

Quoting airpearl (Reply 39):
But where I was seated, it did feel a little like I was a stowaway in F!

It made me think that way all along.. Whoops!

Quoting airpearl (Reply 39):
And your grandfather a top 10 frequent flier on CX? That's really an impressive feat and not easy at all on CX!

I wish I could get his benefits and all.. I'd be confining myself to OneWorld if I was able to with full use of OW Emerald life status! Guess it shows his age.. I could always change my name  


Cheers,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
delimit
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Wed May 12, 2010 4:51 pm

Quoting ryanair!!! (Reply 31):
Congratulations on what seems to be the BEST report I have read from you, and perhaps the BEST on this forum. If you could see me now, I am bowing in admiration.

Truly. What an absolutely fantastic trip report! The retro detours were wonderful; perfect for the subject matter.

I've read most of your trip reports here with great pleasure (there's a reason some here refer to you as the master), but you've totally outdone yourself. Bravo.

I've flown Thai exactly once (it was lovely), but now at least I know that it was on their very first route.  
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 15, 2010 6:54 am

Hi Airpearl,

What a fantastic and interestin TR! - Thanks for travelling & posting, it must have been quite an event!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
I love these old-style promotional posters

- Agreed, they all seemed to make flying look such an elegent event, well, guess it used to be!

Quoting airpearl (Thread starter):
An Airbus advert from the 1980s below shows just how colorful the early TG A300B4 interiors were in First Class.

- Wow, nasty!

Cheers

Mark
111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sat May 15, 2010 5:58 pm

Airpearl,

This was one of the best TRs I've seen on A-net. The historical information you included was fascinating. I found it very interesting that TG decided to fly to DFW for its Transpacific service.

Looking forward to your next report.
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 16, 2010 2:28 pm

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 40):
It made me think that way all along.. Whoops!

No problems Nicholas haha.

Quoting NZ107 (Reply 40):
I wish I could get his benefits and all.. I'd be confining myself to OneWorld if I was able to with full use of OW Emerald life status!

Someone should invent a hereditary FFP title that can be passed down the generations   That'll ensure the whole family stays loyal to the airline and alliance!

Quoting Delimit (Reply 41):
Truly. What an absolutely fantastic trip report! The retro detours were wonderful; perfect for the subject matter.

Hi Delimit, thanks for the kind words. I am glad you've enjoyed the reports and congratulations for flying TG on their inaugural route  
Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 42):
What a fantastic and interestin TR! - Thanks for travelling & posting, it must have been quite an event!

Hey Mark, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the nice comments. It was a very special event.

Quoting ba319-131 (Reply 42):
well, guess it used to be!

Sound like you're getting a little tired from all that flying - surely not?!

Quoting TR1 (Reply 43):
This was one of the best TRs I've seen on A-net. The historical information you included was fascinating. I found it very interesting that TG decided to fly to DFW for its Transpacific service.

Hi TR1, thanks much for your kind words. It's amazing isn't it that TG flew to DFW? That type of venture will almost be unthinkable now.
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 16, 2010 2:33 pm

For the sake of completeness, I thought I'd add here a few more comments and pictures from the rest of the "tour" in Hong Kong, some spotting at HKG departure gates which I enjoyed, as well as a few from the regular flight back as a contrast. First...
.

The Tour
.

The last thing I need after the full-on day and party the night before is a morning call at 6 a.m. But that's what happens when you're on tour: waking up at ungodly hours - whether you like it or not - to visit sights the significance of which you're unsure of. Having been to HKG before, I would not normally be keen, but our half-day tour today (the only planned activity of the stay) is to the giant Buddha on Lantau island, someplace I'd not been to before.

I am also curious to see what the airline had planned - seeing this is a special tour for its 50th anniversary. Lantau is a half-hour drive from Kowloon that almost retraces the entire route we took from the airport last night. We stop at a cable car station at Tung Chung, which is on the airport road and that's literally around the bend from Cathay Pacific City. From here we board one of the cable cars (seats about 8 pax comfortably) for the 5.7 km ride to Ngong Ping, the location of the Buddha.
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Notice the retro TG posters welcoming us (and everyone else) today. Nice to see the retro theme didn't end at last night's party and continues for a second day. There's some mildly dramatic scenery of wilderness you wouldn't normally associate with Hong Kong along the way - but of course, the highlight is the view of Chep Lak Kok in the distance.
.

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It is hazy in the morning when we arrive but the weather clears later - the pictures here are taken in the early afternoon, while we're on our way down. I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it - but somewhere in that shot above is an SQ A380, just landed on 25R! There's no denying it's a fantastic view of the airport, but it's probably too far for any serious spotting, so don't come here for that. Visit the Buddha and count this as a bonus.
.

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There are still more signs to welcome us when we get to Ngong Ping. The Tian Tan bronze Buddha sits on hillock a short walk away and is among the world's largest.
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The climb up the 268 steps to the top is a mild cardio workout that comes with the reward of views of the Lantau country parks, fishing villages to the south of the island, as well as the Po Lin Monastery (below).
.

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Surrounding the impressive 34-meter tall statue are six smaller deities on a lower level making various offerings to the Buddha. Like many things in Hong Kong, all of this are relatively new constructs, having been completed only in 1993.
.

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The tour ends with a so-so dim sum lunch at a local restaurant in Ngong Ping. Notice the retro banners again on the outside of the eatery (I am tempted to take one - they're so nice!) - inside the restaurant, there are even bigger banners welcoming the TG visitors. Everywhere along the route, there were plenty of TG staff accompanying us. All in all, it's not been too bad of a half day's outing. We are driven back to our hotels, where the rest of the Sunday is free at leisure, which I spend looking up friends.
.

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The Airport
.

It's the next day May 3rd, and time to leave - but unfortunately, no retro jet today.  TG's 50th anniversary tour itinerary gives passengers a choice of two scheduled return departure times: TG639 (at 6.45 pm) and TG607 (at 8.45 pm), both of which arrive in BKK too late to catch the last TG connecting flight back to KUL. So I finally get the excuse to break free from the group, and opt to leave on an earlier flight - which is allowed but I'd have to find my own way to the airport.
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Thai Airways departs from HKG's Terminal Two - which is rather misleading, I think, because this isn't a seperate "terminal" as such. There are no departure gates or planes parked here, but is really just an extension check-in area, plus it provides space for a lot more food and shopping outlets. It's my first time here too - the spacious, quiet, and almost secluded facility doesn't feel at all like the Chep Lap Kok I know. Joining TG here are the newer airlines at HKG like 9W and IT, as well as some LCCs like AirAsia and Jetstar Asia. Passengers for home-grown Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express also check-in at T2. The deserted departures channel is also so unlike the busy scene and queues you'll find at the main departures concourse (now Terminal 1).
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After immigration and a security check at T2, an underground automated people mover system brings you back to T1 (below) where the gates are located. The same train also now links with SkyPier, the airport's ferry terminal for Macau and China's Pearl River Delta, allowing air-to-sea transfers without clearing immigration.
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I always enjoy arriving earlier than usual for my flights from HKG because it's an airport with no risk I'll end up twidling my thumbs wondering what I should do next. With the terminal's wide expanse of glass, excellent variety of airlines and good light today, there's really no doubt what I should doing next.
.

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Here are two regular North American visitors which you don't see any further south than HKG in the region. It's hard to miss AC's B77W which usually stays parked from its arrival from YVR at sunrise until departure at about 6 p.m. It is joined during the day by a B77L that plies the nonstop to YYZ. Below, Continental 98 is about to push back at the start of its ultra longhaul to Newark - today is also the day it announces a merger with UA.
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A CI B744 and SQ B772 share adjacent gates - these carriers are two of the most regular non-P.R.C. visitors to HKG, and both operate just about every equipment type they own into the airport. With the departure runway today at 07R means an excellent view of take-offs from the terminal. One of the first planes I catch is my first spotting of a CX oneworld logo jet - the A333 B-HLU.  
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This is followed in quick succesion with the spotting of my second CX oneworld plane - a B77W registered B-KPL, one of the latest to join, and a type in the CX fleet I haven't yet flown.
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The relationship between CX and Dragonair has strengthened immeasurably since the unit became wholly-owned and later an affiliate member of oneworld. With China taking center stage in this region, Dragonair is key to maintaining CX's future growth and long-term survival and relevance. Here, an arriving A320 is headed for one the CX's "preferred" gates 1 to 4. Below, another regular morning visitor gets ready for departure as PR301, one of the airline's five daily services to MNL.
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There was a time when almost every movement at HKG was heavy - but not any longer. The proliferation of Chinese carriers and routes has meant B737 and A32X traffic rising many-fold, and this has necessitated the building of the North Satellite Concourse to cater specifically to narrow bodies. The 10-gate standalone North Satellite was officially opened January this year.
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Kingfisher is among the most important of the new airlines to start service to HKG over the past year. This is one of two A332s parked for the day at a remote stand - one will be headed to BOM, the other to DEL in the late afternoon. Keen rival Jet Airways, which started its first service to HKG a bit earlier, also has 2X A332s that are scheduled for the same Indian destinations later.
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I don't think I've ever spotted SV at HKG before, so catching this freighter on rotation off 07R is a rather nice coup. Another great addition to my list is this less-than-a-year-old Air Mauritius A332, 3B-NBL, in the airline's new livery. I don't know what it is about designers these days who obviously think a few sweeping lines across the tail are all that's required to make a livery. It doesn't look bad, but the lack of creativity seems like a missed opportunity (particularly for the national carrier of a tourism-dependent island as beautiful as Mauritius) - while this shade of maroon immediately makes me think of another much more well-known carrier.
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The AirAsia group is an aggresive new entrant into the HKG market - this Thai AirAsia A320 is operating one of two daily flights to BKK. The group also flies to KUL, PEN and HKT from HKG, and will be starting a daily service to BKI from June. On the other side of the terminal, a JAL B763 is about to depart for NRT. The troubled carrier is downsizing at HKG, like at most of its international ports, with planned cuts on the NRT-HKG route from 2X to 1X daily, and suspending its service from KIX.
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I am surprised to find this Saudia B744 parked at gate 61 - not least for the opportunity to spot a second SV machine at HKG, but at this time, I would normally also expect a UA B744 here being readied for a flight to ORD or SFO. There seems to be a gate shuffle going on today. Thai's Royal Orchid Lounge is located one level above, close by.
.

.

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Royal Orchid Lounge at HKG is a cheerful place with multi-colored armchairs and plenty of natural light. It feels quite different in character from TG's BKK lounges and I quite like it. There's a decent buffet (better than at BKK) with both hot and cold food on offer, the usual business facilities, good views of the tarmac and a separate, cordoned-off First Class section. I arrive early so there aren't any other passengers from my flight, but there are a few SFO-bound on UA being called to board.
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The lounge sits on a balcony directly above the boarding check areas for gate 40. Traditionally, this gate is used by TG (we arrived here on HS-TGP on May 1) but it is an LH B744 that is occupying the gate today ahead of its daytime return to FRA today.
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Another spotting from the lounge is one of a distant LH MD11 - and one that reminds me of the dwindling opportunities of flying on one of these gorgeous birds before they all become freighters, or worse. In the foreground, the B727 VP-CML that apparently belongs to the government of Afghanistan has just arrived. I'm curious what it's doing here.
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After the demise of Oasis Hong Kong, there's no doubt which is the territory's second airline group. I must admit I'm not familiar with the Hong Kong Express/Hong Kong Airlines story. The logos are identical, the names are almost the same, they both have a similar 2-class service style - I just wonder why they still operate as two seperate airlines.
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The plane operating TG601 to Bangkok is parked at gate 46, a short walk from the lounge. Rostered to do the flight is HS-TGG, which looks retro even without TG trying very hard.   It doesn't look it at all, but this is the last delivered of TG's B744s in 2003, barely seven years old. I also add a new plane to my TG flown list.
.

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There aren't too many passengers awaiting our flight, but the long queues at the next gates spill over. Here at the end of the concourse is where the airport authorities have decided to park the U.S.-bound UA flights. I suspect it's easier to conduct secondary security checks at this end - and considering there was bombing attempt in Times Square yesterday, I'm sure joining this line would not be a barrel of fun.
.

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The Flights
.

Hong Kong to Bangkok
Thai Airways International flight 601 in Royal Silk (Business) Class
B747-4D7 registered HS-TGG
Dept 12h52 Arrv 14h31 (6 minutes late)
.

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We board about 15 minutes ahead of departure - ample time for the light load today... I think a B734 could have accommodated us all. I get a chance to see close up "Pathoomawadi" who looks in dire need of a fresh paint job. Poor thing, she looks terrible. This can't be more of a contrast from my flight up here two days ago.
.

.

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There are reasons why TG sometimes gets bad press, and why critics say it isn't comparable to airlines like SQ and CX. This is one of them. This is Business Class aboard a long haul plane that can sometimes be rostered on key business routes like LHR and FRA - not so great when competitors are offering flat beds, eh? Why the airline decided to retrofit a portion of its B744 fleet but maintain this two-generation-ago cabin on a few is one of those wonderful mysteries that make TG, well just TG. (To be fair to TG though, it tries not to schedule these planes on the key long hauls except to Scandinavia where the First cabin is sold as Business, and this cabin as Premium Economy). Still, Dr Piyasvasti's team says the remainder of the fleet will be upgraded this year, but let's not count the chickens.

On this short sector, of course, this cabin is adequate. Stangely, the comfy old-style reclining seats with smallPTV screens and IFE on a loop system perpetuate the retro feeling that started on Saturday. We are only four pax in J class and am told there are about 90 in economy but the flight out of BKK was full. The ongoing turmoil in Thailand will surely yet again test TG's resilience.
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As we push back, I notice another plane had just arrived at the gate next door - it seems unbelievable, but from zero this morning, I am spotting my third of only three CX oneworld logo jets today: an A343 B-HXG Wow! 
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On the way to 07R, I spot another CX special livery - Asia's World City - on B77W B-KPF, also for the first time. This trip is turning into quite a productive one for spotting these specials - I think I've ticked off the entire CX special livery fleet in the long weekend, without even trying! haha As we lift off, I spot my fourth oneworld special livery of the day - on a parked QF A332... I am begining to suspect someone's trying to tell me something  
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Lunch service starts promptly after take off. As expected on a light load, inflight service from the two crew members on the upper deck is excellent. I start with the iced tea which on TG is always refreshing.
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I skip the starter; opt for the grilled sea bass with black pepper as my mains and take the cheese plate. Doesn't the old PTV look so quaint? It's so 1990s!
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The meal ends with a raspberry gateau and coffee, after which the cabin lights are dimmed and window shares lowered as a matter of routine for Asian carriers, But it's not long before we're at the top of descent for Suvanabhumi and making a swift descent towards 19R. This LH B744 from FRA lands after us - in an hour, it'll be continuing its journey to KUL.
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There are few places outside Iran to spot Mahan Air - and Bangkok is one of them. Depending on season, the airline flies up to daily flights between BKK and THR. Below, is one of a very small fleet of B734s among TG's diverse collection. They are flown mainly on minor domestic runs. Eventually, they could all be assumed by its low cost unit Nok Air.
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We park next to an attractive Austrian B772, almost on time. I have about an hour and half to catch my 1600 hrs connecting flight to KUL, which is about ideal for this airport. Interestingly, HS-TGG is next scheduled to operate TG606 to HKG at 1600, which means it'll also be carrying many of those on the retro tour who opted to return on TG607 later.
.

.

Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur
Thai Airways International flight 417 in Economy Class
B777-2D7ER registered HS-TJS
Dept 16h05 Arrv 19h05 (on time)

.

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I'm back in economy for this last sector - where I usually am most of the time on TG. One of the most endearing mysteries of this airline is its choice of equipment on routes. Not that I am about to complain that TG is using one of its most well-appointed long-haul planes complete with AVOD IFE for one of its shortest hauls. Oh, and I almost forgot - the obligatory knee shot here, otherwise it just wouldn't be a trip report, would it?  
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Because TG caters an almost identical main course to its J and Y classes (J has perhaps one more choice), the food in TG's economy class is consistently good - and better than many airlines I've been on. The duck curry on this flight is excellent - far tastier than the special main course I couldn't finish in J on my retro flight. Strange but true.
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We arrive in Kuala Lumpur just as the sun is setting, and in the poor light of dusk, guess what I should spot - but my fifth oneworld livery of the day!
.

.
Thanks for reading  

Cheers,
airpearl
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Sun May 16, 2010 6:27 pm

Very, very nice report, especially the first part with all the retro-images.

Thank you!
"He was a wise man who invented beer"-Platon
 
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 17, 2010 2:18 am

Wow, aren't I glad to have checked this TR again! It just makes me want to go back to HKG so much more. The traffic which passes through HKG makes me think I could spend a whole day at HKG with tremendous joy.

The comparison between the old J and new Y looks quite interesting and the food certainly looks good. I think the outdated/new interior speaks for itself - just look at the livery! I had actually thought that they got around to painting all of their aircraft until I saw a 773 in the database a few months ago in the old livery.. Which still looks really nice. It's probably because TG sent their A345/6s to AKL which only had the new livery and then switched to the 772.

The situation in Thailand looks really bad. It's such a shame these people have to go through with a government who doesn't want UN help. I had thoughts about visiting at the end of the year but it seems like I won't have the money and BKK would be skipped, missing out on great opportunities to try certain planes. I guess we're all asking the question about whether it can be resolved soon or not.


Cheers,
Nicholas
It's all about the destination AND the journey.
 
Flying Belgian
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 17, 2010 10:21 am

Many thanks for sharing !

So nice to see, it makes me dream !
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RE: Happy 50th Birthday TG! Retro Flight To Hong Kong

Mon May 17, 2010 9:27 pm

Amazing trip report. Great to see all the history still being at the heart of a very proud and very professional airline. Fantastic pictures from a bygone age

Well done again
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