After one of my very close friends decided he’d had enough of the Canadian winters and “retired” to the Thai countryside in late 2010. I knew that I would be heading out to visit him in 2011. My initial plan was to fly Emirates so I could experience the A380, but then I began searching for other options. I even looked at an AC/SQ routing just so I could fly on the B77L and A380 before I settled on an Air Canada and Thai Airways combo to Bangkok via Hong Kong (HKG).
The return - to be covered in a separate report - would also be AC & TG but via Beijing (PEK).
We would be flying with our 17mos old daughter but my wife and I took her to India last year on EY when she was only 6mos old and she was a great traveller so we were hoping for the same this trip.
As always comments/feedback is appreciated.
Thursday March 10, 2011
After getting up extra early to prep our little one we left the house on a rainy morning just before 6:00L for Pearson International. We arrived at a busy Terminal 1 and proceeded to the AC check in counters at 6:15L. There were pretty long line-ups but they were moving fairly quickly as all counters were manned with AC agents.
The service was pleasant and very efficient as I am accustomed to with AC. Our bags were checked all the way through to our final destination of BKK. The agent wished a pleasant journey and mentioned that “you’ve got a very long day ahead of you” boy was that an understatement!
Boarding passes for both YYZ-YVR-HKG and HKG-BKK were issued although the agent advised us that we would need to check in at the transfer desk at Chek Lap Kok for the HKG-BKK sector.
Security was not too busy thankfully, but nevertheless we were quickly ushered to the priority lane since we were travelling with an infant. Security check was performed without any incident and we proceeded down the elevators to the departure gates on level 2.
Art after domestic security in T1
Our departure was from far end of the domestic pier, ‘E’ at Gate 139. By the time we reached the gate there were already many people in the lounge. There were dozens of people on standby and others hoping for upgrades. I had a friend check the loads the night before so I knew it was a very full flight so no one was getting upgraded at the gate. We sat and chatted with some AC F/As who were to join us on the flight as they dead-headed back to Vancouver.
The aircraft was not at the gate when we arrived but was towed in from International Pier F shortly thereafter. It had arrived from Sao Paulo (GRU) as AC091 a short time prior.
Once the aircraft was cleaned, the pre-boarding announcement was made at 7:44L and we headed up to the agent who checked our boarding passes and wished us a pleasant morning.
Air Canada AC007
Toronto (YYZ) – Vancouver (YVR)
Capt.: Dennis W. Harris
F/O: Graham Dolynuk
Cabin Crew: 9
Pax Load: 349
Sector Distance: 2085 nm
ETD: 8:00 L
ATD: 9:01 L
Departure Gate: 139
Departure Rwy: 05
ETA: 9:59 L
ATA: 10:35 L
Arrival Gate: 50
Arrival Rwy: 08L
Block Time: 4:59
Actual Airborne Time: 4:34
TOW: 262,000 kg
Fuel: 42, 800 kg
Meal Service: Breakfast
IFE: AVOD Thales
Photo © Mike Moores
At the end of the Jetway we were greeted by two smiling F/As who greeted us and directed us to toward our seats. As we made our way towards the back of the aircraft there were several AC F/As stationed welcoming us onboard. My seat was 54K in the last section of Y class on this long bird. I love the fact that AC has a 3-3-3 setup on their triple-sevens, it’s so much more comfortable and the pitch seems much more generous than the published 32”.
Once we had located our seats and had stowed our cabin baggage I approached one of the F/As with my Flight Logbook and asked if she could deliver it to the flight deck. She replied that she’d be happy to.
As I returned to my seat I looked out the window and noticed a commotion outside on the tarmac. There were local law enforcement officials and other EMS crew along with a bunch of AC Ramp agents. It seemed there had been some type of accident.
Once everyone was onboard our Captain, Dennis Harris made an announcement that a ramp agent had been injured while working on our aircraft which would cause us to be delayed pushing back.
Pushback finally commenced at 8:42L and we made the long taxi out for a Rwy. 05 departure on a rainy and foggy morning. Without any delay we lined up and thundered down Rwy. 05 with the GE90s snarling. We rotated at 9:01L roughly almost an hour late.
Very quickly we were engulfed by the low ceiling as we gained altitude and speed… finally we made a hard left and continued to climb out westward on our way to YVR.
Sadly AC has implemented Buy-on-Board service even for this long trans-con sector, but luckily since we were continuing onward to HKG we were to receive a complimentary selection.
The F/As passed out headsets for the flight and best thing about the AC headset is that it has a single connector so I can use it in other devices not just on the plane.
Inflight Magazine 'Enroute' and the Duty Free guide
Nice and roomy!
A beverage service immediately followed by the B-o-B service commenced at 10:00 ET.
I chose the chicken wrap, Pringles and some orange juice… a nice healthy meal to start off my vacation. LOL
The cabin crew performed the service with a good degree of attentiveness and friendly smiles toward the passengers.
However, the B-o-B service was a far cry from what AC used to offer on this flight just a couple of years ago… which was a choice of two entrées:
Waffles with apple compote, scrambled eggs with tomato sauce or Scrambled Eggs with Sausage accompanied with Fresh Fruit and Baked Roll.
During the remainder of the flight there were a couple of additional beverage services. I watched Date Night with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey… a pretty funny flick if somewhat predictable.
Halfway to YVR
The remainder of the flight was quiet and uneventful as we cruised high above this vast and beautiful country.
My flight logbook was returned along with gifts from the flight deck… this was an unexpected surprise! The F/A returning the log commented on how much the guys in the flight deck enjoyed the photos and wished me a happy trip.
Full flight today
We began our descent at 10:12L approximately 132 kilometres east of Vancouver. There was significant cloud cover over the lower mainland so I didn’t see much of beautiful British Columbia as we approached YVR. The sun finally broke through as we landed on 8L at 10:35L, a little more than half an hour later than scheduled meaning that Capt. Harris had the pedal to the metal and did gain back about 30 minutes of our original delay.
China Eastern and JAL at the gates
We parked at Gate 50. This gate is almost exclusively used for Air Canada’s YYZ-YVR-HKG and YYZ-YVR-SYD continuing flights. After deplaning we headed around the corner to the International terminal. We arrived at same gate’s lounge area for our international departure. The board showed that our flight would be departing YVR at Noon. I looked around for a decent place to grab some hot food close by but there was none in that area of the international terminal.
At approximately 11:30L the first boarding announcement was made and we had to struggle to make it past the dozens of people that had rushed and crowded the gate area. The agents had to part the sea of humanity to allow us along with Executive Class passengers to board the aircraft.
We were warmly greeted at the L2 door by members of our cabin crew.
Air Canada AC007
Vancouver (YVR) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Capt.: Gordon Montgomery
F/O: David Boyle
Cabin Crew: 14
Pax Load: 349
Sector Distance: 6392nm
ETD: 11:40 L
ATD: 12:36 L
Departure Gate: 50
Departure Rwy: 08R
ETA: 17:20+1 L
ATA: 17:17+1 L
Arrival Gate: 35
Arrival Rwy: 07L
Block Time: 13:40
Actual Airborne Time: 12:35
TOW: 333,300 kg
Fuel: 108,700 kg
Meal Service: Lunch, Dinner, Snack
IFE: AVOD Thales
Photo © David Brook-CYYZ Aviation Photography
I headed back to my spot in 54K the third row in the rear cabin section.
Pushback was at 12:19L and we slowly taxied out to 08R behind a JAL B763 heading to Narita.
Other company birds
As the massive engines spooled up and we began our roll down 08R the we rotated about 3/4 of the way down the runway at precisely 12:36L and very shortly thereafter began a long sweeping right hand bank over the Vancouver suburb of Richmond and over the mouth of the Fraser River before straightening out in a NW direction as we headed up hugging the Vancouver Island shoreline.
The fasten seatbelt sign was extinguished about 10 minutes after take off and the first beverage service began at 13:30L as we cruised above the Queen Charlotte Islands off the Canadian coast.
After the beverage service most passengers settled into exploring the AC’s nice IFE system. Although many scoff it’s not up to EK’s ICE AVOD system not many are but AC has a decent system. I selected ‘The Social Network’ as my first film on this 13hr 40min flight to HKG.
Lunch was served at 15:11 PT as we cruised high above Anchorage,
Lunch choices are listed below but I had requested a Vegetarian meal for this flight and received a Channa Dal and Rice concoction.
Roast Pork served with Noodles
Grilled Chicken served with pasta
From the bakery:
Roll and butter
The Salad was okay, but seemed far too healthy.
The main course however was unfortunately too dry to enjoy, which was a shame as I was hungry since I hadn’t eaten anything at the terminal.
At 16:15PT we crossed the International Date Line directly over the Diomede Islands
After crossing the date line I decided to watch ‘The Town’ with Ben Affleck.
The cabin lights were dimmed and an announcement made for pax to lower their window shades. A wonderfully friendly F/A brought back my completed logbook and her and I chatted for a while about our travels. She then said to come see her if I needed anything at all for the baby. I was pleasantly surprised by this extra effort.
The F/As came through the cabin approximately every 20 minutes with water. In addition, light snacks and drinks were put out in the galley for self service throughout the flight.
As we cruised SW over the Sea of Okhotsk around 18:55PT the cabin lights were brightened the F/As began preparation for the Dinner service.
Dinner choices are listed below but my Vegetarian meal entrée was Tofu Stir Fry with Rice and mixed vegetables.
Beef served with Pasta
Chicken served with Rice
From the bakery:
Roll and butter
After the dry lunch entrée I didn’t have high expectations for the tofu, but I was pleased with the dish as it was properly cooked and tasted pretty good too! The repeat of the Couscous Salad was a let down as I had hoped for something different. The Fruit salad was made up of cantaloupe, honeydew and grapes. The meal filled me up sufficiently and shortly afterward I took a short nap.
I awoke as the final service of the flight commenced at 23:30PT we were approximately 100 miles West of Shanghai. I looked outside and we were flying over a blanket of clouds.
Curried Dal and Rice Pita wrap
Cup of Noodles
Fruit salad and cookies
It was around this time that my daughter became a little cranky and irritable. She had not really slept since our departure from Toronto over 16hrs prior so I was impressed she’d lasted this long! Three F/As noticing that our little one was acting up, all came by our seats to inquire if we needed anything; milk, food etc. After about 15-20mins of fussing she finally fell asleep, thankfully all without any screaming or shouting.
Our interesting routing to HKG
We were agonizingly close to Hong Kong and I was looking forward to properly stretching my legs inside the massive terminal at Chek Lap Kok… I still laugh at that name.
As we got closer to HKG the blanket of clouds didn’t change and it didn’t look like I would get to see much on approach and landing. We flew southwest past the airport before making our base turn over the Zhujiang River Estuary before lining up 07L.
I was disappointed as there was a lot of cloud cover as we descended and not much was visible due to the low ceiling. We made a smooth landing at 17:17L just a few minutes ahead of schedule more than making up the entire 56 minute delay out of YVR.
As we taxied in I saw several interesting birds (at least for me) including a VS346, QF330, QR330, NZ777 and SA346. Finally we pulled into Gate 35 beside the Air New Zealand B777.
Once inside the terminal we made out way to the Transfer Desks and the Thai Airways agent. He was polite and very efficient, quickly issuing new boarding passes for us and then wished us a pleasant onward flight.
Friday March 11, 2011
The line for transfer screening was pretty long and not moving very quickly, we lined up and got a wonderful view of the apron area however with an AI777 pushing back for it’s return to the motherland along with the requisite CX widebodies. Unfortunately there are no cameras or phones allowed in this area so I didn’t snap any pics.
Once through security screening we grabbed the elevator upstairs and took a couple of pics of the massive terminal.
Our departure was at the far end of the terminal from Gate 50 so we slowly began to make our way toward the gate when my wife proclaimed that our daughter needed to be changed… badly. Well, we quickly found the change-room; curiously with a window and without a lock which I found odd but anyway, we changed our little one which pleased everyone.
We didn’t have much time left before boarding so we decided to just go to the gate area.
The gate area was full but just as we arrived and were looking for a spot to grab a seat a wonderful Thai gate agent approached us and asked if we were on TG639 to BKK. “Yes” we replied and she asked us to follow her. At the counter she put a new gate tag on our baby stroller and asked us to queue up just in front of the Business class pax. Shortly thereafter we were given the go ahead to board and we made our way down the very long corridor-Jetway combination to the aircraft. As we approached I mentioned to my wife that this flight was going to be a milestone for me as it will mark my 350th flight. She chuckled and called me an airplane geek and said that she couldn’t believe that I still get so excited about flying after so many flights.
Thai Airways TG639
Hong Kong (HKG) – Bangkok (BKK)
Reg: HS-TEB ‘Sri Sakhon’
Capt.: Preechaphon C.
F/O: Anon B.
Cabin Crew: 14
Pax Load: 306
Sector Distance: 1049nm
ETD: 18:55 L
ATD: 19:11 L
Departure Gate: 50
Departure Rwy: 07R
ATA: 20:35 L
Arrival Gate E1
Arrival Rwy: 19L
Block Time: 2:45
Actual Airborne Time:
TOW: 186,100 kg
Fuel: 20,700 kg
Meal Service: Dinner
Photo © Pawarin Prapukdee
At the door were greeted warmly by the cabin crew and directed to our seats. I like the mix of outfits on the female F/As but the traditional Thai outfits are beautiful just like their F/As.
The aircraft looked pretty good for having been in service with Thai for 17years. As others have mentioned, the brightly coloured fabric on the seats really help to make the cabin very inviting. However, the seat pitch was tight for 6’+ tall people like me.
We were seated in the rear section of the aircraft and once I had my wife and little one settled I approached the nearest F/A and asked if she could ask the guys up in the flight deck to complete my flight log. She said “absolutely” and also mentioned that today was a special flight for Capt. Preechaphon too as it would be his first as Captain as he has moved from the right to the left seat on the A330.
The flight was completely full in both J and Y, I am told the HKG-BKK is a very busy sector and TG operates all of their widebodies on the route.
Unfortunately the windows by our seats were fogged up pretty badly so I was unable to snap any pics.
Pushback from the gate happened at precisely 18:46L. On the taxi out for departure I tried in vain to see an orient myself but to no avail. After a few minutes we approached 07R and I saw the marker briefly. We were number 1 for departure so we quickly lined up the runway and immediately began our take-off roll and rotated away from Hong Kong at 19:11L. It was dark and plus the low ceiling made it very hard to see any landmarks, but about 1 minute after rotating off 07R we made a sharp left turn towards Bangkok.
The F/As came by and distributed headsets in this very nice little pouches. Thai does a tremendous job of branding.
The fasten seat belt sign was quickly extinguished and the F/As sprang into action bringing out beverages with their trademark friendly smiles and a cute little 50th anniversary bib for the baby. Dinner was served about 45minutes into our flight as we cruised near Haikou, China.
Fresh Garden Salad
Chicken served with fried rice
Fish with spicy sauce and steamed rice
From the bakery:
Roll and butter
While Dinner was being served the Mainscreen was fired up and played some clips about Thailand and the King. As I learned later, the Thai people really revere their King.
Once the dinner trays had been removed the gentleman seated in front of me reclined his seat and I felt like I was his barber since his head was practically in my lap!
My wife and daughter fell asleep and I dozed in and out until I sensed we were descending.
The lead F/A seeing that I was awake returned my flight logbook and wished us a happy vacation in Thailand and thanked us for flying Thai Airways. I filled out the Arrival & Departure forms to be presented to officials upon our arrival.
As I finished we were lined up on final for 19L. We came in straight from the North and very quickly descending to terra firma before finally flaring for a silky smooth landing. We touched down at 20:35L, about 5 minutes early. My window fogged up even more almost immediately as the local temp was a sticky 30C+. After exiting the runway we made a u-turn and made the very long taxi back to the terminal. Since the windows were fogged up I couldn’t tell where we were or what part of the expansive terminal was passing beside us.
Finally we turned to our gate E1 and pulled in beside a TG777. We deplaned and made a right turn toward the centre processor at Suvarnabhumi International.
Long walk to Immigration
It was a bit of a walk to the immigration area which I saw was fairly busy. My friend had told me that if the first immigration hall was busy to continue walking another 500m to the second immigration hall. We took his advice and found that the second hall was empty! Very quickly we were process and exited into the baggage claim area.
Our bags came out fairly quickly and we loaded up the cart, passed through the green channel for customs and headed out into arrival area where our friends were waiting to meet us.
This was my first real long-haul experiences on AC (excluding Europe and the Caribbean) and with the exception of pretty basic meal service we were fed pretty well, the cabin crews were warm, receptive and attentive to the passengers. In my opinion bashing Air Canada is a national pastime in Canada. While I too have had good and bad flights with them, most of my 150+ flights with them have been good to above-average experiences.
The stop in Vancouver was chosen to give our little one a break instead of being on the 15+ hour YYZ-HKG non-stop flight. The short stop was okay, except that the location of the gate was such that there was little in terms of food options
The transfer in Hong Kong was disappointing because of the slow transit security line which used up so much time that we couldn’t explore the terminal.
Thai’s hard product on the A330 was a little disappointing due to the lack of AVOD and the very limited pitch. Their soft product was wonderful as the crew and their in-flight service was excellent especially on a short regional flight. I’m glad I got a chance to experience Thai Airways… and to do it as my 350th sector was icing on the cake.
I hope that you have enjoyed my report. As always, comments/feedback are appreciated.