Alternative Title: How I discovered the joy of caviar.
I have been living in Sydney for 9 months and have been planning to go back to the UK at the end of September. However, my Mum had to go into hospital and so to help her and my father out, I decided to see if I could find some award availability via UA Mileage Plus. I had hoped that I might be able to fly via LA so I could see my in-laws, but given how difficult the SYD-LAX/SFO route is to book, especially at short notice in a premium cabin, I didn’t hold much hope. A little bit of searching found me F class with Thai Airways International. I don’t often travel F but given that I was travelling alone, and that it was less than double the cost (in miles) of a Y ticket, it seemed like a bargain to me.
Thai operate twice or three times a day from Sydney to Bangkok with their A340-600. It is the only route they fly to Australia that offers 3 class service.
I’ve never written a trip report, but given how much I’ve used this section of the website so much in the past to plan and research, I thought it was only right that I actually right something. There are already some excellent reports on this product and route. I had also promised my other half that I take loads of photos, given how I have travelled in int’l F a few times now, and he never. I would warn you though that I only used my phone for photos ( I don’t have a good camera) and didn’t take many photos of the seat and cabin as the other reports out there already have plenty of good photos of these.
Trip reports by other users (with better pictures) on this product include:
Royal First Class On The Queen Of The Skies (TG) (by thaia345 Apr 9 2011 in Trip Reports) by thaia345
Thai TG 916: 02/JUL/10: BKK-LHR: > (by abrelosojos Sep 27 2010 in Trip Reports) by abrelosojos
TG476 10th May 2011
SYD-BKK A340-600 HS-TND
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Jerome Zbinden
I literally did not sleep a wink the night before. I was worrying about things back in the UK, worrying about keeping my other half awake fidgeting through the night. I gave up at about 3am, and sat around waiting for the first train to the airport which was at about 4.45am. I knew I would be ridiculously early and wouldn’t be able to check in for several hours, but I quite frankly didn’t care as I just felt like I had to get moving. A quick change of train in Central station and I was walking through the deserted station underneath the international terminal by 5.20am. I checked the screens and found a seat near the J zone which TG use and watched the world go by. There was a steadily increasing amount of activity, with SQ checking in for their early morning departure, as well as the NZ desks nearby processing a steady stream of passengers heading to various destinations.
Check-in staff arrived and I was standing on the purple carpet getting checked in around 7.45am. I was issued with an express pass and my boarding pass and sent on my way. Security was empty and I was through in under a minute.
It’s been several years since I have flown out of Sydney and it felt as though they have changed the layout. It seemed like a mile to go through the large open-plan duty free area and down towards the SQ & NZ lounge area. I did want to try the F class lounge of SQ, as even though I had heard it wasn’t a patch on the Air New Zealand lounge, I was simply curious and wanted to check it out. However, the attendant advised that the lounge was shortly closing and advised that NZ lounge would be the better one to use. Fair enough.
An eclectic mix of tails snapped on the way to the lounge.
I was welcomed warmly into the nearly empty lounge and found a seat near the windows over on the left hand side of the lounge. The Air New Zealand lounge is light and spacious with large windows and views over the apron on two sides. The “main” section of the lounge is to the right as you walk in and features a large buffet area, well stocked fridges and bar section. Food on offer was obviously breakfast related with various cereals, fruits, yoghurts as well as frittata, sausages and beans if you wanted something hot. They also have a pancake machine – I find these kinda freaky but it was being well used at that time of the morning. There are toilet and shower facilities, plenty of TV’s & magazines and a child play area. Round to the right from the main entrance is what I have seened in some places referred to as the “First Class” section. Seeing as NZ do not have F class, this doesn’t really make any sense, although other airlines that do have F do send guests there. There is no entry control to this section but if you want a quieter space, it would be worth using as most people would not realise this area existed. There are limited refreshment options in this area.
I grabbed some food and drink and settled down to relax. I was already feeling jaded and hadn’t travelled more than 20 km! My spirits were slightly lifted and some excitement began to fill me as my aircraft pulled on to stand in front of me.
SYD was certainly pretty busy – as soon as one aircraft pulled out, it seemed as if there was another waiting to take it’s space. EK certainly were putting many passengers through SYD that morning – the A380 had just backed out and the 777 pulled onto stand.
Not often do I get to enjoy a seat this far forward!
Too early for any alcohol – just a Diet Coke and ice. I like Kia Ora – some nice articles in there.
I used the showers at the lounge and, whilst welcome, I think that NZ could do with giving them a little attention. Bizarrely, there was no hook upon which to hang your clothes and limited flat space to put stuff. Not a big deal but shows that a designer perhaps didn’t consider the actual utilisation of the space over the look and feel. The shower head could also do with a descaling. I felt like I was being sand-blasted and was showering wondering exactly how many layers of skin the jets of water were going to slice through. Still, I am being a little picky – compared to the usual Red Carpet Clubs I frequent, it’s nice to have a shower full stop. Most importantly, the facilities were spotlessly clean.
At around 9.20, I started getting itchy feet and decided to wander down to the gate – it was directly underneath the lounge and very close. I believe I would have been escorted down had I decided to wait. There was a bit of a scrum at the gate and a short delay on the air bridge, but within a few minutes I was turning left and heading for 2K. I was alone in the cabin ( I guess most others had waited upstairs ) and was able to snap a pic of my home for the next 10 hours or so.
The seat itself is beginning to look a little old fashioned – it certainly doesn’t have much bling about it. Solidly built and comfortable is probably a good way to describe it. I love the colour scheme that Thai use, both on the interior and exterior of their aircraft. I find the deep purples and golds very soothing and give a sense of comfort and style. You can see from the picture that there is a small reading light to the right of the seat occupant. There is also a small storage area almost behind the seat. The grey plastic area contains all of the electronic seat controls (back recline, leg rest, foot rest, head rest, lumbar and massage can all be controlled individually, as well as offering preset options for sitting, relaxing and lying flat). There is a pull-out remote control that contains overhead reading light & cabin crew call buttons as well as controls for the on-demand PTV. A phone is on the back of the control, though it did not work for me. The wooden unit to the side of the seat also contains a large pull-out table and a fairly small pop-up PTV as well as a further small storage area. There isn’t a huge amount of storage (my other frame of reference is the old UA F seat) but it’s a fairly minor point, at least for me. Waiting at my seat were slippers (just visible in the picture), noise cancelling headphones and an amenity kit. The seat also has a power outlet which accepts plus from various countries. Oh, and you have 4 windows to yourself!
Obligatory legroom shot – kind of pointless as you can’t get scale. I’m 6ft 2 (about 1.9m) and sitting upright, the soles of my feet are flat against the footrest which was still at the furthest point from my seat. In others words, I couldn’t touch the seat in front if I had wanted to.
The CSM (or whatever TG call the boss) came and introduced himself and alerted a colleague who promptly offered champagne. Well, it would be rude not to, right?
2 x SQ, 1 x UA & 1 x TG birds
We trundled slowly around the airport before taking off from 16R into the clear blue skies above Sydney. Fairly quickly I was struck by how quiet the A340-600 was – this was my first flight on this type of aircraft.
Some views of Sydney
View of Sydney Airport and CBD – I can even see the bay that I live by.
Well, as mentioned, I don’t have the quality of camera to take too many photos of the hardware in flight, but food – that I could do.
It was rather windy and bumpy on departure, but within 10 minutes of take off, the crew were up and preparing for service. I was soon handed a menu and offered drinks. With only 5 of the 8 seats filled, I was confident that this was going to be an excellent flight.
Sexy slippers. With socks. Stylish. I always keep my shoes on until we’re up – I know it sounds morbid but I don’t want to have my feet burned or ripped to shreds by metal if there’s an accident and I need to make a run for it.
The feast begins...
I started off with some more Dom Perignon and was offered some warm mixed nuts.
Soon, some Canapes were offered – some beef and cantaloupe melon, something with salmon and cheese, and a scallop on a large crouton garnished with caviar. Yum – better than a pack of pretzels for sure!
After fininshing these, the flight attendant managed to heave the table out and it was set up for me. I was offered bread from a choice or 6 or 7 different options.
Now, I had tried caviar before and wasn’t sure – but it was only really as a garnish. Therefore, I was very much looking forward to this part of the meal. Thai served it with such style….
.. and I have to say, I am now a fan of caviar. It was lovely. I requested another cracker as I had some left, and the FA flashed a cheeky grin and returned with …
…a second helping. A wicked indulgence. So so good though.
Next up – Duck Liver Terrine, Grilled Sea Scallop & Grilled Marinated Vegetables
The was a nice dish – the terrine was particularly good.
The Salad Course
Mixed Green Salad with Thousand Island Dressing. I actually chose the spicy tomato dressing which was excellent – really tangy.
The Main Course
I went for the Beef Fillet with Eggplant in Green Curry “Kiew-wan”, Steamed thai Hom Mali Rice& Mixed Vegetables. This was a seriously good choice. The beef was soft, the curry had seat and the vegetables tasted fresh. The rice was also very well cooked without being over sticky or dry. They also served some slivers of port with it – very nice.
Cheese & Fruit
I asked for a sliver of cheese and a little pineapple and was handed this.
Generous to say the least.
I don’t have a sweet tooth so I passed on the dessert, but leapt at the chance for a good espresso at 35,000 feet. It didn’t disappoint.
Now barely able to move, I settled down to watch some films and TV. The system that Thai has is, as others have mentioned, adequate, but far from cutting edge. It can be slow to respond too. It has a selection of approx. 40 films, plus TV, radio, music and games. It is on-demand. Adequate, but not a leader.
One thing I did notice about the cabin was how roomy it felt, but I couldn’t quite place why. It was several hours into the flight before I worked it out – no overhead bins in the centre.
It was also equipped with mood lighting which was only used to wake us up before the second meal service. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this feature and it seems cool, though I wonder if it actually does make any difference to how a traveller feels – would be good to hear from people about this.
The service throughout the flight was flawless. The CSM was walking through the aircraft every 20 minutes or so – given the length of the aircraft, that’s some distance! If he wasn’t around, the other crew were in the cabin checking. Drinks glasses were never empty. Extremely attentive without every feeling like I was being watched or hovered over. Really wonderful.
Soon enough, approximately 90 minutes before landing, the second meal service commenced.
To be honest, I wasn’t that hungry and the pace, timing, choice and quantity of what was served was perfect. High taste, nothing too heavy. Very good. The soup really woke the taste buds up.
Har Kao & Sui Mai
These dumplings were great – bitesized and full of flavour.
Dessert was practically forced upon me and, whilst I wouldn’t normally order, it was nice as it wasn’t too sweet. Didn’t find much reference to Brulee with this though and I couldn't finish it.
Chocolate Tart Brulee with Pistacchio sauce.
Landing was very smooth, though the braking suddenly got pretty hard which resulted in some extra camera shake from me.
Taxing around the airport I saw three different TG tails all parked together – thought it was quite a cool shot.
I thanked the crew profusely and liked that the crew attempted to allow F passengers to exit first. Waiting for me was a lady in TG uniform with my name on a card who escorted me to a buggy and we were whisked through the airport. BKK is enormous but I was at a separate VIP immigration line within about 90 seconds. Fantastic.
There was a porter also waiting for me the other side of immigration who took my hand baggage and grabbed my suitcase for me, which was third on to the belt.
If I look at the soft product first, I think it would be hard to fault TG, at least on this example. Service was friendly and attentive, without being overly familiar or fussy. Meals were excellent, and served in style. The hard product is very good, though I do not think it can be described as class-leading. Nevertheless, in any position, it was certainly very comfortable and, when flat, I was unable to feel any “lumps.”
I spent the night in Bangkok at a local hotel. I could have easily connected to the overnight flight to London, but was getting picked up at the airport and didn’t want to have to ask for a lift from Heathrow at 7am, so picked the noon departure from Bangkok which would arrive at approximately 6pm local time.
TG916 11th May 2011
Photo © Pawarin Prapukdee
Photo © Tim Bowrey - Sydney Spotters
I arrived nice and early at the airport. Having researched via the Thai Airways website and the reports on here, I knew that the lounge and spa services available to TG F passengers are first rate and I wanted to make the most of it.
Similar to my arrival into BKK, there was a porter waiting kerbside at Door 1 to take my bags from me. I was escorted inside the terminal and left through to the exclusivie and private check-in area. I was offered a seat and a drink whilst my passport was taken and my boarding pass issued.
My boarding pass was returned to me and I was asked if I wanted an appointment made at the spa, which I of course accepted.
I’ve had 1A/K a few times, but only once before in international first class, which was with United. It felt like a bit of a treat!
I was then escorted to a private security area and down an escalator which came out at one end of one of the TG business class lounges. There a buggy was waiting that whisked me down to the first class lounge.
The lounge is large, long and narrow. On one side of the “corridor” are various private rooms equipped with Bang & Olufsen TV, some chairs, a sofa, a coffee table and some magazines. There is also a small buffet area at the far end. On the other side to the private rooms is a small dining area, a large open plan sitting area and a bar. The lounge is also equipped with showers and toilets. I was invited into the lounge and offered a private room where a cool welcome drink and chilled towel were provided. A menu detailing a wide choice of food and drink was offered. I later tried the buffet and even there, staff were on hand to actually take the drink / food item, plate/pour it and bring it to you attractively presented. Truly first class service.
Welcome Drink & Towel
I tried a couple of small dishes, including one of the nicest club sandwiches I have ever had, and some great prawn rice, seen here, with a cold beer, a copy of the Daily Tory-graph and footie on the TV. Bliss.
At 9 o’clock, I was escorted out of the lounge and across to the Royal Orchid Spa. I didn’t fancy the full-monty massage, so opted for a head/shoulder massage and a foot/leg massage, a total of 1 hour. It was heaven. It always amazes me how these tiny masseurs can cause a not insignificant amount of pain just with their fingers or thumbs. I left with a spring in my step and headed back to the lounge for the last hour or so.
With a departure time of 12.20, I had to force myself to relax that I had not been called for my flight by noon. At 12.05, I was called and escorted, along with a couple of other passengers out of the lounge and along to the gate. It made me smile a little as I thought back to my travels with UA - people camp out on the red carpet lane to be the first to board and end up spending the longest on the aircraft. This seemed like a much better idea – spend as long as possible in a comfortable lounge, walk down through an empty gate area and straight onto the aircraft. Very nice. 4 more passengers soon joined us for a load of 7 out of the 10 seats.
I’m not a registration spotter so usually I haven’t a clue (or care) as to which aircraft I am on. The only reason I knew the registration for this flight was easy – it kind of sticks out…
Photo © Rajesh Changela
(The first 4 windows were for me! )
Within a few minutes, I was comfortably sat in my seat..
Wasn’t a major fan of the pre-departure pink champagne on offer and switched after take off to the Dom.
I’ve travelled in the nose of the 747 a couple of times before, and I still dislike sitting there for takeoff. I find the noise of the nose wheel unnerving, and seem to feel even more of the clunks and groans of what is a fairly old aircraft, fully loaded climbing reluctantly. It’s irrational, but I get clammy handed for the time around takeoff.
I’m a little disappointed – I had intended to take the menu with me, so didn’t take a photo of the menu for reference. Unfortunately, when I was leaving the aircraft, I wasn’t concentrating and took the safety card by mistake. Damn. Therefore, I can’t fully describe what food was offered, but will do my best.
These were OK – a bit strange as they were neither hot nor cold. I felt as if they should have been served hot.
Wonderful wonderful caviar, this time served with blinis rather than melba toast on the flight out of Sydney. I think I preferred the toast.
Basil & Lime sorbet – very refreshing. Rock hard – it almost went flying as I first tried to eat it.
I had pre-ordered this and was quite looking forward to it. Coquilles St Jacques served with peas and carrots. I was expecting them to be served in the shell of the scallop, but were instead served on pastry. Rich and decadent. Very nice indeed.
I’ve not found much cheese in Australia that I particularly like, particularly blue cheese. It’s a treat anyway, but I decided to indulge when offered, plus it had been a while since I’d had any.
The blue cheese and the brie was nice, but wasn’t a fan of the other hard cheese. Grapes were nice, but the pineapple was nasty – I wonder if it wasn’t ripe as it had no sweetness to it at all.
I took the Apple Tart out of curiousity more than anything, as I was full. I took a bite and left it. It wasn’t very good – the pastry tasted a little stale and the apple wasn’t sweet. The Baileys ice cream with it was nice.
The table was cleared, I put my feet up and switched on a classic that, still after many years, has me laughing out loud. Can you recognise the film?
The 747 F cabin is nice, but with the yellow lighting and old-style bins, it does feel older. The toilets are so small too. It required some skill to get changed into PJ’s in them. The A340-600 toilets felt slightly larger and brighter.
The pre-arrival service was as follows:
Hot smoked salmon, roasted vegetables and potato salad. All very tasty.
Onion soup. Tasty. I liked that TG came round with the huge “percy-pepper” pepper mills as I much prefer the taste of fresh milled pepper versus ready ground. The grissini were also very good.
For the main, I opted for a Beef Mossman curry with various accompaniments. This wasn’t bad – the curry part of the meal was better than the rice which was a little hard.
So excited – my first sight of Blighty in 9 months just waiting beneath those clouds!
LCY – two aircraft on the runway at the same time.
Nice little touch – after thanking me for choosing Thai, they gave us all an orchid each.
Airport services at BKK for F class passengers are superb. I’d be interested to know which other airlines come close to the level of service and amenities that are offered.
Of the two flights, I much preferred the SYD-BKK sector for various reasons. Firstly, I think 9 hours is about the right time for a flight for me. A meal and a half and three movies is good – much more than that and I begin to get cabin fever, although perhaps there is a product out there that would stop that (I haven’t found it yet). I also much preferred sitting at the back of the cabin. On the 747, 1A/K would be good for a couple travelling together as you’d be able to make eye contact and chat, but travelling on my own, I just felt as if I was being watched by everyone. The seats have high backs and do wrap around a little but there are no privacy screens. Finally, sitting at the back of the cabin makes it easier to make eye contact with the cabin crew. The service was good on the London flight, but drinks refills weren’t as regular, at least for me. Whether this was due to the crew not being as available, or me being engrossed in the TV and not noticing is hard to say, but at the back of the cabin, you can’t help but notice them. Finally, I felt that the quality of the food was actually a little better ex SYD than it was BKK, though I doubt that’s typical. Minor omissions from the amenity kit that would have been very handy would have been eye shades and ear plugs. Overall though, a great way to travel – I felt like a true VIP from start to finish.
All comments and feedback greatly appreciated.