Things don’t always go according to plan; in fact things can go horribly wrong. In my personal view it’s the way an airline deals with an irregularity that distinguishes it and sets it apart from others. In this particular case, Thai Airways put a lot of effort into minimising the inconvenience for me.
But I jump ahead. Let me explain. I’m on my way back from my vacation in Southeast Asia. The original plan would have seen me returning from Bangkok to Zürich in Thai Airways First Class and then immediately carrying on with KLM via Amsterdam to Helsinki for a meeting. So originally, this is what my routing should have looked like:
Date: 13. September 2012
Airline: Thai Airways
Aircraft: A 340-600
To: Milan Malpensa
Cabin: First Class
I spend my last day in Asia exploring the sights of Bangkok, and I think I manage to do most of them.
I check out of the Novotel Suvarnabhumi at eight o’clock in the evening, once I’ve finished packing and had a shower. I then make my way through the deserted underground passageway linking the hotel to the railway station and the terminal beyond.
I arrive at the Thai Airways First Class check-in area on row A just after 20h00. First I am ushered to a sofa and brought a drink and a refreshing towel.
The friendly Thai Airways check-in agent apologises profusely as she informs me that the flight to Zürich has gone tech and instead of departing at 00h30, it is now scheduled for a departure at 07h30 in the morning, arriving in Zürich after 14h00 of the same day. So instead, she suggests I fly on the Thai Airways flight to Milan and then take a Swiss flight to Zürich from there, which would arrive at 11:00. I explain that I have a flight to Amsterdam with KLM at 09h50 on a separate ticket and need to be in Helsinki by the evening. So that won’t work.
In a bid to find a solution she first suggests I take the Thai Airways flight to Arlanda and then from there a Finnair flight to Helsinki. However the idea is quickly discarded because that would mean downgrading me to Business Class. On the Arlanda route Thai Airways operates a B747-400 with the old First Class seat, which is sold as Business Class. I don’t fancy that. So eventually we settle on a routing that will take me with Thai Airways from Bangkok to Milan in First Class, and then from there with Finnair to Helsinki in Business Class. Thai Airways generously also offer to endorse the KLM ticket. For me this means that I will still be able to use the return portion from Helsinki to Basel via Amsterdam. I ask the check-in agent if this will work, they can’t just take another airline’s ticket and use part of it as they like. But she assures me that it will be fine. They will cancel the outbound from Zürich via Amsterdam to Helsinki and I keep the return for the following day.
I’m quite happy with the arrangement and as an aviation fan I normally welcome such irregularities. Although in this case it’s quite a pity because I was hoping to clock another flight with the B737-900 from Amsterdam to Helsinki. Some other time maybe. The check-in agent brings me a bottle of water and asks me for some more patience while she makes all the necessary arrangements.
40 minutes later, with my boarding pass for the Milan flight and a Flight Interruption Manifest for Helsinki in hand, I’m good to go.
So eventually the routing looks like this:
The Milan to Helsinki leg will feature in a separate trip report.
From check-in there is a direct access to a dedicated security lane and behind that is immigration. The check-in agent escorts me through to the other side. It’s a swift process and even the immigration officer is all smiles and charm, even cracking a joke at seeing my ‘exotic’ passport. Blimey!
Behind immigration there is an escalator heading downstairs, straight into the Royal Silk Business Class lounge. At the bottom of the stairs another Thai agent is already expecting me with the funkiest vehicle I’ve ever seen. The check-in agent bids me goodbye. I get on board my chariot and am whisked away to the entrance of the Royal First Class lounge.
There are quite a few people around so I don’t take that many pictures. As soon as I am seated I am given a tremendously cold refreshing towel and a glass of some fruit juice. I also order a glass of sparkling water with a slice of lime.
My head has been bothering me all day, so I decide to head over to the Thai Spa and see if a massage might be able to do something about it. I am escorted to the lounge and handed over to my masseuse. First she gives me another refreshing towels and a glass of cold ginger and lemongrass tea. We discuss what I need taken care of and then head to the quiet area and the massage seats. The woman is a genius and over that ensuing forty minutes she works magic on my neck and shoulders. It feels like I’m being butchered but by the time she finishes me off I return to the First Class lounge feeling quite elated.
Next I order a dish of green chicken curry with rice to keep me going until I’m in the air. About 20 minutes before boarding I leave the lounge and head for my departure gate at A3.
Boarding starts just a few minutes after I arrive at the gate.
First Class and premium passengers are invited to board first through the L1 door. I am the second passenger to arrive in the First Class cabin.
The vanity kit, a selection of newspapers, the earphones and an orchid are already at me seat.
In short succession I am also given yet another refreshing towel, this time a warm one, a glass of water and my pjs and slippers.
The cabin and seat look nice and well maintained. In fact the seat looks nearly new. There are two cushions on every seat, as well as a blanket.
During the flight I visit the loo and it is very clean and well stocked with products from Bulgari’s Essence de Thé Blanc and Essence de Thé Vert. All the refreshing towels have the scent of the latter, which is just lovely.
We depart slightly behind schedule due to the heavy traffic out of Bangkok tonight. As we taxi out we pass the B747 to Arlanda I nearly ended up taking.
So Horus, we meet again!
Once we get airborne, we are treated to an excellent view of the urban sprawl that is Bangkok. It’s a calm night.
Service on this flight is efficient and friendly. The First Class cabin is served by the male purser, a very charming and funny middle-aged lady and a younger but equally friendly man. All the female crew are wearing these beautiful traditional Thai costumes made of silk, what else?
The purser introduces himself and wishes me a pleasant flight. He tells I’m in good hands with his colleagues and if there is anything I need, all of them will be more than glad to help.
There are no nibbles or canapés with the drinks before departure.
Once we take off the crew obviously want to make sure passengers manage to get as much rest as possible and so they get started with the service straight away.
First the table is set for the meal. Every passenger has his own breadbasket.
There is garlic bread too, I love garlic bread! Later on, once I’ve demolished the first bread basket, a new one arrives.
First we have the caviar service. This is really tasty. Once I finished I am offered a second helping but I figure that would be too much of an indulgence.
The caviar is followed by a tasty minestrone with two side dishes of smoked salmon and a puff pastry filled with paté.
For the main course I have the salmon with linguine, basil sauce and Mediterranean vegetables.
And for dessert some fresh fruit.
To drink I have Perrier.
After the meal I go and change while the flight attendant makes up my bed.