I have such a love-hate relationship with Thai Airways Business Class. On one hand, Thai provides a fantastic ground experience in Bangkok with complimentary massages, spa services and tranquil spaces to rest and relax before your flight. But on the other hand, Thai’s on-board product and in-flight experience leaves much to be desired. Thai has so much potential but their outdated hard product, sub-par catering and frequent equipment swaps leave them in the dust compared to their competitors.
But wait. Doesn’t Thai Airways have brand new business class seats on their Airbus A380s, A350s and Boeing 787s? Well, they do but good luck actually getting on one of those. Thai Airways is NOTORIOUS for last minute equipment swaps. So if you are booking a specific flight to fly a specific aircraft with a specific hard product, don’t count on it. Chances are your brand new aircraft will be swapped out for an aging Boeing 747 or 777 before departure. On this trip, my friend Andrew and I knew better but we still booked this flight hoping we could finally try out Thai’s new Airbus A380 business class seat. But as luck would have it, our Airbus A380 was swapped out for a 23 year-old Boeing 747-400 the day before our flight.
Thai Airways Business Class Lounge Access at Hong Kong
At Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), Thai Airways operates the Royal Orchid Lounge for their first and business class passengers. The lounge is rather mediocre and doesn’t compare to their business class lounge offerings in Bangkok but it’s not a bad place to grab a bite and relax before your flight. You can click here to read my full review of the lounge.
As a business class passenger or Star Alliance Gold member, you can use the Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge or any of the other Star Alliance member lounges, including the United Club down the hall. You’re not gonna believe this but I actually prefer the United Club and would recommend it over the the Royal Orchid Lounge, so come here instead. The United Club can be more crowded than the Royal Orchid Lounge but I think the food and views are much better over here. Click here for my review of the United Club Hong Kong.
Thai Airways Business Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Hong Kong (HKG) to Bangkok (BKK)
Depart: 1:25 PM on Thursday (1:41 PM actual)
Arrive: 3:05 PM same day (3:46 PM actual)
Duration: 3hr 5mn
Seat: 17J Business Class (Upper Deck)
Approximately 15 minutes prior to boarding time, Andrew and I left the United Club and made our way to gate 60 where our aircraft was waiting. Boarding started with first class passengers, followed by business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. There was only one jet bridge and all passengers boarded the plane through door 1L. As I approached the flight attendant, I presented my boarding pass and was directed to the upstairs business class cabin.
Thai Airways uses these Boeing 747-400s on intra-Asia flights as well as medium and long-haul routes, including flights to Europe. These aging Queens are configured with three classes of service: Royal First (first class), Royal Silk (business class) and economy class. First class is located in the pointy end of the lower deck and is configured with 10 semi-enclosed suites in a 1 X 2 X 1 layout. These are the “newer” first class seats but are not the sames seats as configured on their Airbus A380s. You can read my Thai Airways Airbus A380 First Class trip report here.
The main business class cabin is located upstairs but there is a small business class section of just 14 seats in a 2 x 2 layout located on the lower deck, directly behind first class and forward of doors 2L. These are not the best seats as they are situated next to the galley and in between two sets of lavatories. If you are seated here, expect a lot of foot traffic walking back and forth. There are also less storage spaces at the seat and the main economy cabin is located directly behind you.
The main business class cabin is located on the upper deck with 26 seats in a 2 x 2 layout. The last row of the upper deck, row 19, only has two seats but it’s located next to the stairway and galley. On this flight, the cabin was quite full with only a couple seats unoccupied. Andrew and I were seated in seats 17J and K on the right side of the aircraft.
These Boeing 747-400s are configured with Thai’s old business class seats. These fixed shell seats are described as “angled flat” but in reality, are more angled-recliner than angle-flat. Seat Guru shows these seats as 170 degrees of recline but I don’t think they are anywhere near that. They are definitely better than your typical “domestic” first class seats but are not as comfortable as lie-flat seats (or even angled lie-flat seats, for that matter). Here’s my friend Andrew with the seat fully reclined.
Each business class seat is equipped with a personal, 15-inch IFE (in-flight entertainment) monitor, universal electrical outlet, two USB ports and a small privacy divider to separate the two passengers. Entertainment-wise, there was a decent selection of on-demand movies, TV shows, music, games and a moving map but annoyingly, there were commercials played before takeoff and before every movie.
Here’s some advice regarding the IFE system. There are three “modes” for the controller system: audio, video and interactive. You’ll want to switch to “interactive” mode. The audio and video modes have several channels of music and movies on a continuous loop. But when you switch to “interactive,” you will have access to their entire on-demand library.
There are plenty of storage spaces available at your seat for small personal items but nothing really convenient for a laptop or tablet (if you are seated in the aisle). The overhead bins are not large enough to accommodate standard size carry-on bags so your bags will have to be stored in the overhead bins down below. There are storage bins located along the window seats for backpacks, laptop bags, purses and other personal items. There are two bins so in theory, they are intended for each passenger but it would be awkward for the aisle seat person to use one of these bins as he/she would have to reach over the window seat person to access the bin every time. I found it easier to just place my backpack in the overhead bin above my seat.
These angled-recliner seats are not bad for short hops around Asia but are not great for anything longer than a few hours. Due to its fixed shell design, you still maintain your personal space when the passenger up front reclines back. However, they do not provide proper support for your knees and legs when fully reclined. It’s hard to describe but there is a gap in between the bottom seat cushion and the leg support cushion that makes your legs feel as if they are dangling.
Waiting at our seats were a blanket, pillow and Thai branded noise-reducing headphones. No amenities kits were provided on this short flight to Bangkok. As we settled into our seats, the flight attendant came by to offer us a pre-departure beverage of water, juice or champagne and a warm towel. I opted for the champagne, which was a Duval-Leroy Brut. It wasn’t bad.
Once we were airborne and reached our cruising altitude, the flight attendants came by to take our meal orders and distribute another round of drinks. Here’s the menu.
The lunch services started shortly thereafter. The starter consisted of a smoked tangini and an assortment of bread. I’m not exactly sure what tangini is but it didn’t taste fresh, whatever it was.
Next came the main course. For my main meal, I went with the “local” option, which was a noodle dish with oyster sauce and ground beef. It tasted as good as it looked. Andrew went with the Thai dish, which was a chicken and pineapple fried rice, and it was only marginally better.
After the main course, our trays were cleared away and the flight attendants came by with a fruit, cheese and dessert cart. I skipped the cheese but opted for some fruit and dessert. The flight attendants then came around with a coffee and tea service and another warm towel after that.
As with all my previous Thai Airways Business Class flights, I was again disappointed with their in-flight catering. Thai Airways consistently provides a sub-par catering experience and this flight was no different. The food just wasn’t good. The dishes were not fresh. They lacked flavor and left us longing for something a bit more. I picked at my meal and tried to eat as much as I could but only got a few bites in. The smoked starter didn’t taste fresh and my main dish was just a really bad spaghetti and meat sauce. We were both really glad we ate in the United Club beforehand.
But on the positive side, I could not complain about the service on this flight. The flight attendants all spoke English and every interaction was said with a Thai smile. Even on this short flight to Bangkok, they walked the cabin frequently and made sure we were all taken care of. My drink was refilled several times and I didn’t need to ask for anything. Thai Airways flight attendants aren’t as polished as the other Asian carriers but they put forth a genuine effort and that’s always appreciated.
There were no other meals, snacks or services provided before arrival. About 30 minutes prior to landing, the flight attendants came by to pick up their headphones. I always bring my own headphones but I was too lazy to unpack them from my bag so I just used these instead. They weren’t the best but they got the job done. I wasn’t watching anything special so I continued watching my show sans headphones but I could tell the Indian couple behind me were annoyed about not being able to finish their movie. Pack your own headphones people!
Thai Airways Business Class Bottom Line
Overall, this was another standard Thai Airways Business Class flight. These out-dated business class seats (still found on a majority of their planes) are not my favorite and I find them to be on the uncomfortable side. They don’t provide enough support or privacy and would be uncomfortable on any flight longer than a few hours. The service was exceptional but the catering was an overall disappointment. The two positives to speak of included the attentive flight attendants and the in-flight entertainment system with a decent selection of entertainment.
That being said, whatever Thai Airways Business Class lacks in the air, they definitely make up for it on the ground. Arriving business class passengers are treated to a 30 minute spa service at the Royal Orchid Spa and are granted access to the Royal Silk Lounges to rest and relax before their connecting flights. After a massage, shower and meal in the lounge, our muscles were relaxed, bellies were full again and we quickly forgot about our less than stellar flight experience from Hong Kong.
Have you flown Thai Airways Boeing 747 Business Class before? If so, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
Here are some Thai Airways related posts that you might enjoy:
- Thai Airway Boeing 747-400 Business Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok
- Thai Airways Boeing 777-200 Business Class, Bangkok to Auckland
- Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge BKK
- Thai Airways A380 First Class, Bangkok to Paris
- EVA Air Lounge Bangkok