I was escorted from the Thai Airways Royal First Lounge to the end of Concourse E, where the plane was just about to board. Despite several past trips in Thai Airways’ business class cabin, this was my first opportunity to experience the first class cabin. I was also excited to be on a Boeing 747 because, well, it’s a cool plane and why wouldn’t I be?
The cabin itself was not very impressive. Although the suites had some privacy, there were nine of them arranged with three on each side and three in the middle. (Still less than British Airways.) A row of four cabin seats and two lavatories in the back faced the cabin, which in found incredibly strange for an international first class cabin. Most airlines put the toilets and crew seats in the galley behind a curtain.
Here are some pictures I took after we landed. I think you can see that there’s plenty of privacy, even in the middle seats with the divider raised, but it was still unusual to see those lavatories in the back. I was glad to be sitting near the front.
It probably has to do with the wonky business class configuration, with the galley running along the plane on the starboard side instead of across the middle. Only a few business class seats are downstairs, half without windows, and the majority of business class is upstairs. I took this same flight in business class two months later, so I’ll review it in a separate post.
Aside from the strange layout, I thought the service on the flight was excellent, and I didn’t mind the lack of privacy given it was a “daytime” flight leaving Bangkok around 3 PM and arriving in Tokyo at 10:30 PM. I wasn’t going to try to sleep anyway.
The seats are fairly wide. Each had a couple well-stuffed pillows along and a large television. The small tablet you see next to the seat doesn’t do much of anything except adjust the seat’s position. A remote control inside the armrest could be used to manage the entertainment system.
One of the flight attendants greeted me immediately as I sat down in seat 1K and offered a cold towel along with some macadamia nuts and a glass of Dom Perignon 2004.
You may recall that Cathay Pacific told me they don’t serve Dom Perignon or Krug on their shorter first class flights, like the one I took from Haneda to Hong Kong, so this was a noticeable improvement. He kept my glass full throughout the flight and was always very courteous.
There was also a Rimowa amenity kit and noise canceling headphones waiting for me at the seat. Its contents were adequate for the flight’s duration and included L’Occitane products. Additional perfumes and such were available in the lavatory. I understand that some people really like Rimowa amenity kits, but I personally dislike rigid containers that take up space in my luggage.
Meal service began after takeoff. While there were three mains available, there were no options for other courses. Fortunately they seemed to be striking a reasonable balance between cultures.
- Mini Vol-au-vent
- Salmon in Tarragon Cream Sauce
- Simmered Prawn and Oyster, Grilled Marinade Scallop
- Japanese Omelet with Teriyaki Eel, Japanese Chicken Meat Loaf
- Chicken Consomme Scented with Port Wine
- Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks, Reduced Port Wine Braising Sauce; Fresh Potatoes Gnocchi with Butter and Fresh Sage; Garden Vegetables
- or Tiger Prawn with Garlic and Peppercorn; Steamed Brown Rice; Sauteed French Beans with Garlic
- or Simmered Kurobuta Pork Neck; Green Pea Japanese Rice; Simmered Japanese Vegetables
- Assorted Bread, Butter
- Assorted Cheese/Fresh Fruits
- Assorted Sweets
- Tea, Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino
I went with the tiger prawns for the main course, which was great. I wasn’t especially impressed with the hot appetizers. Everything else was pretty good. Catering isn’t a reason to book Thai Airways in my opinion, but you won’t be disappointed. I appreciated that the portions were not enormously huge. This was one first class flight where I was able to enjoy eating everything put in front of me.
In addition to the Champagne I enjoyed throughout, the wine list included Otard 1795 Extra Cognac, two red wines (Chateau Cantemerle 2011 and Beaune-Bastion Premier Cru 2012), and two white wines (Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Steingrubler 2012 and Chablis Grand Cru Pierre de Bessard 2013).
And those desserts? I always pass on the cheese plate, which doesn’t interest me. The fruit was nicely presented and quite fresh. The sweets turned out to be Thai desserts rather than some chocolate and sugary confection. I quite liked them and would have ordered more.
After meal service I spent the last two or three hours enjoying a movie and doing some work. There were no further interruptions unless I called over a flight attendant to assist me.
The cabin was quite dark with the windows closed, and I tested out the seat controls to see how the seat felt when flat. No complaints, but then I wasn’t really trying to sleep either, so I don’t think I am able to adequately judge this seat for the purpose of a longer journey.
In sum, it was a good trip and met my expectations without exceeding them. My award cost 60,000 United miles and about $20 in taxes. This is on par with most Star Alliance carriers, although there are cheaper options when redeeming American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles for first class on Cathay Pacific. Thai Airways made the most sense for me on the return journey because of the convenient connection to my flight home from Haneda to Los Angeles. However, I think the premium for first class probably isn’t worth it on a relatively short flight, and I would book business class in the future for just 40,000 miles.