I have such a love/hate relationship with Thai Airways. On one hand, they have a great hard product on their A380s, Boeing 777-300ERs and 787-8 Dreamliners and their ground services at Bangkok International Airport are absolutely amazing. First Class passengers are treated like royalty with private rides to and from the gates, buggy transports, personal escorts to and from the lounge and hour long spa services at the Royal Orchid Spa. Heck, even Thai Airways Business Class passengers are allowed in the spa and are given 30 minute spa treatments. For premium cabin passengers, their ground experience is top notch and there really is no better way to fly through Asia.
But on the other hand, unless you are flying one of their newer aircraft, their in-flight experience is truly lacking and will leave you longing for a lot more. Only a handful of their planes are equipped with their new hard products and the majority of their fleet is still equipped with angled-recliner Business Class seats and older First Class seats. And with no plans to update their existing fleet, Thai Airways leaves a lot to be desired in the air. Thai Airways Business Class flight on an aging Boeing 777-200 was not the best in-flight experience.
Thai Airways Business Class Review
Flight: TG 491
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Bangkok (BKK) to Auckland (AKL)
Depart: 6:45 PM on Tuesday (6:57 PM actual)
Arrive: 10:45 AM next day (10:50 AM actual)
Duration: 10hr 53mn
Seat: 14K Business Class
About 30 minutes prior to boarding time, I left the Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge and made my way to my plane located at gate C5. I arrived at the gate with a few minutes to spare, took some pictures of the bird and waited for boarding to be called.
Boarding was delayed about 10 minutes and started with Business Class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. Business Class passengers boarded the plane through door 1L and Economy Class passengers boarded through door 2L. Because there was no cross-cabin traffic, the boarding process was smooth and easy and allowed the flight attendants to greet each passenger, serve pre-departure drinks and assist with any other passenger needs. I presented my boarding pass to the flight attendant and was directed to my seat on the right side of the airplane. I set my stuff down and tried to take some pictures of the cabin before the plane filled up.
Thai Airways uses these Boeing 777-200s on their medium and long-haul routes. These aging wide-body jets are configured with a two class cabin: Royal Silk (Business Class) and Economy Class. Business Class is located in the pointy end of the plane and is configured with 30 angled-recliner seats. There are five rows of seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 layout. On this flight, the cabin was quite full with only a few seats unoccupied.
The rest of the plane is comprised of two cabins of economy class seating in a 3 x 3 x 3 layout. Each Economy Class seat offers 18 inches of width, 32 inches of pitch and a personal nine inch monitor with AVOD (Audio/visual on demand) entertainment.
This Boeing 777-200 was configured with Thai Airways’ old Business Class seats. The fixed shell seats were marketed as “angled flat” but they were nowhere near anything flat. These seats were akin to really good recliner seats. With 170 degrees of recline, they were definitely better than your typical “domestic” first class seats but were not as comfortable as lie-flat seats (or even angled lie-flat for that matter).
The seats offered 20 inches of width and 60 inches of pitch. Each seat was equipped with a 15 inch, IFE entertainment monitor, seat massage (vibration), lumbar support, foot rest, universal electrical outlet and a small privacy divider to separate the two passengers. There were small pockets at the seats to store your cell phone and other small electronics but all large items including backpacks, laptop bags and other carry-on items had to be stored in the overhead bins. There were no USB ports to connect or charge your devices.
I have flown this Thai Business Class seat many times before but this flight, at almost 11 hours, was definitely the longest. The seat is not bad for shorter flights but on longer flights where you’re trying to sleep, they are not the best. Due to their fixed shell design, I still maintained my personal space when the passenger in front of me reclined back. However, when my seat was completely reclined, the seat lacked proper support for my knees and legs. There was a gap between the bottom seat cushion and the leg support that made my legs feel like they were “dangling.” I can’t really describe it but just take my word for it. It felt awkward. And these seats are impossible for side sleepers. You guys will not like these.
Waiting at our seats were day blankets, pillows, noise-reducing headphones and amenities kits. Interestingly, there were no slippers provided for this overnight flight. Amenities kit-wise, this is one of my favorite kits from Thai Airways. The purple colored, Porsche Design branded, nylon case is classy and packed full of quality products. Inside, there are tubes of Bogner branded body lotion and lip balm, eye shades, socks, hair brush, ear plugs and oral hygiene products. This is one of their better kits as I have seen these handed out as First Class kits before.
As I settled into my seat, the flight attendant came by to offer me a warm towel and pre-departure drink. A few minutes later, another flight attendant came by to hand out arrival forms and menus. Shortly after all the passengers were boarded, we left the gate, taxied to the runway and began our 10 hour and 53 minute journey to Auckland.
Once we reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were turned off, the flight attendants came by to take our meal orders and distribute another hot towel. This was followed by a round of drinks and a package of peanuts (in the bag, not in a bowl) to each passenger.
Dinner service started with a hot canape of Thai style marinated chicken with lemongrass followed by the appetizer tray of marinated salmon, duck terrine with tomato and pesto, salad and garlic bread. For my main meal, I chose the pan-fried barramundi (fish) with potatoes and sauteed cream spinach.
After the main course was completed, our trays were cleared and the flight attendants came by with a fruit, cheese and dessert cart.
And as you would expect from my previous reports of Thai’s in-flight catering, the food was not delicious. The best thing on the plate was the lemongrass chicken canape but everything else was just meh. The fish tasted fishy and the vegetable were soggy and tasteless. I’ll let you judge from the pictures. I’m really glad I ate in the lounge beforehand.
After dinner, the lights were dimmed and water bottles were handed out to every passenger. Not being able to sleep, I took some time to explore the IFE system. This was definitely an older system and the monitor was not the best quality. The 15’’ monitor was located in the seatback in front of me and there was a decent selection of on-demand movies, TV shows, music and a moving map. Annoyingly, there were also commercials played before takeoff and before every movie.
A word of advice regarding the IFE system. There are three “modes” for the controller system: audio, video and interactive. You’ll want to switch it to “interactive.”
The audio and video modes have several channels of music and movies on a continuous loop. At first, I was extremely disappointed thinking there was no on-demand entertainment but then discovered the “interactive” mode. When you switch to the interactive menu, you will have full access to their media library including movies, TV shows, music, games and a moving map.
Service wise, the flight attendants were great. They all spoke English fluently and everything was said with a Thai smile. They walked the cabin frequently and made sure we were taken care of. My drink was refilled several times and I didn’t need to ask for anything. Sure they weren’t as polished as the other Asian carriers but they handled their business and were friendly.
There are three lavatories for Business Class passengers: one up front and two behind the cabin. All lavatories were stocked with Borghese branded products. If you want to change into your pajamas or need a little extra room in the lavatory, I recommend the one by door 2L. It was larger than the other two, had a bench for changing and a window with views of the massive engine.
About an hour and a half before arrival, the lights were turned on and the flight attendants prepared for our pre-arrival breakfast service. Breakfast started with yogurt, pastry and a fruit plate followed by my main course of scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, potatoes and sauteed spinach.
As expected, the pre-arrival meal was not the best either but in their defense, most airline breakfast foods aren’t that great to begin with.
Thai Airways Business Class bottom line
Overall, this wasn’t my best experience on a Thai Airways flight. Their old Business Class seats (still found on a majority of their planes) are not my favorite as I find them to be on the uncomfortable side. They don’t provide enough support or privacy and are uncomfortable for any flight longer than a few hours. And the food. . . just a disappointment. I definitely recommend you filling up in the lounge beforehand.
The positives included the attentive flight attendants, in-flight entertainment system with a decent selection of entertainment and classy amenities kit.
For those of you that enjoy a lot more pictures, I created a video slideshow for you here.
Other trip reports in this series:
- Introduction: How we booked our trip using United miles
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX
- Air New Zealand Lounge at LAX
- Air China “Forbidden Pavilion” first class Los Angeles to Beijing, Boeing 777-300ER
- Air China first class lounge at PEK
- Air China business class Beijing to Seoul, Airbus A330-300
- Hilton Seoul
- United Airlines “BusinessFirst” Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita, Boeing 787-8
- Asiana business class lounge at ICN
- Asiana business class Seoul to Tokyo Narita, Airbus A330-300
- Conrad Tokyo
- Hilton Tokyo
- ANA business class lounge at NRT
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Tokyo Narita to Bangkok, Boeing 747-400
- Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge at BKK
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Bangkok to Auckland, Boeing 777-200
- Hilton Auckland
- Emperor Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand “Business Premier” Auckland to Shanghai, Boeing 777-200
- Air China business class lounge at PVG
- Air China business class Shanghai to Taipei, Airbus A330-300
- EVA Air Evergreen Lounge at TPE
- EVA Air “Royal Laurel” business class Taipei to Los Angeles, Boeing 777-300ER