My 2nd 787: Thai Business Brisbane to Bangkok

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787 window gives a great view flying over the clouds!

It has taken me a while to get onto a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It is five years ago that the first 787 was delivered to ANA and now there are 460 in the air. I am making up for lost time with seven 787 flights booked in 2016 -with five carriers!

My first 787 experience was with OneWorld’s South America member LATAM. Number two is today’s trip with Thai Airways. Numbers three and four are coming up with Scoot. Five will be with Jetstar. Six will be with Ethiopian. Seven is back to Thai!

Thai Airways’s 787 Business Service is called Royal Silk and it does not disappoint from start to finish. A delightful experience with a good solid airline. Every part of the trip is rated by me with an overall rating at the end of this report. As for the 787, yes, it is a truly beautiful aircraft.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-4-35-19-pmThai only offers the 787 on two sectors out of Australia to Bangkok: Brisbane and Perth.  I took TG474 which departs Brisbane at 2pm daily and reaches Bangkok at 7:4opm. A mere 8 hour 40 minutes to cover the 4,506 miles.

Booking: 10/10

It is a delight to use a booking site that works well. The Thai airways site is akin to its slogan (Smooth as Silk)- navigating the site is a very smooth experience. It is a very uncluttered site. Booking a flight is straightforward on a desktop and on mobile. Payments go through quickly and accurately.

I used Avianca LifeMiles which gave me a Business Class seat for a price slightly above an Economy priced seat on Thai!  (I had bought miles when Avianca ran one of their bonus promotions). Avianca make booking a reward seat very easy. My only frustration is that it does not remember your past searches so every new search requires placing the same info in again and again. This is not a Thai Airways issue, of course!

Check In: 10/1o

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I think I experienced the worlds’ fastest international check in. Thai Airways have a very user friendly on line check in system.  I checked in at 659am in the Uber on my way to my connecting flight to Brisbane! It seemed to have one too many steps but was very easy to follow through. At the end of the process, I was disappointed that I was provided not with a boarding pass but with this confirmation:

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IMG_3450I arrived at Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal  at  1128am. I had finished check in at 1131am!

It helped that there was no line but the check-in agent also remarked that I was one of the easiest check-ins ever! I had my documents ready and was not checking in bags. He already my passport information and seat request in the system. There was not much to do but print the boarding pass and provide fast track card and lounge information.

There was no line for security so I didn’t need to use the express lane. In fact, it was not open as the staff said to me all of the lines were express..and they were right! Immigration took a little longer because the automatic system did  not accept my passport and the immigration agent had computer issues. Very friendly vibe from the Australian Border force staff.

With a stop to try out the after-shaves in the Duty-free shop, I was in the lounge at 1141am. Thirteen minutes from airport entrance to Lounge via security  for an international flight is a new record for me! 

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Lounge: 9/10

I really liked the Air New Zealand Lounge that Thai uses. It has an airy feel, with clean contemporary feel. Views across the terminal, over the apron and to the runway are excellent. Toilets were very clean.

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There was only one shower which seems a little under done.

The Lounge team were switching from morning tea to lunch . A very salty Beef stroganoff, accompanied by a gluey saffron rice and a watery profiterole were the disappointments amongst fresh fruit, scones, jam and cream, Kale and Barley soup, fresh fruit salad, a great cheese and bread selection and  an extensive wine, cider, beer and non-alcoholic drink collection.

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The wifi was good.

 

Boarding: 8.5/10

The incoming plane, HS-TQA Ongkharak (องครักษ์), touched down in Brisbane at around 11:50am.  Boarding was delayed by a few minutes from the 120pm start. From my lounge vantage, I could see passengers lining up  for the boarding at 13:23.  Families then started pre-boarding. Sure enough, at 13:28, we were invited to go down and board. I was at the gate at 13:31 and boarding at 13:34. Thai did not start Economy boarding until most of the Business class cabins were aboard

At the boarding gate staff were checking (as is entirely usual) boarding passes and passport check. The gentleman in front of me was wearing a hat. As the agent scrutinised his passport photo, she asked him , in what i considered to be in a warm nd friendly manner to remove his hat. He gave her a look of pure contempt as he doffed his hat for a few microseconds.  Oh to be so important that one can look down on the people you interact. Maybe he was just having a bad day?  I have written about this before but one does not need to be a jerk when one travels. 

If the agent was fazed, she did not show it and we exchanged pleasantries before she  wished me a great flight. To be honest, I was just so excited at the prospect of this second 787 flight! One gentleman and I stopped to snap pictures of the beautiful 787 bird as we walked down the gangway, He shared my excitement for the flight. 

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We were greeted with a smile and the traditional Thai wai as we stepped aboard the aircraft and then it was that left turn into the spacious business class cabin and to my front row seat 11A. I am still trying to find out why Thai start their plane numbering at row 11 and now row 1. Any illumination?

The Plane: 9/10

Thai’s  787 Business Class has 24 fully-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. It was almost full on my flight with 22 of the 24 seats occupied. Surprisingly  11B, the seat next to mine was empty so I must have had the most amount of real estate of anyone on the plane! I stored my stuff on the seat next to me. I would have liked a little more space in the seat itself.  I do miss the bins along the wall which are a feature of many 747 Business Class cabins. Seat pitch is 60″ and the bed when flat is 78″ Bliss for my 185cm frame! Seat width is 21″.

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240 Economy passengers squeeze into rows 21 to 57 in a 3-3-3 configuration. Seat pitch is an okay 32″ and width is 18″.

There is a lavatory in the front of the plane through the Business Class galley and one at the rear of the Business Class Cabin, an average of 10 passengers per toilet. There are four lavatories in the middle of the economy and two at the rear of the plane. This gives an average of 35 Economy passengers per toilet!

Thai’s Business Class lavatories had a lovely orchid display and a nice cologne in them.

The cabin look is  little clinical. I would like some more colour in the walls.

The windows are spectacular, however, and passengers obviously enjoyed playing with them.

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A surreal sight mid-flight under a full moon

On Board: 9/10

On my seat were waiting my headset, a Samsonite amenity pack, blanket and pillow. I snaffled the pillow from the seat next to me when I went to sleep!

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IMG_3483The crew brought us a very welcome cooling towel, and a welcoming drink. I spurned the g water, and orange juice selecting champagne. Through the flight I was given a refreshing towel five times. I have never had so many before on a flight!

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We were offered Thai and Australian  newspapers and magazines from a massive array. I chose “the Nation” which was carrying latest news of the situation in Thailand.

Menus were handed out and we were asked for our main course choice. The Staff were very flattering about my attempts to order in Thai.

Takeoff

We took off a mere seven minutes late at 14:07. Watching the wings flex was amazing,

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Liftoff from Brisbane

Entertainment: 7 out of 10

Royal Silk Business Class features 15″ seat-back LCD screens and 9″ seat back LCD screens in Economy Class. AudioVideo onDemand Panasonic system eX3 is available at every seat with 110 music albums, 31 games, 30 movies and several TV programs.  The hand controller for the systems takes some getting used to as appears to be very touch sensitive!

IMG_3526I was disappointed with content. Airline entertainment has a bt of same-same feel at the moment with the same movies and the same two or three episodes of Modern Family and Big Bang theory popping up everywhere.

Each Business class seat has a 110v AC power port. There are shared outlets between Economy seats. There was no wifi on board.

Meals: 7.5/10

Meal service began very soon after takeoff wih another refreshing towel. It was a fairly fast paced meal service and staff maneuvered the drinks trolley five times during it.service was warm and gracious but felt rushed. The courses came through in rapid succesion, I know other people dislike airlines where meals are leisurely so I guess it is all in the eye of the individual passenger.  They kept my Perrier water and ice full through lunch and for the rest of the flight.

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Tandoori prawns  in yogurt sauce started the meal. I was impressed as the prawns were very tasty. The sauce absolutely prefect.IMG_3504

First course was a delicious smoked trout and salmon roe meal and a tasteless scallop rescued by a delicious wasabi and cucumber sauce. A very fresh garden salad and generous servings of delicious garlic bread and a sadly dry bread roll accompanied this meal.

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The crew began meal service  at row 16 left-hand side of the plane (the last row in the business class cabin)  and came forward. They then switched to the other aisle and worked to the rear of Business class on the right hand side of the plane.

My main course of roasted pork fillet was a disappointment. It looked and smelt great. Carving was like hacking into a block of rubber. Thankfully it had good taste but I was close to returning the meal! The vegetables with it were amazing, Perfectly cooked tasty beans and carrots with the most delicious roasted potatoes I have ever had in the air rescued the main course.

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A portion of cheese came with fruit next. People have complained, in other  trip reports, that it seems ludicrous to serve a lot of cheese with only two crackers. Inclined to agree although I had had enough carbs on this flight so this was not an issue! I would suggest to Thai they have more crackers available automatically!

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I eschewed desert going for a hot chocolate instead. The servee apologised for the length of time it took to prepare the hot chcolate. which was kind of them. I was not wrorred at all.

Before landing, we were served a delicious stir fry, fresh fruit and chcolates. I did not eat the chocs, instead I took them home for family!

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Landing

We touched down into the steamy Bangkok heat at 19:38, well ahead of the scheduled 20:20 landing. This advantage was eroded a little by the long taxi to a remote bay where we boarded buses to the terminal. I was first off the bus and walked confidently to the Express Channel. Thai Airways Business and First customers get priority through the airport. With a couple of stamps in my crowded passport, no baggage to collect and nothing to declare at customs, I was out in the main terminal by 20:07. I was in an Uber by 20:16! So still ahead of the scheduled landing!

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On the bus gazing back at the massive Rolls Royce engines.

The Verdict

My Flight Rating:  88% (4.4 out of 5). By comparison my LATAM Business 787 trip I gave just 70% – albiet a much shorter three 40 minute flight.

About the Airline: Founded in 1960Thai Airways International Public Company Limited flies to 80 destinations in 37 countries, with a mixed fleet of 90 aircraft. They are flying all of the newer craft the 380, 350 and the 787, along with 330s, 777s, 737s and 747s. Some rationalisation needed, I think.

My overall rating of  Thai Airways: 93%- ahead of Singapore, Qantas and Malaysia at 92% and behind Lufthansa at 96%. I know “everyone” says Singapore are well ahead of Thai but I find the Thai service a little more human than Singapore’s.

Skytrax: Thai has a four-star rating from Skytrax – which I think they more than live up to. Skytrax customers rate them at 7/10.

Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives Thai 4/7 which is not comforting! the lower score is related to concerns the Aviation community has with the Thai aviation authority’s oversight mechanisms.

Frequent Flyer Program: Royal Orchid Plus. As mentioned, I used my Avianca Lifemiles.

Positives:  Website, the plane, the seat.
Negatives:  Range of entertainment, My main meal!
Would I fly them again? Yes

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for your report. If you have any photos of the empty seat upright and in recline mode (so we can see what it looks like in terms of size / space), the IFE screen, and the cabin layout that would be helpful to add to the report.

  2. Scott, Thanks for the feedback. Apologies for not including a pic of the seat. All of my pics of the seat were not any good, to be frank. I can only suggest that you can google a picture! Hopefully, I will get another chance to ride their 787. All the best.

  3. Hi Safaa
    Yes. I always change shirts! One to get on the plane with and one to get off. Sometimes I will have pyjamas between the two!

  4. This was an excellent recount of your experience and is exactly what I am looking for when deciding on which airline to fly with and what the experience will be like. Thank you very much 🙂

  5. Thanks for posting this review Martin. For every person who bothers to reply, im sure there are dozens who only read. To restate what was said by others, I also would have liked more info on the seat and its comfort. Lets face it, most of us only pay the extra for the comfort onboard, and the lounge before flying. Your lounge review was informative, but the review would have been better with pics of the seat and more general info of its comfort/functions etc (especially when flat for sleeping). Again, thank you for taking the time to do this review. To me, it was worth the read.

  6. Thank you Richard for your words. As mentioned to Scott (see earlier comment), my pics of the seat were not good enough for publication. Can I distract you with my food photos? Stay wild about travel.

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