Airline: Thai Airways International
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Departed: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Arrived: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)
Class: First Class
Seats: 1E & 1F
Length: About 6 hours
My wife and I recently embarked on a major bucket list trip to Thailand. Since this was a rare sans-toddler trip, we decided to go all-out and burn pretty much all the miles and points we could get our hands on to fly some premium cabins. We were fortunate enough to be able to scrape together just enough points (mostly thanks to being new homeowners) to fly to Bangkok in first class. Our final leg of the inbound journey was on a Thai Airways A380 from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK).
We arrived at Tokyo Narita on ANA’s new Houston to Tokyo service in first class which, in and of itself, was an amazing experience. Our layover at Narita was about three hours long, during which time we availed ourselves of ANA’s First Class suite lounge.
Shortly after taking our seats in the lounge, a representative from Thai Airways found us, introduced herself, and asked if we needed anything. We asked if she could look into the status of our checked bags, as we’d had a little bit of difficulty getting them checked all the way through to Bangkok. She left with our passports, boarding passes, and bag claim tickets. When she returned she had new boarding passes printed on Thai stock and she informed us that they had located our bags and they were all set to be loaded on the aircraft. She also informed us that due to a late inbound aircraft, the flight would be about fifteen minutes late, and she would get us when it was time to board. No problem, I needed a shower anyway. Is there any greater feeling than showering in the lounge between long-haul flights?
Our seats in the ANA lounge had a great view of our A380 arriving and taking its position at the gate. We watched the cleaning crew and catering staff swarm the plane, frantically working to make a quick turn with a massive plane. It was indeed a surprisingly short time before the airline representative reappeared and informed us that it was time to board.
When we got to the gate, another airline representative escorted us down the jetway and onto the plane. We were met at the door by the head purser, who introduced herself and greeted us by name before showing us to our seats in 1E and 1F, in the center section of the upper-deck Royal First Class cabin.
Once we had taken our seats, we were offered Dom Prignon champagne as a pre-departure drink. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse!
The seat came with a well-stocked Rimowa amenity kit. I’m definitely holding onto this one!
The two center seats worked well for my wife and I traveling together. Although we’d earlier had a wonderful flight on ANA’s first class, it had been challenging to communicate with each other as it required us both to lean forward and communicate through a ‘window’ a few feet in front of our seats. Thai’s arrangement felt much more natural.
The one thing about the seat that confused me somewhat was a screen light next to the seat. This light emitted a brilliant purple glow, but not quite enough to eat or read by. I’m not quite sure what to make of it, and the few times I turned it on in the flight, it was not very useful.
Next, I checked out the rest of the first class cabin. The forward section of the cabin has a lounge seating area, which is a nice place to stretch your legs during the flight.
The lavatory at the front of the cabin was incredibly spacious, including a small loveseat area. It also had a number of hand creams, a small selection of soaps, Eau de Toilette, lots of towels, and several of Thai Airways’ ubiquitous orchid flowers.
Upon returning to our seat, I was quickly given a refill of champagne by the purser, who also showed me how to plug in the noise canceling headphones. I tested them against my own Bose noise canceling headphones and found that the ones supplied by the airline seemed to do a much better job.
The first class cabin slowly filled to about half of its 12-person capacity and we were soon taxiing. I really enjoyed watching the taxi and takeoff from on the tail camera on the screen in front of me. I wish more planes came with this option.
Shortly after takeoff, the meal service began. The appetizer course was skewers of yakitori and scallops, which were both delicious.
The next course was a salmon terrine with roe and a selection of breads.
After a soup course, it was time for the main course. The flight menu had three options from which to order (a pork fillet, chicken massaman curry, or fried monk fish) however I had pre-ordered my food from an extensive menu before the flight. I had chosen the Lobster Thermidor based on some positive reviews I had read.
Although appearance of the dish was a bit on the pre-packaged side, and certainly could have been better presented, it was delicious. The lobster was perfectly cooked and seasoned. My wife had pre-ordered the prawn panang curry dish, which I stole a few bites of; it was also very good.
After the meal, I adjusted the seat into a relaxed position and settled down with a very nice Pinot Noir to watch a film. I have to say – even though the film (Get Hard) was far from my favorite – watching it in that amazingly comfortable seat, on that huge screen, with the noise-cancelling headphones, was extremely immersive and I quickly forgot where I was.After the film, getting some rest sounded like a good idea (I had been traveling for nearly 24 hours at this point), so I maneuvered the seat into the fully-flat position and a flight attendant quickly offered to make the bed for me while I changed. Unfortunately, Thai does not offer pajamas on this relatively-short daytime flight; however, I was fortunate enough to have some fresh ones left over from the earlier ANA flight.
Although the bed was spacious and very comfortable, I’ve found it is difficult to sleep in first class, as it is such a unique (to me) experience. I must have gotten some sleep though, because it seemed like a very short time before the cabin lights came back on and the announcement was made that we were descending into Bangkok.
The landing in Bangkok was a smooth one and we were quickly at the gate. This was one of very few times in my life that I found myself wishing a flight had been much longer.
We took our time exiting the plane and were surprised to be met on the jetbridge by a representative who took our bags and ushered us onto a waiting golf cart.
He drove us the (surprisingly long) distance to immigration control, where another airline representative met us and escorted us to a special lane with no waiting. Clearing immigration only took a few minutes and the airline employee met us on the other side, collecting our bags from the conveyor. The time from wen we had arrived at the gate until we were in a taxi on the way to our hotel had been less than fifteen minutes – that’s gotta be a personal record for an international arrival.
All things considered, I really enjoyed the flight. The on-board service was extremely attentive, however not quite as personalized as I had experienced on ANA. For example, when serving drinks, on ANA the drinks were individually poured for each passenger; on Thai, the drinks were all brought out together. Meals were similarly served.
As a flight on the short end of the long-haul spectrum, I think we missed out on some of the service and amenities that often go along with flying first class on the A380 (such as pajamas) along with being offered a more limited food menu. I would really like to experience the service on a longer flight.
Having used United miles to book the flight, was it worth it to fly in first? It’s hard to say. United really has imposed a steep penalty for booking premium cabins on Star Alliance partners. A first class ticket, from the US to Bangkok, rings in at a hefty 130,000 miles – a 50,000-point premium compared to flying on United’s own Global First product. For this trip, I think it was a good use of points, albeit definitely a splurge.
Next time we fly, it will be with toddler in tow, and it will be back to the “back of the bus” for us.