United Airlines SAN to SFO
Hyatt Regency SFO
United Airlines Global First Lounge
ANA First Square SFO to NRT
Park Hyatt Tokyo Park View Room
Kamakura and the Great Buddha
Thai Airways First Class on the A380
Best Western Premier Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Airport
Royal Orchid Lounge and Spa at Bangkok
Thai Airways Business Class BKK to CGK
TG677 Tokyo Narita NRT – Bangkok Suvarnabhumi BKK
STD-STA: 1725 – 2155
Actual: 1751 – 2136
A380-800 HS-TUB Mancha Khiri
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was nearly late for this flight since I arrived at Tokyo Narita just as they were going to close the check-in counter. Fortunately I was probably the last passenger to be checked in. And being in First Class definitely helped as the remaining check-in agents (I counted 3) fussed over my passport and luggage. Needless to say I was presented with my boarding pass in no time. In fact when I was handed my boarding pass, it was time to board the plane as indicated on the pass. Doesn’t look like I had time to enter the lounge then.
Passing through Immigration and security was easy in Narita, and I was through in no time. I was able to spot the Thai A380 clearly once past security and snapped a photo of it, before going in search for some Japanese snacks. I was able to buy some souvenirs before rushing to the end of the terminal to board my flight. As far as I knew I was one of the last passengers to board, and I nearly headed to the lower deck before one of the gate agents chased after me to remind me to head to the upper deck. I had nearly forgotten I was boarding a two-decker plane.
As I was rushing for the plane and being generally flustered, I looked out of place in a first class cabin by then. To make matters more glaring, I headed to my seat in 1K on the upper deck to a nearly full first class cabin. One crew member assisted me with my luggage and I had to place it over the middle seats since the window seats have no overhead bins. This would be an awkward moment as I will explain later since seat 1D is occupied by what seemed to be an elderly Thai businessman.
On my seat was 3 choices of newspapers neatly folded, along with a Rimowa kit stowed in one of the many storage compartments. There is also a pair of comfortable white slippers for passengers to use while on the plane. The whole cabin felt spacious and provided enough privacy once seated. However once a passenger stands, it is easy to look at every other passenger, thus it makes it feel less private to some newer First Class cabins. Today’s load was also pretty full in First Class with only 2 other seats unoccupied. There was also a family travelling with 2 young teenage kids occupying 4 seats in First Class.
As I got seated down, the purser welcomed me onboard and offered me champagne for the pre-departure drink as well as a lemongrass scented towel. Comfort was a given but the nearly full First Class cabin and the lack of privacy in the seat meant it did not felt nearly as awesome. Soon after making myself comfortable, the plane started its pushback and queued for take-off which took some time since the late afternoon is a pretty busy time in Narita. Take-off on an A380 is always a very fantastic experience and perhaps one of the most enjoyable in any airplane.
Exploring the other features of the seat, there was a nice seat controls covered by a panel on the armrest that allows passengers to adjust the recline as well as convert the seat into a full lie-flat bed. There was also a small closet by the side with 2 hangers that would come in handy for long haul flights. In addition, there is a small panel that emits purple lighting which I think is some sort of reading light. Though I think that panel is just extraneous and takes up space in the otherwise comfortable space.
Initially I placed my bag of Japanese snacks under the seats along with my bag, while my carry on is placed on the overhead compartment. However after take-off I decided to place the snacks on top of the overhead compartment and take out my hand-carry luggage. This meant I need to open the middle overhead compartments which was a bit faulty to begin with. It creates a sudden jerk when I opened it, and since it was right on top of the passenger in seat 1D, he was naturally disturbed and gave me that glare. This was definitely awkward and perhaps one of the design flaws in Thai’s A380. Considering they have new planes, it is funny how the compartments are already showing signs of wear and tear.
Menu and wine list were handed out to passengers before take-off and both of them felt nice to touch as it was ensconced within a Thai silk binder. There was also a magazine, duty free shopping catalogue, inflight entertainment guide and a stationery folder featuring Thai Airways’ A380 in the magazine rack beside the TV console.
After take-off, the first thing I did was to explore the cabin, especially the front lounge area and the washroom in the front of the upper deck. While Thai did not install showers like Emirates on the Airbus A380s, the toilet is still very spacious and features a small seating area that probably only comes useful for passengers who needs to change diapers for their babies. Other than that, the lighting and spaciousness makes it a nice enough space to refresh oneself and maybe change into pyjamas (though no pyjamas were offered in this short flight between Tokyo and Bangkok). Amenities by Bvlgari is provided in the washroom and they do smell nice but it is weird the toiletries in the Rimowa amenity kit is actually supplied by L’Occitane. While I generally like the calm colour scheme onboard Thai’s First Class cabin, the colour scheme is terrible on the lounge and makes it look gaudy. There was also nothing at all in the lounge which makes it just another extra place to sit around.
After touring the front of the upper deck, I made my way to the Business Class section on the back of First Class. The business class onboard Thai Airways A380 is like Asiana’s staggered business class cabin. Except it was on a darker grey with a purple tinge. It made the whole cabin feel dark and is definitely not my most favourite business class cabin. Seats are configured in a 1-2-1 arrangement and this means aisle access for all passengers as well as full lie-flat seats.
Back into First Class, the cabin has just started giving out the starters and the menu for today’s flight read as follows:
Narita – Bangkok
Duck Liver Mousse, Lobster Tail
Mesclun and Balsamic Sauce
White Bean Soup
with Chanterelle Mushroom and Truffle Oil
Pan-fried Beef Fillet with Sukiyaki Sauce
Steamed Japanese Rice
Chicken in Thai Curry with Potatoes and Chilli
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice
Sweet Pork Sliced, Cucumber Salad Thai Style
Turbot Fish Fillet with Dieppoise Sauce
Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables
Assorted Bread, Butter
Assorted Cheese/Fresh Fruits
Vanilla Ice Cream, Orange Sauce
Tea, Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino
The meal started off pretty good with the yakitori and curry puff which wasn’t too hot but still tasty enough since I didn’t really have a proper lunch after a heavy breakfast of sushi and waffles. With the starters, I enquired the attendant if there was any specialty Thai Iced Tea or Iced Coffee. Much to my disappointment Thai does not serve them (and I thought they were synonymous with most Thai restaurants), though they did offer me some Thai Butterfly Pea drink which was a sweet purple concoction.
There was an intermission after the hot starters were served, and I decided to start on the inflight entertainment (IFE). Thai Airways has a very good selection of movies which can be played on demand, and the interface was quite good to use as well. IFE controls were similar to what Cathay Pacific has on their planes so it was quite easy to use.
I started to watch ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ which was the 5th sequel (I think) in the ‘Die Hard’ series? It was pretty enjoyable and the screen resolution was also good enough for me to enjoy all the action in the movie.
Shortly after, the lead attendant emerged and helped me set up my table, laying it with white linens, cutleries, an additional glass, a bread basket, a roll of butter, salt and pepper shakers and another refreshing towel. Something to be expected when you are seated in First Class and Thai Airways does this with ease!
The bread basket was pretty impressive too, rather than just asking each passengers what they want. This probably saves the attendant time to refill bread and helps to quicken the pace of the meal service for passengers that wants to rest. On top of the bread basket, attendants also go around offering garlic bread. I have to say the bread that I got was toasted perfectly with just the right amount of garlic butter and was one of the best I had in a plane.
The first course of Duck Liver Mousse with Lobster Tail Mesclun and Balsamic Sauce was also enjoyable. And since I pre-ordered Lobster Thermidor for my flight, it seems I will be having an all-lobster feast for this flight.
There was a course of soup served and this was my favourite dish of the meal since it had a very light and comforting flavour. I guess the taste of truffle oil also made me like this dish in particular.
After the enjoyable first course, the lobster thermidor was a tad ordinary. The portion of the meal was more or less similar to what I had onboard Singapore Airlines in Business Class, so that was a bit disappointing. Taste-wise, they were quite similar, but the rice and presentation was definitely better on Thai which should be expected since this was in First Class. Most probably I might consider other choices in the future when pre-ordering my meals on Thai Airways’ First or Business Class. However the surprise during the meal was the fact that the lead attendant actually came back to prepare for me a cup of iced coffee which was a nice gesture and showed how the senior flight attendants can make a difference by being pro-active to meet passenger’s demands.
At the end of the meal service, the attendants came out with the cheese tray and offered them to passengers. There was also a fresh fruit platter which I had though I skipped the cheese offering. Finally I also ordered the dessert which was a nice way to end the meal. While it was nothing to shout about, the dessert was one of the better ones and at least was different compared to the usual chocolate cake and ice cream combination that I seem to get elsewhere.
With the end of the meal, I lounged in the seat to complete my movie and in the meantime I also asked for the refreshment of more ice cream, which was actually Haagen-Dazs strawberry flavour. At the conclusion of the movie, I reclined my seat to the full bed mode and had a short nap until the captain awoke the cabin in preparation for the final descent into Suvarnabhumi.
The seat on Thai Airways A380 feels wide enough compared to ANA’s First Square seats though with this being a short regional flight, there was no mattress pads or duvets, and neither was there turndown service. They did provide a blanket in case one felt too cold in the cabin which is highly unlikely since I found the cabin to be of an average temperature. For such a short flight the service was very good while the catering could rival those from other premium airlines like Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. The ease of pre-ordering the meal for a flight departing from an outstation (Tokyo Narita as opposed to Bangkok) also meant it was an advantage compared to SQ. The real major difference was how Thai handles First Class passengers on the ground as I was met with an agent holding up my name and fetching me using the buggy to bypass all the passengers bringing me directly to the immigration counter. They even waited past the immigration to assist with luggage and transportation needs which was one of the best arrival experience ever!