Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) – Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM)
STD: 10:30 ATD: 10:44
STA: 12:40 ATA: 13:11
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER (HS-TJV “Nakhom Pathom” – delivered new on 09/13/2009)
Flight Date: January 11, 2017
Seat: 15J (moved to 15K)
Class of Service: Royal Silk (Business)
Seat Type: Standard Lie Flat Capsule Bed (165 degree recline)
Seat Pitch: 61/70 inches
Seat Width: 20 inches
Meals: Full lunch service after takeoff, refreshments before arrival. Snacks and beverages available throughout.
In-Seat Outlets: Yes (universal, but no USB outlets)
IFE: Yes, AVOD personal television screens at 15 inches
I was connecting on to this flight from a late Thai Airways arrival from Singapore. To make matters worse for some god forsaken reason we docked at a remote stand on the far eastern tarmac at the airport. After a circuitous 15 minute bus ride to the terminal it was a mad dash through security and up to the departures level (not before stopping for some duty free mango sticky rice – that’s a non negotiable for any BKK transit). Of course upon glancing at the screens we were assigned another remote gate, but this time at the other far end of the terminal – ask anyone who has had to dart from the C concourse to the F concourse at Bangkok and they’ll tell you it’s both a marathon and sprint. Given the number of gates that were open at Thai’s own home base, I’m still at a loss as to why remote gates are such a thing.
Anyway, rant over, I got to the gate at 10:20 for the 10:30 departure and as you’d imagine, boarding was well underway.Looking for a Snapshot of the trip? Jump to the Takeaway
Given how late I got to the gate and how many people were still in the lounge and just what a cluster the “line” was to scan boarding passes, I gathered boarding started late.
Trying not to be obnoxious, I was that person that cut the two lines that were about 30 people deep and just flashed the large ‘C’ on my boarding pass and was immediately let through. As they scanned my boarding pass they also confirmed that my checked bag somehow made it through as well – a nice proactive touch on the part of the Thai ground agents.
Down to the bus where – unlike some other airlines – there were no separate busses for Business versus Economy passengers. And I know this is the case even if I was there for priority boarding. Thai also has that annoying habit of waiting for the bus to fill up – and I mean fill up – to the brim. This means a rather uncomfortable wait in the humid heat of Bangkok and a congested sometimes long ride to your aircraft.
Boarded through door L1 which was reserved only for Royal Silk passengers which at least is a good start to the flight. Three cabin crew were on hand, including the purser, to warmly welcome me onboard with the traditional Thai ‘wai’.
As I crossed past the front galley I heard the champagne cork pop with a wry smile given by the other crew member pouring out the glasses – now I was starting to feel better. I was again very warmly greeted by yet another crew member down the aisle who escorted me to my seat and I was starting to feel like this may be a very good flight ahead.
Thai Airways’ 777-200ER fleet is configured with 30 lie flat capsule seats in a second generation capsule design which means while not dated, it’s not cutting edge either.
The seats recline to almost 170 degrees and are configured in a 2-2-2 layout. The entire first cabin is Royal Silk, with Economy starting from the next cabin and extending to the rear of the aircraft, featuring 262 seats in a comfortable 3-3-3 configuration.
While not ideal that not everyone gets direct aisle access, it does make for a comfortable ride given that the design of the cabin was made for a 2-3-2 configuration. Large aisles and wide seats gives the cabin quite an airy and spacious feel.
These aircraft are mostly used for regional services of up to 4 to 5 hours but are also sometimes deployed on longer routes to the Middle East and Australia as well – so the older layout is no big deal. Today’s flight clocked in at about 3 hours – so I was happy with Thai was offering given what’s offered on other flights of the same stage length elsewhere.
Moments after settling in the flight attendant in the galley came by with some champagne which I gladly took him up on, and looking at my state said he’d be back with cold towels rather than the customary hot towels. Thoughtful of him, and reflective of how I must have looked at the time.
The purser stopped by and warmly welcomed me onboard, once again confirming that my bag had made it and thanked me for being a Star Gold. It didn’t sound like the scripted ‘acknowledgement’ of status but rather a more informal greeting which I always prefer. She also joked that there were extra meals and if the run during transit had made me hungry the crew would be happy to stuff me with a second entrée of my choice.
The menus were pre-placed in the seat and ready for review upon boarding, along with the noise canceling headsets. The crew came around and addressed each passenger by name and offered another copy of the menu by hand and explained each main course option to the passenger.
Pushed back a bit late and had a slow taxi for departure but the captain informed us that we should be making it into Kathmandu on time.
Seatbelt and electronic signs were turned off shortly after takeoff and Thai’s famous and impressive “Royal Orchid Service” began in earnest for this short 2:50 hours hop over Myanmar, the Bay of Bengal and India through to the Himalayas.
Thai’s older regional 777 fleet features rather large 15 inch personal television screens equipped with the airline’s original Audio-Video On Demand system. Noise cancelling headsets are provided before departure, and it’s nice that the system is already turned on when you board and stays on till disembarkation.
This system is passable with about 100 audio and 31 game options to choose from. On the not as great side only 20 short features and 30 movies are available for selection, some of which haven’t been updated in some months. Keep in mind Thai offers a much wider array of HD entertainment on their newer and long haul designated aircraft.
As the drinks service started, I settled on something completely unremarkable to begin with – Mike and Molly – just to pass some time before turning on Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. What choices, ey?
I love the way Thai keeps it vintage with their white linen lined open service carts – no innocuous gray airline trolleys, no boring by the tray service – just the good old fashioned way of doing things, with all the drink options neatly and meticulously lined by the label for all passengers to see, with white wines and champagne chilling in silver ice buckets as they should be.
My ordered gin (Bombay Sapphire) and Perrier was delivered with ease along with some warm nuts immediately after.
I really don’t know what Asian airlines do with their nut service – but they always taste great. I know Malaysia Airlines does theirs in-house fried in palm oil which makes a huge difference and with Thai while I do know they make their own as well, I’m not sure how they season it. But it’s fantastic.
Another round of drinks and the meal service begins in full with the appetizer being laid out.
First Course today would be a French scallop in Pommery mustard dish accompanied with a Thai style chicken and pomelo salad. Whilst the scallop was nothing remarkable, the chicken was simply exemplary – a real blast of Thailand, making me wish I had overnighted in Bangkok rather than just transited. The basil and citrus made the dish and was a real refreshing start to the meal.
The crew was on point today and were refilling drinks just at the right time and clearing dishes and delivering the next course right on cue. After another gin-soda, the main was served – I had gone with the lamb dish. Thai is widely known for their top notch catering, especially out of Bangkok, and this meal didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t the most appealing for the eyes, but definitely was for the taste buds. I paired it with the Chardonnay on offer and whilst I acknowledge it’s a cardinal sin to pair the white with the red, whatever – I prefer white wine when flying.
Have I mentioned Thai’s famous garlic bread yet – because that with other options of Naan, multigrain, bread rolls and flatbreads were offered repeatedly. I don’t normally indulge in garlic bread – but when I do, it’s on Thai Airways.
Next up was dessert course and at this point I was feeling quite stuffed. Pick and choose the two mini tart options and being the health freak I am I skipped on the fruits on offer. But I ordered a green tea with the course so that counts for something, right?
As a final aperitif before ending off the excellent meal service I went for the Prince Hubert de Polignac XO cognac – I find it quite generous of Thai to offer this on such short flights, and they are equally generous with their liqueur selection – Drambuie (my often go to), Kahlua and Grand Marinier are all listed.
Lights had been gradually been shifting to ‘rest’ mode in blue hues, adding ambience to the cabin and marking a nice end to an excellent service. The crew were excellent – they were warm and engaging but completely on point when it came to service protocol and timing. When that balance is struck it’s an ideal.
Feeling stuffed and satisfied, I spent the rest of the flight lounging in peace with the crew constantly coming through for top ups and anything else anyone might fancy.
Pre-arrival I paid a visit to the loo and it was immaculate as it was at departure, obviously well kept by the crew and had some nice amenities including Thann cologne, some nice branded lotions and of course cloth towels which are a massive improvement over the standard paper based option.
Overall, it’s actually Thai that remains my favorite Star Alliance carrier in South East Asia – yes, over Singapore Airlines even. There’s a distinct charm, even if not the most polished, on this airline that simply isn’t exhibited when flying with their rivals down south.
Check in: 10/10 – So I’m using the rating I’d have given had I rated my check in at Singapore Changi Airport, my original departure point. Thai pays to use the premium SATS lounge for check in so it’s an overall very pleasant experience, akin to checking in at a 5 star hotel.
Lounge: N/A – Did I mentioned that my original flight landed 5 minutes before my connecting flight’s boarding time?
Boarding: 7/10 – It was probably delayed to begin with and was rather disorganized – but once status/class of service was confirmed it was definitely recognized.
Food: 9/10 – This is where Thai really excels and this meal was no different.
Seat: 8/10 – It’s nowhere near the top of the league, but a flatbed on a 2.5 hour flight on a consistent basis is nothing to be balked at.
Cleanliness of aircraft: 10/10 – Was clean on boarding and was kept clean throughout.
Crew: 9.5/10 – This is Thai at their best – the charm of their homeland coupled with the professionalism of the industry. Felt like you were visiting their homes.
IFE: 5/10 – Probably the weakest part of the flight; but again, it’s a 2.5 hour hop.
Elite recognition: 10/10 – The off script conversation was ace, and the Purser did the same for other elites as far as I could see, personalizing her interactions from what she could see from her notes on the manifest. That’s how it should be done.
Flight Timeliness: 8/10 – Left a bit late (but inside the 15 minute grace period) and landed even later, but that wasn’t Thai’s fault as it was due to congestion at Kathmandu airport.
Overall Rating: 76.5/90 (85%) ★★★★★