Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) – Bangkok Suvrnabhumi International Airport (BKK)
STD: 13:45 ATD: 15:16
STA: 18:30 ATA: 19:41
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER (HS-TJV “Nakhom Pathom” – delivered new on 09/13/2009)
Flight Date: February 3, 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 take off, 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
It’s always an amazing feeling to be embarking on a trip you’re so looking forward to take. And this time leaving Kathmandu for a much needed warm weather break was no different. Thai Airways’ winter schedule delays the arrival of their flight into Kathmandu marginally, apparently due to slot issues at Kathmandu Airport whilst also pushing forward my connecting flight to Singapore in Bangkok making for quite the rush during transit. Regardless, nothing was going to deter my mood today and after a rather easy and efficient check in process, I was through to immigration (relatively painless today) and to the lounge to await the boarding announcements.
Being rather late to check in, I was amongst the last to get to the desk. There was a priority line which was empty which meant I got my bags through in no time. The staff were pleasant without being anything remarkable but were very quick to tag everything appropriately and also added ‘Hot Transfer’ tags to try to make tight (which only got tighter) connection to Singapore. While they didn’t make it in the end, the gesture was appreciated. The whole process took not more than five minutes, which is the way I like it. Before I knew it, I was off to clear immigration and then to Thai’s Kathmandu Royal Silk Lounge.
If doing boarding right is an art, let it be known that at Kathmandu Airport it would qualify as a Jackson Pollock piece. Read: a complete mess. The plane had landed behind schedule despite leaving Bangkok on time (per FlightAware) due to congestion at the airport – once it landed, it had to wait for a parking slot since the apron didn’t have a single parking bay for a widebody aircraft open.
We were told to leave the lounge at about 13:35 for the 13:45 departure, being escorted through security and cutting the massive lines. Knowing how late it was I already knew we’d be late but my anxieties grew as I got to the holding pen at gate 5 to see that not only had boarding not commenced but cargo and bags were still being offloaded the inbound flight. Given my tight connection in BKK, I worried.
Boarding finally started at around 14:15, 30 minutes behind our scheduled departure time and a full hour before published boarding time. To be fair a boarding process was enforced and passengers in wheelchairs and young families were boarded first followed by Star and Thai elites as well as Royal Silk Passengers. What it seemed like to me though is that what followed was a general boarding call for the rest of the aircraft in an effort to haul us all out of Kathmandu as soon as possible.
I boarded through door 1L where all Business Class passengers were being directed and was warmly welcomed on board by the Thai crew on duty today. I was directed to my seat and saw that the crew were already working the aisles doing their pre-boarding rituals like clockwork – it seemed like everyone was hellbent to get the plane out with as minimal delay as possible.
The normal hot towel was dispensed with a smile, hurriedly followed by champagne or juices followed by taking meal orders for the flight. 2L was closed so people streamed through the cabin as well, making the crew’s life a bit more difficult but they remained efficient nonetheless. Remarkably all passengers were boarding at about 14:35, 20 minutes after boarding started. Not bad for a full 777!
Beverage and lunch menus were then handed out, along with refills of champagne or whatever you would have wanted for pre-departure drinks.
But our delay ordeals didn’t end there, with the flight deck coming on the PA and informing us that a further delay was on the cards given that there was no space for us to taxi out of the apron due to traffic and that other planes were still circling around the Kathmandu valley so he expected about a 30 minute wait. At this point I was sure I wouldn’t be making my flight to Singapore. Alas, such is life.
So we waited. And waited. As did others, apparently. This Air Asia X A330-300 seemed to be facing the same trials and tribulations as us.
True to his word we pushed back around 15:05 and went straight to our holding point for take off where we waited for a bit longer before finally taking off around 15:15, a full 1.5 hours behind schedule.
The pilot came on to the PA once again soon after take off to say he had filed a flight plan that would give us the ‘scenic tour’ out of Nepal and he wasn’t kidding – we were treated to some absolutely sublime views of the Himalayas within 10 minutes of take off – including Mt. Everest. Having done this departure sequence many times, I’m not sure I quite remember such a great view of the mountains.
The captain came on once again to point out Mt. Everest was now in view and what sight she was to behold.
The cabin crew held off on any inflight service as everyone had their eyes glued to the windows on the left side of the aircraft, with all sorts of people moving about – actually peering into the galley I saw the crew themselves were glued to the door windows, taking photos with their phones themselves.
Once we past the mountains the service began in earnest.
The drinks cart, laid out in the old fashion style as Thai Airways normally does it, was brought out into the aisles and drinks and nuts were doled out.
I opted for my normal gin (Bombay Sapphire) and soda which I find pairs perfectly with the almonds served.
A refill run was conducted before the tray tables were set for the meal service.
The menu, as usual, was comprehensive and all three options for the main course appealed to me.
But first was the appetizer, a seared tuna dish which was fresh and paired well with the simple salad that accompanied it.
The crew was working hard and had their timing down well, because as soon as my appetizer was cleared the main course was set out on the table – I went with the lamb today – a dish I’ve had before and enjoyed immensely. And guess what – it was just as good as I remember. Thai Airways ‘double caters’ from Bangkok – as in they don’t cater out of Kathmandu but caters both meals from Thailand…a move I really appreciate because standards out of KTM leave a lot to be desired.
Having essentially devoured the meal and feeling quite full at this point, I was considering skipping out on dessert, something the crew weren’t having anything of. They insisted I try out the western option of cake and the Thai option of ‘expensive’ tarts – well, I’m not one to disagree so I obliged, and I’m glad I did.
Also partook in some post lunch aperetifs, cognac being my poison of choice as usual. Green tea also made an appearance which was a nice balance to the end of what was a pretty substantial meal for such a short flight.
By the time the meal service was over we were crossing the Bay of Bengal and heading into Myanmar airspace.
Relaxing into the seat, watching my movie of choice (Florence Foster Jenkins, if you must know), I was feeling pretty great of the flight especially given my views of sunset unfolding outside.
The crew made several runs through the cabin with top ups or clearing used service items as well as offering duty free.
Before we knew it we were on descent into Bangkok and the lights of the city came into view.
The captain had made some time up – but I still wasn’t sure of making my connection or not.
We landed over an hour post schedule and headed to a contact gate (praise the lord!).
The crew was aware of many peoples’ tight connections and hauled us off the plane as quickly as they could, but keeping their smiles.
Outside the gate just in the terminal was a premium services Thai Airways agent was waiting with my name on a placard, a walkie talkie buzzing, communicating my arrival to someone else and a buggy ready to go. Maybe I was going to make my connection after all?
The flight itself was quite good – a very standard Thai Airways business class experience that while above industry standards, didn’t really stick out for being particularly good or bad. Can’t complain about that truth be told – and it isn’t the airline’s fault that the flight was delayed. The airport infrastructure at Kathmandu is so woefully inadequate at this point and so over it’s designed capacity that delays are more than common place now – they’re expected. Which is sad because it comes at a cost – a cost that airlines like Thai have to absorb which then most likely gets passed on to the customer by way of ticket price. But overall, can’t complain because *spoiler alert* I did make my connection in the end so from Thai’s point of view, they did everything right within their duties.
Check in: 8.5/10 – Seamless – no lines, checked in with a smile and all requests observed.
Lounge: 7.5/10 – The lounge in KTM is not extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination but you need to deal with what’s given to you and Thai does a good job of this.
Boarding: 5/10 – Again, Thai is making the most of the hand that they are dealt – but we were delayed boarding and left an hour late…and it didn’t seem like there was any sort of order of boarding past Business Class and special needs folks.
Food: 8.5/10 – Solid as usual, had the same meal as a previous trip so maybe variety might be a good addition to Thai’s meal rotations. But then again, why fix something that ain’t broke?
Seat: 7/10 – Your standard second generation lie flat bed which is more than sufficient for such a short flight.
Cleanliness of aircraft: 10/10 – This aircraft is not new but that doesn’t matter given how the airline maintains their planes.
Crew: 7.5/10 – They were good – but nothing exceptional today. But Thai crews’ ‘good’ is most airlines’ crew ‘excellent’ – so there’s that.
IFE: 7/10 – the usual few new additions coupled with the usual staples.
Elite recognition: 7/10 – nothing of note other than an acknowledgement of Star Gold status.
Flight Timeliness: 3/10 – again, really not Thai’s fault per se but we left very late and arrived less late.
Overall Rating: 71/100 (71%) ★★★★★