Testing of Thai Airways goes back to our first flight in 1983, from London to Bangkok, and is our pleasure. Our most recent review was in February 2012, when we felt it was time to review Royal Silk Class, the name given to Thai Airways’ business class. The flight was from was Brisbane to Bangkok.
For business class, you expect it to be as smooth as silk and that is what we found. Check-in at Brisbane was fast, courteous and efficient, with delays reduced at immigration and security with the express lane.
Thai uses the Air New Zealand lounge in Brisbane, which offers all you need, including a very reasonable selection of food and drinks. Guests were called from the lounge at the correct time, so there was no queue to board the aircraft.
As is normal on all Thai flights, the boarding is done with a traditional greeting and every effort is made to settle you into your seat and be made as comfortable as possible. Once seated, orange juice or champagne is quickly brought.
Lunch was a drawn out affair, with a choice of four main dishes to offer either Asian or Australian choices. It is a feature on most Thai flights to offer local dishes for each destination. The Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2009, a French white wine, was excellent and generously served and a perfect accompaniment to an excellent lunch.
The Boeing 777 used out of Brisbane is one of the aircraft that features the latest in-flight system and business seats. A little short of 100% lie-flat, which is shame, but easy to sleep in and a huge improvement of the old business class seats. Do be aware that Thai is upgrading all of its aircraft with the new lie-flat seats, but has not done them all yet and some of the 747s use old seats, which are not lie-flat.
What will be interesting is to see what Thai does with the first of the three A380s that join the Thai Airways fleet this year. They have not revealed exact details and we look forward to reporting on that a later date.
Service on board from the flight attendants was attentive and very anticipatory. This is a feature we have seen on all Thai flights in all classes and we rate one of the best in the world.
When we first tested business class, there was no in-seat entertainment and you were provided with a portable player. Thankfully, that has gone and the current state-of-the-art system has a full selection of movies, television shows and music.
A small touch is that international Thai female cabin staff change from their purple corporate uniforms, worn outside the cabin, to Thai traditional dress during the flight. Staff are always beautifully presented! And that smile, as you board and leave, does leave a lasting impression.
Arrival into Bangkok was made easy with the fast-track lane provided to all business class passengers. Queues can be long at immigration at peak times and so this was a great help.
Lounges for business and first class passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport are very good, with the first class lounge having won several awards. For the rest of the network, Thai mainly use partner airline lounges and you then have to accept whatever is offered, and they do vary.
For those who travel in economy, Thai has a very good economy seat. A small factor but, when you are over six feet tall, like this writer, the amount of leg room is a significant factor and that extra inch is well worth it on a long flight.
A major annoyance is that older aircraft do not have personal television screens on the head rests in economy. This is mainly on the older 747s to Europe. The good news is that this problem is recognised and Thai is upgrading all aircraft and each seat will eventually have its own television. This will provide access to a what is normally a well chosen selection of films, television programmes and music.
Thai Airways does food well and there is no skimping in economy. A choice is normally offered, a menu provided and generous supply of very reasonable wines that are poured, rather than the small bottles seen on some other airlines.
During our many test flights, we have not had many delays and, where it has occurred, refreshments and accommodation have been provided automatically. We have lost luggage, but this normally only seems to happen where the first airline is not Thai. In all cases, it was found quickly and delivered without fuss.
Check-in, we have generally found to be fast and efficient at Bangkok and at other destinations. Thai normally use the main Star Alliance carriers who are all generally efficient.
If you are a regular traveller, Thai runs a very good membership scheme called Royal Orchid Plus, and puts a lot of effort into being loyal to their members. They offer many special awards and promotions over and above the normal air mile redemption. Redeeming awards is easy and is offered on most flights.
Safety we cannot judge but, in all the flights taken, the “smooth as silk” slogan is reflected in the flying style. Thai has had fatal accidents, the last one being in 1998.
One slightly obscure award was from the World Health Organisation for in-flight hygiene measures, and certainly the aircraft are always clean and toilets regularly cleaned during the flight.
Thai operates in a market with strong competition and, on their doorstep, have a fierce competitor from Singapore Airlines, which always seems to stay one step ahead. Thai now has to fight off strong pressure from the growing number of low-cost airlines that operate in the south-east Asian region.
Thai have not given up and, in recent years, are investing significantly in new aircraft and ensuring that they deliver a high quality product. The airline is definitely keen to one day achieve a 5-star Skytrax rating. At the moment, they warrant a 4-star rating.
Thai operates a robust and reliable service to most Asian destinations, a service to southern Africa and Los Angeles, significant numbers of flights to Australia and New Zealand, and many major cities in Europe.
At the time of writing, Thai flies to 72 destinations in 32 countries and operates a fleet of 85 aircraft but, like all airlines in this competitive market, it is subject to change every six months.
Thai was a founding member of the Star Alliance network, which works seamlessly with Thai Airways. That connects Thai to over 1,000 airports in 180 countries on one ticket.
One of the best cures for jet lag is a Thai massage, so a couple of hours at Suvarnabhumi Airport or, if lucky, a night in Bangkok is a plus factor. If you are not in a rush, then Thai Airways is an excellent choice where you want a short stopover on the long routes from Australia to Europe.
Overall, we rate Thai Airways as one of the best airlines to fly with and they are certainly in that top group of airlines. We agree with the slogan “I FLY Thai”. For us, the stand out features are the onboard service, courteous, efficient ground-handling, on time departures and cabin comfort in economy class. In business class, the dining and wine served is excellent and, on aircraft with the lie-flat seats, they have the perfect business class product.
Photos by Thai Airways
Write a Review