We flew Thai Airways’ flagship product, Royal First Class, from Thailand’s capital to Australia’s financial hub.
Across their aging fleet of 12 Boeing 747 aircraft, Thai offer two different first class seats. Half of its Boeing 747 fleet (registered as HS-TGO, HS-TGP, HS-TGR, HS-TGT, HS-TGW and HS-TGX) are configured with ten first class pods. This is the older product and Australia predominately gets it in our experience.
The other half of its Boeing 747 fleet (registered as HS-TGA, HS-TGB, HS-TGF, HS-TGG, HS-TGY and HS-TGZ) are configured with 9 first class suites. You can tell on the seat map because the second row has one less seat.
On this flight we ended up with the older of the two products, which is still very comfortable. Thankfully a third configuration, which featured almost prehistoric first class seating, is no longer with us.
Picking up where we left off being delivered from the lounge to the plane, we boarded very near to departure. We were probably the last passenger through the gate. However, after getting into the final hall after the boarding gate there was a hidden queue of economy class passengers before it divided off into two jetbridges. The ground staff helpfully ushered them to the side.
Approaching the door, we were greeted by name from afar (with no need to show our boarding pass), along with the traditional Thai wai. We were also advised that they had loaded our lobster thermidor (which we had pre-ordered online, something we would come to regret).
Already seated in the first cabin were a number of passengers, all with selfie sticks and luxury bags.
Our suitcase didn’t fit in any of the overhead lockers on this vintage Boeing 747 aircraft, so it was placed in the closet at the front of the aircraft.
The bulkhead on these planes is certainly a bit different. Prior to departure, an antiquated projector screen was pulled down from the ceiling to play the safety demonstration.
At our seat was a pair of slippers and a Rimowa amenity kit. Under the ottoman was a package which contained some bedding. We were also offered a full selection of newspapers and magazines, which we politely declined.
The crew promptly bought pajamas. We headed to the lavatories (located at the rear of the first cabin) to change. The lavatories are extremely narrow on this aircraft configuration and it is always a challenge to change in there.
The crew brought a pre-poured glass of Champagne, which we found odd. Normally in first class on Thai it is poured at your seat. One sip was enough to tell that this wasn’t Dom Pérignon, but rather (most probably) the Palmer & Co champagne from business class.
We scrambled for the menu, and of course Dom Pérignon was still listed on the menu. Crisis averted. Turns out this particular crew wanted to save the good stuff for the flight itself.
The dining menu for our flight through to Sydney is below. Click on it to expand.
The wine list seemed to have had some last minute revisions made on stickers.
Thai hand out Phitek headphones in first class. We didn’t find them great, so switched to our own Bose pair.
The seat and entertainment system is controlled from a panel beside the seat. The screen springs up and swivels up from another panel, so can’t be used for take-off or landing.
In any event the entertainment system seemed to be having some issues for the first few hours of the flight.
After take-off, the crew rushed through the cabin shutting all the windows and setting up a bar in front of the centre seats. This was an evening departure and so they presumably wanted to maximise darkness.
With a bit of maneuvering, it is possible to reach over from seat 1A or 1K and grab a bottle. That wasn’t necessary on this flight. The first class crew was exceptional. We recognised that we’d had the leading stewardess before (and on this exact route), and the service was just perfect then, as it was now. Sitting in 1A in the nose of a Boeing 747 meant we didn’t even notice the crew approaching until they were at our seat, usually proffering exactly what we needed.
The crew promptly delivered a glass and poured a glass of Champagne at our seat (04′ Dom Pérignon to be precise) and furnished a nut mix.
A snack quickly followed.
In no time our table was laid for dinner, complete with its own bread basket. We started with sturgeon caviar. We declined the offered vodka.
This was followed by grilled scallops. Absolutely delicious.
The Tom Kha Kai soup was a bit of a letdown.
This was followed by our pre-ordered lobster thermidor. While it always nice to eat lobster on a plane, this one would have been rather more delicious if they had got the sauce right (in our view, It was too overbearing). We had a few bites and left the rest (in contrast to the same dish aboard Singapore Airlines where we wanted more).
A cart of fruit and cheese followed.
And then some sweets, along with what was apparently left of the plane’s Dom Pérignon supply.
We then signaled for seat 1K to be made up as a bed. While Thai claim the seat converts to a fully flat bed, there is a noticeable incline towards the back of the seat when it is in its fully flat position. The supplied covering also doesn’t do much to deal with the joins in the seat. Having said that, still a comfortable bed and certainly more comfortable than pretty much any other business class product (such as the fully flat business class products offered by Air New Zealand and others) with the possible exception of Qatar Airways.
By contrast, the new Thai first class suite doesn’t exhibit the same back incline when in bed mode:
Before we knew it we awoke less than an hour out of Sydney. The breakfast service seemed to have been underway for quite some time (despite our usual experience that we don’t sleep through the clanking of service items during breakfast).
We started with fresh fruit and yoghurt.
We followed this with an omelet and grilled mini beef tenderloin. Full marks to Thai for thinking a bit differently on the breakfast offering.
It was beautiful to be well rested, eating breakfast and watching the sunrise over Australia.
Before long the sun was blinding the cabin. Some of the other passengers promptly sought refuge in the bathrooms. Well, they were in there for quite some time.
The configuration of these aircraft does result in quite a lot of wasted space ahead of the doors at the rear of the cabin. We maintain that no airline has ever really figured out what to do with the nose of a Boeing 747.
The crew came around to thank each passenger individually for flying Thai and to ask for feedback on the flight. We were also handed an express card for Australian immigration.
We continue to be impressed by Thai Airways International first class. What is interesting is that it has remained for many years one of the most accessible first class products in the world given the amount of award inventory the airline releases. It is also frequently priced aggressively, often undercutting expensive business class tickets for the same ultimate city pairs when a connection is required at Thai’s hub in Bangkok.