After a bit of a delay boarding and a rather lovely yet awkward push through 250 other passengers waiting to board, we were finally at the Door 1L for our 9,249 km (5,474 mile) and 11.5 hour journey from Bangkok to Munich. The Royal First cabin on Thai Airway’s Boeing 747 is configured in a staggered 1-2-1 layout. I say, staggered because the first row only has two seats due to the curvature of the plane. There are three window seats on each side and two rows of two center seats – allowing for 10 passengers in the front of the plane. There are 14 Royal Silk (Business Class) seats directly behind the Royal First cabin, plus another 26 seats on the upper deck. I would have much preferred to be seated in the small upper deck, but first is on the main deck.
We opted to sit in Seats 3E and 3F – the last two seats in first, in the middle section. The seats Thai uses in First on both their A380 and B747 service are the same, all forward facing lie-flat seats. The seats aren’t angled away from each other, so if you are traveling with someone, you can still talk to them relatively easily.
As I reach my seat, 3F, the Stew approached, welcoming me aboard and asking what I wanted to drink. He was very rushed and very agitated. My gut is that the delay was frustrating him, he knew he had to get a multi-course meal out and get people to bed quickly. He was trying to be efficient. I ordered champagne.
I continue to get situated – taking out my noise-cancelling headphones, my tablet, a USB Cable to ensure that my phone was fully charged for the photos I knew I’d be taking. The champagne was delivered and the Stew comes back asking what I wanted for my meal. Mind you, I hadn’t sat down at that point – I was still unpacking, rearranging, etc. I let him know I hadn’t looked yet and needed a few minutes. He slammed his hand down on the seat in front of me and stormed off. So strange.
I get settled, enjoy my chocolates and some champagne and the Stew comes back to ask about my dinner selection (it had been about 45 seconds since his last visit). I told him I hadn’t decided and that I didn’t even have a menu yet. He proceeds to pull one out of the area where the magazines and safety cards are stored…then he stands there while I look at it. He asks again about my selection. Good god man, give me a second. He walks off in a huff again.
I figure if I don’t have an answer for him on his next visit I’ll probably be escorted off the flight — yes, all this is happening while passengers in business and economy are still boarding. I tell him I’ll take the Thai Curry with Beef Satay. “It is too spicy for you, you’ll hate it. I suggest you choose something else.” Ok, so just a few hours ago I was at Nahm sweating my ass off because of an extremely spicy Prawn Curry, but I was very confident that this dish wouldn’t be anywhere near that spiciness. I again, requested this dish. His response was priceless: “Fine, but if you don’t like it, you can’t change your selection.” Now if that isn’t First Class service, I don’t know what is.
The door closes about 25 minutes after we boarded, so the Thai Airways folks did a great job in getting all the passengers on board and settled. We had a short taxi to the runway, but a very long and bumpy take off roll. The plane sounded like it was rattling from every screw, bolt, door and cabinet. It was so loud (and unsettling is not the right word, but something just felt off), so much the passengers I could see all gave each other a concerned look and tightened up their seat belts.
We were in the air and once we crossed 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) the cabin crew jumped into service. Starting with the beverage service and accompanying nuts. Everything seemed quite rushed – but at this point it was already past 01h30, so people wanted to get some sleep and I’m sure the stews are getting yelled at if they don’t get service done quickly. We weren’t in any hurry ourselves, I was fine staying up all night and experiencing the wonder that was Thai Royal First class.
After the drink orders were taken, I grabbed my Thai Royal First pajamas and went to the lavatory. The lav on the the B747 was quite tight, nothing at all like the large and luxurious Thai A380. You almost had to be a contortionist to change in that tiny bathroom – but luckily a couple glasses of Dom made me a little more flexible and I managed to change without any of my clothes touching the bathroom surfaces.
No refills on the nuts were offered – we were obviously on a quick an efficient service tonight. The caviar service came next and I absolutely loved the caviar service last time I flew Thai. This time, the caviar cart was not wheeled around, but we were asked what accouterments we wanted and the fully plated version came out. We were also given our own individual jar of caviar this time, while previously we given individual scoops of caviar – so you could adjust your portion accordingly. Keep it coming! The crew didn’t include the vodka pairing with the caviar tonight though – quite disappointing.
After we finished our caviar – immediately after I mean, with almost no delay or hesitation, we were given a salad course. I think.
Then another salad course. The second with Brussels sprouts, carrots and nuts and greens. A perfectly respectable second salad of the flight.
A mild lime flavored sorbet to cleanse our palettes before moving on to the entree. We were still moving along at quite a clip here too, not a moment was wasted between final bite of one course and the delivering of the next.
Next up was the Thai curry that was going to be way too hot for me – and when that happened, I’d be stuck without a meal for the flight…or so the Stew told me. He did a great job of setting the table, especially considering there were so many condiments that came with my curry and satay. I will say the curry was very good, it had the mildest of kicks too it too, but this of course had nothing on Nahm. I ate every single bite of this curry – I did have to shoo the Stew away a couple times as he tried to clear my tray table while I was taking a break from the hurried pace of our meal. I’d totally order this next time I fly Thai.
After dinner was cleared, I looked for the Stew working my aisle. I needed his help making my bed, but he was no where to be found. I found his counterpart working the other aisle (she was back in business class chatting with some colleagues and passengers). She quickly came up and made my bed without hesitation. She was so much nicer and more professional. I wish I had sat in her aisle.
I crawled into bed and prepared for sleep. I was pretty full, so sleep didn’t come all that quickly to me and the First Class Cabin on Thai (and many other airlines too) is like a sweat lodge – the heat is just cranked up. Farther back in the plane it is much cooler, but it was so hot up front that you didn’t need all the blankets they provided.
I ended up sleeping off and on for about 5 hours of this flight. I was too full and too warm to get a great night’s sleep. I got up about 60 minutes before we landed (I asked the Stews not to wake me for breakfast – I’m not really a breakfast guy and I was pretty full still when I woke up) and popped into the lav to change and brush my teeth before everyone else started getting cleaned up before landing.
As we came in for a landing the old B747 shook and shimmied, just like it did on take off. Closet and lav doors popped open and overhead bins dropped down. We landed smoothly and taxied to our gate. As we deplaned we were given the customary Thai orchid and like the A380 flight, the Stews held back the Business Class (and Economy) passengers until all the First Class Passengers had deplaned. That is such an elitist move by the airlines, but I absolutely love it.
Flying Thai Royal First was one of the most anticipated parts of this trip. I utterly adored my experience on the A380 and since I love the B747 itself, I thought I’d be equally wowed. I did enjoy the flight, the food, the hard product (except for the doors and bins that kept popping open), but the service was dismal at best. I know people fly for different reasons and it can be quite annoying when you want to sleep and the cabin crew are banging around serving a meal late into the night, but we felt rushed and couldn’t fully enjoy the experience. Yes, I’m sure I could have been more proactive and told the Stew to slow down and attempted to enjoy the process more, but I didn’t.
I would definitely fly Thai Royal First again – and I’d love to experience their A380 service again -even if it costs more United miles than the first time I flew it. The daytime flight out of FRA to BKK I think is the way to go – long enough flight to really experience the journey and early enough in the day you aren’t rushed by people trying to get some sleep.
Have you flown Thai Airways Royal First? Which experience (A380 or B747) was more inline with yours?