TG614 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International (BKK) - Beijing Capital International (PEK)
I approached the First class check-in area for Thai Airways and was met by a customer service rep who immediately took my suitcase off me, as well as my passport and practically ordered me to sit down in the comfortable check-in zone while she went away and "took care of everything for me"!
She soon came back and escorted me right through immigration to the Thai business class lounge. There, I was put on a golf buggy cart thing (as you often see at airports being used for the disabled and elderly) where I would be taken to the First class lounge. I assumed it was a fair distance away, but it wasn't that far - I was driven right through the business class lounge! I have never been so embarrassed in my life. Next time I will walk, although admittedly the business class lounge is huge - by far the biggest lounge I have ever seen anywhere ever.
Thai's First class lounge is superb. Large and exquisitely furnished, it consists of a large seating area, but with many private rooms set off the main corridor. The only slight issue was that the lounge was not sealed from the rest of the terminal, so plenty of airport noise made it's way into the lounge. Given the early hour, I started with a couple of glasses of water, but soon moved on to the champagne, which was delivered to my seat. According to the waitress it was "Moet", although that's all the info I have. I can safely say that this is one of the best lounges I have ever been in.
I met in the lounge a couple of the Flyertalkers I had met a couple of nights before, great to see you again Robert and Jeff. They were both on their way to Singapore at about the same time as me - I would later see their aircraft take off shortly before mine.
Soon it was time to go to the gate and again I was personally escorted right up to the aircraft door. Fantastic service by Thai ground staff. This was by far the best airport experience I had ever had! A massive to Thai for creating this truly First class service in their new airport.
Once on board, I was escorted immediately to my booked seat 1A. There was only one other first class passenger, a woman in 1K. As soon as the doors were shut, I decided to move back to 2A for additional privacy, only for the woman to move back to 3K (presumably for the same reason?). Oh well, at least you could see the main screen better from 2A (there are no personal TVs in Thai's "classic" 747, even in First!). I was presented with a menu and a wonderful Bulgari amenity kit. Also, I was offered copiously topped up champagne - Dom Perignon 1999 no less! This experience was getting better and better!
Push back was delayed by about 10 mins, but we were soon on our way out to the runway. In a new twist for Phil's Travel Diary, I decided I'd try and video the take off run - I'm not sure whether this is strictly allowed, but on these old aircraft I can't imagine it interfering with the aircraft systems that much. Anyway, here is my take off run - a video is worth a thousand words!
The seatbelt signs went off fairly quickly and I was soon offered more champagne and the first elements of the meal service, which went something like this:
Chicken Curry "Massaman"
Stir-fried seafood in
Grilled veal with
Assorted breads, crackers, butter, cheese and fruit tray
The only choice to be made was for the main course and I went for the chicken curry. The satay and first course were both delicious and just what I wanted. The Fish maw soup was full of unidentifiable gelatinous blobs, of which I ate some, but was rather put off by not being able to identify exactly what they were. The soup was delicious nevertheless, but I left most of it in the bowl! The chicken curry was superb - a tender whole chicken breast was served in delicious sauces. Next came the cheese and fruit and finally the dessert. I was absolutely stuffed by the time I finished!
In terms of wine, there was no formal list. I kept with the Dom Perignon for the starters, before moving onto a lovely red for the main. There were two reds, both French and the cabin crew poured out both for me to try . I also had some Taylor's port for dessert. At one point there were 4 glasses of alcohol on my table (Champagne, main red wine and remains of the tasted, and the port) .
I was surprised at the speed with which the meal was delivered. There were only two of us in the cabin, but the crew seemed impatient (in a nice way) to get the service over and done with. As soon as I had stopped eating one course, the next one would be right along. With no personal TV, I had wanted the meal service to stretch out over this 4 hour flight as long as possible, but in the end I was pretty much finished about 1h 30m after take off. Pictures of the wonderful food can be seen below.
The rest of the flight passed relatively quickly - the cabin crew had shut most of the window blinds, including my own when I went to the toilet and with the copious amounts of champagne and red wine in me, I felt quite tired in the semi-dark and had a cheeky nap for an indeterminate period of time! Soon we were descending in toward Beijing and landed about 15 minutes adrift of schedule.
I must say I think this was one of the most enjoyable flights I've ever taken. The hard product was fairly inept, as I always knew it would be - a rickety old plane and seat (although comfortable enough for such a short flight) with pathetic in-flight entertainment (Penguins had shown as the main feature film). But the hard product at Bangkok airport and the soft product (service, amenities, food and wine throughout) had been of the highest possible order - certainly unsurpassed in my flying experience. A massive to Thai Airways - a carrier I would now heartily recommend to anyone for such a flight.
First Class check-in area at BKK
TG F lounge at BKK (plus a concourse shot of the new airport)