Category Archives: Thai

SEA 2014: Thai Airways Business Class Bangkok to Hanoi (BKK to HAN)

After spending a day in Bangkok and relaxing in the lounge, we boarded our short flight to Hanoi. We were departing from a remote stand, so we had to take a bus to the plane. On the plus side, we were parked by an A380, so I got to ogle a plane and reminisce about my first class experience on the A380 less than 24 hours before.

This flight was served by an A330, but the interior was quite old. There were recliner-style seats in business class with tons of pitch, but there was no personal IFE at the seats, even though there were controllers. The recline of the seat was okay, but I found the leg rest to be awkward.

Recliner-style business class seat

Recliner-style business class seat

No IFE for this short hop

No IFE for this short hop

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Old cabin

Old cabin

Like any typical Asian airline, there was a hot meal served in business class in spite of the very short flight time. It was unnecessary, but welcome. I wonder what would happen if you asked American flight attendants to do a meal service on an hour-long flight…

I had pre-ordered a VGML, which was confirmed prior to delivering my meal. I’m also appreciative that you can order a special meal for such a short flight. The meal was decent–peas, broccoli, rice, and carrots and cucumbers in a tomato sauce. Perfectly edible, and significantly better than the weird-ass VGML I got in first class on my flight into Bangkok.

VGML special meal

VGML special meal

The service on this short sector was quite good. I was addressed by name at every interaction, although it perhaps helped that there were only 9 business class passengers. Economy was decently full, though.

Anyway, nothing remarkable about this flight, except for the fact that business class (and even economy class) on “international” short flights like this make me wonder why aviation in the US is so unpleasant comparatively.

SEA 2014: Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge Concourse E Bangkok Airport (BKK)

Upon arrival at the Bangkok airport, I was greeted with a buggy to take me to the lounge or immigration. I originally had a relatively short layover, but Thai decided to cancel the BKK-HAN flight that I was on, so I had a pretty lengthy layover instead, so I ended up deciding to spend some time in the lounge, get my massage, then head into town before coming back for my evening flight.

Riding a buggy

Riding a buggy

Since I was arriving in first class, I had access to the first class lounge (see a previous review), but since my connecting flight was in business class, I was only offered a 30-minute massage (and see more information about lounge access and massage rules). I got the neck and shoulder massage this time around, and it was painful as Thai massage often is, but it felt great after two long flights.

After the massage, I went into town. It’s worth noting that I was repeatedly warned that I would have to pay departure tax upon coming back to the airport. Since my itinerary just had a layover, I didn’t have to pay BKK departure tax when I ticketed. But technically, if you leave the airport (i.e. go landside), you’re then subject to the tax of 700 baht when you come back. This is definitely a case of YMMV, though. I already had my connecting boarding pass from Frankfurt, but it was apparent that it was printed in Frankfurt, so any of the boarding pass checkers or the person at immigration could have asked for the tax, although no one did. If you don’t have a boarding pass yet, it’s also possible that the check-in agent will ask for the tax, although again, it’s YMMV. Just be ready to pay it, but be happy if you don’t get asked.

Anyway, once I got back to BKK after a day in the city, I decided to go to the Thai first class lounge that was closest to my departure gate, which meant instead of going to the Royal First Lounge, I went to the Royal Orchid Lounge in Concourse E. This lounge has a small separate first class section. (Another note: I was flying with someone who was in coach, and since I was connecting to business class, I technically wasn’t eligible for a guest, but the lounge dragon let both of us into the first class side).

Royal Orchid Lounge Concourse E

Royal Orchid Lounge Concourse E

This lounge is small. At least the first class side is. It’s not a big deal since we were the only people there until the last 10 minutes we were in the lounge since I imagine that everyone else goes to the Royal First Lounge, but it’s essentially as large as the picture above shows.

Lounge chairs

Lounge chairs

Computer

Computer

Alcohol

Alcohol

Upon entering the lounge, we were asked for food and drink orders. We ordered some fruit, pad thai, and green curry. The pad thai wasn’t great (at least compared to what you can get on the street), but the green curry was decent. And then we stuffed our faces with desserts. The food menu was essentially identical to the menu that’s served at the Royal First Lounge.

Self-serve food

Self-serve food

More self-serve food

More self-serve food

More food

More food and drinks

Fruit plates

Fruit plates

While this lounge maybe isn’t quite as impressive as the Royal First Lounge, I enjoyed it a lot. It’s nice having space to yourself, and the service was attentive.

SEA 2014: Thai Airways A380 First Class Frankfurt to Bangkok (FRA to BKK)

I love Thai Airways. I don’t understand which blogger started the meme that Thai doesn’t have great service in the air, since I’ve only had superlative service experiences on Thai in first class. Or maybe it’s like a reverse racism thing where Asian people get better service on Thai than white people, similar to how white people get better service on Lufthansa than Asian people.

Thai A380 to Bangkok

Thai A380 to Bangkok

I received a very warm welcome on board. My special meal request of VGML was proactively confirmed, and slippers and a Rimowa amenity kit were already at the seat.

The seat is spacious and comfortable. It’s not a fully enclosed suite, but I think I prefer non-suites anyway since it makes the cabin feel airier. There’s tons of storage space at the seat, particularly for window seats. The in-flight entertainment had a decent selection and was very responsive.

First class seat

First class seat

Ottoman, table, and IFE screen

Ottoman, table, and IFE screen

Tons of storage at the seat

Tons of storage at the seat

More seat storage, controls, and screen of unknown function

More seat storage, controls, and screen of unknown function

View across the cabin

View across the cabin

Since first class is on the upper deck of the A380 for Thai, there are two large spaces to fill. Emirates has two showers; Lufthansa has bathrooms with urinals; Thai has a “lounge” on one side and a large bathroom on the other. The lounge is nothing special; the bathroom feels a little oddly divided, but I appreciate having lots of space to change.

First class "lounge"

First class “lounge”

Sizable first class bathroom

Sizable first class bathroom

Yes, it's a toilet on an airplane

Yes, it’s a toilet on an airplane

For this flight, the load was 9/12. It looked like there were a couple of other people on miles in the cabin as I wasn’t the only person excitedly snapping photos of the cabin.

First class menu

First class menu

First class wine

First class wine

Dom Perignon 2004 on offer

Dom Perignon 2004 on offer

After takeoff, I was served Dom 2004 and some unsalted nuts. The stemware isn’t fancy, but I appreciate the 2004 vintage over the 2003 one. I like my nuts salted, though.

Obligatory Dom + nuts shot

Obligatory Dom + nuts shot

Now, I’m not sure how much my VGML was affected by being catered out of Frankfurt instead of Bangkok, but it wasn’t good. Like this meal was some of the worst food I’ve had on a plane in any class of service. The first course was bread with vegetables on top. But not good bread or anything–just wonderbread-y bread with controversial vegetable choices.

VGML canapes

VGML canapes

After the not-so-great canapes, I decided to partake in caviar service. I find it a little excessive that they serve each passenger his/her own bread basket.

Caviar

Caviar

Up next was the worst food I’ve ever been served on a plane. If you can’t identify what’s on this plate, there’s extremely salty and soggy fried cauliflower, raw mushrooms, unidentifiable and disgusting mush, and artichokes. I tried to find something to like, but this was honestly terrible.

VGML appetizer. This was disgusting.

VGML appetizer. This was disgusting.

The VGML main course wasn’t much better. At least there was rice, which is hard to screw up. The rest of the plate was overcooked broccoli and carrots, way too many mushrooms, and a disturbing white sauce.

VGML main. Not much better.

VGML main. Not much better.

After the pretty horrendous meal (I know, it’s my own fault for getting a VGML), I decided to skip dessert and just get my bed made. The seat didn’t seem to go completely lie flat, but it was still very comfortable. The bedding isn’t as nice as other carriers like Cathay or Lufthansa, but it’s still adequate, and better than carriers like Asiana.

Bed mode

Bed mode

More bed

More bed

After sleeping for a bit, I asked for a snack of the yellow noodles with roast pork and fresh fruit. The flight attendant proactively offered to make the noodles vegetarian, which I greatly appreciated. Asian noodles are hard to mess up, and this was pretty darn tasty. I should’ve just gotten this for my first meal service.

Mid-flight snack (tasty!)

Mid-flight snack (tasty!)

For breakfast, I started off with fresh fruit, yogurt, and breads. Again, you get an entire bread basket to yourself, and I thought the almond twist in the basket was super duper tasty.

Breakfast

Breakfast

The VGML breakfast wasn’t great, but at least it wasn’t terrible like the dinner service. Potatoes, spinach, mushroom, tomato, and odd fried cake thingies. Not great, but at least edible.

VGML breakfast

VGML breakfast

As we got ready to land, a member of the crew went around the first class cabin and thanked each passenger for flying Thai and offered a deck of cards featuring the Thai A380. It was a nice token.

Yes, the dinner service was the worst meal I’ve ever had on an airplane, but the service on Thai is awesome. The hard product on the A380 is solid (as is the new hard product on their 747s, which I believe is all but one now), and I’ve been told that the normal Thai food on the menu is quite good. Overall, I’m a huge fan.

 

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


After the Singapore Airlines lounge, I went to the Thai lounge, which is the only Star Alliance lounge I hadn’t yet visited (the other being the United lounge).

Thai Airways lounge entrance at HKG

Thai Airways lounge entrance at HKG

This lounge is located in the same area as a lot of the other lounges, so it’s easy to lounge hop. It’s open to the terminal like the United lounge. There’s also a separate first class section, but it’s very, very similar to the business class section. The furniture is marginally nicer, and it’s of course a bit less crowded, but you’re not missing out on much if you only have access to the business class side.

Computers for use

Computers for use

Seating

Seating

This lounge features some game stations and massage chairs. I’m not a huge gamer, but I’m a pretty big fan of massage chairs, so I pretty much just camped out on a chair for most of the time that I was in the lounge. They’re definitely a little worse for the wear, but I still enjoyed my chair massage.

Massage chair!

Massage chair!

For food options, there was a pretty wide selection including various Thai foods and ice cream bars, but I wasn’t that hungry after eating some in the Singapore lounge, and it didn’t look all that appetizing to me personally.

Booze

Booze

Drinks

Drinks

Food

Food

More food

More food

Hot food

Hot food

Cold food

Cold food

The one thing that I didn’t like about this lounge was the internet access. I could not get the wifi to work, which is a basic necessity of an airport lounge. It didn’t matter a ton as I just used the Hong Kong airport free wifi, but it drives me crazy when the wifi doesn’t work in a lounge.

Of all the Star Alliance lounges at HKG, I don’t think there’s one that’s clearly superior to the others. Some people will like the food at the Thai lounge better, some will like Singapore’s food better (I don’t think anyone would choose United); some will find the lack of bathroom at the Singapore lounge to be a dealbreaker; some (like myself) will love the massage chair at the Thai lounge. You’re not missing out on much by not going to any given lounge, so I’d probably just go to the lounge that’s most convenient.

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong (BKK to HKG)

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


TG 606
Bangkok (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 4:00pm
Arrive: 7:45pm
Duration: 2h 45m
Aircraft: Boeing 747
Seat: 1A

After my lounge hopping to four different lounges at BKK, I went to my departure gate to board my flight to Hong Kong.

The beautiful 747 that would take me to Hong Kong

The beautiful 747 that would take me to Hong Kong

I received a warm welcome on board. The crew was older than I’m used to seeing on Asian airlines, but they were extremely friendly. The main flight attendant who would be taking care of me this flight greeted me and confirmed that I had pre-ordered a meal, and she remarked how good it looked. She offered me a pre-departure beverage and a hot towel.

As far as I know, this is the shortest route that Thai serves that has a first class cabin. I was lucky enough to get a 747 with a refurbished first class cabin of only 9 seats, and the seats are quite similar to what they have on their A380. The carpet in the cabin is extremely purple, but otherwise, I really enjoyed the cabin and the seats. There was a large closet at the front of first class for larger bags and coats, and the cabin felt spacious. I also appreciated the small touches like the fresh orchids at the seat, and there was plenty of storage at the seat.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

More of the seat

More of the seat

Seat and IFE controls

Seat and IFE controls

View of the center seats

View of the center seats

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

Unusual galley location

Unusual galley location

As I was taking pictures, a flight attendant offered to take a picture of me. This is always a small touch that I’m grateful for (I’m not a huge fan of selfies, even though I’m guilty of them too). She was even attentive to small details like making sure my bags were out of the picture.

Even though I had pre-ordered a meal, I was still handed meal and drink menus. Of note, they were serving 2004 Dom Perignon, instead of the 2003 that’s more common on other carriers.

Food menu

Food menu

Wines

Wines

Champagne

Champagne

Dom 2004

Dom 2004

Once we were in the air, meal service began promptly (after all, the flight is only a little bit over 2 hours long). The meal that I had pre-ordered was essentially the only vegetarian option that I saw that wasn’t a vegetarian special meal. First up was a potato leek soup and a full bread basket. I’m generally not a big soup person, but this soup was tasty.

Potato leek soup

Potato leek soup

For my mains, I got a basil mushroom dish and a spicy sour curry. The basil mushroom was decent and pretty spicy; the curry mostly reeked of fish sauce. I would have eaten more of both, but the portion of rice was inadequate for the amount of saltiness. I’m sure I could have gotten more rice, but I didn’t ask.

Basil mushroom dish and spicy sour curry

Basil mushroom dish and spicy sour curry

Next up was a cheese plate, which I initially declined but the flight attendant insisted. She particularly recommended the cheese with the fruit in it, but cheese isn’t really my thing.

Cheese plate

Cheese plate

Finally, I was plied with many Thai sweets. I definitely have a sweet tooth, but I thought that everything that was served was pretty tasty and slightly unusual in a good way.

Thai sweets

Thai sweets

Overall, the food itself was fine, but the service was great. I felt like I was being doted on by an Asian auntie who keeps on plying you with food. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it.

The load on my flight ended up being 9/9, which was perhaps due to the numerous flight cancellations that Thai was doing at the time due to the civil unrest (this flight occurred in February), as my friend’s flight on Thai got cancelled and he had to be rebooked.

All in all, I really enjoyed this flight. People often say that Thai isn’t quite as good in the air, but I was honestly blown away by the service (I ended up writing in to Thai about how great my flight attendant was), the hard product was great, and I’m pretty confident that the food on Thai is better if you eat meat.

Inefficient Things: The Hour-Long Massage for Thai Airways First Class Passengers

People make such a big deal about the free massages doled out for premium cabin passengers by Thai Airways at the Bangkok airport. Bloggers galore expound upon how the Thai Airways ground experience is one of the best in the world, even if their in-flight product doesn’t measure up (note: I don’t believe that their in-flight product doesn’t measure up, but this is also a meme that has spread due to certain bloggers). As far as I can tell, this praise is almost always due to the 1-hour massage provided to first class passengers departing from BKK, which I really don’t understand.

Thailand is of course known for their massages. Presumably, if you’re departing from BKK, you’ve spent some time in Thailand. And if you’ve spent some time in Thailand, you know that you can get an hour-long massage for a couple of US dollars. I think the last massage that I got in Thailand cost me 600 baht (~$19, including a generous tip) for a 2-hour long massage, and that was at a fancy spa place. You can find massage for much, much less.

So why do people go orgasmic over something that costs less than $10 USD? And why do they expect Thai Airways, a company in the business of transporting people from one place to another, to provide great massages? The Thai food in the lounges isn’t even very good, so why would the massages be?

It’s also not like Thai Airways is the only airline to offer massages to premium cabin passengers. I think they’re the only ones to offer hour-long massages, but I’ve gotten massages at DXB (via Emirates), LHR (via British Airways), and DFW (via Amex).Granted, I think they were all 15-minutes or so, but it’s not like my massage at the Thai Airways Spa was stellar. I’ve had better massages from massage chairs (which I admittedly am quite fond of).

I guess the other thing that Thai does that is actually unique is buggy rides for first class passengers. So everyone at the airport can stare at you as your driver narrowly misses plowing them down. Yes, BKK is quite large, so this is actually a somewhat nice benefit, but seriously, it’s just a buggy ride. I wonder what would happen if an airline started offering free wheelchairs and pushing to first class passengers…

This post isn’t to say that I don’t like Thai Airways–I actually like them a lot. I’ve had great experiences on the ground and in the air (although the food has been disappointing given that Thailand is possibly my favorite food country), but I’m just gobsmacked whenever I read someone being like, “OMG, Thai is the best evarrr (but their in-flight suxxx)” because of an hour-long massage. And to get that hour-long airport massage, you need to specifically depart from BKK in first class, which is non-trivial, and arrive at the airport with enough time to make sure that you can get an hour-long massage, which means potentially cutting into your time on the ground.

Anyway, what this is to say is that Thai Airways is nice. Getting massages is nice. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one, and you’re probably better off paying for as many massages as you want when you’re actually in Thailand rather than paying extra to depart out of BKK in Thai First Class to get a “free” hour-long massage at the airport.

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge at Bangkok Airport (BKK)

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


My previous flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok was purchased on a separate ticket (at the time I was making my reservations, I couldn’t find award space on USM to BKK on Thai), which means that I had to check in again upon arrival to BKK. I didn’t particularly mind, though, as I’d heard great things about Thai’s ground service for first class passengers at Bangkok airport.

I walked to the end of the terminal where first class check-in is located, and my roller bag was immediately taken from me upon saying that I was flying first class. My bag was tagged all the way to my final destination, and I was soon escorted to the private security and immigration lines. Then there was the buggy ride from immigration to the first class lounge, which requires you to pass through the business class lounge. To all other airlines, this is how you do it! The Thai Airways check-in to lounge experience was just about as good as you can get. Minimal effort required on the part of the passenger.

Seating in Thai First Class check-in

Seating in Thai First Class check-in

At the lounge, I got a private room, although it’s really not a big deal if you don’t get one unless you want to watch TV as the furniture is nicer outside of the private rooms, and the private rooms aren’t particularly private anyway. Someone came by to take drink orders and provide a food menu. I ordered a couple of the Thai food options and made an appointment for my complimentary massage.

Private room

Private room

General seating

General seating

More seating

More seating

Unused dining area

Unused dining area

The food in the lounge wasn’t great compared to the wonderful food I had been eating throughout Thailand for the previous two weeks. I’d say it was comparable to a mediocre Thai restaurant in the US, which is a little disappointing given how great food in Thailand is, but hey, it’s a lounge, what can you expect. I did enjoy sampling a lot of the Thai desserts, which included a number of things that I had seen but hadn’t eaten throughout my trip.

Self service options

Self service options

Lots of desserts

Lots of desserts

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the massage was also not great. I opted for an oil massage instead of a Thai massage as I had been pummeled enough from all of the massages I had gotten during my trip, but this was probably a mistake, as the oil massage felt like she was just moving oil around my back rather than actually massaging me (on a later trip through BKK, I opted for a Thai massage instead and it was significantly better). The massage facilities are great, though, and I had a nice hot shower afterward. Pro tip: there’s a robe in the closet for you to put on (as for the disposable underwear which Ben at OMAAT has commented on multiple times, I might not wear it in public, but I didn’t feel like I was indecent or anything; maybe Ben is just very well endowed for everything to be hanging out?).

After my massage and sampling some more desserts, I decided to go lounge hopping, which I’ll write about in subsequent posts. Overall, I think the Thai Airways First Class check-in experience is impeccable, and the hour-long massage is a great benefit (multiple other lounges offer shorter massages like the Emirates First Class Terminal and the Amex Centurion lounge at DFW). Definitely a great reason to depart out of BKK in Thai Airways First Class.

Quick Thoughts on Thai and Asiana First Class

I’m at JFK now after flying both Thai and Asiana First Class for the first times. Both flights were quite good, and I figured I’d share some quick thoughts since a full trip report will be a long time coming.

Thai First Class:
Definitely exceeded all of my expectations. I was lucky enough to get a refurbished first class cabin on a 747 for the short hop from BKK to HKG, which features essentially the same product that Thai has on their A380s. The seats are new and spacious and the cabin looks much better than their older first class product. What was so great about the flight was a wonderful flight attendant who was warm, friendly, attentive, and doting in a way that just makes first class so special. The crew in general was much older than is common amongst Asian airlines, but the service was incredible. I’m looking forward to my flight in Thai First on the A380 later this year!

Asiana First Class:
I’ve never been handed cash by an airline, but the escort from the lounge literally handed me a booklet of money. It was a booklet of ten $1 bills, and I’m still slightly confused as to what it was for since the website that’s listed on the booklet to find out more information doesn’t work.

I specifically flew ICN to JFK to get the new Suites First Class product, and the suites are definitely spacious and private. The most noticeable feature is the massive in-flight entertainment screen. The screen is just about the width of the suite, and it’s by far the largest screen I’ve ever seen in a plane. It’s so big that your mom would probably tell you not to sit so close to the screen when you’re just sitting in your suite.

The service was attentive and friendly. Not particularly warm, but I can’t really fault the service in any way. I had pre-ordered a Korean meal, and the food was pretty darn delicious. If you like Korean food, I definitely recommend pre-ordering a Korean meal out of Seoul. The caviar service also had a separate caviar spoon, which I appreciated.

My nitpicks with Asiana are with the bedding. For the bedding, the mattress is pretty insubstantial, the blanket was extremely staticky (like I was afraid to use it and touch things in my suite after getting shocked several times), and the pillows are tiny. It’s a little surprising to me that so much about Asiana is great but they’ve skimped on bedding in first class. Of course, this didn’t substantially detract from my experience as I was still able to sleep soundly, except for the constantly being shocked part.

Overall, I feel like people don’t talk about Thai or Asiana as much as carriers like Sinagpore and Cathay, but I had great flight experiences on both, and I’d highly recommend both. It also helps that both carriers release much more premium cabin space to partners than airlines like Singapore and ANA.

Adventures in Booking United Awards

I’m planning on going to Vietnam next year, and I had originally booked an award routing SFO-LHR-BKK-HAN on United Global First, Thai First, and then Thai Business. I was excited to fly LHR to BKK on Thai First because I thought the route was going to be served by an A380, and I had such an awesome time on Emirates’s A380.

Literally days after booking that flight, I read that these plans were scrapped due to delays in the delivery of the A380. So that meant no A380 for me 🙁

But Thai does fly the A380 to both CDG and FRA, so I looked at possible routings through either of those. For CDG, even though United flies SFO to CDG nonstop, it’s on a 2-class 767, so that would mean no first class for the long leg, and then there aren’t any nonstop flights between LHR and CDG on Star Alliance. For FRA, there are plenty of flights between LHR to FRA, so I thought my best option would be to change from SFO-LHR-BKK-HAN to SFO-LHR-FRA-BKK-HAN.

I checked availability on ANA and United.com, and everything looked good for switching to LH 901 for LHR to FRA and then TG 921 for FRA to BKK. First time I called United, the woman answering the phone was a little surprised that I wanted to change to a more indirect routing, but said that she didn’t see space on LH 901. In fact, she said that she couldn’t even book a revenue ticket on that flight because it didn’t look like it existed. So I hung up and called again.

Agent #2 was worse than the first. When I explained what I wanted, he was instantly suspicious. He started asking me irrelevant questions like, “Is this a one-way award? How are you getting back? How are you getting around in Vietnam?”. I probably should have hung up at this point, but I wanted to know if he also couldn’t see space on the Lufthansa flight that I wanted. After putting me on hold, he eventually said something like, “well, there are a couple of things wrong with your scheme,” and also confirmed that he couldn’t see space on LH 901, saying that it didn’t matter what I saw on the website. Oofta.

At this point, I decided to put an award on hold for LH 901, the mysterious flight that the United reservations agents can’t see (for what it’s worth, the agents couldn’t see LH 925, LH 901, or LH 903 aka any of the three flights that would make my routing work), before calling back. So on attempt #3, after hearing the same problems of not seeing any of those flights, I ask the agent about the reservation that I have on hold for LH 901. She agrees that it’s odd that I can make a reservation on a flight that she can’t see, so she has their support team call Lufthansa to see if my award hold is valid.

After half an hour on hold, she comes back with good news: it’s booked! But she booked me in business on the FRA to BKK leg instead of first, which I only saw after checking the itinerary online before getting off the phone with her. So after the agent blaming me for that mistake, I eventually get the whole itinerary booked in the correct classes.

Moral of the story: United agents couldn’t see Lufthansa flights that were bookable on the United.com website and that were shown as available on ANA. In order to get my flight booked, I held an award for the flight that I wanted, which finally convinced a United agent to figure out why they couldn’t see the flight. Has anyone else noticed problems with United agents not able to see Lufthansa (or other carrier) award space that’s very clearly available?

Thai Royal Orchid Spa and First Class Lounge Access

One of the most well-regarded lounges in the world is the Thai First Class Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok airport (BKK). The service is supposed to be spectacular, and part of the appeal is that departing First Class passengers get a free hour-long massage at the spa.

There seems to be a bit of confusion about who gets access to what when, so I’ve tried to create some flowcharts to explain the access policies.

First, spa access. Summary: you have to be departing Bangkok in a premium Thai cabin to get access. The class of your departing flight determines what services you get access to, although there are some reports that passengers arriving in Thai First and departing on a 2-class plane in Thai Business get offered an hour-long massage.

RoyalOrchidSpaAccess-1

Next up, first class lounge access. Summary: only people departing in Thai or Star Alliance First Class get access plus guests. Otherwise, you need to arrive in Thai First and be departing on a same-day international Thai or Star Alliance flight to get access (but no guests). If you have some other itinerary with an arrival in Thai First (e.g. next-day flight, domestic connection, just want an arrivals lounge), then YMMV (your mileage may vary).

RoyalFirstLoungeAccess

Hope this helps! If you want the full experience (lounge access + hour-long massage), you need to depart from Bangkok in Thai Airways First Class. Luckily for you, I have a handy dandy post that lists all of the Thai Airways routes with First Class!