Tag Archives: thai

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.

Star Alliance Routings and Award Availability to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)

As far as I know, there are no nonstop flights from the US to Bangkok, which is perhaps expected given the distance to Thailand from the US. Thai Airways used to fly nonstop from LAX to BKK, but that flight now has a stopover in Seoul.

Luckily, there are numerous options to get to Bangkok on Star Alliance carriers. Bangkok is the hub for Thai Airways, and they’re renowned for their ground service at BKK. Other Star Alliance carriers that have flights to Bangkok include Air China, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, Egypt Air, Ethiopian, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore, Swiss, Turkish, and United (i.e. nearly all of the carriers in Star Alliance that you’ve heard of).

The obvious choice if you’re flying out of BKK, particularly in a premium cabin, is to fly on Thai Airways. If you fly First Class out of Bangkok, then you get access to the Royal First Lounge and Spa, where you get a 1-hour massage (business class passengers get 30 minutes). Thai currently has First Class service to Sydney, London, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Zurich, and on some flights to Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Thai is also great because they regularly release a lot of award space, both far out, in the interim, and close in. For example, there’s premium cabin award space on nearly all dates for flights from London to BKK for the entire schedule that’s loaded. Same with Frankfurt and Hong Kong. Tokyo is harder, but still easy if you’re planning at least a couple of months out (although you’ll be harder pressed to get First Class space on the A380 out of Tokyo).

Part of the reason why Thai releases so much award space is that their in-flight product is generally considered to be a notch below that of airlines like ANA, Asiana, Lufthansa, Singapore, and Swiss. The hard product is good on the A380 and the new suites on the 747 (and it’s fine on most 747s, although there’s one plane with an older version that you want to avoid), but people criticize the inconsistent soft product. But again, if you’re looking for flights departing out of Bangkok, I think you should seriously consider flying Thai for the first leg so that you get the full ground experience at BKK.

Since there are no nonstop flights to BKK from the US, you have to connect, and given how many Star Alliance carriers have flights to Bangkok, you have tons of options available. From the east coast of the US to Bangkok, it’s roughly the same distance to route through Europe as it is through Asia, and both United and US Airways allow routings through Europe to get to Southeast Asia. The most “aspirational” routing would probably go through Frankfurt on Lufthansa, but Lufthansa doesn’t offer First Class award space more than 15 days before departure. Routing through Asia, the most aspirational routing in First Class would be ANA through Tokyo, which is also a hard award seat to snag. A good alternative is to book legs on United to make sure that you have a seat assured and then switch to Lufthansa or ANA if the award seat opens up closer to departure. If you don’t have status, you’ll have to pay change fees, but that can be worth it to experience a significantly better product for a 10-hour flight.

United charges 60,000 miles for a one-way to South Asia in Business Class, while it’s 70,000 miles for First Class. US Airways charges 120,000 miles for a roundtrip to South Asia in Business Class and 160,000 miles in First Class, although you can likely get lower amounts charged if you say that your trip to Bangkok is a “stopover” on your way to a destination in North Asia, or you can continue on to Australia or New Zealand and pay fewer miles.

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!

Thai Airways Routes with First Class Service

One reason people love flying First Class (aka Royal First) on Thai Airways out of Bangkok is access to the Royal Orchid Spa where First Class passengers can get a 60-minute full body massage. But you need to be departing on a same-day Thai-operated flight in First Class to get this benefit.

According to this promotional article on Thai Airways Australia, Royal First Class is offered to the following destinations:

  • Sydney
  • London
  • Frankfurt
  • Munich
  • Paris
  • Madrid
  • Rome
  • Zurich
  • Hong Kong (some flights)
  • Tokyo (some flights)

Useful to know if you want that hour-long massage!

How to Get Thai Airways Seat Assignments in Advance

If you book an award on Thai Airways using another carrier’s miles, you probably won’t get a seat assignment at first. Luckily, it’s quite easy to get your record locator and an advance seat assignment.

You can call the Thai Airways office in LA at 1-800-426-5204, or even better, you can email them at laxreservation@thaiairwaysusa.com. Just be sure to include your ticket number, name, schedule, and seat preference, and they should be able to take care of everything for you. And once you have your record locator, you can use the Thai Airways website to pre-order a meal if you’re traveling internationally in Royal First or Royal Silk classes.

Be aware that this only works for non-domestic itineraries on Thai, as seat assignment only occurs at check-in for those domestic itineraries.