As it turns out, the weather was more exciting, and memorable, than the first class service on Thai's A380 to Bangkok.
Before leaving the states I was aware of potential typhoon risk in Japan but hadn't given it much thought. The only mention of a typhoon on the flight to Tokyo was for possible turbulence when landing. It was smooth. And wasn't even raining in Tokyo on arrival.
The next morning having breakfast at the Hilton the rain began and it rained hard. But from my hotel window I could see planes arriving and departing. Today simply appeared to be just a foul weather day.
Around noon things got interesting. I knew my flight was going to be delayed because the inbound flight from Bangkok did not leave on time. Thai Airways mobile device for flight status is horrible. It only shows a few scheduled flights leaving and arriving from Bangkok. You can't search for a specific flight. In any case my A380 was still 5 hours south in sunny Bangkok when I left for the airport, having taken full advantage of the 3PM Hilton late check out I'd been given.
Arriving at Narita I found an airport that was packed. Little did I know that air traffic controllers had abandoned the tower due to 80MPH winds. A few photos.
I approached Thai's check-in counter and was given a generous coupon for any restaurant in the airport. The $30 lunch coupon made up for no information on when, or if, departure may occur.
Unfortunately Ohara was to be my better meal of the day.
After lunch I made my way to ANA's First Class Lounge. Had I not seen first class on the door I would have thought I was in the business class lounge as the decor, and food, is very similar.
I was greeted by a nice Japanese woman who escorted me to the seat of my choice, offered an oshibori and asked what I'd like to drink.
Two hours after scheduled departure no information was offered, other than finding out on my own that the plane had left Bangkok. Another hour or so Flightradar24 had the plane landing and sure enough moments later I could see it taxing through the rain. But now Google reported Thai #677, my flight, had been cancelled. Yet the ANA departure information monitor showed it was delayed. I asked the customer service agent to call and she confirmed it was delayed, not cancelled.
I was hoping it would be cancelled as I had my eyes on a new plan, err plane. Since I was going to Singapore anyway why not get on this guy?
My Singapore A380 first class suites day will have to wait as Thai finally decided to provide a departure time.
The original intent of this journey was to visit Singapore. Then when Thai opened ticketing back in April on their new A350 with reward space to Melbourne at no cost to my reward ticket, why not! Then with the Airbus delivery delays, that plane wasn't delivered, so instead of flying an old Thai 777 to Melbourne I found a Singapore Airlines flight, on an old Singapore 777.
Had the original plan held, with this delay I would have missed the Thai A350 flight anyway.
Date: Aug 2016
Flight #: TG677
Aircraft: A380 HS-TUF
Configuration: 3 Class
On Time: No - weather
Reward Flying Rating: 6.6 out of 10 ✈
A bit of luck
This flight has availability in either first or business class often and Thai offers a NRT-BKK premium reward flight almost everyday I've ever checked. To their credit, Thai in general releases a large amount of reward space.
Value for Reward per redemption point:
Sky High: >.08
While this was a part of a larger ticket, if you were to fly this on it's own, the fare for first class can be found around $2,500. By itself a reward ticket will run 60K points, 40K for business and this cost me 20K points versus just flying to NRT. So I can't complain about the cost, but for the 50K points extra I spent to go ORD-NRT-BKK in first, next time I'd do business class.
Reward Value: 5.5 out of 10 ✈
You can easily book this reward online..
Search for Rewards tickets
Don't bother, the app is worthless. When I changed a seat I did it through the Singapore app.
Stay at Gate
One picture is of the ANA first class lounge and the other is the business class lounge next door. Pick.
Neither can I.
However it's a nice lounge, especially for plane spotting, on non-typhoon days. (And I had so hoped for the observation deck.)
Tucked away in a corner was a walk up counter called the noodle bar. It was small and out of the way. I saw someone eating a burger so they made a variety of dishes but after my Ohara sushi lunch I did't investigate. However Sherlock Holmes isn't needed to ascertain this was a far cry from first class dining experiences like the Lufthansa's First Class lounge, Singapore's Private Room, Cathay's Pier as well as many other non- ORD first class lounges.
Time to go.
For those of you familiar with Narita Terminal 1 South Wing, Gates 59 A-C are Bus Gates.
This should be interesting.
Thai first class A380 boarding experience:
A view of one of two carry-ons I was lugging as well as a view of the second stair case once negotiated.
What were they thinking?
Thai's upper deck first class cabin is attractive, but not elegant. The colors work well but the cabin lacks sophistication, especially for a first class wide body.
Twelve non-enclosed seats configured 3x4 makes for a fairly private cabin, but only when partially occupied such as this flight. The purser on the flight made a point to me in conversation about how travelers prefer this open-air seating arrangement. Maybe he is right. Lufthansa employs a similar openness but you can partition off your first class pod for privacy, this one you can't.
The seating area to the right of the staircase is a complete waste of space.
To the left of the staircase is a single lavatory that's spacious and clean, but wasn't particularly well stocked.
Instead of a 2nd lavatory, Thai has opted to add a make-up counter with a large seat for the ladies. Nice touch.
Just like home
Get me off this plane
Thai's first class seat is comfortable and if comparing simply for sitting comfort, more so than the ANA seat I'd just spent 12 hours in.
A380 fliers know that the window side luggage bins are not that very large. A nice carry on storage space is provided underneath the ottoman. (All though I can't figure out what those grills are for?)
A sliding tray is your dining table and remains an out of the way table for magazines or papers. Other safety card and printed airline information are smartly tucked away to the side in a vertical compartment.
You have storage compartments on both sides of the seat in or below the armrests, with one holding the electronics. A dual USB is nice for someone carrying multiple devices.
Simple seat controls as well as standard IFE controller.
Window seats have an extra compartment for storage as well between the pod and aircraft wall.
Like a Rock
Another bad bed photo which is a good description for the bed itself, bad. No mattress pad and very uncomfortable due to the hump where the seat folds. The blanket however was warm and the pillow generous in size and weight.
Notice the mini monitor shining a white light. Mine didn't do anything other than stay lit. I thought it was a night-lite. All it did was screw up the focus on my blurry photo. Then on my Thai 747 flight, the same mini-monitor could be used to control the seat. So I don't know if mine was broken or I just didn't know how to work it.
Mood lighting before arrival.
Cabin/Seats: 6 out of 10 ✈
A beautiful Rimowa amenity kit was provided featuring L'Occitane products. Slippers, headphones, oshibori and a lily.
✔︎ Wine Menu
Full bar in cabin
Multiple coffee selections
Multiple tea selections
Here's Nahtee, the lead flight attendant pouring the beverage highlight for this trip, a 2006 Dom Pérignon. At $175 per bottle certainly the most generous during my 32,000 miles
A somewhat sparse beverage list begged to stick with the Dom.
Food Menu Selections and food extras:
Printed, multiple cuisines
Printed, single cuisine
✔︎iPad by flight attendant
Mid flight snacks
Technology has replaced the printed menu! This time a very young Thai woman, Marguerite, who was the other flight attendant serving the 3 first class passengers offered the dinner selections via iPad. She held it, and showed the single page that didn't fit all the text. And she didn't want to give me the iPad so I could take a closer look.
I was tired, it was late, I ordered sea bass. Duck leg stew or Pork curry just didn't en'thai'ce me.
To portray the full first class meal presentation I offer the Amuse as it was presented.
For comparison purposes.
Compliments to the Chef
Fine dining with a miss or two
✔︎No rave reviews
Get me a meal from economy
I'm torn between "No rave reviews" and "Get me a meal from economy", except this is first class. What would eco class be like?
The Amuse, which I don't know what it is because I don't have a menu, but I can see some mango and the little taste I took had a peanut flavor. So it was probably some kind of Thai Po Pia Thot or egg rolls. The first taste convinced me not to explore more.
Next up was a salad. There was enough dressing on the 2 pieces of lettuce for at least 30 more pieces. I'd be interested to see if they called it a prawn on the menu.
Next up was soup. Apparently Thai has borrowed the recipe for this Flour Soup from Asiana Airlines. You can read about Asiana's Flour Soup here.
After consuming nothing it's time for the main course.
Dom is good. Dessert time, I'm famished.
The winner! Albeit against unqualified competition.
Time to round things out with a coffee.
Amenities/Food 5 out of 10 ✈ (1 extra point for the Rimowa kit and 1 extra point for the Dom, otherwise not a competitive first class experience.)
Can I stay and watch some more?
✔︎Watched a favorite and went to sleep
400 cable channels and nothing to watch
Glad I brought my tablet
The IFE system is fine. Monitor is large and clear. Content happened to be the same movies as ANA so I wasn't interested. But the tail camera on an A380 is cool, even though it was night. One annoying thing about Thai, on the descent they play a Thailand promo clip which lasts forever, and in my case kept looping. Meaning the airshow or tail camera was not available. They turned it off a minute or two before landing.
Yes and Free
✔︎Yes and Purchase
Due to the delay they passed out a free 20MB wi-fi card that was thoughtful.
IFE/WiFi: 7 out of 10 ✈
Made the flight special
✔︎Did their job
Did they board?
Both attendants were very nice. Water was provided and I was never left for wanting.
Didn’t realize was on a plane
Time for a trade-in
My 2nd time on the upper deck of an A380 and I'm not sure I like it. Certainly the windows are small and its difficult to see much out of them. This was a night flight so I wasn't missing much but overall I prefer larger windows. Maybe it was the fact that I had to climb at least 2 flights of stairs with 2 carry-ons to get to my seat.
On arrival first class was allowed to exit first. At the end of the jet-way was a woman holding a sign with 3 names, the 3 first class passengers. We climbed aboard a golf cart, with my two pieces of luggage on my lap, and were whisked to immigration. She then escorted us to the priority lane and asked if we needed any directions or information for transit into Bangkok.
The Thai personnel from Narita check-in, to the gate boarding agents, to the aircraft flight attendants, to the woman who escorted first class passengers on to immigration, all were exceptionally nice. Also the $30 lunch coupon and free onboard wi-fi was certainly generous. It was the things out of their control that made this flight a disappointment.
Weather happens. The delay was not a big deal. But the lack of information from Thai was inexcusable. While the hard product on the A380 was nice, it wasn't up to international first class standards. The food would be a disappointing business class meal.
But one must look at the positives and that points to this:
Have you flown first class in Thai's A380? How was your trip?