Aircraft Type: A380-800
Class: ‘Royal Silk’ Business Class
Date: June 2016
We were lucky enough to fly on Thai Airways almost twenty years ago, one of our first long haul flights as a kid, and since then, the airline has always stuck in our hearts. We remember orchid flowers being distributed to passengers and that was even in economy. Since then, we’ve always watched the carrier with admiration.
Their recent announcement of their ‘New Royal Silk Service’ product in business class, where passengers are treated to restaurant-style service and turn-downs before sleep was welcome news, and we couldn’t turn down an opportunity to trial it.
On The Ground
Thai Airways is one of the Star Alliance carriers that utilizes Terminal 2 at London Heathrow. We’ve always applauded the terminal and still find it the best terminal to fly from.
Thai Airways check in is situated in Zone A, and is actually the furthest check-in desk from the entrance, situated right in the corner of the check-in zone.
Star Alliance carriers all get to use the banks of self-service check in desks, and behind those are the regular economy banks of desks.
Our only criticism is that the business and first class traditional bank of desks are hidden behind this wall of economy desks, and as such is hard to find unless you know where they are.
Once at the desks, we were greeted by friendly staff who quickly processed the bags and handed our tickets. A simple request to select further forward seats in a pair was also honoured and we were told to head to the United Airlines lounge in the satellite terminal.
Utilising Fast Track, we were through security quickly, and made our way through the main terminal, long walkway to the satellite and to the waiting area.
Against the recommendation of the check in staff, we opted for the smaller, more intimate Singapore Airlines lounge nearby. The lounge as we’ve covered before is quieter, especially at the time of day, as a previous Singapore Airlines flight leaves a couple of hours before the Thai Airways day flight.
The flight was delayed, but only by 15-20minutes, so approximately 15 minutes before departure we made our way to the gate for boarding.
We were given priority boarding and made our way up the dedicated ramp to the upper deck of the A380
The Thai Airways A380 follows a fairly traditional layout, with the lower deck being comprised entirely of economy class seats, and the upper deck featuring 12 first class seats at the front, 60 business class seats and eight rows of economy in the very rear.
On the entering the aircraft, we turned right, and headed through an already busy galley, with staff making drinks and preparing the cabin for passengers.
The cabin utilizes the Sogerma Solstys seats, virtually identical to those found in Alitalia, Etihad, Iberia and Vietnam Airlines which means the seats offer an alternating 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, with 75% of the seats offering privacy, and the others as centre seat pairs, perfect for those travelling together.
The cabin is a sea of purple hues with beautiful patterns adorning the rear bulkhead. On boarding, the colours are enhanced by the mood lighting that the A380 offers, which adds warmth in the orange tones to the walls.
The main cabin is fairly vast, and it is easy to forget the entire deck below, but the seats manage to create a sense of privacy and the high walls to the seats mean you don’t feel like just one of many people. This is an important factor for such a large cabin, to ensure that premium passengers do actually feel premium.
On arrival at the seat, a beautifully dressed cabin crew arrived in a traditional Thai silk dress with sash, introduced herself by name, greeted us by name and offered to take my coat, and offered a glass of Veuve Cliquot.
The seat is virtually identical to the traditional Sogerma Solstys seat, with just the colour, seat fabric and trim being customized to the Thai Airways brand. This has been updated on the 777 product, but has yet to be retrofitted onto the A380 (if that even happens.)
The centre ‘honeymoon’ seats are actually very close together and perfect for travelling with a partner, as it’s almost like sitting on a sofa or when reclined sleeping in a double bed.
If you aren’t ‘close’ to the person next to you, we recommend picking one of the solo seats, which are either window seats or aisle seats.
The seat offers good space for a passenger, and those away from the aisle offer enhanced privacy. One thing we found was there was limited secure storage, with a large side table and small tray situated next to the IFE controller.
That said, the side table came in use, with plenty of extra space to store laptops, magazines or drinks when eating from the main fold down table.
The seat turns into a sizeable bed, and a slow massage function is a welcome addition to reduce any aches and pains. The footwell is also fairly spacious and we didn’t find it too restrictive when sleeping.
The seat is actually very comfortable, with thick padding, and while there is a three point seatbelt for take off, this reduces the need for an airbag, and as such, when sleeping with a seatbelt on, the lack of an airbag makes it much more comfortable.
The Food & Service
If you have travelled with Thai Airways before, you may have experienced the older service style, which involved trolleys being carted through the galleys. This has all changed due to the carrier’s introduction of the ‘New Royal Silk Service’ currently being rolled out route by route.
The service is personalized, champagnes and wines poured at seat, food brought in by tray seat by seat rather than en-mass and seats turned down into beds by cabin crew.
After take-off an aperitif was served, along with warm nuts, we stuck with the champagne. After this, in a relaxed service style, we started our meal service.
We opted for both dining styles. One is the Thai concept of Samrab and the other is Western Cuisine, which offer courses paired for the best experience, although naturally you could pick which of any of the dining options to go for.
The Thai Samrab was all served at the same time. It featured a wonderfully authentic Pork Salad, and a Chicken in Coconut Galangal soup. These were accompanied by perfectly cooked rice and a choice of Beef Massaman curry or a Prawn in Chu Chee curry which we opted for.
The food was fantastic. It was some of the best Thai food of our entire trip and packed the heat we had hoped from a spicy Thai palette.
We also tried the Seared Scallops on Lemon and Waldorf salad with poached prawn on pea puree, it was delightfully presented and light on the stomach.
This was followed by the grilled salmon, which was again, perfectly cooked and fantastically plated.
Both desserts of the baked egg custard with Taro and the Amaretto Mascarpne with Marshmallow ice cream were great.
During the flight there were a variety of dining options, and we opted for the Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce which was a perfect midnight snack.
Approximately 2 hours before landing we were woken up and our tables once again laid and fresh juice served.
Then a seasonal fresh fruit salad was served as a starter, followed by a cheese omelet which contained smoked pork loin, roasted mushrooms and accompanied with grilled asparagus and tomato.
There was a wide range of breads, pastries and preserves, as well as fresh coffee and teas.
Just before landing, jackets were returned and the cabin crew went around thanking each passenger for their custom, asking if there was anything they could have done better. It’s this attention to detail that we admire from a carrier that is happy to try and better themselves.
Thai Airways doesn’t offer the largest screen in the skies, however, the range of movies, TV shows and audio is pretty extensive. The noise cancelling headsets are also decent, although I had a minor issue with feedback on one set, which was replaced as soon as I brought it up with the crew.
The IFE system is intuitive to use, the tail camera always a delight, and the handset a welcome addition, especially when reclining so as not to have to reach to the touchscreen to change the programming.
There was also a wide range of newspapers and magazines, including their Sawasdee inflight magazine.
Thai Airways offer a wide range of extras, from slippers to a quilted cushion for the bed. The Samsonite amenity kit was also a welcome keepsake, filled with traditional amenity kit supplies. The toilet even has its own eau de Toilet by Thai Airways (which was quite nice!). The hot towels were even branded with the Thai logo and the reappearance of the Orchid on the seat as we boarded was a fantastic reminder of what made us fall in love with Thai Airways in the first place.
But perhaps what could be considered as a new extra for Thai Airways was the new service concept, which has catapulted the carrier ahead in terms of their business class offering. It’s a noticeable shift, and when speaking to the crew before we deplaned, it was clear to see that the crew are genuinely determined to offer the best service they can.
Thai Airways have really managed to deliver on a new promise. The hard product has always been of a good quality, and the new 777 interior shows how the carrier is continuing to invest in the hard product. But Thai Airways’ new service offering is what has elevated what is an always-affordable business class option from Europe to Asia. We were pleasantly surprised by food, service, seat comfort and price.
The Big Picture
TheDesignAir travelled as guests of Thai Airways, but the opinions expressed here are our own.