We finally attack the serious things with this Stockholm-Bangkok on Thai on A350 which is the first segment of an itinerary that will lead me to Sydney in a little less than 24 hours including a stopover in Bangkok.
Moreover, this will be my first “real” flight on A350: I already took it but on a domestic flight between Saigon and Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines and if I could appreciate its comfort it has nothing to do with a real long distance flight
You will find the list of all the reviews of this trip at the bottom of the page.
I will not repeat all the genesis of the itinerary that I already told you in the introductory post of this trip but, to make it short I wanted to fly on Star Alliance (a status to be maintained), in business class ( first by taste and habit, then because for a 22 hours flight I prefer it, especially because with my back and leg problems the doctors would not let me go in eco), all in a context of soaring ticket prices which have reached sky-high prices.
In short, the best I found was this Thai at 3500 euros from Stockholm. We already found cheaper for this type of flight but it was another time and when I see how much some of my friends paid for medium-haul tickets in Europe this summer I find the price per kilometer rather interesting. For information the same flight from Paris on Thai was more than 7500 euros.
Check-in and ground experience
I had already chosen my seats when I booked and although I checked every day I never managed to change the one on my Bangkok-Sydney flight but that’s another story you’ll read in a future post.
The day before departure I want to check in online but…
Ah, the COVID is a good excuse instead of saying that the online check-in doesn’t work or that it was cut in order to save money (Thai’s health is very fragile and the airline is on the verge of bankruptcy). It’s not like they can’t do the door checks…by the way that’s what they’ll do but we’ll talk about that later.
While browsing the site I also realize that the Wifi service on board has been removed. That’s cost cutting for sure.
To get to the airport once again I appreciate the comfort and speed of the Arlanda Express which makes the trip from the city center in 20 minutes at 200km/h. Maybe one day at Roissy…
A glance at the FIDS shows me the check-in counter. I will only have a few meters to walk, Stockholm and its terminal 5 remaining an airport at a very human size.
Once there…nothing. Passengers start waiting patiently around the check-in area but no staff is present. But at least the lines are materialized.
After about 15 minutes and even if no agent has shown up, the passengers start to enter the lines. By conscience I do the same and I will be the first in the business/elite line.
Here comes the staff. At first I think of Thai staff but no…it’s Asians in SAS uniforms. Thai logically subcontracted to its local partner and the said partner took in its workforce people who looked local.
They methodically set up Thai flags on the counters, turn on the systems, initialize the screens and we can begin check-in.
My luggage is quickly checked-in and then begins the document control that prevents an online check-in.
- “Do you have your visa for Australia?”
- “Yes, done online” (FYI it will have been 1min between application and acceptance and don’t be fooled by sites offering to pay for it, it is free on the Australian government website).
- “Are you vaccinated? “.
- “Have a good trip sir”.
It is sure that if it is to make such extensive checks without even looking at the documents it was worth blocking the online check-in.
I’ll get through security in less time than it takes to say it with the priority lane. I always appreciate the friendliness of the Swedish staff, it’s a change from Paris.
I have some time to spare, so here I go for a lounge hopping session. I’ll skip the Norrsken lounge (Priority Pass), make a quick visit to the SAS Gold lounge to see that the food offer is still as perfectible as ever, and go and enjoy the American Express lounge.
20 minutes before boarding I join the F gates dedicated to non-Schengen flights. This is also a change from Roissy in terms of attendance.
Two minutes later and after a big smile from the immigration officer who wishes me a pleasant vacation (well…let’s stop the comparisons with France…) I find myself in an almost deserted terminal.
It is pretty, airy, bright, warm. Scandinavian, you know.
I arrive at my boarding gate, there are already a few people waiting patiently.
And here is the bird of the day, an A350-900, known as the raccoon.
The boarding area is filling up little by little…
Announcements are made on the microphone to call people who have not left Stockholm, Goteborg or Copenhagen to come and have their health documents checked. Two thoughts:
1°) So they could do it at the gate
2°) Those who checked-in in Stockholm got a lighter treatment.
That takes time and we will board with 20 minutes of delay. In spite of the delay which starts to accumulate nobody rushes around the gate, no irritation is perceptible. Welcome to Scandinavia. I will be the second to enter the cabin.
And here is the cabin of this A350.
To tell you the truth, I am a little disappointed. First of all I’m not a fan of the colors at all but it’s a matter of personal taste. On the other hand it’s roughly the same cabin that I had with Thai on 777 in 2015 so 7 years ago. This cabin was already old at the time and when you know that the life of a cabin is about ten years before being outdated …
I think it’s a shame that Thai didn’t invest in a new product for the newest and most modern aircraft in its fleet. On the other hand, they received their first A350s in 2016, so this cabin could still make sense at that time (but it was limited) and since then, between the COVID and a very precarious financial health, the airline has certainly not had the means to improve its product. But it’s a shame for such a modern aircraft. It reminds me of Lufthansa’s A350 with its business class cabin from another time, or the questionable choice made by Air France for its A380s when they arrived in the fleet.
Proof that it is an old cabin: the width of the aircraft is not fully exploited far from there. It fits on a 777, the 350 is a little wider, well that’s okay.
As much as Air France had planed its BEST seat to pass from the 777 to the 787 as much there we are in the opposite case.
In short, the aircraft of the day, the HS-THK, entered the fleet only 4 years ago and seems to be equipped with a cabin from another time.
Let’s have a closer look at the cabin.
The 1-2-1 stagerred configuration allows occupants in the middle rows to alternate between two side-by-side seats if traveling together and more segregated seats if traveling alone.
This also has an impact on the window side. The seats in the even rows are close to the window and well separated from the aisle by a shelf for good privacy, while the seats in the odd rows have the shelf on the window side and are close to the aisle without any privacy. There is a similar configuration, for example, on the Turkish Airlines 787s, but even on the aisle side there is much more privacy, even if it is much less than on the window side.
Here absolutely nothing. On this flight I’ll be fine as I’m in row 14 but you can see why I was desperate to part with the 11 for my Bangkok Sydney. Unfortunately you can guess that they are taken first and that unless a passenger cancels, there is no risk of finding available ones before the flight.
So here is my seat.
And for comparison, the one behind. You can see the difference right away.
Here is the shelf unfolded and I’m not a fan of the “fake wood” look either which also looks cheap in my opinion.
The seat settings are clear and easy to use.
The remote control is the only thing not to be too dated. At least not too much…
There are still power outlets and USB ports under the screen (not very convenient) and on the side of the seat.
Pillow, blanket, slippers, comfort kit and noise-cancelling headphones are already on my seat.
The comforter will be soft and pleasant.
The comfort kit will certainly be very easy to reuse in the future but the content look very cheap. No care products.
As for the headphones…well, you can see the cost cutting… And the slippers don’t look like great quality either.
A bottle of water is placed in the small pocket which will be the only storage available! It’s a little light.
It’s always better than being in economy for sure but it doesn’t break the bank when I still have in mind the excellent new business cabin I discovered on Turkish Airlines last year between Istanbul and Mexico.
By investigating a little I find the cabin in a surprising state of wear for an aircraft that is only four years old.
It’s ok that the fabric of the footrest is worn…
But the seat itself is damaged and worn to abnormal proportions.
As for the cleaning during the stopover, it was neglected to say the least.
Ah ! Last point but we will talk about it later: in bed position the seat is too short for a person of 1m88.
As soon as I was settled, they brought me a warm unscented oshibori and offered me a welcome drink, non-alcoholic.
The staff offers to take my picture in my “beautiful” seat. I accept with pleasure. The staff will take orders for lunch on the ground. No menu is distributed ( cost cutting ? ). I have a choice between a chicken curry with lemongrass and a beef filet mignon, I’ll take the chicken.
Nevertheless I settle down comfortably to wait for the takeoff.
The privacy level is quite good, unlike the odd seats.
We are finally ready to go. We are reminded that the mask is recommended and not mandatory. It will be worn by maybe 20% of the passengers, mainly Asian.
The flight and the service
We push back and say goodbye to the 777 Emirates parked beside us.
We are in “SAS land”.
No waiting at take-off. We fly over the Swedish countryside, green and sunny (for once) and pierces the cloudy layer. The silence of the A350 is really impressive.
The images retransmitted by the camera on the tail of the aircraft are superb.
I take a quick look at the IFE: the interface is dull, the catalog not very interesting. As usual I will spend the flight watching movies and series previously downloaded on my iPad.
The aperitif service begins. It’s done by cart and there will be one cart for the business cabin that will first go down the opposite aisle and then up mine. You just don’t have to be in a hurry but it requires less staff I guess.
While two cabin crew members serve the drinks, a third one distributes small bowls of nuts which logically come before the drinks. Not sure that’s an optimal use of resources.
It’s good but it would have been better if they were hot.
The drinks finally arrive and I take a glass of Piper Heidsieck. At least here they use large glasses and the dose served is generous. The whole thing is accompanied by satay as an appetizer and sparkling water.
I take out the Ipad and start catching up on the latest seasons of Air Crash Investigation, the must watch in flight series.
We are brought a new hot oshibori, scented this time. I change the configuration and the ipad is on the tablet.
We are brought the starter, it will be a half-cooked tuna. Service by the plate of course. I will stay with the champagne for the duration of the flight.
It will be a real delight, the cooking is impeccable! And it will be accompanied by a garlic bread just as delicious but several kinds of bread are offered during the service, there is something for everyone.
Then comes the main course, chicken curry with lemongrass.
Once the mixture is done it looks like this…
The rice is perfectly cooked, the chicken tender, perfectly spiced (at least Asian airlines don’t hesitate to spice it up, especially since that’s all that gives taste in flight). And the quantities are generous.
A cheese plate comes next. Once again a pleasant surprise as much for the variety as for the quantity and quality.
It is then the turn of the dessert. It is a blackcurrant mousse. Light and fresh to finish the meal.
And I will finish with my usual duo: tea + cognac. The dose of cognac will be as generous as for the champagne.
Throughout the meal the refills of champagne and water will be incessant without having to ask. It’s always better than having to try to intercept a flight attendant every 10 minutes.
I switch my seat in lounging mode and look at the map: we made a big detour compared to the normal route. Is there something special above Ukraine and Russia?
Small tour to the toilets: it is not big but well maintained. On the other hand, in terms of skincare products, it’s sparse, even absent.
Back to my seat.
I don’t feel sleeping and for my biological clock it’s late afternoon but knowing that I have a 10 hour flight to Sydney waiting for me which leaves at 8am to arrive at 8pm I tell myself that it is better that I sleep on the first segment than on the second.
So I move my seat to the bed position and there the memory of my previous flight in this cabin (remember…2015) comes back to me. Confirmation: the bed is too short for me.
I’m 1m88 and in the fully reclined position my feet touch the bottom of the seat while my head rubs on the other side. Let’s look at it positively: I don’t need to buckle up. In case of turbulence I will be perfectly wedged and will not risk to move.
Enough jokes: I will try to sleep curled up but given the width of the seat it is my knees that will hit against the wall.
Again, this is better than in economy. But in 2022 on a latest generation aircraft, this is a big deal.
So I doze off while watching a season of Air Crash investigation. Without doing it on purpose the coincidence will be ironic since I will watch, among others, the episode concerning the MH17 shot down over the Ukraine while we are over the Black Sea, and then the one about the crash of the Sukhoi SSJ100 in demonstration flight in Indonesia while Russian airlines are ordering hundreds of them in a hurry because they can’t get supplies from the West anymore.
It makes me smile but I’m not sure it would inspire the same reaction to all passengers.
2 hours before arrival the cabin is lit again. At first in purple/pink tones so as not to disturb the passengers, then lighter and lighter.
Tea and sparkling water to start.
That’s it, the cabin is back on… it looks less like a brothel.
And the tray arrives.
Small bug in the service: the drinks have already been served on the shelf so the cabin attendant who arrives with a tray in one hand and the tablecloth in the other is quite embarrassed to serve.
The cheese omelet is really melt-in-your-mouth and I’m going to believe that there’s only one airline in the world that can’t serve properly cooked eggs on the market. The problem is that it is French. Very tasty anyway.
Spinach, potatoes and sausage are good but lack salt.
The croissant is crispy, not greasy and no chewing gum effect.
The service was interrupted due to turbulence (but all the business cabin had already been served) and the captain spoke up to apologize.
The sun appears as we arrive in Bangkok.
Everyone is ready and the landing is imminent.
Landing and arrival in Bangkok
It is day time and Suvarnabhumi awaits us under the cloud layer. This A350 is so comfortable and quiet…
Landing without any problem and without photos because of the weather which does not help much.
So far this trip has taken me to France, Germany, Sweden and Thailand but I have only seen the sun in Sweden!
After a long taxi we arrive at the gate and disembark without any problem.
I have to change concourse and walk to the other side of the terminal to catch my flight to Sydney. I have a little more than 2 hours ahead of me, it’s more than enough. I limped towards the security controls but that’s another story we’ll talk about soon.
To make it short I will say: an Asian staff. Courteous, polite, friendly and very efficient. Always considerate, attentive, I was always called by name at every stage of the service.
Overall it was a great flight but reflects Thai’s complicated situation today.
First of all, a really disappointing cabin due to a lack of investment and a lot of small cost cutting that can be seen here and there. As far as the cabin is concerned, it is really disappointing on an A350 that is only 4 years old.
On the other hand, the service is excellent: the staff is efficient, friendly and very courteous, the service is very good and the meals are really good.
But in the end it is always the soft product that wins over the hard!
Question: Will Thai be able to keep its 5 Skytrax stars at this pace? I think so but not for long if nothing is done about the cabins.