Trip Report: Thai Airways Boeing 747 Business Class Tokyo to Bangkok

If you haven’t flown on Thai Airways before, here’s one thing you should know about them. They switch out more airplanes on more routes than any other airline that I know. When I originally booked this trip, I specifically booked this leg to be on the Airbus A380. I had flown on the A380 in Royal First (first class) before and wanted to try out their new Royal Silk (business class) seats.

A couple months after I booked my trip, I got a schedule change notice that my A380 was swapped for the brand new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. I did not mind this at all and became very excited to review a new TG product. But sadly, it was not meant to be. A month before the actual flight, the aircraft got switched again. This time, to a Boeing 747-400 and suddenly, my brand new lie-flat business class seat on a brand new aircraft got switched to an “angled lie-flat” seat on a very aging plane. And as much as I love the Queen of the Skies, there is nothing better than a shiny new lie-flat bed. 

Thai Airways is terribly inconsistent and they are notorious for last minute equipment changes. So be forewarned, if you are booking a flight on Thai Airways to specifically experience a hard product such as their Airbus A380s or brand new Boeing 787s, just know that it’s not guaranteed and expect your aircraft to be swapped out for something less desirable. And don’t be surprised if your first class seat gets downgraded to a business class seat either. It happens. A lot.

Flight: TG643 Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Bangkok (BKK) Depart: 12:00 PM on Tuesday (11:57 AM actual) Arrive: 4:30 PM same day (4:06 PM actual) Duration: 6hr 9mn

Seat: 17K Business Class (Upper Deck)

About 30 minutes prior to boarding time, I left the ANA business class lounge and made my way to the gate. The gate was not that far a walk from the lounge but I wanted to take a leisurely stroll through the terminal and check out the airport. I arrived at the gate with a few minutes to spare and took some pictures of the bird before boarding was called.

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Boarding started with first class passengers and then business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. There was one jet bridge and all passengers boarded the plane through door 1L. I presented my boarding pass to the flight attendant and was directed up the stairs to my seat on the right side of the plane. 

Thai Airways uses these Boeing 747-400s on their medium and long-haul routes. These aging wide-body jets are configured with a three class cabin: Royal First (first class), Royal Silk (business class) and economy class. First class is located in the pointy end of the lower deck and is configured with 10 semi-enclosed suites. These seats are their new first class semi-enclosed suites. They are similar to but not the same as their first class suites found on the A380s. 

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Business class is spread across the lower and upper decks. The main business class cabin is located upstairs but there is a small business class section of 14 seats in a 2 x 2 layout located on the lower deck between doors 1L and 2L. These aren’t the best seats as they are situated next to the galley and in between two sets of lavatories. Expect a lot of foot traffic if you are choosing any of these seats. There’s also less storage space and the main economy cabin is directly behind you. 

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The main business class cabin is located on the upper deck with 26 seats in a 2 x 2 layout. The last row of the upper deck, row 19, only has two seats but it’s located next to the stairway and galley. On this flight, the cabin was quite full with only a couple seats unoccupied. 

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This Boeing 747-400 is configured with Thai’s standard business class seats. These fixed shell seats are marketed as “angled flat” but in reality, are more angled-recliner than angle-flat. These seats are akin to really good recliner seats. Seat Guru shows these seats as 170 degrees of recline but I don’t think they are anywhere near that. They are definitely better than your typical “domestic” first class seats but are not as comfortable as lie-flat seats (or even angled lie-flat for that matter).

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These seats offer 20 inches of width and 60 inches of pitch. Each seat is equipped with a 15 inch IFE (in-flight entertainment) monitor, seat massage and lumbar support, foot rest, universal electrical outlet, two USB ports and a small privacy divider to separate the two passengers. There are plenty of storage spaces available on the upper deck. There are small pockets at the seat to store your cell phone and other small electronics, overhead bins for your carry-ons and large side bins located next to the window seats to store your other belongings. These side bins are definitely large enough for two people but they work better for passengers traveling together. It would be a little awkward for the aisle seat person to reach over the window seat person each time he or she needed to get something if they didn’t know each other. 

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Surprisingly, the overhead bins are not that deep and some standard size roll aboards have to be stored sideways. They are also lower than usual and I actually hit my head several times while standing up. Row 16 of the upper deck is an emergency exit row so you will get extra legroom but the IFE monitor is located in the center armrest giving you a smaller screen and less storage space at your seat. 

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These angled-recliner seats were not bad for this short flight but are not great for anything longer than a few hours. Due to its fixed shell design, I still maintained my personal space when the passenger in front of me reclined back. However, when my seat was completely reclined, the seat lacked proper support for my knees and legs. There was a gap between the bottom seat cushion and the leg support that made my legs feel like they were dangling. I can’t really describe it but just take my word for it. It felt awkward. 

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Waiting at my seat were Thai branded noise-reducing headphones, slippers, a large blanket, pillow and amenities kit. As I settled into my seat, the flight attendant came by to offer me a glass of water, orange juice or champagne and a warm towel.  The headphones were nothing special. They were standard, “over the ear,” noise reducing headphones. 

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I appreciated that we got amenity kits on this short flight but the kit itself was very lackluster and disappointing. The pleather Borghese branded kit was unattractive and had a “made in China” feel to it. The kit contained all the usual products including ear plugs, eye shades, socks, comb, dental kit and small bottles of Borghese branded lotion and lip balm. Definitely not a kit that I’m going to reuse (or re-gift). 

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Once we were airborne and reached our cruising altitude, the flight attendants came by to take our meal orders and distribute a round of drinks. Dinner service began with Japanese chicken yakitori and another round of drinks.

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I was given another warm towel, my table was set and the first course of smoked duck with grilled vegetables and side salad was served on a single tray. For my main meal, I chose the green curry beef served with Thai hom mali rice. 

After the main meal, my tray was cleared and the flight attendants came by with a fruit and cheese cart. I chose some fruit followed by a cake dessert. The flight attendants then came around with coffee, tea and another warm towel. 

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Food wise, I was kinda disappointed with the entire meal service. The food just wasn’t good. It lacked flavor and left me longing for something a bit more. I picked at it and tried to eat as much as I could but I was really glad I ate in the ANA lounge beforehand. 

After dinner, my plate was cleared and I took some time to explore the IFE system. This was a newer, refurbished IFE system and the monitor was not that bad. The monitor was located in the seatback in front of you and there was a decent selection of on-demand movies, TV shows, music, games and a moving map. Some of the new movies included Draft Day, The Amazing Spider Man 2, The Other Woman, Captain America 2, Divergent and Grand Budapest Hotel. Annoyingly, there were also commercials played before takeoff and before every movie. 

About an hour before landing, the flight attendants came by with ice cream, juice, tea and coffee. 

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Service wise, the flight attendants were great. They all spoke enough English and everything was said with a Thai smile. Even on this short flight, they walked the cabin frequently and made sure we were taken care of. My drink was refilled several times and I didn’t need to ask for anything. Thai flight attendants aren’t as polished as the other Asian carriers but they were helpful and friendly on this flight. 

About 30 minutes prior to landing, the flight attendants came by to pick up their headphones. I always bring my headphones so it didn’t affect me but I could tell some people were annoyed that they couldn’t finish their movie or show.

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Overall, this was a standard Thai Airways flight. These business class seats (still found on a majority of their planes) were not my favorite and I found them to be on the uncomfortable side. They didn’t provide enough support or privacy and would be uncomfortable on any flight longer than a few hours. The food was an overall disappointment and the amenity kit was lackluster as well. The positives included the attentive flight attendant and the in-flight entertainment system with a decent selection of entertainment.

However, whatever Thai Airways lacked in the air, they definitely made up for it on the ground. Transferring for business class passengers (in Bangkok) was fantastic and I enjoyed every bit of it. Business class passengers are allowed a 30 minute spa service at the Royal Orchid Spa and are granted access to the Royal Silk Lounges. After a neck/shoulder massage, shower and meal in the lounge, I quickly forgot about my sub-par flight from Tokyo. I was clean, fed, re-energized and ready to take on my next flight.

The Thai Airways ground experience is amazing and I highly recommend everyone experience it at least once. Even for business class passengers, Thai really treats you well and spoils you on the ground. However, if you’re not booked on any of the new aircraft, expect a sub-par hard product and less than stellar food catering. 

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Other trip reports in this series: 


Category: Business class

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