CHC and I were in Bangkok recently and we had the chance of trying out Thai Airways on their new Airbus A350-900. We were booked in Economy Class (Q class fare, which is a semi-flex fare) and knowing of Thai Airways’ same day walk up upgrade, we decided to give it a try.
You can check the seat availability on Expertflyer before travelling to know how full the cabin is but 48 hours before flying, this info is no longer available and one can only check at the check in counter (on the day of flying).
Thai Airways’ walk up upgrade is ONLY available at the airport’s check in counter and not on online booking management. This is subjected to availability, and the price differs between different sectors. This is the link on the price.
Unlike many other airlines where upgrade is subjected to bidding, this is a flat fee and the price required depends on your fare bucket. For Q fare, we paid $185 for this sector.
The upgrade entitles you to the full Business Class service (including lounge access). Thai Airways has a lounge in Terminal 1 which is very small with very little food options (more on it from CHC’s review here).
For those with time, hopping over to Terminal 3 for Singapore Airlines’ Silverkris Lounge would be a better option. Access is granted given that Thai Airways is part of Star Alliance. The crowd at 11am was low (compared toe early mornings and evenings). Food option however is also more limited.
We arrived at the departure gate at the stated boarding time and to our surprise, the plane was not even there yet! We checked the status on Flightaware only to see that the plane was turning circles in Johor. We were scheduled to depart at 1.20 pm while the plane landed only at about 1.05 pm. We boarded at about 1.40pm with some confusion. The first announcement was for those with special needs and Business Class passengers. As we approached the plane, we were stopped and chased back to the waiting area as the boarding agents say that they were not ready (excellent communication guys!). After 10 minutes of waiting, we were finally allowed to board.
Thai Airways’ A350-900 has seats very similar to that of Singapore Airlines’ 787-10, forward facing seats in staggered 1-2-1 configuration. The seat is rather narrow at 20” (which is only 1” wider than Singapore Airlines’ economy seats in A380! – source from seatguru.com). The pitch is acceptable at 44” and although rated at 73.5” of bed length, I felt that it could barely fit my frame. Both of us ended up on a couple seat (which is ok for a short 2 hours flight) but for those travelling alone, the single seat will be a much better choice. Alternatively, the ‘divorced seats’ in the middle offers solo traveller a good amount of privacy too. One issue with the ‘couple seats’ is the path going into the seat is very narrow and this makes going in and out of the seat with the seat in partial recline or in bed mode rather uncomfortable.
The tray table is stowed at the back of the front seat and this can be swivelled down for use. This feature is good as one can swivel it forward to give you adequate space to come out from your seat during meal time (compared to the amount of swivel one gets on Singapore Airlines’ seat). The table height however is fixed.
The in-seat TV screen is a 16” touch screen monitor. One problem with touch screen is the response time and good thing is that there wasn’t any significant lag on this one. Alternatively, one can always use the in seat remote. Content looked fairly extensive but with only 2 hours, I didn’t really explore it. The one feature not found on SQ planes is the tail cam. For those not interested in the movies, it can be quite therapeutic watching the sky from the tail cam. The IFE is not a true gate-to-gate service as one will only be able to use once the pushback occurs.
Welcome drink was served on boarding but no champagne was available on ground. There was further delay as our plane as we waited till almost 3pm before we departed (almost an extra 45 minutes on ground before taking off). That gave me more time to explore more of the seat and cabin.
Food was served on a single tray given the duration of the flight. Here is the choice on our flight:
I chose the local option of fried rice with prawns and vegetable. The prawn was large and succulent while the fried rice was just passable. Instead of a selection of bread from the basket, you get only 1 piece of garlic bread (I wonder why the butter then?)
There are 3 toilets serving the Business Class passengers. This is certainly adequate given the number of Business Class seats on the A350.
For $185 (price varies depending on the booking class), I think it is a ‘good to try’ thing. You get the full privilege of Business Class (sans mileage accumulation) which include lounge access (including Silverkris Lounge) and full meal service. The price is slightly higher for the BKK-SIN sector but you get to try out the famed Royal Orchid Lounge in BKK (with the free massage). I would consider this option if it is on the new A350 but I certainly don’t think this is worth it if the flight is operated on the older 777-300 (with the angled flat 2-3-2 seats). The exception will be if there is a chance for me to be on the 747-400!
After trying out the A350-900 Business Class, how does the Economy Class fair?
The flight back (TG 409) similarly uses an A350-900. The flight was so full that I had no option of selecting an aisle seat! I did not enquire about the walk up upgrade but the cost is more than the SIN-BKK leg at $200+ SGD. I decided not to upgrade as I wanted to try out the Economy Class as a comparison. Thankfully, there was no delay unlike what I experienced on my way to Bangkok (I don’t fancy being stuck in the window seat).
The economy seat is fairly similar to the SQ’s Dreamliner (which I took back from Bangkok last year). With the same configuration as that of the 787-10, the width is slightly larger at 18” (vs 17.5” for 787-10) but the same as SQ’s A350. The pitch at 32” is similar to that of SQ’s A350 and 787.
The seat controller is similar to that of SQ’s with a touch screen AVOD. IFE is similar to what is offered in Business Class.
There was no towel service (hot nor cold) and no departure drinks were offered. No headset was offered to me but I do notice similar headsets as those I had in Business Class given to some passengers (I suppose this was given on demand). I certainly did not need one of those as my Sony MX3 is superior to anything offered.
No menu was distributed and orders were taken on spot (we had a choice of chicken or prawn). I took the prawn – the prawn was alright but the french beans were slightly overcooked. Otherwise, the meal was ok and good enough for a 2 hour flight.
Flight was uneventful and most importantly, we arrived on time into Changi Airport.
Thai Airways is certainly worth considering for a short hop up to Bangkok and the walk up upgrade is a good way to try out the Business Class product. A fixed price (instead of bidding) gives you more certainty on how much you need to pay for the upgrade. Don’t forget that the upgrade comes with the full Business Class benefits (sans the mileage earning). Do take note on the type of aircraft being used as I would certainly give the 777-300 upgrade a pass.