Pre-flight pampering from Thai Airways


The Thai Airways lounges in Bangkok have been oft regaled. Their first class passengers, particularly, are well spoilt with hour-long massages and excellent dining options. Alas, my trip was only departing in business class so I was relegated to the lesser service. I know that the first class treatment must be nicer but the business class option was pretty darn impressive.

Check-in was handled well, with the added bonus of having seats at the check-in counters rather than having to stand while dealing with bag tags and seat assignments. I would have been happier if they tagged my bags all the way through to my final destination rather than just to Johannesburg, but that ended up not making a difference as I had to claim and drop the bags again anyways after clearing customs. And the private security and immigration facilities just for premium passengers was terrific, not in the least because I was the only one in line as I passed through.

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Thai operates a bunch of lounges at Suvarnabhumi Airport covering First and Business Class passengers as well as Star Alliance Gold elite members. But they reserve access to the largest lounge for only premium cabin passengers. The services were, in my experience, nearly identical at the main lounge as in the others. Most notable was the presence of a duty free shop inside the biz lounge. And the dedicated lounge was much larger. None of the lounges were particularly crowded while I was there, but I attribute that mostly to my off-peak departure time (6pm) more than anything else. I can imagine that the *G lounges would get quite crowded at peak departure times.

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All of the lounges offered up plenty of beverage options as well as various snack foods, ranging from soup to steamed buns to shumai to noodles. I’m drooling again just remembering them.

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All the talk I’d previously heard about the first class departures spa and massages neglected to mention that business class passengers also get a complimentary treatment. No, it isn’t an hour long nor a full body work over, but you do get a choice of four half hour treatments. I didn’t realize this until I’d already spent an hour – and most of my preflight lounge time – sitting in the dedicated business class passenger lounge. Whoopsie. Fortunately there was just enough time for me to get my shoulder and neck massage prior to the flight. But shame on me for not doing the research I should have.

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Following my massage it was time to meander out to the gate area – about 15 minutes away – and prepare for the flight itself. Thanks to the quality of the pre-flight pampering I was afforded in the lounge and the spa I wasn’t too worried about the in-flight experience.

I’ve been in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal and their dedicated First Class Lounges. I’ve been in the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lounge. And I’ve been in any number of lounges operated by other carriers for elites and business class passengers. Putting aside the cool factor of the drive from the FCT to the airplane, I’m not sure that much out there beats the quality of the pre-flight pampering that Thai offers is pretty impressive. In the heat of the moment, relaxing following my massage with a glass of tea, I was convinced that it was the best ever. I’ve backed down from that a bit, mostly because the dining options that Lufthansa offers for the FCL/FCT are better by far than the business options that Thai has.

But I could quite reasonably argue that the Thai product is the best Business Class option I’ve experienced. Up against Virgin’s flagship Clubhouse in London‘s Heathrow I’d say that Thai does a quite respectable job. Less crowded, easier access to the spa treatments and better tasting food, if not quite the same variety. No waitress service but the open self-service bar didn’t suck.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

6 Comments

  1. How do you sign up for the massage? Is there always a masseuse available? I’m going to be traveling Thai and would love to make the most of the lounges.

    Thanks.

    1. Rik, yes, the masseuse is always available. As soon as you pass through immigration head to the lounge right there rather than one out in the wings of the terminal. Ask at the counter there for directions to the spa. They are open pretty much the whole time the lounge is as I understand it.

      @Gary: Sure the LH F is better than TG C experiences overall, and I eventually backed down on that by the end, but I really was quite impressed by TG overall. It is definitely the best C experience I’ve had. And it was pretty impressive relative to some F experiences I’ve had. I have no qualms recommending to anyone that they spend the extra hour or two in the BKK airport for that experience. It was quite pleasurable.

  2. Though the Lufthansa first class terminal food is better than the food offerings in Thai’s first class lounge (IMHO, mostly because I love love love the nuts in the FCT and also the wienerschnitzel) and though the drive across the tarmac is much cooler than just being escorted to the plane or being driven on a buggy, I’m not sure the Thai business class lounge comparison vs First Class Terminal is really fair.

    I’ll take one of the semi-private living roomss in the Thai first class lounge over the seating areas in the First Class Terminal. Having multiple seating areas of your own, and your own large screen TV, is attractive. Plus getting the buggy ride essentially THROUGH the business class lounge over to the first class lounge is pretty cool. And of course Thai has ground service on arrival as well, not just departure, which is something that Lufthansa really lacks — being met on the jetway and escorted through priority immigration on arrival.

    Both are great, but overall I give an edge to the Thai Airways first class ground experience in Bangkok over the Lufthansa first class ground experience in Frankfurt. But that’s comparing first class to first class.

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. In answer to Rik: All you have to do is find the Spa, which can be a bit challenging given the size and complexity of the airport. At the reception desk, you’ll be asked to show your Business or First Class ticket. If the former, you’ll be asked whether you want a head-and-neck or leg-and-foot massage. Then you’ll either be escorted back to a massage cubicle or seated in a waiting area with refreshments and reading material. Normally, I haven’t had to wait at all; if there was a wait, it was very short.

    To Seth: Nice write-up. I’ve been to the Business lounges and the Spa dozens of times and agree with you. The only complaint I have is that some of the Thai personnel can be very difficult about carry-ons if they’re over a certain weight, even up front. For frequent travellers like me, who never check, it can be quite a hassle.

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