Booking my award flight on the non-stop Newark to Singapore flight was a huge win and opened up a ton of opportunities for me. Among them, I had to figure out how to get back home from Singapore within a relatively tight timeframe, and I was searching not too far out from my planned dates of travel, which created some interesting challenges of its own. Fortunately I managed to find several options available, one of which was a routing with Thai Airways via Bangkok and Rome, continuing on Swiss Air from there. My last experience with Thai wasn’t the greatest but I decided to give them another chance. Among other things, the BKK-FCO line was just too fun to pass up.
Getting to the airport in Singapore was reasonably easy thanks to the trains and about 40 minutes after leaving my hotel I was in the check-in lobby of the airport. I also was about 4 hours in advance of my flight – I wanted to check out the lounges – which meant that they were not actually accepting passengers for check-in. Whoopsie. The good news is that there is actually a premium check-in lounge at Singapore’s airport where business class passengers are able to have a seat and go through the process in a much more civil manner than the long queues of the economy cabin passengers. The premium check-in feeds directly into a bypass of another queue for security/immigration, making the entire process rather simple.
From there it was off to the Thai lounge. To say I was disappointed would mean that I actually had high expectations. The lounge was dark and brooding, with a few small snacks. It was quite a step down from the Singapore Air lounges in the terminal or even the British Airways and contract lounges in the same area. I’m working up a full post on the lounges but I would recommend against planning on too much time in the Thai lounge.
Boarding came about soon enough and the 777 was awaiting us for the quick flight up to Bangkok. Getting a long-haul configuration on relatively short flights is much more common in Asia than in the United States. This one had the great seats and IFE systems which make flying up front truly pleasant, though neither system is best-in-class.
The flight was only about 2 hours long but it also included a full multi-course meal service with a choice of entrees. After the snack mix and appetizer I had the prawns with rice; not bad at all.
I also love the way many foreign carriers pay attention to the small touches that make a trip more pleasant. Certainly the orchids in the lav don’t have any concrete impact on the in-flight passenger experience, but they sure go a ways towards trying to make it feel a bit more human at 35,000 feet.
A couple hours later I was on the ground in Bangkok for just long enough to grab a shower, snack and massage and then it was back in the air for the flight to Rome. I had forgotten that the flight was on a 747. I had also forgotten that I booked a seat upstairs. Remembering that as I boarded the plane was quite nice. Walking up a set of stairs upon boarding is always a fun experience.
The seats on the 747 are more or less the same as the business class seats on the rest of the Thai fleet – flat-ish at an angle. Not the best ride out there, but it beats the heck out of coach and these got me home when I needed. Plus, the hot pink and purple is a fun color scheme.
With the longer flight time to Rome there was also the opportunity for a more involved meal service, not that the short hop was particularly skimpy. I started with the foie gras and moved on to the steak. Both were quite tasty.
The cheese plate was not particularly impressive but the chocolates for dessert were. A great finish to the meal.
With that it was off to bed for several hours, waking up just as breakfast was being served.
The fruit was rather disappointing but the noodles were delicious and made for a great base to start the day with the early arrival in Rome.
I mentioned above that the IFE was not the best-in-class. It is an AVOD system with a selection of about 25 movies available. Nothing to sneer at necessarily. At the same time, however, the selection was rather poor and the classifications of the movies were questionable in many cases. "Classics" for movies should not include many works made after 1990. Shutter Island; Monsters, Inc.; Ocean’s Thirteen; Sherlock Holmes; 300; Casino Royale or the new Planet of the Apes are not classics. Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Grease and Goldfinger are. Die Hard is in a gray area, but I’d probably let it slide. Yippie kaiay.
Overall, I think the service was a solid B to B+ effort. The food was on the higher end of the spectrum while the seat and IFE were a bit lower. Ground service was great in Bangkok – I love the pre-flight massage – but not as great in Singapore. Still not the best offering in and out of SE Asia, but they’ve got a lot more award inventory on long-haul flights so there’s something to be said for that.
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