I love to fly! There’s nothing that excites me more than having a plane ticket in hand and seeing a jumbo jet ready to take me on my next adventure.
That being said, flying and I don’t always get along.
Living in Australia, I don’t know the joys of being able to “pop over” to a different country. Save for New Zealand, all of the international flights I take are a usually a minimum of six hours – that’s almost a full workday!
While I do try to upgrade myself using frequent flyer points, that’s not always possible so I’ve been on the hunt for an airline whose Economy class product doesn’t leave me feeling like I’m on a school bus.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I flew THAI Airways the first time. Great service, like most Asia-based airlines, but what else?
What I found was that exceptional Thai hospitality from the moment I boarded and one comfy Economy products; my favourite by far, so far… even when I had to fly home badly injured!
*NOTE: I began drafting this post in 2015. Since that first flight, I have travelled with THAI Airways on 8 segments (domestically and long-haul).
After I was injured quite badly on my last trip, I have decided to update this previously unpublished THAI Airways flight review because despite needing additional help the THAI Airways ground crew and cabin crew, as well as the staff at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, were exceptional.
As such, I apologise for the lack of personal photos. I promise I’ll add more when I fly with them again soon!*
A Quick THAI Airways Flight Review – MEL – BKK (return)
At the time of writing, THAI Airways offers two daily flights from Melbourne International Airport (MEL) to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), as well as daily flights from Brisbane, Sydney (2 flights daily) and Perth.
I had chosen to take the day flight – departing Melbourne at 15:15 – as opposed to the night flight – departing 23:30 – as night flights out of Australia tend to be fuller. The ticket agents confirmed this is often the case of the MEL – BKK route when I checked in.
It’s important to note that the Boeing 777-300 that flew the MEL – BKK route that day will be slowly phased out over the coming months as THAI Airways takes stock of several new Airbus A350X. The A350X will also be replacing planes on the Sydney – Bangkok route at some point in 2018.
Onboard THAI Airways
After being welcomed onboard by the staff with a traditional Thai Sawasdee, in their colourful sarong kebaya (which are only worn in-flight!), I turned right and found my seat 37C. An aisle seat, just what I like.
The Boeing 777-300 is set in a 3-3-3 configuration in Economy, and by the time boarding had been completed, it was obvious that the forward section of Economy, where I was seated, was going to be pretty empty.
The aircraft configuration changes at the very back of the plane, where the body narrows, to a 2-3-2 configuration. If galley noise or bathroom traffic isn’t an issue for you, I recommend you sit here!
Sitting next to a couple, with the rather burly bloke occupying the middle seat, the cabin crew could see his discomfort and offered for me to move to the vacant middle row across the aisle before take-off which I gratefully accepted.
Shortly after the plane took off, I made a quick dash to a spare row with a window so I could watch Australia disappear under the cloud cover, but also to use the cabin wall as a headrest should I want to nap later in the flight.
Onboard seats are fairly comfortable, even after the 8hr 50minute flight to Bangkok, and come with a pitch of 31″ and width of 18″.
I’ve found that the THAI Airways cabin crew are always top notch, and this trip was no different. One attendant, in particular, Eugene, looked after me on my flight, and even found time to come and chat with me to discuss the recent passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and what the King meant to the people of Thailand; as well as sharing his tips for what travellers should do on their first trip to Thailand.
Entertainment on THAI Airways
The Boeing 777 operated by THAI Airways seemed to be a little on the older side (A350X’s are beginning to replace the ageing B777 fleet), but despite the technology being a little on the older side, the 9-inch seatback LCD screens are suitable for the long flight.
With around 100 movie options in English, Thai and other languages, alongside TV, music and games, there’s bound to be something for everything.
The screen was touchscreen or remote controlled, and sometimes lagged when using the touchscreen.
Next to the screen was a USB port for charging small devices as well as a powerpoint located under the seat (there seemed to be two powerpoints for each row of three).
Food on board THAI Airways
On flights from Australia to Bangkok, you’ll be served a meal and a snack.
Soon after take-off, we were served a late lunch starting with some pre-packaged salted nuts.
My photo doesn’t do the meal justice. The chicken curry (above) was truly very tasty and the ANZAC Biscuit a lovely treat. I was surprised that the salad component was just spinach leaves and a herb vinaigrette dressing, but the leaves were fresh and crispy.
The only thing I didn’t like was being serviced canola butter to top my roll. It would have been nice to be served or at least given the option, of real butter.
One of the nice things about food on the return journey and domestic flights within Thailand is that the airline tries to source food and snacks from The Royal Projects, founded by the King Bhumibol Adulyadej to bring more job opportunities to regional Thailand and to curb the drug trade. Since the start in 1969 more than 297 villages, or 172,309 people, have been supported by the 38 development centres across northern Thailand.
As a full-service airline, the usual range of soft drinks, juices and alcohol are available on board free-of-cost.
A second hot meal was served before landing, however, I was asleep and didn’t eat it. If I had, I would have (again) chosen a curry but been presented with a mixed fruit salad for dessert.
The passenger transport vehicle used to help get me and other passengers requiring extra assistance on-and-off flights at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport!
Flying THAI Airways with an injury
In a series of unfortunate events, I found myself badly injured and using crutches/a wheelchair on my return journey back to Melbourne late last year – more about that later. I was thankful that my guide, Nang, was a local Thai and managed to ring the airport to let them know I would need some extra assistance on both of my flights – Phuket to Bangkok and Bangkok to Melbourne. I was also thankful I was travelling with a great group of friends who left no (wo)man behind.
Having never travelled injured before, save for a tooth infection, it was eye-opening to go behind the scenes and see what goes on to ensure all passengers, whether injured or not, make it to their final destination.
From the moment I got to the THAI Airways check-in at Phuket Airport, through Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and finally through Melbourne Airport, a THAI Airways staff member or airport handler ensured I got where I needed to go. Then, there’s actually getting onto a plane in a wheelchair!
My handler in Bangkok Airport had to sprint through the terminal pushing the wheelchair and towing my onboard suitcase – some serious skill was required to do that! – to get to a vehicle with a booth attached to a scissor lift which enabled limited mobility and wheelchair-bound passengers to get transported to their respective planes. Yes, I was lifted up to the THAI Airways flight in the same manner as the food and drinks carts. The thought still makes me giggle.
The crew onboard my flight to Melbourne were great. Ensuring I had seats next to me to keep my ankle elevated (a doctors note helped score the extra seats as it was a full flight!), and because my crutches were stored in the overhead compartment, I was thankful when a crew member asked me at various points during the flight if I needed them.
Thankfully, the medication knocked me out and I slept for all but an hour of the flight. When I woke I noticed the crew had left some water and snacks in the seat pocket in front. It’s all these little things that matter.
Final Thoughts on THAI Airways
Would I fly THAI Airways again? Yes, in a heartbeat!
It’s not very often you fly economy long-haul and are greeted by staff who genuinely love their job and sharing the passion for their country with you.
In particular, on the Melbourne – Bangkok leg of my journey, I had a great customer service experience with Eugene.
As the cabin quietened after meal time, I went for a wander to stretch my legs and found him in the galley doing odd jobs. It wasn’t long before we were talking in-depth about Thailand and Thai culture; even going as far to writing me a list of the top six things to do in Bangkok. It’s really those personal connections that make a world of difference and makes the time pass just a little bit quicker.
I’m not sure protocol on other airlines, but I was impressed with the way that each team – airline and airport – assisted me and other injured or limited mobility passengers on that flight home. It’s a small touch to be left food when you are sleeping or for the team to ask you if you need assistance before you press the bell or stop them as they walk the aisles.
With THAI Airways has launched the new A350X’s on the MEL – BKK route which I’m excited to fly on my next Thai adventure. Hopefully, next time with fewer injuries and more time to relax!
THAI Airways currently flies direct to Bangkok from Brisbane (1 daily), Melbourne (2 daily), Perth (1 daily) and Sydney (2 daily).
There are currently no direct THAI Airways flights to Phuket.
Frequent Flyer Program: Royal Orchid Plus
Airline Alliance: Star Alliance
How to get around Bangkok:
If you are arriving from the airport at night, take a taxi. While it’s a few more dollars than taking the Skytrain, airport taxis have set rates so you will be charged a meter rate. Some drivers will offer to take you via highway, which will cost you extra toll fees that you will need to pay when you go through the toll booth.
When I’ve travelled to Bangkok, I’ve taken both shared airport transfers and private airport transfers. which was my preferred way as someone was at the airport waiting with a sign, the cars are air-conditioned, and it’s a no-fuss way to arrive after such a long flight.
Traffic is awful in Bangkok. By far the easiest way to get around Bangkok is using the BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway. Fares are based on zones, with an all-day unlimited pass costing 120 baht.
Personally, I love zipping around on motorbike taxis. It’s a little nerve-wracking the first few times, especially at the breakneck paces and narrow spaces the drivers manage to weave between, but it’s a cheap and fast way to get around the city.
If you do choose to take a motorbike taxi there are three important things to know:
- Make sure you go with a licensed driver. Only agree to go with drivers who are wearing vests from one of the taxi companies.
- Agree on a price before you hop onboard. Motorbike taxis aren’t metered.
- If you are travelling with a bag or camera be careful. Make sure it’s put between you and the driver or secure. It has been known that thieves will cut the straps of bags or simply grab them while the vehicle is in motion. I recommend finding a bag, like this Pacsafe backpack, that is slash-proof.
If you do decide to use a taxi in Bangkok, always use a meter.
Where to stay in Bangkok, Thailand:
Accommodation rates in Thailand are on the more reasonable side whichever city you travel to, even in Bangkok!
While in Bangkok, I chose to stay at Well Hotel Bangkok. Opened in 2016, Well Hotel is a boutique property centrally located in Sukhumvit at a price you are sure to love! The rooms are a little on the smaller size, but they are comfortable; offering plush furnishings which left me feeling like I could be in a stylish New York City apartment.
The hotel’s focus is wellness. The on-site restaurant offers delicious and healthy takes on classic Thai dishes. When I stayed, they were trialling new fitness programs in the gym, including Muay Thai classes! Whether you enjoy working up a sweat or not, the rooftop pool is a must try for every guest.
Best of all, the cost of staying at Well Hotel is very reasonable for the location. Check the best rates here.
On my return trip to the city, I chose to stay at the Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok. Large, modern and spacious: you know what you’re going to get at a Hilton property and this one is no different. The property is in a great location in downtown Bangkok. I was able to easily get to the BTS station (Phrom Pong) to get around the city or pop down the road for a Thai massage and something to eat. If you are a party person, the Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok isn’t far from some of great bars!
You can find the best rates here for the Hilton Sukhumvit here.
Still not sure if these are the perfect hotels for you? Click here to find a list of my favourite boutique hotels in Bangkok.
Visiting a Klong Lat Myam Floating Marketing near Bangkok
I’ve flown as a guest of THAI Airways and also on my own dime.
This THAI Airways flight review is a collaboration of those experiences. They did not ask me to write this review.
All thoughts, opinions and experiences were, as always, my own.