Thai Airways Sets A New Standard
It’s not often that I get to give a good review to any airline, so I am pleased to say that my recent vacation to Thailand was not particularly marred by the airline service. In fact, the non-stop from LAX to BKK, flown daily by Thai Airways International, has more to offer than just the 4 or 5 hours you save each way.
For starters, there’s the new Airbus A340-500, designed expressly for long-haul roundtrips, which features a new 2-4-2 seating pattern across the wide body, and with fewer rows than the typical carrier of that length, so that the economy passenger gets more legroom and arm room – more than, say, JAL, China Air, or Northwest. But that’s not all. The meals, which I ordered specially to be seafood, were hot but not overheated, even at the end of the 17-hour ride. I ate everything but the roll, which I usually don’t eat anyhow. The restrooms were clean and generally stocked with toothbrushes, although these were omitted from the return flight.
There were about 30 or so on-demand movies available for each seat, and even a selection of Elvis movies to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death (take that, Virgin Airlines!) but on the return flight someone made the bonehead decision to substitute disposable earplugs for the headphones which are the normal standard. No worries, though – our stewardess found a couple pairs of headphones after some searching.
Aside from the lack of headphones and toothbrushes on the return flight, my only complaints involve the discretionary behaviour of the stewardesses – er, flight attendants- who insisted on reseating a group of fat women just prior to take off. After the group of obese ladies decided on their own to grab the remaining empty rows for themselves, the flight attendant asserted herself and asked me to stand up. After I did so, she told the fattest one to sit in my seat. At this, I objected, reminding the stewardess I had reserved the row several months prior and would not accept any reassignments. I then asked the lady to return to her seat, which she did, and then I asked my family to return to their seats, which they did, and disaster was narrowly averted. Since I was the only person actually sitting in his assigned seat at the time, it’s hard to blame anyone except the FA for not checking the manifest and forcing people back to their assigned seats before takeoff. Nonetheless, the Thai flight attendants handled the situation well and without threats, attitude or a temper tantrum which is what one might expect from a Northwest or Cathay Pacific flight attendant.
Same thing with the humidity and heat on the plane – the air was extremely dry and rather warm for the return flight and both my wife and I asked the flight attendants several times to increase the oxygen or humidity content and decrease the temperature a little bit, but to no avail. When the stewardess turned off my “call” button and kept going (a little reminder of Northwest Airlines) without asking what I wanted, I told my wife to ask her in Thai and eventually the air got better.
These stories are not to illustrate that Thai Airways is not perfect, because no business ever run by people can be perfect. They are to show that the response by the Thai cabin crew was better than the response by the Japanese, American, British, Chinese, or Korean carriers I have encountered similar problems with. The problems will reoccur, you can bet on it, so what matters most is the way people handle it.
Whatever the reason, I experienced slightly better service on Thai than on other carriers making the same trip. Is it just because they are Thai? Whatever the reason, although this flight is slightly more expensive than other economy carriers, it is worth it. I don’t need to write recommendations often because I am not getting paid for it. And what if I recommend something I like, and the next time I go to use it, I can’t get a seat? Do you see my dilemma?
So, in giving a “two thumbs up” to Thai International for their non-stop service to Bangkok I am taking a big chance. Personally, I am hoping you take the miles and fly on JAL or something. I really don’t need the competition!
I am never too concerned about what happens inside the plane. I am more concerned that it is flown by a Western trained pilot and well-serviced. Pretty hostesses are very good and well, but not a top priority for me personally.
A pilot emailed me the following feedback to this submission which I consider worth including:
I'm a jet pilot, flying a Falcon 20, and I wanted to correct some ideas in the "Thai airways sets a new standard" submission. The writer asked the cabin crew to adjust the humidity and oxygen content in the cabin… Cabin pressurization is controlled by the captain in the cockpit, and has no setting for Oxygen content, or Humidity. The pressurized air that fills the cabin comes from the jet engines. It is called "bleed air" and it comes from the compressor section of the engine, before the hot section where fuel is added and ignition takes place. The air is typically pressurized to about 8000 feet cabin altitude, which yields an 8.2 psi pressure differential between the air inside and outside the aircraft. If the pressure differential were any greater, to increase the oxygen, the hull would fail and the plane would rip apart. If the plane flew lower to increase the oxygen, it would not be able to reach Thailand with the available fuel, because turbine engines only run efficiently at high altitudes. So you see, there is not an oxygen switch on the panel that can be tweaked for the pleasure of the passengers. Same with humidity. Due to the lower partial pressures of the gases in air, it cannot hold as much humidity when at lower pressures. Airplanes don't have humidifiers – if they did, it would rain in the cabin when the plane descends.