Thai Airways Boeing 747 Royal Silk business class (Sydney-Bangkok)

Airline Review: Thai Airways Boeing 747 Royal Silk business class (Sydney-Bangkok)

Route:
Sydney to Bangkok
Airline:
TG (Thai Airways)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Boeing 747-400
Flight:
TG476
Seat:
18A (upper deck, window)

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • More flights on the route than any other airline
  • Ascend to the upper deck on the iconic jumbo jet

What's Not

  • Angled bed without universal direct aisle access
  • Power outlets don't accommodate modern laptops
  • Slow meal service, low-quality entertainment headphones

X-Factor

  • Free 30-minute massage before flying home from Bangkok Airport

Introduction

With 11 return flights each week between Sydney and Bangkok – the most of any airline on the route – Thai Airways offers business travellers flexibility in when they fly, with 'Royal SIlk' business class available on every Boeing 747 service.

Passengers can also connect onwards from Bangkok to a host of destinations across Asia and Europe, but on that Sydney-Bangkok leg, the airline's business class seat can't be described as 'competitive', being neither fully flat nor offering direct aisle access.

Australian Business Traveller brings you this review following a recent Thai Airways flight aboard the upper deck of the iconic Queen of the Skies.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Royal Orchid Plus (ROP), Star Alliance. Thai Airways doesn't have an Australian airline partner, so you might choose to earn miles in the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program instead which can be converted into Virgin Australia Velocity points.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 40kg, plus a further 10kg for ROP Silver flyers, 20kg for ROP Gold and all other Star Alliance Gold members and 30kg for ROP Platinum cardholders.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: Thai's website advises 1x7kg, 115cm cabin bag plus one small personal item such as a handbag, but we encountered no issues in carrying aboard a full-size laptop bag in addition to a 115cm bag. Being on the upper deck where overhead storage is limited, the cabin crew suggested we leave our larger (locked) bag downstairs throughout the flight and store the laptop bag upstairs.
  • Priority check-in, passport control, security, boarding: Yes, although the design of the boarding gate area at Sydney Airport saw business class travellers wading through waiting economy flyers to reach the priority queue. On arrival in Bangkok, follow the 'Royal Silk' signs at passport control and present your boarding pass to use the dedicated fast track queue.

Lounge

Business class passengers are directed to the recently-refurbished Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney Airport for fresh barista-made coffee (or espresso martinis), buffet fare and shower facilities before their flight…

… but a Thai Airways business class boarding pass also provides access to Sydney’s Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge under Star Alliance rules, as both Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines are members of the same global airline alliance.

We chose the SilverKris lounge and were warmly welcomed with a (self-poured) glass of Champagne.

Travellers with selected high-end American Express cards including the AMEX Platinum Card, Business Platinum Card, Explorer Card, Qantas Ultimate Card, AMEX Velocity Platinum Card and more can also visit the AMEX Lounge at Sydney Airport.

On your return home from Thailand, make sure you allow time for a visit to Thai's Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok Airport, where all business class passengers can enjoy a complimentary 30-minute foot massage or neck and shoulder massage.

Seat

Thai Airways spreads business class across both the upper deck and the main deck aboard its Boeing 747s, with seats in a 2-2 configuration on both levels (extra space on the main deck is given over to a crew galley):

Each seat transforms into a 190cm/75inch angled-flat bed at a 170-degree recline that’s reasonable for daytime flights such as this one, but rather undesirable for overnight journeys as there’s neither direct aisle access from every seat nor a fully-flat bed: the latter now a staple of international business class, and the former becoming increasingly so.

We like that there’s a sizeable privacy divider in between each seat pair to help minimise any disturbances whether you’re resting or working…

… but we don’t like the placement of the seat’s AC power outlet, which makes no room for larger power bricks – common with Apple Macbook and Microsoft Surface devices – and even if you can plug in, the cable has to run along your seat to reach your device, rather than being accessible from the front of the seat.

We instead kept our Surface powered-up throughout the flight by connecting the USB cable to an AC iPhone charger, but which only provided adequate amperage to keep the tablet at its current battery level rather than recharging it simultaneously.

Thai provides two USB power ports of its own for added charging – suited to smartphones and other small gadgets – which proved useful given that our iPhone charger was put to other use.

When it comes to storage, your options depend on where you sit. All passengers have a literature pocket in front and a water bottle holder, plus a communal pouch for larger items like newspapers…

… and a shared, latched compartment in between each seat pair that’s suitable for amenity kits or smaller water bottles when not in use.

Perch yourself by the windows on the upper deck (the A and K seats) and you’ll also get your own seat-side lockers…

… large enough to store laptop bags and other personal items, and a great place to plonk your other gear like headphones for easy access when not in use.

Read: The best seats in business class aboard Thai Airways' Boeing 747s

Speaking of the upper deck, you can never hear “just upstairs, sir (or ma’am)” too many times at the boarding door…

… and when you do ascend the jumbo’s staircase, there’s reading material waiting for you to peruse.

Each seat also provides an adjustable reading light in addition to the usual overhead lamp, configurable lumbar support and an in-seat massager: activated by pressing the ‘M’ button on the seat control panel.

Meal

Before the main meal service begins, pre-departure drinks are offered: Veuve Clicquot Champagne in our case…

… followed by another round soon after take-off and nuts at room temperature – but which whould have ideally been warmed:

Being a nine-hour daytime flight departing Sydney at 10am local time, lunch is served onboard just before midday, with travellers choosing between Thai Samrab dining or a selection of Western dishes.

We always prefer to try the ‘local’ specialties when flying with overseas-based airlines, and were satisfied with the Thai Samrab option – comprised of deep-fried prawns with papaya and carrot salad (top left), chicken in coconut galangal soup (top right) and stir-fried kalian and steamed jasmine rice (main, centre)…

… plus a choice between chicken in green curry or beef with potato in Massaman curry (selected):

All were tasty but we most enjoyed the coconut galangal soup, which proved particularly flavourful, even at altitude.

Cheeses and fruits come next – and we were pleased to note the presence of crackers, grapes and a knife with this course, which Australian Business Traveller observed to be missing on a previous Thai Airways business class flight… although the cracker-to-cheese ratio still needs improvement:

Dessert finds a choice between a baked pumpkin custard and a lemon meringue tart with mixed berry compote (selected)...

… being a perfect portion size following the cheese course. A bite-sized chocolate concludes the meal…

… while espresso coffee is also available on request. Just note that a ‘cappuccino’ on Thai Airways is more of a chocolate-coffee drink rather than a coffee drink with chocolate powder sprinkled on top as you’d find in Aussie cafes:

Thai Airways doesn’t offer full ‘any time dining’ in business class – instead, the second meal of the flight can be ordered at any time after the main service: perfect if you’re peckish throughout the afternoon and don’t want to wait until closer to landing, but doesn't give you the flexibility to work first and take your first meal later in the flight.

The options given were a rice noodle soup with braised beef; salty fish fried rice with prawns or a Turkish bread roll with grilled herb chicken, Swiss cheese and onion relish, and having tried the Thai option earlier in the flight, we were content with the Western-style roll:

Thai’s wine list is all-French with Veuve Clicquot Brut (NV) joined by two whites from the Loire Valley and Burgundy, two reds also from Burgundy and Bordeaux, and one dessert wine from the same region – but while those we tasted were pleasing, wines don’t need to be French to have great body and finish, so some added variety would be well-received.

Whisky choices included Chivas Regal 12-year and Johnnie Walker Black Label, with Prince Hubert de Polignac XO the Cognac of choice and a range of other spirits available too.

Entertainment & Service

15-inch seatback screens deliver movies, TV shows, music and games throughout the flight, and handily show your flight number on the home page to help you complete any necessary arrivals cards…

… although our system crashed before we’d even left the runway and needed to be rebooted after take-off:

A nearby passenger had the same issue but both reboots did the trick, and while noise-cancelling headphones were provided, ours were of poor quality – delivered with a broken pin and a crackling cable – so we ditched these in favour of our own, rather than asking for a new set.

We also found it best to operate the screen via touch rather than using the in-arm remote control, which only responded to our actions when we squished each key down as hard as we possibly could.

Cabin crew on today’s flight responded promptly to drink requests and addressed passengers by name initially, reverting to a more generic “sir” and “ma’am” soon after, but served meals in a very sporadic way: our seatmate had finished their dessert before we’d received our first bite of food.

Overall, Thai Airways’ Boeing 747 business class service is a decent-enough way to fly from Sydney to Bangkok during daylight hours, but on overnight journeys where sleep takes priority, the same can’t be said.

Thailand’s national carrier is the only airline not to offer fully-flat beds in business class on this route, with competitors Qantas and Emirates providing these as standard, along with direct aisle access from every business class seat, plus free inflight Internet and an onboard bar and lounge area in the case of Emirates.

We hope that when Thai Airways eventually retires its Boeing 747s from Sydney, they’ll be replaced by a jet with a more competitive and up-to-date business class seat – at the very least, one that extends completely flat.

 

19 Comments

  • smit0847

    smit0847

    5 Jul, 2017 12:59 am

    This really is an awful J seat in 2017 – I’ve flown it a few times and its really uncomfortable for sleeping. Its good to see Thai have finally upgraded the presentation of their J meal service – the main courses for a long time were just economy meals in a ceramic dish. I’m sure Thai are in quite a conundrum over this route – retire the 747 and they lose F class (their new 787s, A350s and 777s all do not feature F class) but improve J class. My understanding is they sell almost no F seats on the route (hence why award availability is incredible) but want to keep the prestige of offering F to Sydney, even if its at the expense of J.

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  • John Hardy

    hardytraveller

    5 Jul, 2017 01:50 pm

    The reason that have F on the A380 is so they can accede to the demands of certain locals demanding an upgrade. I was asked to vacate my F seat because some wanker wanted to upgrade his tribe from economy.  I refused of course but beware, it's real. 
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  • Yvan J Drake

    MRYJDrake

    5 Jul, 2017 08:46 am

    The only plus side I can see is the Veuve
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  • jpk77

    jpk77

    5 Jul, 2017 11:27 am

    Flew these seats in the 772 on the MEL route, and they are truly awful even for day flights. Very uncomfortable and worn out, you can feel the rods pushing into your back. IFE also rubbish. Avoid if you can... 
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  • biggles69

    biggles69

    5 Jul, 2017 12:37 pm

    The seats may not be "lie-flat" but they are wide - unlike the "coffins" increasing offered by other airlines where the price of lie-flat and direct aisle access is that your shoulders are pressing against the surrounds on both sides, and your legs funneled into an even smaller area. Frankly I sleep better in these seats than the "coffin" style as I can move around and change position more easily.
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  • Tancho

    Tancho

    5 Jul, 2017 01:01 pm

    Very odd placement of the crew seats for a J class cabin.
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  • Jonathan Ventham

    jventham

    5 Jul, 2017 01:51 pm

    I love Thai Air.

    I've never had any issues with them.

    Royal Silk is smooth as.

    B747 is still the queen of the skies, imho.

    just saying …

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  • John Hardy

    hardytraveller

    5 Jul, 2017 02:08 pm

    @jventham    Good to see you like TG and flying Royal Silk.   Surprised youre not a member of any FF program.   Youre missing out on all those points on TG. 
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    5 Jul, 2017 02:09 pm

    Hardytraveller: Just an FYI that not every AusBT user fills these fields out - they're optional. :)

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  • Jonathan Ventham

    jventham

    5 Jul, 2017 02:10 pm

    umm nope, 'hardytraveller'
    I'm with Amex - points galore :)
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  • James Reid

    flyboyQFTG

    5 Jul, 2017 11:51 pm

    Yes this is an old product but i don't think Thai should be discredited so heavily. The 747 operates out of Sydney due to necessity, they always have at least 50% of their F cabin and close to 100% of their Royal Silk Cabin. When it comes time to retire the 747 i believe the service will be improved to the standard of the Melbourne 777-300ER flights which are exceptional.
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  • Dredgy

    Dredgy

    6 Jul, 2017 03:10 am

    I'm sure they could justify an A380 to SYD. I think the Thai 747 was one of the greats of its time but that time has passed.

    Their 777 service from Brisbane is fantastic.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    6 Jul, 2017 09:37 am

    12 yr old Chivas Regal in J. Really .. ???
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  • wingtip

    wingtip

    6 Jul, 2017 09:48 am

    Thanks Chris - an accurate assessment having flown this route myself. My flight was prior to the new dining concept however I was surprised to find the catering out of Sydney FAR superior to the return from Bangkok where the food was borderline inedible. Very odd.

    Changing tack, I'm interested to know why you refer to 'we' when writing rather than 'I found that the food...' for example?

    Also, why use Americanisms like 'flavourful' when 'flavoursome', 'full of flavour', or just plain old 'tasty' already exist? Thankfully the horrendous 'gotten' hasn't reared its ugly head :)

    Please don't take either questions as criticisms, I'm just interested to know as they seem a little awkward in the article's otherwise excellent content.  

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  • eminere

    eminere

    6 Jul, 2017 10:19 am

    Those really are not competitive seats.
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  • tattyhead

    tattyhead

    6 Jul, 2017 10:31 am

    A couple of points to note on this flight.  There's no bag storage above 19J & K due to crew equipment.  The overhead storage will not take a normal size cabin bag so you will find that stored for you downstairs.

    TG471 & TG472 are often an old cabin fit out compared to the one in the review.  The only difference in J is the size of the screen but in F it really is poor.  No privacy, angle seats and a tiny screen that comes out of the arm rest.

    I've been waiting for a new plane for years.
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  • Jonathan Ventham

    jventham

    6 Jul, 2017 08:37 pm

    Lufthansa and KLM love the B747, which is why they've ordered the latest iteration.
    I flew Lufthansa recently - long haul from Europe to USA - and was upgraded to 1st due to my points.
    bestest and quietest plane ever (even over the A380) and the service and seats were to die for.
    love the queen of the skies.
    way more elegant than the Airbus version …
    No member give thanks

  • traveller90

    traveller90

    8 Jul, 2017 07:32 am

    Love the option of flying on the 747 upper deck again, and the lounge options along with the on board catering look to compliment the service well, the seating however disappoints.
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  • mike kearney

    Bonzer Mike

    8 Jul, 2017 06:44 pm

    jventham great words I agree the 747 is beautiful.i have flown the sia a350 11 times since they were added to the fleet and I keep shaking my head how can they say this is the new or the newest planes.the seats are cramped I can barely cross my legs and I am not overally tall,when the bed is laid out it is very uncomfortable,the walkway inside the plane is very tight and for all the high talking about the a350 iam very diassappointed so give me a 747 anytime.
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21 Jul, 2017 06:50 pm

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