Thai Airways has officially taken delivery of its first Airbus A350-900.
Thailand’s flag carrier has 12 on order, four purchased directly from Airbus and the other eight acquired under lease from US-based CIT. Two will be delivered this year, followed by five in 2017 and another five in 2018.
The first scheduled long-haul A350 flight will be on the Bangkok-Melbourne route on September 16. In October, the airline will take delivery of its second A350, also operating on the Melbourne route – a double-daily A350 service to the Australian city.
“Since the 1960s, we have been operating as a state enterprise, and having the great status of being the Thai national carrier,” said Charamporn Jotikasthira, president of Thai Airways International. “With this honour and responsibility, we are committed to providing excellent service beyond passengers’ expectations, and to making their travel experience a memorable one.
“The A350XWB aircraft is important to Thai Airways’ theme – efficiency and competitiveness. The fuel-efficient engine of the A350 aircraft is designed to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce maintenance costs, which are key elements in Thai’s “Smooth as Silk” operation and performance. Thai is now growing from strength to strength; we look forward to moving more and more in this direction – and the A350XWB can help us do this.”
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific flew on the A350 delivery flight as a guest from Toulouse to Bangkok.
Thai Airways has outfitted its first A350 with a two-class configuration, offering 32 Royal Silk Class (business class) and 289 economy seats. The seats are located in three cabins, with all business class seats in the front cabin Zone A, 159 economy seats in Zone B and 130 in Zone C.
ROYAL SILK CLASS (BUSINESS CLASS)
The business seat is almost the same as the equivalent products found on Thai’s A380s and B777-300ERs. There are 32 business class seats staggered in Solstys style, arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration from rows 11 to 19 (with no row 13). The seats have 44 inches (112cm) of seat pitch and are 20 inches (51cm) wide. They can be reclined 180 degrees and are 73.5 inches (187cm) long.
In-seat amenities include a 16-inch LCD touchscreen monitor. The screen is very sensitive – mine only needed a gentle touch to select my choice in the Panasonic IFE system. Two USB ports are located under the monitor. There is a wide side table, but no holder for a glass. A narrow compartment rack above the side table is suitable for storing a tablet or magazine, and there’s a night lamp under the rack. A reading light is also positioned at shoulder height, offering three levels of brightness.
The chair adjustment panel is a set of buttons located by the side table – mine worked very fast and efficiently. The touchscreen IFE handset is situated right under the panel. Again, it needed merely a gentle touch to click through the options.
The IFE system offers a wide range of in-flight content, including 100 movies, 150 TV programmes and 500 CD albums, as well as information about Thailand and the onboard services. Thai has also introduced a new Sky Chat platform, allowing text and emoticon messaging between business and economy passengers.
Under the IFE handset is a 110v AC power outlet, and a side pocket containing the headset and a Thann amenity kit (socks, earplugs, eyeshades, comb, mouthwash, and moisturising cream and lip balm by Thann). The dining/work table is pulled down from a vertical position in the panel in front of you. My table was very solid and balanced, and a benefit is the ability to push it forward slightly in order to get out of your seat without having to take anything off it.
Thai Airways’ A350 focuses on storage space. Many other airlines’ A350s have removed the middle overhead storage in business class, but Thai has kept this in its new aircraft, providing more luggage space for passengers, especially in seats E/F or D/G.
The A350 provides onboard wifi when flying over 10,000 feet (wifi is not available in Chinese air space). Business class passengers receive a voucher to redeem free wifi service (Gold and Platinum Royal Orchid Plus members also get free wifi). This requires filling out a few pages of registration on your device before connecting to the internet.
I tried the wifi and found it relatively fast. However, if I didn’t use the internet for 15 minutes, I needed to log in again using the redeem code. Economy passengers can use onboard wifi by purchasing one of the following packages: US$4.99 for 10MB, US$8.99 for 20MB, US$12.99 for 30MB or US$34.99 for 100MB.
I was allocated seat 14F, a central seat beside 14E. If you do not know the person next to you, you can slide a partition out between the seats. The partition board is not particularly high so you don’t have much privacy when seated, but in the lie-flat bed position this is not a problem – though as the partition only comes to the edge of the seat, my neighbour bumped knees with me while we were sleeping.
I slept well for around three hours. The relative silence on the A350 is due to the ventilation fans being hidden in the ceiling, while the plane’s nose has a steeper angled design to reduce friction as air flows over the top of the plane. The very quiet environment in the cabin has one down side, in that before I fell asleep I could hear other passengers snoring loudly. The bed itself is comfortable, but since I am tall (6ft 3″/190.5cm), my head and feet touched each end of the seat.
Best seats in business class
Every seat has direct access to the aisle, but if you want more privacy, the A and K seats by the windows would be the correct choice. Rows 11 and 19 are close to the galley, so potential noise might be an issue.
I took some time to try out the economy seat product. Economy class is configured in a 3-3-3 setup from rows 31 to 63. Seat pitch is 32 inches (81cm) and is the most generous compared to other airlines’ A350s – even though I have long legs, my knees didn’t touch the seat in front of me. The seat reclines to 120 degrees and slides forward in the process. Every seat has a footrest, but I wouldn’t recommend using it when you recline, as it limits your foot space. Seat width is 18 inches (46cm), identical to other carriers’ A350s, and each seat comes with an 11-inch LCD touchscreen monitor.
Passengers in the middle seat will find Thai’s A350 quite spacious. Airbus designed the A350 body with more vertical side walls. With its cabin width reaching 5.61m, and a comfortable nine-across 3-3-3 configuration, spacing is surprisingly good, and passengers in the middle seats don’t have to worry about their shoulders squashing against those of their neighbours.
The overhead storage on the A350 is also very good, with plenty of room for everyone’s luggage. However, the middle rows from 59 to 63 do not have overhead storage, while the ceiling of rows 62 and 63 are lower than elsewhere.
Best seats in economy class
More leg space is available in row 31 as it is designed for use with a baby bassinet. Row 49 is the exit row, and therefore does not have seats A and K. This means seats 50A and K gain a lot of leg room.
For more information, visit thaiairways.com