With Thai Airways and Star Alliance to a points redeemingBack to Forum
Anonymous1 Jan 2012
It was with high expectations we arrived OSL to start our honeymoon. Spending a huge amount of EB pts to secure a First class trip to Bangkok had given us tickets with Lufty to FRA and Thai from FRA to BKK. Quite frankly, based on the stories in the forum, my hopes were not high when I made inquiries to SK back in February. However, we made it.
Check-in is always smooth at OSL, this one was no exception and as SK has a fast track service, we were airside within 5 minutes of arriving the airport.
Since 2003, I have had Gold status with SK EB, and with OSL being my homebase airport, I have used the Scandinavian lounge here many, many times. Now, when we arrived, I had not been here for a couple of years as I have used BA more and more and thus also lost my Gold status with SK. I was looking forward to see the lounge again. It was however a pitiful view. It was easy to see that SK has been and is in trouble. The lounge in general is very much marked by wear and tear. This however, can be understood. The sign that times are bad, are much more visible in that the selection of food and drinks were much smaller, the selection of magazines going from wide to nothing. I am not sure where SK will be going in the future, but this sure does not look good.
We boarded the Lufty flight for FRA a bit delayed, but most were caught up with on the flight so we arrived FRA on time. Lufty use new 737’s on their main flights to Norway all with the infamous Recaro seats. I have read complaints about these seats, but I have to say I like them. The do leave more leg room, and for shorter flights they are as comfortable as anything in my opinion. Service was okay, just like Lufty short haul always have been.
When we arrived in Fra we were bussed to the terminal, where we were met by a representative for Thai. She was very polite and entertaining, explained to us that we would be taken through passport control and wait in the Senator lounge while waiting to board the plane. The woman, a native of Germany, was very polite and serviceminded, a good representative for Thai Airways. As we got to passport control and she guided us in front of the qeueue, the clerk in the passport control questioned her on why we were to bypass the queue. We were eventually allowed to bypass the queue, but I found it a bit surprising that this even had to be negotiated with the clerk. I assume Lufty does the same thing for their First class pax.
The Senator lounge was nice, with a staffed bar, rich selection of food and a view of the runway and gates. Proximity to the gate was great, just across from the lounge. When it was time for boarding, the woman came back and picked us up and got to the gate, while there actually still were quite a few to board. What happened now was the discovery that API were not submitted at the SK check in in OSL. So they had to do this at the gate, while we were standing there waiting. Quite annoying. This should have been checked by the meet’n greet and handled while we were in the lounge.
We finally got on board, this was on their Boeing 747-400, config 2. The interior of the cabin appeared in good condition, no apparent wear and tear, although it is an old machine. We were greeted with champagne, our coats taken care of and we settled in the chairs. The purser came over to present himself and we were addressed by our names. The cabin was half full and we experienced the staff being very serviceminded, professional and attentative. I was very pleased to experience this, as I had read in the forum that Thai service was not really professional, albeit with a smile. We found nothing about the service to complain over for our trip to BKK. The hardware however, for this being a First class experience, it was very disappointing to learn that the IFE was at least one generation older than todays state of art, probably 2. Add to the fact that the sound from one of the seats was bad. Food was excellent, tasty and plentyful. I am no wine expert but for me the selection was tasty and fit for the food. The selection of the harder stuff was a bit more limited. When the journey finished, the purser took his two staff around in the cabin and asked us if we were pleased with the service and wished us a nice stay in Thailand. I really liked this gesture and was pleased to tell him that we thought the journey and the service had been very nice.
At BKK we were met at the gate and taken through customs and immigration. Got our luggage picked up and was guided all the way to the check in for our onwards flight to Krabi. A bit disappointed that Thai does not offer an arrival lounge, this would have been nice as we had to spend 6 hours on the airport.
Our journey home started with the limousine transport from the Oriental to the airport, courtesy of the hotel, not the airline. I would kind of expect Thai to have a pick up service in BKK, but they don’t. The limousine dropped us off at the Thai First check in, and we were guided to a sitting group to wait while our suitcases were handled checked in and our paperwork done.
From the First check in, we were taken to a designated First security control and a designated First / Business passport control. I was curious of this part as I have read comments in the forum suggesting that pax not being member of Thai’s own FFP, Royal Silk, does not get the attention and service one would expect. However, we experienced no such. We were tended to and carried through all of the process with the greatest professionalism. In total I think we spent 10 minutes getting from the curb to airside. Here a cart waited for us and brought us to the lounge.
At the First lounge we were greeted by names and given a private room. With private TV, music and what not. We asked for breakfast, coffee and champagne, and within minutes we were happily dining on a delicious Thai omelette, nipping to vintage champagne. The lounge provided a full size staffed bar, a pre flight dining restaurant, computers for internet access, a library and also a self service selection of snack, ranging from sweets to hot stuff. We were offered and accepted invitations to the spa for massage prior to our departure. Both to and back from the spa we were lead by representatives of Thai.
20 minutes prior to scheduled departure time, we were approached in our room, if we would like to board the plane. The gate was just down the hall, walking there in less than 2 minutes.
The return flight was on a Boeing 777-300ER. This plane is one that Thai has leased from Jet Airways, it is a fantastic product. This is a First implementation that provide secluded boots, with doors that you can close to get maximum privacy. Granted, it is for tall people possible to look over the walls and into the secluded space. But for all practical matters, this meant nothing. The seat could be configured in any conceivable way, and the IFE not only provided what appeared to be a 20″ screen, but it also provided the picture in that size, and sharp image. I can probably rally on forever, let me just conclude that I don’t think I will ever again experience anything like it. This will for us be THE definition of First class travel. Too bad you cannot be guarranteed this product.
Of course, there is always a but. This was no exception. This flight TG922 from BKK to FRA on December 29th, provided the most amazing lack of skills in the area of service that I have ever experienced. I could hardly believe what I saw the staff doing. While the two staff (handling 5 people) were indeed very polite and did everything with a smile, they showed a total incompetence in the service they provided. It was not like there was this little incident or something, but throughout, almost everything was wrong. Once we boarded, I asked the male FA if I could be given slippers. They took our jackets, gave us Champagne, brought newspapers and what not, but no slippers. Once we were airborne, I asked again, this time the femal FA. Just as with the male FA, I was promptly insured that she would bring them. We got a snack and a pre dinner drink, but no slippers. I considered calling for the purser, but I needed to get to the restroom, so I bit the bullet and dug up my shoes and got up. Now, finally, the female FA acted. Apologized and said she would bring it over right then.
The next thing is when they start with the food. The female FA manages to appear with the plate of food without at first have pulled out the table. Trying to be smart, she pulls the table with one hand, while the plate of food is in the other, totally ignoring that when she pull up the table, she will also lift the cover of the table stowage, which has three glasses standing on it, more or less full… Just a quick outcry from us hindered a disaster with wine and drinks spilling all over, including our clothes. The starter was caviar with sides and vodka. Even though they had the vodka on the tray in front of them, with the food and glasses, both the male and female FA managed to be totally ignorant about the vodka. We had to call them back to get this. During the course, plates were taken away before we had finished eating and at one point I got a starter that my better half did not.
Eventually, additional staff arrived (presumably from Biz cabin) and at one point there were 5 people serving us. This giving a 1 by 1 ratio certainly should improve things, and it did. Not at least because the new staff seemed much more experienced. Fathom that! How can that be???
For the second serving, the circus was on again. This time my better half were served the main dish before the starter! They came around to serve us wine, only to realize they had forgot to bring out glasses. I asked for champagne, to which I was told they had to get that from the Biz cabin. I said; “No problem, I can have some red wine instead”, instead of giving me the red wine she had in her hand, I did not get anything for the next 5 minutes, which is when I got both champagne AND red wine…
I really would like to write back to Thai about this experience, as I find it shocking that so incompetent staff can be at work in a class were people are expecting a very high service level. Not sure though, how much they would care.
Finally, a few words on Star Alliance. I have suggested this before, and i do it again. Star Alliance have 1 class members and 2 class members. Evidently Lufty (and its subsidiaries) are the sole 1 class member. Thai, SAS and others, barely make it to 2 class. I cannot see any other reason for the difference. When you fly First with Lufty, you are granted access at Thai First lounge in BKK. If you fly First with Thai, you are granted access to Lufty Senator lounge in FRA, and ONLY on outbound. When we arrived at FRA on our return journey, inbound on First, we were not even granted access to the Senator lounge anymore, but the Biz lounge. This is just too bad. So much for the alliance…
Our trip was based on points. Out of curiousity I decided I wanted to check what this would have cost with money. I would say that at a price of €4900 Thai First is very competitive, especially if you are so lucky that you land the 777-300ER hardware. Such experience as the 777 bring is fantastic at such a price.
Earlier this fall, I did an upgrade from CW to First on a BA flight from Shanghai to London. Even though the service in the BA First cabin is outstanding, I have to say BA First does not stand out compared to CW when it comes to the hardware, not at all when comparing to the Thai First on the 777.
So, verdict: Was it worth it? Yes and no. The 747 version is a borderline case, not sure if I would do this again, for that only. The 777 version however, definitely worth it, and more. The 777 version is for me THE definition of First travel (I wish they could have had BA staff though 🙂 ).1 Jan 2012
Interesting report RoadKing. I suppose the lesson to be learned from this is to fly out LH and return Thai for full F lounge access. Or even better perhaps, LH or LX both ways, where the service may be a bit Teutonic but at least it will be professional and up to F standards.2 Jan 2012
Oh I wish… But in fact, the only option I had for First, was Thai. According to the fellow on SKEB, there were no availability on LH, SQ, LX.
I actually asked for the very year ahead when I inquired about this. I suspect that if I had been a Panteon member of SKEB, there might have been availability, but not for Gold.
There are seats, but you have to be one of the select few. Like others has stated that when you are a M&M, you get seats easily.
Anyways. As stated, the hardware from BKK to FRA was fantastic, and LH/LX has nothing that compete to that. SQ does, but getting a First for pts with SQ? Not happening to me anyway :-).
After all, you spend most of the time in the air, so the ground services should not be that important.2 Jan 2012