Friday, September 27, 2013

Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo

Air China business class Sapporo to Beijing
Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore
Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong
Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo



Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok is the 6th busiest airport in Asia and the 14th busiest in the world.  By far the busiest airport in Thailand, BKK serves as the primary hub for the country's 4-star flag carrier, Thai Airways.  Thai Airways initiated nonstop service between BKK and CTS Sapporo in November 2012, and frequency has been upped from 4x week to daily.  This largely leisure route is operated by an Airbus A330 widebody aircraft.



Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge

The Royal Silk Lounge is Thai Airways' business class lounge, with access granted to all premium cabin passengers and Star Alliance Gold members.  Since the final segment of itinerary was in economy, I gained entry by using my Turkish Airlines Elite status.


As the only Star Alliance lounge in BKK, the Royal Silk Lounge was relatively full.  Finding an empty seat and a power outlet was near impossible.  The lounge had a linear configuration, making destinations a lengthy walk.  The only view of the lounge was the terminal escalator, which gave off an annoying automated voice after detecting a new pedestrian.


The food consisted of traditional Thai options and western deserts and fruits.  The alcohol selection, however, was nearly non-existent.  My biggest pet peeve was the lack of shower facilities, which even domestic United Clubs carry.


Thai Airways BKK-CTS

After eating dinner in the lounge, I headed to my gate for boarding, which consisted of secondary security screening.  Since the aircraft was an A330, I expected to be able to board directly from the jetbridge.  Instead, the jetbridge took us down to ground level, where we boarded buses to our plane.


The plane's economy seats were small, and all aisle seat legroom was restricted by an entertainment box.  I couldn't comfortably place both of my feet under the frontseat, so I immediately headed towards the rear of the plane and found a bulkhead aisle seat.  After leaning my seat back, I dozed off and was awaken for breakfast shortly before landing.

Doesn't look that much worse than biz class meal

Bottom line

Thai Airways leaves you with much more to be desired.  Self-hailed as "Smooth as Silk", Thai Airways should be stripped of their 4-star ranking.  Their hub lounge is mediocre, and their in-flight service is a notch below ANA and JAL's.  They're definitely ahead of North American carriers, but that's saying very little considering that they're headquartered in the highly competitive southeast Asian market.  From service to food and lounges, there is much room for improvement for this national carrier.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Free instant Silver status with Hilton and Marriott!

Hilton and Marriott are both offering instant Silver status to Accenture employees, but anyone can sign-up for the offer.  The Hilton offer is available to all current and new members, whereas the Marriott offer requires you to create a new account.  Silver status is the bottom-tier elite status for both programs, and though the benefits may be marginal, it never hurts to have elite status when staying with these hotels.


The Marriott Silver status may take 48 hours to process, so the earlier you do it, the better.  In addition to Silver status, Hilton offers you a fast-track to Gold status where 4 stays within the next 90 days gets you Gold status, which is easily the best mid-tier hotel status in the industry.


Bottom-tier elite status has been losing its luster over the years, but it's still better than nothing.  And free status is always nice.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok

Air China business class Sapporo to Beijing
Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore
Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong
Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo

With so many carriers to choose from and an even greater selection of premium cabin products, the frequent flyer often finds him/herself at odds over who to fly with.  After all, the conclusion of nearly every commercial flight on the planet ends with "we thank you for choosing to fly with us today".  Whereas a showdown between United and Singapore Airlines is a no-brainer, how do you juggle the choice between evenly matched heavyweights like JAL and ANA, who have similar services and hard products?  Sometimes, the plane type makes all the difference, which is the case with the mammoth Airbus A380, the largest commercial jet ever assembled.

I couldn't miss the opportunity to fly in business class on an A380, regardless of the carrier.  The A380, which has been a thorn on Airbus' side with zero profits, has become the flagship plane for the 10 prestigious carriers currently operating the jumbojet.  Singapore Airlines and Emirates' A380 house the best passenger cabins in the world, and I was expecting a similar experience with Thai Airways, Thailand's flag carrier and a 4-star airline.


Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge - The Wing

With a layover in HKG, I could not pass up the chance to visit The Wing, which is Cathay Pacific's newly remodeled first class lounge at their primary hub.  Because I only had 1-hour, I scouted the lounge and grabbed a quick bite.


Upon entering the dining area, I was asked how many in my party, seated, and handed a menu.  This was a welcome surprise as I expected to just grab a couple of buffet items.  I chose the salmon fillet and champagne and complimented it with seafood fried rice, dim sum, and sushi from the buffet bar.


The dining area is catered and serviced by the Peninsula Hotel, so the service and food were spectacular.  After finishing a nice meal at their full-service restaurant, I scouted the other areas, which included several bars and Cathay Pacific's signature Noodle Bar.



Although I didn't have time to reserve a private cabana, the lounge was already incredible with amazing decor, service, and food.  It completely blows JAL's first class lounge out of the water, and puts to shame even Singapore Airlines' lounge.  I will be posting a more detailed report on this lounge when I get experience the cabanas will my longer layover this coming December.


Thai Airways A380 business class

It's every frequent flyer's dream to fly in a premium cabin on the A380, even on just a 2 1/2 hour flight.  Biz class cabin is exclusively on the upper deck as staggered suites, which is synonymous to what ANA uses on their 787s and newly-configured 777s.



The cabin looked completely full, which meant 60 biz passengers.  As a 2 1/2 hour flight, the flight attendants appeared to be rushing the service and somewhat understaffed for such a large plane.


The suites were nice with plenty of storage space.  The seat itself featured forward thrust and flatbed mode.  However, the foot cubby wasn't big enough for my feet, and the bed could have been a few inches longer.  The AVOD had plenty of channels and movies, and a convenient USB slot allowed for easy charging of your iPhone.


Thai Airways allows you to choose and even view your meal selection online before your flight, and I opted for the salmon meal.  I can't say that I was impressed.



The salmon main entree item tasted fine, but the presentation needed some serious work as it was reminiscence of economy class servings.  I was also expecting larger food offerings for a biz meal.  After finishing lunch, I reclined my seat and slept for the rest of the flight, which featured excessive turbulence.  I don't even want to know how it might have felt had I been flying on an Embraer.


Bottom line

Simply said, the Thai Airways A380 is overrated.  The biz suite, while housing nice features, could have had a longer bed with more foot space. The food was also subpar for a biz meal, and the service was rushed.  Thai Airways should use these planes for longhaul routes and not 2 1/2 hour flights, which pretty much defeats the purpose of flatbed suites.  There was really nothing special about this plane, besides haveing a 500+ passenger capacity.

Next: Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong

Air China business class Sapporo to Beijing
Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore
Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong
Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo

Singapore Changi (SIN) is the main airport serving Singapore, serving a wealth of international destinations with over 100 airlines.  Due to its strategic location in southeast Asia, SIN is a major transit point primarily for the kangaroo route between Australia and Europe.  The entire airport is like a playground and a parent's dream as the kids will always be occupied.  And for elite and premium class travelers, SIN offers 24-hour lounges.

Because my flight to Hong Kong departed at 7:35 am, I opted to take the final night bus to SIN at 11:51 pm to crash at the lounge for the night instead of booking a hotel and catching a taxi at 5 am.


Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge

The SilverKris Lounge is Singapore Airlines' business class lounge at their primary hub reserved exclusively for business class and first class passengers.  Star Alliance Gold members and passengers flying in premium cabins with other Star Alliance airlines are not eligible, thus affording the lounge with a private and ambient atmosphere.


Upon entering the lounge from the escalators, you're greeted by two lounge dragons, who will seemingly do anything to prevent ineligible guest from entering.  While you wish their front desk was more friendly, this preserves the integrity of the lounge by keeping numbers low.


The lounge has everything that you'd expect and more.  Food and drink offerings were ample, though the food items were removed after 2 am and breakfast didn't start until 5 am.



The seating area was huge, and vacancies wasn't a problem during this time of night.  The lounge had an impressive spread of work stations offering PCs and Macs.  However, printing service is limited, and the lounge staff needs to collect the electronic documents from you via a USB drive.



The bathrooms were the best I've ever seen for a lounge, with a dozen shower stalls and toiletries at every sink and a full supply of bathing accessories in every stall.  An employee works full-time in the lounge to insure that every drop is wiped and every shower is stocked.  After showing, I headed towards the sofas and napped until 6 am for breakfast.


Singapore Airlines business class

After breakfast, I headed towards the gate for boarding.  SIN is very unique in that every gate has its own security check on top of the general security checkpoint required to gain access to the terminal.  The plane was the same aircraft type used on my PEK-SIN route with wide angled lieflat seats and oversized AVOD screens.


Since the flight was only 2 1/2 hours, the flight attendants went to work right after takeoff, jotting down breakfast orders.  I chose the salmon scrambled egg meal.


The food and presentation were definitely up to par, and the service was phenomenal as usual for Singapore Airlines.  After breakfast, I leaned my seat back to the bed position and slept until landing.


Bottom line

Singapore Airlines (SQ) is king, living up to its slogan as "A great way to fly".  Both at the airport and onboard, SQ possesses that magic touch to make your travels pleasant and enjoyable.  The SilverKris lounge is one of the best business class lounges in the world, easily surpassing the ranks of JAL, ANA, and Korean Airlines.  The problem for the flyer is that once you go with SQ, you never want to go back to the torturous skies of United.

SQ's new mind-blowing commercial

Next: Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok

Friday, September 6, 2013

Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore

Air China business class Sapporo to Beijing
Singapore Airlines business class Beijing to Singapore
Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong
Thai Airways A380 business class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Thai Airways Bangkok to Sapporo

After a lengthy layover in Beijing, it was time for my redeye flight to Singapore.  As the second busiest airport in the world, PEK is infamously labeled as the airport with the worst delays.  The airport's design doesn't help either as it can take an hour to move between terminals.  Even though all Star Alliance international flights depart from terminal 2, finding your carrier can be an absolute maze in the midst of the countless check-in counters.

Being an elite flyer is crucial at the second busiest airport in the world if you want to avoid 2-hour wait times


Air China business class lounge

Air China isn't known for having superb services and amenities, whether in-flight or at the airport.  After getting through security and taking a monorail to the terminal, I headed directly to Star Alliance's token lounge.  Since it was already 10 pm, they had already stopped serving dinner.  What remained were snacks and light supper dishes.



Although the beverages and snacks were plentiful, the lounge boasted nothing unique.  It wasn't crowded, but it lacked the ambiance found at ANA and JAL lounges.

Mediocre alcohol selection

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the lounge was the passport requirement for using the WiFi.  After scanning your passport, the kiosk would then print you a unique WiFi password assigned to you.  This is their way of tracking the individual users from their respective countries.

And you thought the NSA violated your privacy
After downing some snacks and beverages, I took a shower.  The lounge's showers were the worst I've ever used as water leaked out of the shower and the lone towel that they give you can't keep you dry.  Don't know if I really came out cleaner or not.


Singapore Airlines business class

After showering, I headed to the gate and promptly boarded the Singapore Airlines B777.  The lie-flat seat was angled, but it featured more storage space and width than ANA, JAL, and AA's angled lie-flat seats.  The AVOD also put all the other carriers to shame with its huge screen and endless channels and movies.


I was given the option to be served a late-night meal after takeoff or breakfast shortly before landing.  Since I was dead tired, I opted for the breakfast wake-up service.  The flight attendant notified me that I had pre-ordered a seafood meal, and she asked me if I still wanted that option.  I asked her what the meal contained, and she returned a minute later with the frozen meal, which was a salmon fillet over rice.  I told her that I'd like to select from the breakfast menu instead, which consisted of a Singaporean seafood noodle soup.  Right after takeoff, I reclined my seat and passed out.


2 hours prior to landing, the flight attendant woke me up for breakfast.  If there's one thing that Singapore Airlines shines above other airlines, it's the cabin service.  The flight crew pretty much never takes their eyes off of you, and you feel as if they actually value you as a customer.  Unlike United CEO Jeff Smisek, who pretends that he values his customers yet strips them of their benefits and praises his crummy employees, Singapore Airlines has trained their employees to earnestly appreciate your business.

Oversize lavatory


Bottom Line

The Air China lounge is not something to show up early at the airport for.  As the primary hub for the country's flag carrier, Air China should be ashamed of themselves for their service and offerings both in the air and on land.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Singapore Airlines lives up to its name as the best airline in the world.  It's tough to beat service as great as JAL and ANA's, but Singapore Airlines brings it to a whole new level.  Sometimes, greatness is all in the soft product, and moreso than any other carrier on the planet, Singapore Airlines hits the spot.

Next: Singapore Airlines business class Singapore to Hong Kong
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