|Route||Bangkok Suvarnabhumi- London Heathrow|
|Flight Number||TG 916|
|Flight Time||12 Hours 20 Minutes|
|Baggage Allowance||35KG (Up to 5 checked luggage) + 7KG (1 cabin bag + a backpack/alternative)|
|Price||£938.60 GBP/$1102.81 USD (One way)|
Table of Contents
On the 20th of August, I made my way to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and got there at 9 AM. I checked in, got through security and passport control, and waited for 3 hours for my Thai Airways International flight, TG916 to London Heathrow Airport. I was very excited to fly Thai Airways, as this was my first time flying with them in 6 years!
The Airports Of Thailand Organisation that manages BKK airport recommends that you get to the airport 4 hours before your flight to be safe. TG916 was operated by an 8-year-old Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, registered as HS-TQC. HS-TQC is named “Pran Buri”, after a district in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province in Thailand. Coincidentally, this was the same aircraft that I had written an article about 3 months ago about a tire burst in Bengaluru:
Advice for flying with Thai Airways:
- Although Thai have IFE on all their flights, there is a very limited selection of films, TV shows, and music. So I would recommend downloading some films on a device before flying to watch them on the flight.
- Although masks are no longer mandatory on Thai Airways flights, I would advise you to bring one as the Bangkok to Europe routes are generally quite packed.
Check-in & Airport Experience
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi is a massive airport, and therefore it has a reasonably large amount of check-in counters. TG916 was using check-in area H and as you can see from the photo above, the airline was using them wisely. Since I got there early, the wait in the line took a mere 5 to 6 minutes, like the flight into BKK, checked bags were over the limit by a whopping 9 kgs. The employee said that she was willing to waive 3 kgs if I removed 6 kilograms. Although it is not clearly stated on the Thai Airways website, Thai allows passengers to take up to 5 pieces of checked luggage as long as it does not exceed the limit attached to the ticket. I found this out by waiting in their 40-minute-long call centre queue.
After the relatively quick check-in experience, I headed over to security. Back before COVID-19 and tourism was in full swing, I remember the security area being full to the brim with people. To my surprise it was less than a quarter full, one thing that is common at airports across Thailand is the fact that you have to take off your shoes so that they can be security checked as well as your luggage. Something iconic about Suvarnabhumi airport is the statues of Giants or “Yaks” from Buddhist and Hindu folklore. There are several of these, and travelers have made it a trend to take a photo with one of these.
Security took around 10 minutes, and so I made my way over to Passport Control. Bangkok Airport’s Passport Control has 2 separate lines, one for Thai Passports, and one for Foreign Passports. Since I have a Thai Passport, it took no more than 5 minutes to get through, for the foreign passport lane, my guess is that it took 10 minutes, just from looking at it.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi’s Airside
Getting through Passport Control means that I had made it to the airport airside, with 3 hours to spare. The first thing that you will see after entering the airside is the “Churning of the Milk Ocean” sculpture, it is based on Hindu folklore. As you may have noticed, BKK has quite a lot of religious statues, locals believe that this is to ward off spirits and ghosts as the airport is believed to have been built on an ancient burial ground. Read about this article here:
Ghosts and demons aside, as I mentioned earlier, the airport is modern, clean, and very spacious and there are many Duty-Free shops in addition to several restaurants and lounges. The Duty Free at Suvarnabhumi airport is managed by King Power, which is a Thai retail company that also owns Leicester City Football Club in the UK. After shuffling around the different shops for 15 minutes and not buying anything, I saw that my flight was to depart from gate C10, at the very end of the airport, which takes 15 minutes to get to if you are a fast walker.
After walking for 30 minutes, I reached gate C10, as BKK is a very large airport as mentioned earlier, so there was plenty of seating available. There I saw the 787-8 that would take me to London. An hour later passengers on flight TG916 were told to move down to the main gate area to be boarded. While I was getting seated, my seatmate, whom I was traveling with got called by one of the gate agents. They informed her with regret that her seat’s IFE and charging port in 36J were not functioning. The airline did offer to change her seat, but she declined the offer as she explained to them that she wouldn’t use the IFE anyway and just sleep, which is fair. One thing to note is that the gate agents were very apologetic and kind.
20 minutes later, the crew started boarding Business class passengers/ Royal Silk Class and Royal Orchid Plus Gold members. A while later they announced that they would start boarding the rest of us. Within minutes half the passengers were already on the plane and seated, the process was very well organised and speedy. As soon I stepped on board the plane the cabin crew greeted me with the signature Thai greeting, a “wai” (which is a slight bow of the head with hands together on your chest). The first thing that I noticed on board was that they had gotten rid of two things, the awful boarding music that they used to play 6 years ago, and the complimentary drinks, snacks, and newspapers waiting in the crew area for passengers to pick up.
First impressions, the cabin crew were very friendly, the seats looked nice and colorful and there was a lot of wear and tear present in the cabin such as peeling stickers and placards. Unlike Scoot airlines, the crew was willing to help passengers with storing luggage and showing us our seats. One thing to complain about is that the cabin was very hot and muggy while boarding, this is understandable as Thailand is very humid and warm but they could have done some more with the air con. It was also at this point that I realized that the cabin crew was not wearing their signature traditional Thai silk dress. This was something that was a symbol of their service and airline, sadly it seems like they had phased it out.
After storing my bags in the overhead lockers, my attention turned to the seat. Unlike other airlines, it was not the generic grey, black or blue but a combination of purple and orange. The seat had adequate padding and came with a generous amount of recline, but it might make the person at the back struggle slightly, it also came with a footrest! For a 787, the seat was quite wide, and being 5 foot 8 I found that there was plenty of legroom available. Thai Airways provides a blanket and some decent headphones for every economy seat, but no pillow is available, which they used to supply for every passenger. The headrest is adjustable and each seat has a USB charging port, a mains charging outlet, and a double-pin headphone jack, to which you can stick your own earphones. I found the USB in-seat power to be quite unreliable, I tried charging my phone with it, but it kept connecting and disconnecting. So I switched my charging cable (I had 2 on me) and it still didn’t charge properly.
The seat pocket contains some headphones, a safety card, and a sick bag, unfortunately, they removed their signature “Sawasdee” magazine, my guess for this is because of cost cuts. The tray table folds out and I found it to be clean, it also can be extended towards you by a few inches. There was also a cup holder that came attached to the tray table. All in all, I found the seat to be comfortable and practical. Let’s turn attention to something that is equally as important as the seat, and no it’s not the dimmable window.
IFE & Screen
Thai Airways hasn’t always been known for having the best Inflight Entertainment System so I came prepared with my pre-downloaded films. The welcome screen and the IFE interface hadn’t seemed to have received an update since the last time I flew with them which was 2016. The entertainment menu gives you the options of Entertainment, Information, Kids, Onboard Services, and Window on Thailand. Thai’s IFE has a total of 106 films in total, 25 TV shows, and 20 music options; the “Kids” option, comes with 8 films, 3 TV shows, and 6 music options. The screen also has a remote that can be used to call the flight attendants, control the screen and turn on the overhead light.
There was a screen that displayed “games” but unfortunately it was just a loading screen as all of them had been removed from the system, again due to budget cuts. One notable thing for travellers with children is the “Parental Lock” feature which lets parents control the age restriction on their child’s screen. To deactivate the child lock, just flag down a crew member and they will turn it off. The “Onboard Services” section has a video on inflight exercises which looked like it had been filmed in 1990, there was also a menu of Thai cuisine recipes under the “Window on Thailand” section.
25 minutes after boarding, we started pushing back and started taxiing. The safety video was played, I found it to be more entertaining than the standard ones with nothing but the safety information. After the safety video, one of the flight attendants made an announcement saying that the crew would go around the cabin spraying a World Health Organisation-approved disinfectant spray to meet British Transport Standards. This is standard practice on Thai Airways flights from Bangkok to London. As you can see in the photograph, some passengers were confused. After taxiing past the multiple parked Thai Airways planes up for sale and the terminal, the 787-8 reached the runway and thundered down the runway and we took off. For the best view upon take-off, sit on the right of the aircraft, or any seat ending in “K”. In comparison to the Scoot 787’s take-off, this one felt significantly less powerful.
About 1 hour and 35 minutes after taking off, the very friendly cabin crew went around with their trolleys and started handing out meals. Special meals were given out first, these can be pre-booked via Thai Airway’s mobile app. For the non-special meal people, the options consisted of prawns and creamy penne pasta with vegetables or Stir fried chicken with fried egg and chili. Each meal comes with a bread roll, a bottle of water, a form of cake (which in this case was a chocolate and almond one), a salad, and cheese & butter. Having a low spice tolerance, I opted for the Prawn pasta, to my surprise, it tasted rather good. The bread roll was fresh and the cake was good. Although I found the Prawn and apple salad to be a bit strange, the meal was overall pretty good. Shortly after the meal service, the cabin crew collected in the trays and served drinks. Passengers were given a rather small range of options containing Orange, Tomato, or Apple Juice, Tea, Coffee, Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Cola, Red wine, and Beer.
3 hours away from reaching Heathrow, the cabin crew came around and served another meal. Again, the passengers who had ordered special meals were served first. The meal options were Spicy salmon and jasmine rice or Chicken stew with mashed potatoes. I chose to have the chicken stew, and it was very good. The chicken was soft and flavourful, and the potatoes were great as well, not too mushy. The meal came with a turkey ham salad, lemon drizzle cake with nuts, a bread roll, cheese & butter, and a bottle of water. The meal was a lot better than on other airlines that I have flown.
45 minutes before landing, just like most long-haul carriers do, passengers were served sandwiches and a beverage. I chose the egg sandwich, which wasn’t as good as the other meals that were served, but it was still decent.
Cabin Cleanliness & Lavatory Review
Before the safety video was played, Thai Airways played a video advertising their “Hygiene Excellence”. The video was the usual; clips of cleaners wiping down touchpoints and disinfecting the aircraft in hazmat suits along with some engineers replacing HEPA cabin filters. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, so the 787 wasn’t exactly spotless. There were some stains on the lower half of the cabin walls, and the ridges near the wall were unclean. In addition to this, my seatmate found a sick bag, which had already been used and therefore contained vomit in it. So she pushed the call button and got a flight attendant to dispose of it. Apart from that incident, the cabin wasn’t too bad. Pran Buri’s lavatories were very clean and well stocked. The toilets also had Eau de toilette which I used to freshen up my face mask.
Descent & Landing
Around 45 minutes away from reaching London, the pilot made an announcement on the PA system to tell us that we were starting our descent, he also stated that we would be arriving early by 10 minutes, always good to hear. While descending near the English Channel the plane was rocked by some hard turbulence which resulted in the cabin crew putting the lavatories out of use and some passengers screaming. The main thing that I was focused on during the turbulence was the 787’s wing flex, which was flapping about quite a bit. 30 minutes later, I spotted the skyscrapers of London and a few moments later Pran Buri touched down at London Heathrow Airport. The landing was quite bumpy and wasn’t exactly “Smooth as Silk” (this is Thai airways’ slogan). We then taxied over to Terminal 2 and parked at gate B47, next to a China Airlines Airbus A350-900. Business class and passengers with disabilities were able to disembark first. On the way out, the crew still seemed very energetic and happy whilst thanking us for flying with them.
After leaving the airplane, I followed the signs for Arrival. Heathrow has a very helpful guide about what processes you will go through when arriving. So I headed towards Immigration, followed by Baggage Claim and then Customs which was empty both of passengers and security staff. Although I was one of the last to leave the 787, Passport Control took no more than 15 minutes, which is a surprise as usually the queue at Heathrow is quite long. A few 5 minutes later I reached Baggage claim where I headed over to carousel number 10. After waiting for around 30 minutes, the first bags finally came. And after picking up my rather heavy and slightly overweight bags, I made my way out of the terminal and got back to London.
Overall, I found the flight to be decent. It wasn’t as great as I had hoped, mainly pointing fingers at the IFE system. The cabin crew and ground staff were very friendly and kind, the catering was almost on-point and the seats had an adequate amount of legroom and recline. The lavatories were also very clean. The downsides were the rather high ticket price of £938.60 GBP/$1102.81 USD, the IFE having a small selection of entertainment options and the cabin wasn’t as clean as I had hoped to be, the airplane was also showing some wear and tear on the inside. If you asked me if I would fly it again, then the answer would be a rather firm and confident “Yes”.
|Recommended?||Yes, absolutely! Despite the high price, it was still a great flight.|