Onboard Thai Airways first A350-900: TG404 from Singapore to Bangkok
Welcome to my first ever flight experience onboard Thai Airways A350-900 aircraft, onboard flight TG404 from Singapore (SIN) to Bangkok (BKK).
Flight number: TG 404
Departure from Singapore (SIN): 12.25pm (scheduled) / 12.55pm (actual)
Arrival in Bangkok (BKK): 1.45pm (scheduled) / 1.42pm (actual)
Flight time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (scheduled) / 1 hour and 47 minutes (actual)
Coincidently, this flight was operated by Thai Airways' first A350-941, HS-THB, named "Wichian Buri". Featuring 321 seats with 32 in Royal Silk (Business) Class and 289 in Economy Class, the aircraft was delivered to Thai Airways on 30 August 2016.
Boarding was slightly behind schedule, probably owing to the late arrival of the aircraft from Bangkok. Judging by the number of passengers at the boarding gate, it would be quite a full flight, with a good mix of business people in corporate attire and more casually-dressed leisure travelers. Surprisingly, there were a number of Japanese businessmen in black suits on this intra-Southeast Asia flight.
Boarding commenced with Royal Silk passengers and Star Alliance Gold card holders on the left lane, and special needs passengers (passengers requiring assistance, elderly passengers, parents with young children or infants, and monks) on the right lane. It is nice that Thai Airways provides priority boarding for monks, given their revered status in Thailand. Economy Class passengers were boarded in reverse order of their rows.
We were warmly welcomed onboard by two beautiful ladies decked out in colourful traditional dress. As I made my way to my seat, I noted how high the ceilings are on this A350-900 and how deep the overhead lockers are. Unlike the their older aircraft which features Economy Class seats in colours of purple, yellow and pink, seats on the A350-900 are a royal orange and maroon colour. Even though the seat pitch and width were industry standard (pitch was 32 inches and width was 18 inches), it felt spacious, perhaps of the seat's slim design. A tourism video on Thailand was played during the boarding, which was very welcoming.
My seat, 48K, provides an excellent view of the massive A350-900's wing, which stretches 67.5m, ending with a futuristic sabre-like winglet. If you would like a better view of the aerial landscape, it would be favourable to sit in the rear Economy Class cabin. Otherwise, the tail camera view is available in the entertainment system, which provides an excellent view of the state-of-the-art aircraft, even if you don't have a window seat.
Aside from a footrest, on the seat was a pillow for added comfort. The entertainment headset could be found in the seat pocket. There were also an USB port under the entertainment screen, as well as shared AC power ports, for the convenience of recharging electronic devices. The cabin crew could be seen handing out blankets during the boarding.
The safety video was screened during the pushback, in standard Thai and English audio commentary, but with Japanese subtitles (presumably for the benefit of the significant number of Japanese passengers). A tribute to His Majesty, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was also screened before the take-off.
After the seatbelt signs are switched off, service commenced with the distribution of immigration cards. Lunch service commenced with the distribution of the pre-ordered special meals, followed by the normal meals, then the drinks.
Two choices of main course was available: chicken in peppercorn sauce with fried rice or prawns in green curry and steamed rice. I was quite surprised that to have prawns as a main course option (and an authentic Thai dish nonetheless), so I opted for it.
However, aside from the very generous serving of prawns, the meal, otherwise, was disappointing. The prawns lacked the juicy and firm texture of fresh prawns, and were rather limp and tasteless. Salad was just a few sticks of raw vegetables (rabbit food), with a sachet of French dressing to make it more palatable. I thought the apple crumble was excellent. I also appreciate that a water of mineral water (a refreshingly cold one at that!) was provided on the tray. As it could be capped to prevent spillage, I could save it for quenching my thirst throughout the flight.
When the drinks cart came, I noticed only juices and water were displayed on top of the half-cart. I requested for white wine, and the beautiful flight attendant poured me half a glass from a bottle hidden inside the cart. Actually, to say it's half a glass of wine, I am being generous. I was quite surprised at the small quantity served, and was wondering if cost-cutting measures were in place in limiting wine portions.
In terms of service, with the exception of one or two, the cabin crew were in general, lacking of warmth. They wore few smiles and they did not seemed very interested - quite a contrast to my past experiences with Thai Airways. Also, perhaps due to turbulence, there was not a second drinks (coffee and tea) service. The cabin crew robotically cleared the meal trays, and any second drink requests were served later by hand.
I visited the lavatory and it was nicely stocked with paper cups and paper towels. Aside from Thai Airways-branded hand soap, Divana Amrita Jasmine Eau de Cologne was available. A fresh orchid flower placed on the Eau de Cologne added a uniquely Thai Airways touch.
I managed to enjoy (and complete) "Don't Breathe" during the flight, which got me glued to the screen. The entertainment system was fast and touch-responsive. It is available in English, Thai, French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Mandarin - which I guess are Thai Airways key markets.
Soon, it was time for landing and a video on arrival immigration procedures and another on customs procedures were screened (again, with Japanese subtitles). Subtle mood lighting was in effect during the descent which was nice. I was able to enjoy the awesome tail camera view of the approach and landing on my entertainment screen.
Overall, though I am impressed by the state-of-the-art technology of this A350-900 product, the service aspects (the meal service and quality, cabin crew's service) were somewhat of a let-down. I guess it might have to do with customer expectations: given the excellent hard product offered by the A350-900, there was a noticeable contrast on the softer service aspects. However, Thai Airways A350-900 provides a comfortable ride and I will not hesitate to fly with them again on longer flights.
For my full HD video experience of my TG404 flight, please see below: