Reviews

Review: Thai Airways Boeing 747 Royal First Class

Get set for suitably 'royal' treatment in Thai's Royal First Class on the iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, September 2 2019
Thai Airways Boeing 747 Royal First Class
Route

Sydney - Bangkok

Aircraft Type

Boeing 747-400

Airline

Thai Airways

Flight

TG476

Cabin Class

First

Seat

2K

Notes
The Good
  • First class lounge access in Sydney
  • Warm, friendly service
The Bad
  • Several bland and tasteless dishes on the inflight dining
  • The suite isn't completely private
X-Factor
  • It's first class on a Boeing 747
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Flying first class aboard a Boeing 747 jumbo jet is an increasingly rare experience in 2019, but one that remains possible with Thai Airways, including between Sydney and Bangkok.

Executive Traveller puts the Queen of the Skies to the test on a recent Thai Airways Royal First Class flight between the two cities.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Royal Orchid Plus. As a Star Alliance member, points can also be earned or spent through other partner programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and United MileagePlus.
  • Checked baggage allowance:
        • 50kg: standard allowance
        • 60kg: Royal Orchid Plus Silver members
        • 70kg: Royal Orchid Plus Gold, Star Alliance Gold
        • 80kg: Royal Orchid Plus Platinum
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: Thai Airways' published cabin baggage policy permits only 1x7kg bag per passenger plus one personal item like a handbag, wallet or purse, even in first class – but signage at Sydney Airport check-in indicated that first class passengers were instead welcome to carry two cabin bags.
  • Sydney fast-track: Make use of the 'Royal First Class' lanes at check-in and boarding to skip the queues, although fast-track service at passport control and security is currently unavailable at Sydney Airport due to ongoing construction works.
  • Bangkok meet and greet: Upon arrival in Bangkok and with an onward Thai Airways first class flight, transit passengers are greeted in the aerobridge and quickly driven to transit security, before being escorted to Thai's Royal First Lounge to relax.

Lounge

While your Thai Airways first class boarding pass will list an invitation to the Air New Zealand business class lounge in Sydney, under Star Alliance rules, you're also granted access to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris first class lounge, which we'd recommend visiting.

Singapore Airlines' SilverKris first class lounge in Sydney
Singapore Airlines' SilverKris first class lounge in Sydney

Reserved solely for first class flyers and Singapore Airlines' highest-tiered travellers, the lounge is generally quiet prior to the daily departure of TG476, offering guests à la carte dining, Champagne, barista-made coffee, and a quiet place to work or unwind.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne at Singapore Airlines' Sydney first class lounge
Veuve Clicquot Champagne at Singapore Airlines' Sydney first class lounge

Executive Traveller review: SilverKris first class lounge, Sydney

Flight

Thai Airways offers daily flights between Sydney and Bangkok, with TG476 departing at 10am each morning to reach the Thailand capital at 4:20pm local time, being a journey of 9hr 20m.

In the reverse direction, TG475 takes flight at 7:20pm ahead of a 7:20am arrival into Sydney the next morning: a nine-hour overnight journey.

Following the exit of Emirates on the Sydney-Bangkok route in June 2019, Thai Airways is now the only airline to offer first class between the two cities – and in fact, this flight from Sydney stands as the only non-stop service from Australia to Thailand with that better-than-business-class cabin.

All other Thai Airways flights from Australia to Bangkok top out at business class, as do those operated by other airlines such as Qantas.

Seat

Situated in the nose of the jumbo, Thai Airways' upgraded Boeing 747 first class offers nine private suites: six lining the windows, one solo suite in the centre of the cabin, plus a pair of seats just behind:

While you won't find sliding doors here, there's a slatted wooden screen at each seat which acts as a privacy barrier, with an added shell in front, adjacent to the TV screen, for a little more seclusion.

Each seat can be seen from the aisle, and vice versa.

As the suites are offset from each other in the cabin, seated passengers will normally only have a view of another seat shell, rather than another passenger:

Speaking of seats, this one measures at 23 inches wide – more than ample to get comfortable, with extra space to the side for storage:

For instance, a pop-open cabinet provides two storage sections: one best for literature and the like, and the other suited to larger items like headphones, with an AC power point at the ready:

There's also a fixed foot rest directly in front of each suite, which proved to be a good place to keep the blanket and other goodies out of the way when not in use, and which can also act as a second seat for a companion to join you for a meal or meeting.

Add to that, each suite features a closet, which also houses a handy mirror in the door:

The seat itself can be adjusted via these pre-set buttons to the side, as well as by using the touchscreen above, which can also be detached and operated like a remote control:

Each suite transforms into a bed just shy of seven feet, with the crew happily making these using a mattress pad, blanket and two pillows:

Being a daytime flight, there was no need to sleep on this leg, but whether you're flying during daylight or at night, the window seats (A/K) are our choice pick.

Those in the middle – 2E, 3E and 3F – instead have their downsides. For instance, 2E is narrower than the other suites, and given its position in the centre of the cabin with an aisle directly on either side, expect to notice more foot traffic than from any other suite.

Back in row 3, seats 3E and 3F are also directly in front of the restrooms, making them subject to additional noise and light, particularly on overnight flights.

The side storage bench on these seats is also a little narrower than found at the windows, and unless you're travelling with a companion, you'll want to raise that privacy divider after take-off.

Of course, there's no such thing as a bad first class seat, but the window seats on this aircraft have clear advantages, if you can secure one.

Meal

Champagne is served before take-off – the sumptuous Dom Pérignon 2009:

It's a fitting drop for first class, being the go-to Champagne of other global airlines like Emirates and Singapore Airlines, with Thai's wine list similarly including a profile of each wine offered on board:

After take-off, the meal service begins with a trio of off-the-menu canapés, although these were quite bland, and could have been eaten without the throwaway plastic aircraft tails, which cheapened the presentation.

Cabin crew then came by to set the table, provide a bread basket, and offer a helping of garlic bread. Even though an entire garlic had been provided in addition to butter, this was still a tasty choice:

The meal then begins with white sturgeon caviar and condiments, to which Dom Pérignon pairs beautifully.

Blinis are provided, and the crew are quick to offer a nip of Russian vodka to match the course. Unlike many other airlines, Thai Airways provides a proper caviar spoon with its signature service, which was appreciated: as opposed to a standard silver spoon which can cause a reaction that affects the flavour.

That's followed by a crayfish, smoked salmon and mesclun salad, which was deliciously fresh:

Then, a very aromatic coconut milk soup with chicken in a chilli coriander galangal:

For the main course, the following options are provided via the regular inflight menu:

  • Samrab Thai featuring stir-fried beef or chicken red curry, accompanied by fried barramundi, spicy tamarind dip, a Thai-style omelette, stir-fried show peas, carrots, yellow pepper and steamed jasmine rice
  • Grilled lamb cutlet with tomato and basil sugo sauce, with polenta cake, yellow squash, carrot and broccolini
  • Pan-fried salmon fillet with the same accompaniments

However, Thai Airways' first class passengers can also pre-order their main course via the airline's website where a wider variety of dishes are offered, from which the stir-fried lobster was pre-ordered.

While the dish that arrived was much better looking, the hero ingredient was unfortunately flavourless, aided only by drenching it in the Sichuan chilli sauce.

Cheese, fruit and dessert courses follow, which were skipped in favour of a small trio of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, kept to the side to enjoy later in the flight:

Closer to landing in Bangkok, a second meal service begins with a potato and leek soup, which came fresh and tasty with nice crunchy croutons:

Then, a tomato and mozzarella quiche with chorizo sausage, kipfler potatoes, mesclun leaves and an Italian dressing on the side. The sausage had a little kick to it, but which is more than could be said of the quiche: again lacking any flavour at all.

The menu also listed coffee choices such as espresso and cappuccino, but the crew advised that this aircraft either wasn't fitted with the machine or that it wasn't working (this was unclear), so a simple white coffee served as that mid-afternoon caffeine hit.

For the main course, a single dish: stir-fried pork with mango in Oriental sauce, with stir-fried udon noodles in oyster sauce. This proved much more flavourful than the quiche, which was returned after very few bites.

That left dessert, where the menu listed a fruit pudding with vanilla sauce – but having skipped 'first dessert' earlier in the flight, the crew were happy to serve dessert from that lunch menu, being a mix sweet potato, taro and pumpkin in syrup and coconut cream: an unconventional pairing for this type of dish, but which was indeed nice and sweet.

Accompanying this was ice cream, but which came served from a plastic container, rather than plated as other airlines tend to do in first class.

Overall, with a top-shelf Champagne and caviar service combined with a selection of delicious and aromatic dishes, there's a lot to like about dining in Thai Airways first class: but the airline would do well to remove dishes from its menu that miss the brief and arrive tasteless in the sky.

For instance, beginning the service with bland canapés, continuing with flavourless lobster – an ingredient that comes with high expectations – and following that with a subpar quiche doesn't do any favours for the airline's Royal First Class brand.

A smaller selection of higher-quality dishes would instead provide a much better overall experience, as would the ability to 'dine on demand' at any time during the flight, rather than only at set meal times.

Entertainment & Service

A 23-inch TV screen sits in front of each passenger, with standard features such as a moving map, plus a variety of movies and TV shows.

Some of that content was bright, clear and easy to watch, such as animated series:

However, some movies were rather dark and almost impossible to see at times, such as Red Sparrow: an otherwise-interesting drama.

The system is easiest to control by using the remote, found under a panel beside your seat where two USB charging ports are also located, although the supplied headphones weren't of a high quality, and were no match to a high-end BYO pair.

A wide selection of reading material can also be found in the centre of the cabin on boarding, and by request later in the flight:

With three staff members dedicated to a cabin of only four first class passengers, the service was exemplary, with the crew introducing themselves after memorising the names of each guest, and together before landing, knelt down at every seat to personally thank each guest for flying Thai.

Compared to the experience further back in business class on the same jets, where the seats are angled-flat and in a less-favourable 2-2 configuration, first class on Thai Airways is worlds ahead, without being world-leading.

Also read: Thai Airways Boeing 747 business class, Sydney-Bangkok

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Bangkok at his own expense using frequent flyer points.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

wockinwod

wockinwod

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Feb 2011

Total posts 6

Nice review Chris. I have also had that lobster and it is not great at all.

The lack of entree choice is also odd to me.

Do they still give out Rimowa amenity kits and provide pyjamas?

dimi

dimi

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 116

It is great to enjoy first class on Thai 747.

However it means that Thai business class passengers between SYD and BKK have severely outdated business seats.

Any timeline on when 747 (with its awesome first class) is finally going to be removed from Sydney route?

John Phelan

John Phelan

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 322

Interesting that you note the lack of doors as "bad" - this is very much a matter of personal preference. I think Thai has it pretty much perfect - private, but without being in a box. (I'm not a fan of doors on aircraft suites. - I prefer a more open, airy environment.)

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2948

Hi John, as a number of the world's major airlines offer privacy doors in first class as standard on either all flights or their flagships (e.g. Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Garuda, Korean Air, SWISS, Oman Air), and with some airlines now providing these in business class or 'business class plus' as well (Qatar Airways, Delta, China Eastern, Malaysia Airlines, BA and others), the absence of privacy doors in international first class is a fair negative, and in my experience on flights with closing doors at the seat, almost everybody seems to keep them closed outside of meal times.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1133

It's still very much a personal preference. Though I will say that flying first class is about the luxury of choice, so having doors as an option to create a closed-off or open seat is certainly appreciated.

Stephen787

Stephen787

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 57

Having tried THAI First several times, it's the food that is usually disappointing. The crew however are always super friendly.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1133

Very similar in fact to CX F. Great seat and amenities, usually good crew, disappointing food.

Pallydou

Pallydou

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

02 Jul 2018

Total posts 35

Royal First seems much better than Business. I tried Business last year on the very B747 and I don't feel it is value-for-money. Not to mention those awful meals.

Seems I am not the only one complained about Business.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1133

I cannot believe that is the photo Thai chooses to show its first class passengers selecting a meal online. That looks like how the ingredients would be assembled in the catering kitchens and have no business being presented to the public. How embarrassing.

mb68

mb68

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 122

Great review Chris . RRP would be nice to compare apples with apples .( i know i could just look it up)

Ceejay

Ceejay

28 Feb 2018

Total posts 14

Having only flown Thai in Economy, the food is usually terrific - however why oh why would you drown a jewel of the ocean which has such a unique and precious taste with Sichuan Sauce.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Thai Airways Boeing 747 Royal First Class