Bangkok - Brisbane
- Fully-flat beds with direct aisle access
- Pre-order one of 13 main courses instead of the regular menu
- Plenty of space to store your kit
- No crackers on the cheese plate
- The same fruits were served in two different courses
- Enjoy a free treatment in the Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok Airport
With direct aisle access for every passenger and fully-flat beds for a good night's sleep, Thai Airways' Boeing 777-300ER Royal Silk business class immediately passes the 'business traveller basics' test.
It's a step up from the angled lie-flat business class seats currently jetting between Sydney and Bangkok, giving Queenslanders a rare one-up over Sydneysiders and the same seats as you'd find on Thai's Airbus A380 superjumbo.
Join Australian Business Traveller as we put the airline's flagship Royal Silk business class to the test.
Royal Silk business class guests can bring along up to 40kg of checked baggage and can lug a 7kg, 126cm bag aboard, with Star Alliance Gold members entitled to an extra 20kg of checked baggage at no extra charge.
As I began the journey elsewhere, my bags were checked through to Brisbane without incident and all boarding passes issued before stepping foot on the first flight.
There's no need to collect any luggage while transiting in Bangkok, and the inflight entertainment system on the inbound aircraft handily displayed the gate numbers and departure times of passengers' connecting flights:
For shorter stays, Thai Airways has four Royal Silk Lounges scattered around the various concourses at Bangkok Airport – eligible travellers can access whichever takes their fancy or is closest to their flight.
But if you've got a little time to spare, head to the Royal Orchid Spa in Concourse D where you'll enjoy a free 30-minute treatment: either a foot or a neck & shoulder massage.
Appointments are made on a first-come first-served basis, and there's a pleasant waiting room with snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi and a TV to keep you occupied until it's your turn.
Spa treatments in airport lounges are typically reserved for first class passengers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers, so it's great to see Thai Airways treating business class travellers to the same luxury.
(Meanwhile if you're booked in Thai's Royal First, you can indulge in a 60-minute treatment.)
Back in the 'regular' Royal Silk lounges is a selection of hot and cold buffet food plus fast and free Wi-Fi, with some also offering showers, slumber rooms and kid's corners.
The journey begins with a glass of Piper Heidsieck Brut NV Champagne before take-off, with strong hints of citrus fruit, Granny Smith apples and haws to create a sumptuous and very drinkable drop.
Hard shell Porsche Design amenity kits were distributed, containing a dental kit and mouthwash, socks, Bogner brand body moisturiser and lip balm, a combined brush and comb, an eye mask and ear plugs – more than adequate for a nine-hour flight.
TG473 left the gate in Bangkok 12 minutes behind schedule to arrive in Brisbane four minutes early.
Thai's new business class seats on the Boeing 777-300ER are the same as you'll find on its flagship Airbus A380 – each traveller gets a fully-flat, 180cm bed in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The staggered layout guarantees direct aisle access regardless of where you're sitting, with one row of seats is closer to the window (or middle of the aircraft, in the case of the centre seats), while the next is instead closer to the aisle:
There's an AC outlet and two USB power sources to recharge your gadgets...
... a handy storage nook for your phone, passport or wallet...
... a literature pocket – an ideal spot to whack the menu when it's not needed...
... and of course, a coat hook to mind your jacket as the aircraft is preparing to land.
Directly in front of the seat is a fixed ottoman, which means it can be utilised even during take-off and landing...
... and later forms the tail end of a fully-flat bed:
Whether sitting up or lying down, foot space is a little on the cramped side with both edges of the surrounding wall curving inwards – the price you pay to enjoy direct aisle access from every seat.
There's a cubby-hole under the ottoman to stash your shoes during the night...
... and with no passenger in front to contend with, the bulkhead seats also come with a sizeable shelf to fill the gap.
It's marked "no stowage" – not that you'd leave valuables there as it's incredibly visible from the aisle – but it's a great place to rest your cabin bag when you're getting things out or putting your goodies away.
Apéritifs begin the supper service – in this case, a Vodka Martini:
That's quickly followed by a marinated salmon caramel stuffed with goat's cheese and topped with crème fraîche, accompanied by grilled sliced zucchini, red and yellow endive and fresh lime.
I've eaten my fair share of food at 40,000 feet in both business and first class, and can say without a doubt that this dish makes my top five of all time – it's simple, elegant, well-presented and ultimately flavourful without needing a copious quantity of salt.
The on-board menu gave a choice of four mains – Tasmanian salmon, New Zealand beef, chicken, and prawns – although organised travellers can pre-order their main course via the Thai Airways website, which presents no less than 13 other choices along with the standard generic dietary options such as vegetarian and Kosher.
I put Thai's chefs to the test by ordering a Chinese-style dish: opting for the roasted BBQ duck with gravy, soy sauce and sliced chilli aside steamed rice and kale, which the website lets you preview:
It arrived on my tray looking reasonably similar to the promo shot, yet the kale was bland and the duck simply so-so – a disappointment after the excellent starter.
Next was a cheddar and Brie with fruit on the side, but with no crispbread, grapes or quince paste, it's not your conventional cheese plate.
Unless sticky fingers are the goal, the lack of crackers also means eating your dairy snack with fork. Knives belong on cheese plates – forks do not.
After mixing and matching everything out of pure curiosity, I moved on to the dessert duo: a sticky date cake with butterscotch, and milk curd jelly with fresh fruit.
Both were much tastier than the cheese, and the cake's white chocolate shell didn't disappoint.
Breakfast is then served at roughly 10am Brisbane time, or two hours prior to the flight's midday arrival.
It starts with fruit – in fact, the same fruit from the cheese plate the night before. I don't know about you, but when I go to sleep in the evening I certainly look forward to eating the same meal again in the morning... ahem.
Fortunately there's also yoghurt and a fresh croissant with jam and butter for a little variety, and before you ask, no, the jam and yoghurt aren't derived from the same berry.
Caffeine comes by way of a cappuccino or an espresso, plus both instant and 'special blended coffee'. Lattes and flat whites aren't available.
You can then opt for either a charcuterie plate, scrambled eggs with chicken or a stuffed pancake with scrambled egg and tomato.
I went with the latter, served with pan-fried bacon and a panache of mushroom, cream and herbs.
In five words, it sure beats the fruit.
Entertainment & Service
Each passenger gets a 15" touchscreen monitor linked to an Audio Visual On Demand system, which is loaded with hundreds of hours of movies, TV shows, music and games.
The seat's two USB power ports are also found underneath the screen.
They're handy to charge a handheld gadget during the flight, but they're in an awkward spot for use overnight – with the phone-sized storage area some distance away and without its own USB outlet.
A remote control can be used to operate the entertainment system if the screen is out of reach, and that perfect TV viewing position can be forged before putting your feet up or settling for a good night's sleep:
Cabin crew on this evening's flight were friendly and addressed passengers by name, but lacked that truly 'personal' touch as you often find when jetting abroad with Qantas or Virgin Australia.
A reminder that I'd pre-ordered my meal was also needed at suppertime, which wasn't necessary on the previous flight.
But with fully-flat beds on the only non-stop flight between Brisbane and Bangkok, Thai Airways is certainly doing something right – and would have taken out our five-star rating if only for a better on-board dining experience.