Just in case you were wondering: first class on Thai Airways does not suck. No, actually, I’m even willing to go a step further and say it’s quite nice. Alright, alright, the truth is it was fantastic. Un-freaking-believable.
Oh, and for the record, in general, (and I say this with some expertise now) the first class experience on a foreign carrier overall is leaps and bounds nicer than on a U.S. carrier. Sorry, but it is true. I don’t care if I do cause some diplomatic incident here.
For example, the state of our first class lounges in the U.S. is a national embarrassment and I fully expect Congress to get on this issue immediately. They are a disgrace compared to our international cohorts.
Dear Congress, Do you know that I once spent a wonderful morning in the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul and I swear on all the Real Housewives that they had a mini-theater? Sure, it was showing some philharmonic something-or-other, followed by some nature stuff, but it was a mini-theater, none the less. There was also a pool table. And a hanging honeycomb in the breakfast buffet so you could slice your own pieces of wax and honey and slather them over delicious biscuits and butter. HONEYCOMBS HANGING FROM A STRING, people!
What do American first class lounges offer? Some sad little goldfish snacks and well drinks. (OK, they’re slightly better than that, but not by much.)
But even more delightful than that Turkish Airways lounge (did I mention the honeycomb?) was our experiences as first class passengers on Thai Airways.
We boarded our flight to Bangkok at the end of a very long, 10-hour stopover in Munich. We walked wearily down the gangplank designated especially for first class and business travelers. I, who always feels guilty when I see older passengers or those with children struggling to their coach seats, kinda appreciated this separation. I could enjoy my elevated and undeserved status without any pangs of conscience.
We were greeted by a service team dressed in gorgeously colorful traditional silk thai costumes, which I noticed they all changed out of about halfway through the flight, however, I cannot figure out where they did this. They also changed (partially) again right before the flight landed into blazers.
Anyway, we were directed to our seats which were very nice. They were quite wide, and had two colorful silk pillows and even footstools! Footstools that were electronically controlled to move closer or further away from you. XFE and I sat next to each other in a center aisle, which had a large dividing console between us where our entertainment systems, and dining tables were stashed. The dividing console also contained a very complex panel that controlled your seat, giving you all kinds of options to move and recline the seat, extend the foot rest and move the footstool.
The staff came over and introduced themselves and offered us a pre-flight drink. We, of course, went with champagne. And that’s when they pulled out the Dom Perignon. XFE and I exchanged incredulous looks. And the Dom continued to flow the entire flight. They never took it back, or swapped it out for something else (something less expensive, say). They just kept coming back with it. No judgment, no cutoff. “Would you like some more champagne, Ms. Poe?” “Why yes, why not?” Oh, and that was another thing, they always called you Ms. Poe. Well, not XFE or the other passengers – they used their own last names.
Then the lovely service staff (who, by this point, I wanted to take home with me – but that may have been the Dom talking) offer you lounging pajamas to change into. I normally don’t change on flights, but everyone in first class didn’t seem phased in the least and went directly to the bathrooms (which were larger than the normal airline bathrooms – and had fresh flowers. And flowers made out of towels!) and changed. No one seemed to think it odd or unusual in the least. After ascertaining that I would not be expected to give them back, I too changed, and let the lovely lady hang up my stinky travel outfit.
So we changed, got our lovely hot towels to refresh, perused the large magazine selection laid out on a table in the front of the cabin, had some warm nuts, drank some more Dom. The pre-flight ritual was pretty long and drawn out and I was fine with that. I didn’t even care if we ever took off. I was perfectly content.
But eventually we did take off. And then the feedings began. I swear, they fed you something every 15-20 minutes. Here’s an amuse bouche. Here’s some caviar. Here’s a selection of appetizers. Here’s the world’s most delicious garlic bread ever. Here’s our regular bread, which is also pretty damn good. Here’s a salad. Here’s a soup. Here’s the lobster thermidor you pre-ordered.
Oh, that’s right. You can go onto Thai Airways website and pre-order your food, which we did for a couple of legs of our flights. Although, I have to say, the times that we had them, we preferred the items we had that were on the regular flight menu a bit more than the pre-ordered meals. The pre-ordered meals tended to be a bit overcooked. In general, I don’t think they could stand up to being transported and stored that entire time before service. Yes, if I had to do it again (and I don’t suspect I ever will, but here’s hoping), I would just order off the flight menu.
After you are thoroughly stuffed (there was, of course, a cheese trolley – with very expensive port – and dessert), you have the option of fully reclining your seat into a bed and going to sleep. While you go into the bathroom and brush your teeth (individual toothbrushes and toothpaste provided in both the bathroom and in your free, pimped-out amenity case), some lovely staff person comes over and makes your bed for you. With a fitted sheet and blanket and everything.
When you wake up, there’s another meal. Also very filling and inventive and delicious. And your own personal entertainment system, loaded up with current movies and documentaries and video games.
Right before you land, everyone changes back into their normal clothes, and the lovely service staff comes over to your seat, kneels on the ground in front of each seat so they are eye level with the person they’re talking to, and sincerely thanks you for flying with them and allowing them to serve you. I’m not making this up. This actually happened. Like, four times since we flew four different flights. I thought I was on Punk’d.
When we (rather reluctantly) got off the plane, our Thai First Class adventure was only beginning. Since we had a connecting flight to Sydney, we were met at the gate by a personal concierge who whisked us to the first class lounge on a golf cart. A freaking golf cart!
We went whizzing through the airport like we were very special important people who couldn’t possibly be expected to walk a few hundred yards to be ensconced in our own little living room in the first class lounge. Seriously, we had our own little living room with couches and a tv and a desk and wi-fi and everything.
And then more lovely service staff came in and offered us drinks and food and cool towels. I’m telling you, the service never stopped.
On our way back through Bangkok, it was a similar situation, except that time we were met by a concierge who helped us with our bags (either checking them in or picking them up at the conveyor belt, depending on the leg of our journey), escorted us through the security and fast-tracked us through immigration, and customs.
But my favorite part — and the part I had been looking forward to more than anything else — was our free one-hour massage at the Thai Airway Royal Orchid Spa, which I got to enjoy on the way through Bangkok and again on the way back.
It was phenomenal. After meeting my masseuse, I was escorted to a beautifully decorated massage room (think dark, carved teak and fluffy white linens) and shown the adjoining shower/bathroom/dressing area. No shared locker rooms here. There was a huge bathtub in the massage room that I would have loved, loved, loved to soak in, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask about it.
Back in my changing area, I changed into a robe, a hairnet and these weird net boxer panty things (Seriously, is this for my modesty or theirs? Because I’ve had tons of massages. I know what to expect and I’m not really reassured by this flimsy mesh panty thing.) Anyway, I then choose the essential oil I wanted and we got down to blissful massage business. While I laid face down on the massage table, I noticed a copper bowl full of floating flowers directly under my face. Very nice touch.
Afterwards, I took a shower (L’Occitane products) and waited for XFE in this lovely little tea room with snacks laid out before returning to our little living room in the first class lounge and eventually boarding our flight and doing it all again on our way to Sydney and then Bangkok and then Munich.
So all told, that’s a total of three pairs of Thai Airways first class pajamas, three amenity kits containing Bulgari or Hermes products, at least nine thoroughly delicious meals, probably 30 slices of the world’s best garlic bread, two one-hour massages, two harrowing rides on golf carts through the airport, and carafes of Dom Perignon consumed.
Add in a bunch of pictures of us looking like dorks and that about sums up our Thai Airways first class experience. (I should say: pictures of incredibly lucky and grateful dorks.)
I honestly don’t know how I’ll ever slum it back in economy class ever again, now that I’ve seen what goes on behind that magic curtain separating the Lindsay Lohans (us, the riff raff) from the Angelina Jolies (them, the beautiful people).