Thai Airways, Business Class – Airbus A 350-900: Milan Malpensa to Bangkok

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INTRODUCTION
Today I am travelling from Milan’s Malpensa airport to Bangkok. The flight is operated by an Airbus A 350-900. I must say, I’m quite taken by the A 350 – it’s width gives it a very spacious feel and it just comes across as being a lot more solid, or less flimsy, than the Boeing 787, which I always find has the look and feel of a narrow-body.

CHECK-IN
I check out of the Sheraton at around 09h45 and make my way to Terminal 1. Thai Airways checks in on row 16, which they share with Qatar Airways. Check-in opens three hours prior to departure. There are two Business Class counters, both of which have thick and rather grubby looking carpets laid out before them.

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Both counters are attending to passengers when I arrive, but I figure it won’t be long before it’s my turn. Or maybe not. The lady working the check-in counter on the left is obviously related to Little Miss Chatterbox. Oh hell…’veramente, senza occhiali…niente…bla bla bla…ieri sera, nel treno aveva ritardo…bla bla bla…’.

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Eventually, the lady on the other counter takes pity on me and figures I probably do actually want to take the flight, considering that I’ve bothered to make the schlep out to the airport this morning. So she issues my boarding passes to Bangkok and my final destination, tags my hand luggage and sends me on my way.

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Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering – no online check-in is available for Thai Airways ex Milan.

AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
There is a dedicated fast track for First and Business Class passengers. But the lines for passport control can get rather long when the airport is busy.

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Thai Airways uses the Pergolesi lounge in Malpensa, which is a contractor lounge operated by the Milan airport authority if I’m not mistaken. The lounge is located behind passport control. To be honest, it’s really not much to write home about, so you may want to skip this one. First of all, and I know others may have different priorities for a lounge, there are no windows – it’s basically just one big, gloomy room. The food and drinks selection is limited to things like fruit salad, sandwiches, focaccia and cake.

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Wifi is complimentary, but be warned that electricity plugs are in short supply in the lounge.

BOARDING
Boarding starts at 12h35, thirty minutes before departure. First, passengers with children are invited on board, followed by Business Class passengers. The airbridge is attached to the L2 door, which means that Business Class passengers turn left as they step aboard, while Economy Class passengers take a right.

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CABIN
The Business Class cabin is located between the L1 and L2 doors. I’m seated on 14B, which is an aisle seat on the port side.

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Thai Airways operates the A 350 in a two-class configuration with 289 seats in Economy Class and 32 seats in Business Class. The seat is fully lie-flat and horizontal; it has a width of 20 inches and a pitch of 44 inches in the seated position. In the lying position, the seat has a length of 73.5 inches.

The Business Class cabin is laid out in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration, so that every passenger has direct access to the aisle.

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When I made the booking for this trip, only aisle seats were available – which are the B and J seats on even numbered rows and the D and G seats on uneven numbered rows. Before the flight, I was concerned that I might feel a bit exposed, especially with the seat extended into a bed. But turned out not to be an issue. First of all, the seats are staggered, with the seat on the other side of the aisle slightly further back to give you a bit more privacy. Secondly, the shell of the seat curves around the side of the seat, so that when you extend the seat into a bed, you’re partly shielded from the aisle.

CREW & SERIVCE
A pillow, a blanket, a thin mattress, the amenity kit, earphones and the menus are already at my seat when I arrive. Soon after, I am brought a lightly scented hot towel and my choice of drink.

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AMENITIES
The amenity kit is by FURLA and comes with the usual complement of items for which I have no use, except perhaps for the ear plugs and eye shades. In addition, and I think Thai Airways deserve some serious brownie points for this, they also provide slippers in Business Class.

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THE MEAL
The meal service begins with a drinks round. I have a Coke Zero, which is served with a bowl of mixed nuts.

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Thai Airways offers Western and Thai menus. For both menus there are two options for the main dish. Although strangely enough though, there are no vegetarian options. I decide to go with the Thai menu.

The first course is smoked salmon in a yuzu ponsu dressing, with avocado and crème fraîche. The starter is identical for both menus and is really very tasty, with the avocado blending nicely with the salty smoked salmon.

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The main course consists of a range of dishes:

  • a green pork curry
  • steamed rice with pak choi
  • a clear soup with shitake mushrooms and a cucumber filled with minced pork
  • a small bowl with a spicy chili sauce

These dishes are also very good. The curry is flavourful and spicy and actually tastes like authentic Thai food.

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After the hot meal comes the cheese course, which is served with grapes, dried fruit and crackers.

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And then finally, for dessert, I have the taro in coconut milk, which is just weird and rather bland.

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A few hours after the first meal service, I start to feel peckish again. So I order the noodle soup from the menu. Now this dish has some serious umpf – God it’s spicy! The noodles are served with boiled egg, crispy onion flakes and bits of minced pork.

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SECOND SERVICE
The second service starts just over two hours out of Bangkok. A flight attendant brings me a hot towel and takes my order for a coffee and orange juice.

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Shortly after, the tray is delivered. I’m quite surprised by how extensive this second service is. The tray contains

  • a bowl of fruit,
  • a yoghurt with müsli,
  • a bowl with bread and pastries and
  • the hot meal – which consists of a large portion of scrambled eggs, a pork sausage, bacon and cherry tomatoes.

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ARRIVAL
We land at 05h10 local time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bangkok airport looking so deserted and quiet. Eventually, our aircraft comes to a standstill on a remote stand. But unfortunately it’s still too dark for me to be able to take any decent pictures.

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The bus spits us out at international arrivals, which is located more or less in the middle of the D concourse. From here I head two floors up to security and then from there to the Thai Airways Business Class lounge. I now have slightly more than one hour to make my connection. The transfer in Bangkok is fairly painless, but it’s not very well signposted.

VERDICT
Thai Airways provided a solid product on this flight. The seat was comfortable, the crew were friendly and attentive and the food was actually very good. All in all though, I don’t think that my flight in Thai Airways Business Class on this flight was anything outstanding. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly with them again but I certainly wouldn’t avoid them either. I just don’t think they can keep up with the likes of Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways, both of which, in my view, clearly have a superior product in terms of hardware and software.

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