Why Fly Thai?

With so many airlines in South East Asia flying the same routes, does Thai Airways have that extra ‘something’ to make them as Smooth as Silk?

TGa380

As the national flag carrier of Thailand, Thai Airways (TG) is unsurprisingly the largest airline in the country, and operates mainly from its hub at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, but also has secondary hubs at Phuket and even Chiang Mai.

Thai cabin crew is often stressed and disorganised
Thai cabin crew is often stressed and disorganised

Hopping around Asia from country to country is often a good way to experience Thai Airways, as their regional fares from Bangkok to neighbouring countries are usually very competitive compared to the likes of Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific. I have flown with Thai on multiple occasions precisely because of this fact, and have generally enjoyed my experiences with them. However, there are major issues with the onboard product that need to be addressed if the airline is to overturn its recent losses.

Drink service
Drink service
Meal service
Meal service

For example, for regional flights to Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines, TG uses rickety old Airbus A330 aircraft, which have certainly seen better days, and must surely be in line for a refit soon? Also, from my experience, Thai cabin crew are usually stressed and in a bad mood, and they are lethargic in distributing meals and drinks on longhaul flights.

Nice pillow, blanket, and earphones
Nice pillow, blanket, and earphones
Onboard a Thai B777 to Auckland
Onboard a Thai B777 to Auckland

Unquestionably the life and soul of the Thai fleet these days is the Airbus A380, of which Thai have 6. They fly the A380 daily from Bangkok to Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo-Narita (twice daily), and Osaka-Kansai. These routes are proving very profitable for the airline, at a time when a lot of their other routes are becoming loss-making. This is the case for many airlines in the region, including the much-maligned Malaysia Airlines. The A380 from TG has an upper deck economy class cabin, which is proving to be very popular, and also includes a smart self-service bar for business class and first class passengers.

Thai Airways International Route Map
Thai Airways International Route Map

So what is Thai Airways doing wrong? Well, I have always wondered about their agreements to allow certain airlines (including Emirates) to use Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport as a hub for fifth freedom flights to other countries. Fifth freedom rights is the term given to a route between A and B (usually in 2 separate countries) that is given to an airline who does not usually have the reason to be there. For example, Emirates fly from Bangkok to Hong Kong and Bangkok to Sydney, and this pair is very profitable for the Dubai-based airline. But in order for them to create such routes, they obviously needed to politick with the Thai government to be allowed this freedom. I think such rights really hurt Thai Airways, especially on the Sydney route, which could still be a bigger money-spinner for them on the Australasia-Europe routing. Other airlines such as Cathay Pacific (enroute to Delhi), Qatar Airways (enroute to Vietnam), and even Sri Lankan (enroute to all major Chinese cities) take traffic away from what should be the sole right of Thai Airways, and this needed to be addressed in the future if TG are to come back into profit-making.

First Class on Thai's new A380 aircraft is very nice (but there is no consistency on older aircraft)
First Class on Thai’s new A380 aircraft is very nice (but there is no consistency on older aircraft)
Thai Royal Silk Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Thai Royal Silk Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

Thai Airways have posted 5 consecutive quarter losses on their profits and this has much to do with the uprising in Bangkok earlier in the year, but with load factors down to 75% across the whole network, it shows that restructuring still needs to take effect. This, however, should not deter you from taking advantage of Thai’s good value fares to ASEAN destinations – so long as you don’t mind travelling on a slightly older aircraft than some of their rivals. That said, Thai Airways are still a much more enjoyable ride than low-cost carriers such as Thai Air Asia and boutique airline Bangkok Airways, neither of which I rate as high as Thai.

So Why Fly Thai? You tell me.

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6 thoughts on “Why Fly Thai?

  1. Have only flown Thai once to Japan, and my experience wasn’t all that great. The children flew business class last month and weren’t happy with the service either.

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  2. Wow…you must be smoking some good stuff! Among us expatriates who live in Thailand, Thai Airways is universally loathed for its terrible hard and soft products and high fares. I don’t know any one of my friends who takes Thai if they can possibly avoid them. For short regional flights of up to 4 hours, Bangkok Air and Air Asia are head and shoulders above TG.

    Years of political interference in the management of the airline and using it as a playpen for retired Thai Air Force officers has turned a once great and growing airline into the laughing stock of Asia.

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    1. What I don’t like about Thai’s regional routes is the aircraft. They usually use very old A330s, and I find this quite off-putting nowadays. Bangkok Airways are a good alternative, especially to Cambodia and Laos (although I wont ever fly on a turbo prop).

      And yeah, the political interference is crippling Thai now. They need to restructure. Garuda have done it, so at least there is the benchmark. We shall have to wait and see…

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  3. 1. excellent pilots

    Thai Airways pilots always hone their flying skills to the best they can. Mostly hand flying (not using autopilot) you on takeoff climb and landing

    This gives you more enjoyment of flying,feeling the authentic motions of the captain or first officer’s extremely delicate motions they use to fly the plane passionately. Given appropriate weater some landings are so smooth (especially on Boeing 747-400)
    You might not even feel the touchdown.

    Also they can deal with abnormal situations where manual flying is required due to constant honing of their skills.

    This is not a bus service, were are flying on beautiful flying machines,be fascinated!

    Some other airlines just turn on the auto pilot after take off and may use autoland sometimes.

    2. Superb Maintenance

    Thai has a superb safety record

    There is one very popular type of twinjet aircraft that that so many airlines have purchased including Thai. This particular aircraft have had on average 1 engine failure per month this year at a famous 5 star airline (not sia).

    While Thai has no engine fails on this type of aircraft. Even though globally this aircraft type is infamous for constant engine fails. It is also a very “new” aircraft type which is known for being loud.

    3. Thai uses 747-400
    (a.k.a The Queen of The Skies)

    Its flies smooth,its faster than all other modern planes (except the brand new 747-8),it wades through turbulence smoother than other planes (including a380). It is designed to be reliable in its long service life. Other planes go bad when they are old,747 stays good when old if well maintained (comes as part of the package with Thai Airways)

    Its quieter than the very well rated 777-300ER

    It has the best airconditioning system of pretty much all other metal bodied planes(incl. 777 and a380). Less jet lag,better for those with lung disease. Only 787 and other fibre planes can have a better system due to them being made from fibre.

    And its safety features and pure structual strength are bullet proof,not literally but bullet proofwhen compared to other planes

    Smooth landing gear absorbs alot of landing force. Good for those who get a shock during bad whether landings when every plane must be put down firmly to ensure safety.

    Other airlines are getting rid of them because they consume lots of fuel and labelling them “old” while some 747s are still newer than their “new” twinjets.

    747-400 flight systems are high tech but simple. They assist the pilots not burden them. This allows the pilots to concentrate on the job at hand,flying.(important in an event of an emergency)

    747-400 is the rolls royce of passenger planes. Why do you want to ride on something else for similar money. Turbulence is on a roll and the way to feel comfortable in one (assuming seatbelt fastened) is in a 747

    4. Great Cabin crew

    From my personal experience,Thai cabin crew are passionate,smile alot,polite,friendly,professional and go the extra mile to make sure you are enjoying the flight.They are always ready to help you anytime. Once when I was served a meal,the stewardess also gave me some seasoning. She knew the particular dish tastes a bit mild so she thought I might need it. I didn’t (not exactly a fan of strong flavours) but I appreciate her care,knowledge of what is being served on the menu and knowing what to do to please her passengers.

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  4. I thoroughly recommend Thai Airways. I choose to fly on them when I can. The updated fleet of aircraft (2016) is great with comfortable attractive interiors. But most of all I like the cabin service. Always extremely good if not excellent: attentive, courteous, beautifully attired, professional and with a genuine smile. Im always happy on one of their flights.

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