Thai Airways are one of the most recent airlines to take delivery of Airbus’ A350 aircraft. When they received the first of the twelve they’ve ordered from Airbus, they were breaking them in on short haul domestic flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai / Phuket and were supposed to be using Bangkok-Melbourne as the long haul launch route. From what I gather, Australian authorities are making it difficult for Thai Airways to get approval to fly Airbus’ newest model into Melbourne even though they wouldn’t be the first carrier to operate a service into Australia on the aircraft.

Thai Airways To Melbourne

For some time, Melbourne has been serviced by Thai on a combination of 777-200 and 777-300er aircraft. While the 300 has fully flat beds in business class, the 200 has what Thai refer to as angled flat. I would probably say that it’s somewhere between a bad angled flat seat and a good recliner.

Thai 777-300er business class seat. Image from Thai Airways' website.

Thai 777-300er business class seat. Image from Thai Airways’ website.

The business class seats on the 300 are very similar to what Thai have on their A380 aircraft and it’s a reasonably solid product. It’s in a staggered 1-2-1 layout so all passengers have direct aisle access. Either way, the switch over to the brand new A350 will be a welcome upgrade for the route when it happens.

Thai Airways To Sydney

Sydney is serviced by Thai’s 747 product which on one hand is great as it has a first class cabin but on the other hand means the same recliner seats in business class found on the 777-200. First class on the route is actually variable depending on which specific 747 you get as it’s possible to end up either in the newer suite style first class or the older product. To identify if a flight on a Thai Airways 747 has the newer first product just check the seat map. If row 2 has three seats (A,E,K) it’s the newer suites. If row 2 has 4 seats (A,E,F,K) it’s the older first class product.


Thai Airways Equipment Swaps

Thai are notorious for switching equipment, so even if you’ve booked yourself on the 777-300er you could quite easily end up flying on the 777-200 or if you’re booked on a flight on the newer 747 you could still end up on the old first class product.

Me and my wife have booked a trip to the Seychelles in March and got on a great SriLankan Airlines fare that starts in Bangkok. In order to get to Bangkok to position for the SriLankan fare, we used United Airlines miles to book a Thai flight from Sydney to Bangkok.

At first, I booked us on a 747 flight direct from Sydney. I figured it wouldn’t matter too much being on an older style product for the daytime flight and the timing was perfect to match up with our flights to the Seychelles. After sitting on the tickets for 24 hours though, I decided I wanted to fly on a nicer product and that it was worth the change fee, the hassle and the full day in Bangkok to fly on the brand new A350 from Melbourne. So, I changed the tickets, booked a Velocity award ticket to Melbourne (a positioning flight for a positioning flight, hmmm….) and day use at one of the Hilton properties in Bangkok for the day we now have there.

This meant that instead of a nice comfortable 10am departure from Sydney we now had a half past midnight flight from Melbourne but I was stoked to try the new Thai business class product.

Fast forward a week and Thai switched the A350 scheduled for my flight out for a 777-200 with recliners. So now, not only was I booked on the old seats, I was booked to fly it on a midnight departure from another city. Nice one Gus…

I had a quick look at my other options and decided to change the whole thing again and reroute via Brisbane on a Thai Airways 787. The Thai Airways 787 has pretty much identical business class seats to the ones used by United Airlines on their Dreamliners. Even though they’re in a 2-2-2 configuration, they’re fully flat and look pretty nice. Definitely a big step up from the 777-200 and on top of the aircraft, this routing means I also get to check out the new Air New Zealand lounge in Brisbane which looks awesome!

Thai Airways 787. Image from Thai Airways' website.

Thai Airways 787. Image from Thai Airways’ website.

Thai A350 And Melbourne

Back to the Thai A350 and Melbourne. So, originally Thai had loaded flights operated by the A350 on the Melbourne to Bangkok route from August 2016. It’s definitely common for these things to get pushed back and it was. The flights got pushed back to September. Then to October. Then November. Then January….

Thai Airways A350. Image from Thai Airways' website.

Thai Airways A350. Image from Thai Airways’ website.

Now, as far as I can see, they’re not operating the route on the A350 until the 26th of March 2017 and that’s assuming there are no more delays. In the mean time, they’ve started flying the A350 to Milan and Rome from Bangkok. I completely understand it’s not their fault and can imagine how frustrating it must be for the airline but so far that’s 7 months of midnight departures that have been downgraded from a fully flat bed on the newest and most advanced passenger aircraft in the world to a recliner chair on a 777-200. Not ideal really…

In my case, I have to say both United Airlines and Thai were incredibly helpful. United are consistently among the best airlines to deal with in my experience. I’m super happy with what I have booked and am really looking forward to the flight.

I will be keeping an eye out for equipment swaps of course…