Home > Hong Kong, Lounges, Star Alliance, Thai Airways, Trip Reports, United Airlines > Asia 2012 Trip Report: Thai/United First Class Lounges at HKG; Thai First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Asia 2012 Trip Report: Thai/United First Class Lounges at HKG; Thai First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 3: United Airlines Global First Class, San Francisco to Frankfurt

Part 4: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

Part 5: Lufthansa FRA-ZRH, SWISS First Class Lounge at Zürich

Part 6: SWISS First Class, Zürich to Hong Kong

Part 7: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Part 8: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Bangkok to Singapore

Part 9: Exploring Singapore

Part 10: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Mumbai

Part 11: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Mumbai to Singapore

Part 12: Singapore Airlines Business Class, Singapore to Hanoi

Part 13: Hanoi / Ha Long Bay

Part 14: Qatar Airways Economy Class, Hanoi to Bangkok

Part 15: Bangkok / Park Plaza Soi 18

Part 16: Emirates A380 First Class Suites, Bangkok to Hong Kong

Part 17: A weekend in Hong Kong

Part 18: Thai/United First Class Lounges at HKG; Thai First Class, Hong Kong to Bangkok

—————————————-

After an amazing weekend in Hong Kong, it was time to finally head home. Though while most people flying between Hong Kong and Los Angeles would just cross the Pacific Ocean, I’d go the Atlantic route, via Bangkok, Frankfurt, and London. The reason had everything to do with the airline I’d be flying from Hong Kong to Frankfurt.

While the outbound segment centered around SWISS First Class and the Lufthansa Frankfurt First Class Terminal, the return segment of my 120K US Airways miles award was built solely around trying out Thai Airways’s (TG) First Class product, especially the ground services at their Bangkok hub. I had quite a pleasant surprise when two weeks before the trip, I saw that the 747 I had booked from Bangkok-Frankfurt was scheduled as a 777-300ER, with the Jet Airways suites. Of course, TG is known for switching out aircraft, so I held my breath. Since this was a US Airways award, I couldn’t change any flights once I flew my first segment …

Anyway. A winding red cab ride down the hills of the Mid-Levels brought me to the Hong Kong Airport Express station. After a month of traveling, I had a suitcase overflowing with goodies to bring home (mostly things given by relatives on one continent to get to other relatives on other continents … I tend to be a family courier when I travel due to free bags via status or premium cabins). Luckily, the Airport Express allows one to check-in bags at Hong Kong Station. What a concept!

Unfortunately, I got “TG’d” on my first TG flight. The seat map the day prior showed the newer 747 configuration, with seats similar to those on the Swiss A340 I flew from Zurich to Hong Kong. However, Thai subbed in an older 747 for this flight. This is a frequent occurrence with Thai Airways, and so frequent flyers call it getting “TG’d.”

Due to a light load in First, the desk agent said each set of 2 seats would have 1 blocked. In addition to boarding pass, I was also given a Lounge Pass to the Royal First Lounge and a “voucher” for a golf cart ride from airport check-in counters to lounge (though I never figured out how to use it … plus after a weekend of delicious Hong Kong food, I sorely needed to walk around their massive airport).

I hung around the Hong Kong Airport Express station to hang out with my cousin who I was visiting. That’s one thing I love about HK … many of the big shopping/food centers are built around MTR stations. Everything is so accessible. It really is ingenious.

Once at the airport, I bee-lined for the Thai Airways lounge. It’s a large space with a separation between Business and First Class passengers. Upon entering, I was shown to the right, to the First space, and asked by a staff member if I’d like a drink and/or snacks. The sole difference between the First and Business space is pretty much the amount of people in each … it looks to be the same amenities, just with a partial wall in between.

Entrance to the HKG Royal Orchid Lounge

First Class area

Pretty limited food/drink selection

Not much of a division between the First and Business sides, either. Same massage chair as well.

I soon left the TG lounge since I’d heard good things about the HKG United Airlines Club. Okay, “good things” for a United Club. I wasn’t expecting it to compete with the Lufthansa and Swiss First Class Lounges. Fortunately, Star Alliance airlines tend to allow partner airline’s First Class passengers into many of their lounges, unlike OneWorld where one also needs to have top-tier Emerald status.

Upon presenting the boarding pass, a United lounge agent showed me to the International First Lounge, a separate lounge within the larger United Club, and offered up a drink as well. I had the entire place to myself for a while. The food was definitely better than the TG lounge and although it wasn’t as “open-air” as the Thai Airways space, I preferred it a lot more.

Food options

May have snuck a couple of these in before my flight …

These are the “ad napkins” I dislike about U.S.-based airlines. Okay maybe not ads, maybe “empty slogan napkins”

Facing food area and the entrance door

TV room and hallways to showers

Shower (I see an old-school United tulip …)

I also visited the general United Club to take some pictures. I can see why so many people are fans … it’s a great business class lounge, even by international standards.

Looking down toward the crowded Emirates lounge. For once, United > Emirates

But it was soon time to board, so I made my way to the boarding area. Lines were already forming, one for Economy and another for First/Business, so I stood in the latter. A TG agent came down the line to check boarding passes and passports, and upon seeing my boarding pass with a large “F” on it, invited me to form a new line to the side for first class boarding. So I did.

Now given my age and the fact that I travel with a big backpack rather than a roller-board or other business traveler accessories, I tend to have people often tell me that I’m not in the right place. I usually ignore them.

But the guy in the front of the business class line was one of those people that wouldn’t shut up. Despite me being told to form a new line by a gate agent, he’d keep making comments toward me like, “There’s a line behind me.” I chose to ignore the first time, but after he repeated himself, I simply responded, “Yes. There is a line behind you.”

“Buddy. There’s a line, you gotta follow rules.”

“I was told to stand here.”

I could not have timed it better, but right then, a TG agent walked up to me: “Mr. K, we are ready to board First Class please,” as she waved her hand to welcome me to the jetway. As I handed my boarding pass, I fought the urge to turn around and see the look on his face.

Thai Airways International 607, HKG-BKK
8:45pm-10:25pm (2h40m)
Boeing 747-400 (old configuration)
Seat 1A, First

Before entering the jetway, I was gifted a “Star Alliance 15 Years” luggage tag, since I was flying a founding member on the 15th anniversary of the alliance’s birth. Thanks for letting US Airways have access to your award inventories, y’all!

I entered the 747 to a symphony of “Sawadees,” a bit familiar after having spent a few days in Thailand the week prior. It was an old cabin on the left, probably the anti-Emirates A380, but still plenty comfortable for a short 1000-mile journey. A flight attendant showed me to my seat, 1A, and I was soon warmly greeted by the purser with the firmest of handshake.

“Welcome, Mr. K, we are very glad to have you onboard. How do you like the cabin, is it all right?”

Yo, Singapore Airlines, this is how you acknowledge a cabin downgrade. Then again, I guess Thai Airways (TG) has the process down pat … I mean, it’s even called getting “TG’d.”

Old school

Bulkhead legroom. I would have switched to the K side for views of Hong Kong on takeoff, but saw from the Airport Express that the airport was doing reverse takeoff/landing patterns …

Seat controls – a plus for simplicity?

Anyway. The purser soon returned with a glass of Dom 2002 (compared to the inferior 2003 on Emirates’ flights). All this flying in premium classes may make me become “AA’d.”

Despite the aging hard product, I could tell the food would be much better than Emirates when I perused the menu.

Menu presentation

Menu:

Hong Kong – Bangkok

Canapés

First Course
Salmon Gravlax

Main Course
Deep-fried Ling Fish Fillet and Eggplant with Chinese Black Bean Sauce
Steamed Rice
Pak Choy

or

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Seasoning, Mushroom Brown Sauce
Lyonnaise Potatoes with Onion and Parsley
Roasted Asparagus, Carrot

or

Stir-fried Thai Noodles with Prawn “Pad Thai”
Grilled Lobster

Assorted Bread, Crackers, Butter
Cheese and Fresh Fruits Plate

Dessert
Apple Cherry Crumble Tart
Coffee Bavarois Cake
Tea, Coffee
Espresso, Cappuccino

And links to the wine menu:
Whites | Reds | Others (a bit blurry)

Rather than order off the menu, I kept with my pre-ordered meal of Lobster Thermidor, which was pretty good! I’ve heard it isn’t that great when it’s catered out of Bangkok, so I made sure to order it from a different airport.

Canapés

Table setting. One thing about the old product is that the table isn’t as large as one would like.

Can’t go wrong with salmon …

Lobster Thermidor, with a small side of noodles I requested

Cheese Plate

Dessert

Although this flight had a heavier First Class load than both my Emirates flights combined (including myself: 3 and 1 on Emirates, 6 on Thai tonight), dinner service was really relaxed. In between courses, the purser went around to each passenger, asking how the meal was, and engaging in conversation (ours revolved around my weekend in Hong Kong).

I sure hope that TG limits the use of these old 747s on long-hauls … they’re perfect for short-haul flights, but the table/IFE situation would downright upset me on a longer flight.

Resorting to emergency in-flight entertainment

About 45 minutes out of BKK, I noticed the passengers in row 2 were American as well, and were talking about things that would make a flyerhead giddy. In particular, their conversation of the LH A380 piqued my interest. I soon joined in – we went in-depth comparing experiences of the Lufthansa A380 in First versus the Emirates A380 in First. It was a great conversation amongst 3 guys who just love to fly, and didn’t devolve into an elite card throw-down a la ‘Up in the Air!’

Upon landing at Bangkok, we were given a remote parking position. Thai Airways provided a bus solely for First passengers (ahem, United, learn from your partners) and so I continued my conversation with the two other passengers from the flight. Unfortunately, I never got their names! As soon as the bus reached the terminal, we were each greeted by our own personal assistant who escorted us through fast-track at security and to baggage claim. Mine insisted on getting my bag for me and walking me all the way to my ground transportation meeting area.

So …. do I just awkwardly stand back here?

Despite the old product, it was still a great flight! Great food, great crew, and great conversation with fellow flying heads. The 1000 miles went by quickly.

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