The Rugby World Cup is in full swing, an enormous typhoon has just swept across Japan, an earthquake shook your hotel last night, your Narita Express train service cancels and you don’t think you’re going to make your flight home. What happens next?
Thankfully, in spite of all of this and the enormous number of hopeful passengers gathering around Row F in the check-in area, the Thai Airways team at Narita is calm, friendly and on top of things.
Joining the end of a long line and clearly frazzled—me, not my 14 year old son who’s still beaming from his close encounter with the Wallabies in Kakegawa 48-hours earlier—we’re approached by a Thai Airways staff member who asks for our flight number, and leads us to a nearby kiosk to check-in and print our NRT-BKK boarding passes and baggage labels.
Nearby, the ‘cancelled’ status of the majority flights listed on the departures board is evident. We’re lucky to be getting away tonight. Stress levels must be high, but the Thai team show no sign of it at all.
CHECK-IN & BOARDING
We’re booked on an enormous Airbus A380 and, as the airline informed me a few days prior when I queried the likelihood of flights operating around Typhoon Hagibis, our flight is completely full—a bum in every single one of the 507 seats on board.
As you might expect, the check-in area is heaving. But as the Thai team deftly direct arriving passengers to kiosks and then into long, snaking but moving check-in lines, the process is completed pretty painlessly. Security checks are high-tech and completed in minutes.
The long-ish hike out to Gate 46 where our massive aircraft and 505 other passengers await takes us past ramen and sushi restos offering well-priced and tempting takeaway fare. The kid spins by oblivious on his trolley, and as we reach our destination we’re met with a pretty calm scene despite the fact it’s now clear we’ll be leaving later than expected.
When boarding commences, it’s orderly and quick—the A380 comfortably inhaling 507 passengers. Taking our seats on the lower deck, it’s hard to believe that every one of those folk at check-in is now on board. There’s some magic about this aircraft.
THE CABIN & SEAT
On board, the economy class cabin pops with the airline’s signature hues of pink and lilac on seats in a 3-4-3 configuration. The cabin is jaunty and bright, and strangely relaxing. Leg-room is generous for international economy, there’s a neat swing-down footrest, and reasonable pocket space for headphones and other essentials.
Whilst not a brand new aircraft by any means, the cabin hardware is in good nick and feels fresh, clean and well-maintained.
The seat is comfortable, offers significant recline, and the adjustable headrests are a great feature. Seat pitch is in the rather generous 31-32 inch ballpark, and each seat comes with a pillow and blanket.
It’s all too much for 14 who scoffs his dinner and promptly falls asleep…against the chap to his right who is still tucking into his.
FOOD & DRINKS
Dinner is served after hot towels are handed around seconds after the fasten seatbelts sign pings off. There’s a choice of a Japanese style pork curry, and chicken in a pepper sauce. Each main is accompanied by rice, a salad and a cold noodle starter with a cute-as-a-button bottle of noodle sauce.
Topped off with a warm bread roll and a sweet vanilla roll cake, it’s about as tasty as it gets in Economy at 40,000.
The only way to test the drinks service is to stress test it, right. Let’s just say it passed with flying colours.
ENTERTAINMENT & SERVICE
Service on board is visible and consistent. There are plenty of attentive cabin staff, and our call bell stress tests are attended to promptly and generously.
Having sampled one of everything in his lolly stash, 14 hits his call button a few times for water which is swiftly delivered.
With the advent of streaming services, the once-coveted seatback TV can seem a bit antiquated as passengers dive into binge on downloaded content. Many do on this flight. Even still, the screen is big, and Thai’s IFE is loaded with recent movies and TV shows, and plenty of classics. No complaints except for the minor annoyance of the auto-pause that interrupts Toy Story 4 every time there’s an announcement on the PA—something that doesn’t happen when you’re watching Suits on your phone.
Thai Airways runs a pretty tight ship. The hardware on the A380 is significantly more comfortable than on the B777 we connect to in Bangkok bound for Brisbane. Connections through Bangkok to/from Japan are reasonably quick, and we’d fly them again without a second thought.
Class: Economy, lower deck, seat 50D & 50E
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Timing: Departed Tokyo Narita Airport at 18.30, delayed a little over an hour after the scheduled departure time of 17.25 due to Typhoon Hagibis. However, perhaps benefitting from a tailwind generated by that very same storm, we landed in Bangkok almost as scheduled at 21.55, making our flight time around 5 hours and 30 minutes.
Loyalty: Royal Orchid Plus
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