Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve published a trip report, and since then, a lot has happened in my life. I have joined the workforce, working in Flight Operations at Scoot (very exciting stuff – can’t wait to get our first Dreamliner in November!) It’s been 6 months on the job, and since I never had the time to have a holiday to celebrate my graduating from university, my friends and I decided to spend a couple of weeks in Europe in the summer.
I would like to start this series of reports off by expressing my deepest condolences to the families of the passengers and crew of both Malaysia Airlines flights 17 and 370. Working at Scoot, which itself operates the Boeing 777, and being Singapore based, both tragedies have hit extremely close to home, and the thoughts of Scoot’s Flight Operations department are with our colleagues in MAS, who must be going through the worst times of their lives. Some of my colleagues worked at SIA when SQ6 crashed during takeoff at Taipei, and they have never forgotten the shock and anguish they felt at the time.
The apparent shootdown of MH17, whilst unconfirmed at this point, hit even closer to home. The third report in this series, which will document TG921 FRA-BKK, was flown on 16 July 2014. I will show in that report, the airshow map which put my flight directly overhead Donetsk approximately 20 hours prior to MH17 meeting its tragic end in the skies over Eastern Ukraine. It is fair to say that had my friends and I decided to leave Frankfurt just a day later, our flight could just have as easily have been the one to go down. MH17 was unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time. May all 298 passengers and crew rest in peace, and may the perpetrators of this heinous crime be brought to justice if it is indeed proven that the aircraft was shot down.
The first part of the trip involved choosing the airline, which was not easy considering there were 2 avgeeks making the decisions. Using ITA Matrix, we found an extremely cheap Business fare from Singapore to Frankfurt on Air India with a stop in New Delhi for just over S$1800, with all 4 legs on AI’s B787-8s. However, the strong objections of my friends’ parents (who were paying for their trips) meant that Air India was a no-go. It then came down to Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Thai Airways. Malaysia Airlines was also passed over due to parental sentiments, especially in the wake of MH370. Ultimately, we decided on Thai Airways as they had a day flight into Frankfurt operated by the Airbus A340-600, which was an aircraft type we had yet to fly, and the fare worked out to just below S$1300. The final routing was SIN-BKK-FRA and vice versa.
Our hotel reservations made, Eurail passes issued, we arrived at Changi Airport early in the morning, having checked in online 24 hours prior. The check in counters for Thai Airways were deserted, and our bags were tagged and boarding passes for both flights issued quickly. We proceeded airside through passport control, which as Singapore citizens meant we could use the automated clearance machines. Most shops at the airport were just opening, and with 2 weeks ahead of us in Europe, shopping was the last thing on our minds. We headed for Wang’s café, a coffee shop which serves local breakfast dishes such as kaya toast, Mee Siam and fishball noodles, and sat down for breakfast whilst waiting to board the flight.
We then noticed that the FIDS were showing our flight status as ‘Gate Closing’, which at Changi Airport means to take your time, boarding won’t start for another 30 minutes. We arrived at Gate D32 with time to spare and went through security, which was surprisingly painless compared to the usual racial profiling I face when passing through airport security overseas. Boarding was called shortly after and we boarded the aircraft.
Our 777 to Bangkok
We were warmly welcomed onboard by the crew with the traditional sawadee by the female cabin crew members manning Door 2L, themselves dressed in the traditional thai uniform as opposed to other members of the crew who were wearing the regular formal uniform. The aircraft that operated the flight was HS-TJE, a 17 year old Boeing 777-200 named Chaiyaphum after a province in northern Thailand. We were pleasantly surprised on boarding that the aircraft was fitted with AVOD IFE, albeit an older Panasonic S3000i IFE system. We had not expected any IFE on the flight to Bangkok, so this was an unexpected bonus. The screens were touch enabled but were not very sensitive, and I resorted to using the controller as it got the job done a lot faster.
We settled in our seats, which were manufactured by Recaro. Unlike many airlines today, Thai has kept its 777 with a 3-3-3 seat configuration, which made the seats seem a lot less cramped compared to an Emirates 777. The seat pitch was adequate for the short hop to Bangkok, but longer legs would potentially be uncomfortable. A massive IFE box was mounted beneath the window seat which basically ate up any stretching room for my feet. I switched my IFE screen to the nose camera whilst the airshow was shown on the screens mounted on the forward bulkheads. The load for the flight was around 60-70%, with this service being the first departure to Bangkok from Changi in the morning. Boarding was swiftly completed and doors were closed shortly afterward.
Contents of the seat pocket
Nose camera on the IFE screen
Cabin view prior to pushback
We pushed back from the gate on schedule and taxied out to runway 20C for departure. The safety video played on the screens as the cabin crew secured the cabin for takeoff. Meanwhile, we passed some interesting aircraft during the taxi, including a Cardig Air Boeing 737 and a newly returned SQ B777 from Royal Brunei after the end of its lease which was wearing RB livery with its Singapore registration 9V-SVA pasted on as a decal. We held short of the runway as one of Silkair’s new B737-800s landed.
Xiamen Air 737
SQ’s 9V-SVA after its lease to RBA as V8-BLC
Nose camera view before takeoff
The 737 vacated the runway as we lined up, and the Trent 800s spooled up to takeoff thrust with their traditional high pitch whine, and we were off to Bangkok. We then made a tight climbing left turn which brought us back over the airport on the Mersing 5B departure from Changi tracking north. We climbed through the cloud layers towards our cruise altitude of 36000 feet.
Rolling on runway 20C
Climbing left turn towards the north
A drinks service was quickly conducted, with mixed nuts given out. This was shortly followed by a full hot breakfast, which on this sector consisted of cut fruit, a bread roll with butter and jam, and fried rice with crab sticks and vegetables. This was followed by another drink run which included coffee and tea. The crew were friendly throughout both the drink and meal services, and went about their jobs quickly and efficiently.
Economy Breakfast meal tray
Hot main – Seafood fried rice with vegetables
View of the forward economy cabin
The flight time was less than 2 hours, and after the trays were collected, the captain announced that we would be commencing our descent into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport shortly and he told the cabin crew to prepare the cabin for arrival. The female cabin crew members who were wearing the more traditional uniforms quickly changed into their formal uniforms whilst the other crew members cleared the rubbish in the cabin.
Descending into Bangkok
The aircraft descended quickly through the clouds on the DANNY arrival into Bangkok, landing on runway 19R. It was a short taxi in, passing a Norwegian 787 and then parking at gate E5, right next to Qatar Airways’ FC Barcelona special liveried B777-300ER on one side, and the A340-600 that was to take us to Frankfurt on the other.
Our ride to Frankfurt: A340-600 HS-TNC
Qatar Airways FC Barcelona B777-300ER A7-BAE
The aerobridges were connected quickly and we quickly disembarked into the arrivals area at Suvarnabhumi, where a 3 hour layover awaited before our flight to Frankfurt.