On August 30th, 2016 Thai Airways International became the world’s 8th airline to receive the delivery of a brand new Airbus A350-900, the newest high-tech long-haul widebody aircraft from the European aircraft manufacturer. Thai Airways has a total of 12 A350s on order, of which 8 will be leased from the U.S. aircraft lessor CIT Aerospace. The new aircraft will replace the Thai carrier’s older Boeing 777s and operate long-haul routes from Thailand to Oceania and Japan. The Thai A350 may also be deployed to Europe alongside the A380 whalejet.
Flight-Report had the opportunity to attend the delivery ceremony festivities and catch a ride on the delivery flight from Toulouse to Bangkok!
The iconic Airbus delivery center, where customers receive new aircraft
The day starts with check-in for the delivery flight to Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi.
Airbus, Rolls Royce, CIT, and Thai Airways are all present for the delivery ceremony.
Fabrice Brégier, the CEO of Airbus, takes the microphone to sing the praises of the high-tech Airbus A350.
The next speaker is the CEO of Thai Airways.
Then comes the traditional exchange of gifts among the 4 partner entities.
A promotional film on the history of the A350 is shown on the big screen.
Thai’s first A350XWB is registered HS-THB and baptised "Wichian Buri"
The two most recognizable features of the A350: the winglet and the raccoon mask windshield.
The A350-900 is currently the shortest available A350 variant since the suspension of the A350-800 program in 2014. The longer A350-1000 is due to enter into service in 2017.
When the boarding time comes along, as in any airport, one must go through a passport and security check.
Two jet-bridges are connected to the aircraft despite the light load on this flight.
The captain himself greets passengers, accompanied by two cabin crew.
The seating configuration in Business class is a spacious 1-2-1, giving each passenger aisle access. The seats are the Solstys model by European manufacturer Stelia, a subsidiary of the Airbus Group.
The pitch varies between 41 and 46 inches with a seat width of 21”.
The sleek and modern Panasonic remote and the seat controls.
Interestingly showing the LAX-BKK flight despite the route having been recently suspended.
The screen is a decent 16"
Privacy screens can be raised with a push. These centered “Honeymoon” seats are perfect for couples travelling together, but are not ideal for strangers who may find that the privacy screens are not quite high enough.
The fully flat Solstys seats differ a bit from the similar Skylounge model in that there is an opening by the feet. This allows for more space, but the lack of barrier makes it easy for blankets to fall into the aisle while sleeping. The solo seats by the windows offer a good amount of privacy.
The Thai Airways representatives take a break from the action.
On the flight deck, we find a modern Airbus glass cockpit. Commonality between Airbus aircraft allows current Airbus widebody pilots to train on the A350 in only 8 days. As Thai Airways do not currently have A350 simulators, in order to be qualified, pilots must train in Singapore, Toulouse, or Miami.
In Economy, the seating configuration is a comfortable 9 abreast. As on other Thai Airways aircraft, the seats are colorful.
The latest Panasonic In-flight Entertainment system is featured in the Economy cabin with an impressive size of 11”. Remote controls are a nice convenience, not often featured in Economy class since the popularization of touchscreen IFE systems.
The 11 inch screen.
Seats in Economy feature footrests.
Economy class passengers also have access to two universal power outlets for every three seats.
The headrests are adjustable—both vertically and horizontally.
Business class amenity kits were pre-placed in the seats.
The amenity kits are by Thai company Thann and feature some basic contents.
Safety video during taxi.
Overhead panel with fixed reading lights common to all recent Airbus aircraft.
A nonstop flight between TLS and BKK is not a common sight.
The tail camera on the A350 offers a higher quality image than those on the older A380s.
We’re off for the 12 hour+ flight to Bangkok.
Turn to the left to head east.
Lovely view of the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine. The aircraft registration is also visible—THB is also the three letter code for Thailand’s currency.
The load is light on this delivery flight, with mostly invited guests on board.
Here is a look at the seat in the reclined position. Seating is reasonably spacious for Economy class with a standard 32” seat pitch and an above average 18” seat width.
Hot towel service.
On this special flight, Economy class passengers are treated to Roederer champagne offered by the CEO of Thai Airways himself.
Canapés follow the champagne service.
The four course meal service is not your typical Economy class fare with high-end products.
Appetizer of Foie gras with toast.
There is also a salmon roulade option.
For the main, there are three options: Chicken, beef, or fish.
Nice presentation on the dessert.
And then…surprisingly comes some birthday cake! Interesting ;-)
There was a bit of turbulence throughout a good part of the flight.
The A350 winglet is just gorgeous and very recognizable.
Pleasant cabin atmosphere during cruise.
We will fly through the night, arriving in BKK in the morning.
The IFE remote in Economy is not the touchscreen version found in Business class.
The Entertainment system features over 100 movies, 150 TV programs, 17 audio channels, 500+ music albums, and 40 games.
With such a light load, each Economy class passenger can have a full row for sleeping—a fully lie-flat experience in Economy!
Cabin crew offer snacks bottles of Evian water throughout the night.
Daybreak reveals a much different landscape and large tropical clouds.
A rather direct route.
There is once again a hot towel service prior to breakfast being served.
Cabin crew offer hot drinks of a nicely decorated cart.
Once again, the meal service is generous.
The French touch
A poched egg with charcuterie.
Hot main dish
Another view of the beautiful winglet in the morning light.
The Rolls Royce engine reaching the end of its maiden long-haul flight.
Descent over the Thai countryside for a landing to the south on Runway 19R.
The tail camera offers great views.
Spoilers deployed on the elegantly shaped wing.
Many Thai Airways and airport employees are out on the tarmac to take photos and greet the new A350.
THAI is the 5th airline to operate both the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 XWB. Despite flying similar missions, the Business class products are different.
The welcome ceremony is in full swing with journalists and photographers all over, including high on raised platforms.
Nice view of the tail upon deplaning.
On the other side of the hangar, A380 HS-TUB is in for a C-check.
A large welcome committee!
One last view of THAI’s beautiful first A350 in the hangar where it will be inspected prior to taking flight for Chiang Mai on crew familiarization flights and then Phuket, and finally Melbourne to debut long-haul operations.
The THAI A350-900 is configured to accommodate 32 Business class (Royal Silk) passengers and 289 passengers in Economy.
The 12 aircraft will be delivered between 2016 and 2018.
The first THAI A350 will operate crew familiarization flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket prior to beginning long-haul operations on the Bangkok-Melbourne route in late September. As more aircraft are received, Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo, and Osaka will see A350 service.
The THAI A350 XWB fleet features WiFi (Thai Sky Connect) through KU band technology and the Panasonic exConnect system. Royal Silk passengers are offered 5MB of complimentary access, 10MB for Royal Orchid Gold frequent flyers, and 30MB for Royal Orchid Plus members. Economy class passengers without frequent flyer status have several options for purchasing WiFi access including 100MB for 35USD.
Flight Reported by Flavien as a guest of Airbus & Thai Airways International. Translation by Kévin
With the arrival of the A350 XWB in its fleet, Thai Airways continues to position itself as a major player on the international scene. THAI’s fleet grows ever younger as the company invests in more efficient modern aircraft offering competitive products. The A350 joins the already diverse long-haul fleet of Airbus and Boeing widebody aircraft.
The A350 on board product, while solid, is not revolutionary—the cabins are similar to those found on the current Boeing 777-300ER fleet. While some carriers have made use of the arrival of new aircraft types like the A350 to unveil new products, THAI did not make such plans, but is reportedly studying different potential Premium Economy products.
Thai Airways is currently in talks with Airbus to acquire A350-900 Ultra Long Range aircraft to possibly re-open the BKK to Los Angeles and New York routes previously operated by Airbus A340-500.
We wish THAI the best of luck with this superb new aircraft!
- Comfortable modern cabin: mood lighting, better pressurization, silent - Good legroom and superior seat width at 18” (more than 1” more space than the 787) - 11" HD IFE screen with extensive content in several languages - Universal power outlets - Attractive cabin
- No new product introduced with the A350 arrival, notably in Business class - Expensive WiFi for those without complimentary access. - Overhead bins over the central section of seats takes away from potential spaciousness
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