The airline with the best average rating is Thai Airways with 8.2/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 20 minutes.More information
Hello and welcome to flight 4 of 5 from my recent visit to Thailand. Today's flight comes after experiences on Bangkok Airways and two prior flights on Thai, all of which you can catch up on here:
This flight was to be the crown jewel of my trip. With opportunities to fly the Queen of the Skies becoming rarer by the day, taking TG's domestic 747 between the capital and Phuket was on my to-do list ever since moving to this part of the world. With the airline's tendency of last-minute aircraft changes and general unpredictability however, I wasn't confident until checking the inbound flight that morning! As you can read about in my previous report, Thai had already deprived me of the 747 once, and it'd be a major insult to have it happen again.
TG send up to three daily 747s on the BKK-HKT route, catering to the massive tourist demand and onward connectivity through BKK. Amazingly, two of these flights often operate within 30 minutes of each other (TG201/202 and TG203/04), and it was the latter of these that looked the safer bet when I booked ~2 months in advance.
To my dismay, as the date approached FR24 was showing TG203/04 operated by the 747 less and less, whilst TG201/202 looked all but guaranteed. The complete opposite to what was happening at the time of booking… Therefore, as a safety net and with ticket prices still mercifully low, I had a moment of madness and booked on TG202 as well. My original ticket was non-refundable but fortunately didn't carry no-show penalties either. With this piece of mind I felt a lot more relaxed about my trip and could enjoy the anticipation of logging what could potentially be my last ever 747-400 flight.
After some quality time in Phuket's lesser-travelled north, it was time to make my way back up to Bangkok. Like every flight this trip, this one starts with a budget-friendly way of getting to the airport. Staying in the excellent Luna Airport Hostel, this meant just a 10-minute walk to the domestic terminal at HKT. The international terminal is even closer, as you can see both the terminal building and hostel sign in the panorama below.
Not ideal if you have a lot of luggage and in the summer heat, but when taxis ask for over 200THB for the 2-minute ride it's well worth the sweat.
Arriving at the domestic terminal, there is a baggage scanning checkpoint before entering the main check-in hall. This was a surprisingly quiet space considering the decent number of flights this morning - mostly to Bangkok's secondary LCC airport, Don Muang. Desks 25-30 are used exclusively by TG.
TG use an interesting check-in system to passengers boarding their domestic flights at HKT. Those with onward international connections in BKK do so in the international terminal, and clear exit immigration along with other int'l passengers. They are given stickers that identify them as int'l transit pax, and are kept separate from the rest of the flight until boarding. This meant the counters were very quiet considering the two inbound 747 flights, as a minority of passengers will be taking these point-to-point or connecting domestically in BKK.
I once again checked my 7kg rucksack and received the classy TG-branded boarding pass to BKK.
Security was quick and efficient, and opened into the general waiting area. This was a low-ceilinged space with limited windows (albeit more natural light than the purgatory at CNX). There's a decent selection of coffee shops and fast food restaurants, as well as some nicer places to eat. It was reassuring to see you could pick up a coffee for 70 THB.
I found a quiet corner with a half-decent view of the tarmac and end of the runway. Walkways divide the waiting area and main windows, so it's impossible to get close to the glass. The morning's action consisted of an Aeroflot A330-300 arrival, some Air Asia movements and Qatar's morning A350-900 flight back to Doha.
Tracking my inbound flight from BKK, I learned today's flight was operated by HS-TGB; a relatively "young" Jumbo Jet in service with Thai all its life and named Si Satchanalai. Incidentally, today marked exactly 18 years since its delivery - I'd be flying the Queen on her birthday!
Right on time, the massive bird touched down and came into view exiting the runway. What a magnificent beast.
I made the quick walk over to gate 8 where she'd promptly pulled onto stand. There's something so iconic about a 747's nose seen through the windows of an airport, and it'd hard to not feel sad at the very real prospect of a near-future without this view.
I tried to get a better view from the second floor housing the PP lounge, but the strange roof fence again prevented the perfect shot.
At 9:25 the gate agents announced a boarding delay of 5 minutes. The int'l passengers could be seen lining up the other side of the glass, and they began their boarding before us domestic folks. We were eventually called to finish off boarding the aircraft at 9:42, finally permitting a clear shot of HS-TGB from the jetbridge.
During this time, sister ship HS-TGW had arrived as TG203 from Bangkok, completing the ever-rarer sight of two 747-400s parked up at neighbouring gates. Unfortunately there were no means of capturing both of them from the terminal, but it was a beautiful sight to behold. HS-TGW also carries the Star Alliance livery - extra karma for me having no faith in sticking to my original ticket!
Boarding a 747 is truly unique, and I was far from the only passenger stopping along the walkway to photograph its iconic front. Aside from the A380, I can't think of another aircraft that carries such high recognition amongst general members of the traveling public.
Greeted and boarding passing the famous central staircase, I made my way back to seat 62A. Strangely this was the only row available for selection during online check-in, and fortunately it had a great view of the majestic wing and GE engine hanging below. As a side note, I noticed row 39 to be missing a window.
This again was a row the "two windows", which was great for photographing but meant a long lean forward or sharp turn of the neck to look out of. My seatmate had no problem exploiting this and leaning right across me to take his own photos. Personal space is an optional extra when flying these skies.
After multiple flights on their A330s and 777-200s, I was shocked to find even better legroom and seat comfort onboard Thai's 747. The legroom was impressively good when coupled with the gently curving walls of the massive aircraft's fuselage. There's a modest IFE box to the right of the seat in front and foldable footrest too.
This 747 carried Thai's newer (but not newest) interior and IFE system, with a good-sized touchscreen monitor and remote control in the armrest as well. I didn't use anything but the moving map for this short flight, but my seatmate cycled through around 10 TV shows in this time so I believe the content to be substantial.
The cabin still retains the retro overhead bins and yellow lighting, but never feels cramped despite the 325 passengers that can squeeze into this economy cabin. Luckily today we had some breathing room, with a LF around 70%.
Boarding was announced as completed at 10:02 and we were pushing back by 10:03, passing HS-TGW on the way out to the runway. I assume the presence of both these big birds is to connect the huge morning bank of BKK arrivals with HKT, as well as shuttling folks back up to connect with a select few afternoon flights.
It's a short taxi to the end of runway 27 to line up for a westbound takeoff over the famous beach.
It was glorious to hear the 4 engines spool up and power down the runway. They made extremely short work of it with a very quick takeoff roll and powered into the sky with a roar at 10:13, with excellent views of the airport, coastline and ocean below.
This was followed by a sharp bank left to loop us back around over Phuket, making the popular island destination and choppy waters below look pristine.
I have to reiterate how great the view of that wing is!
Once above the cloud layer it was a gentle climb up to 35,000ft and another turn to point the nose north towards BKK, with only puffy clouds for company.
The crew wasted no time getting the snack service underway. Today's would be some sort of what looked like falafel but tasted like chicken patty in a bun accompanied by a fruit salad. It came with the standard small bottle of water. Both were surprisingly tasty, although I probably preferred the inbound warm snack on TG221.
The tea and coffee service followed surprisingly soon after, and I opted for a cup of the good TG coffee (with creamer again this time, no fresh milk).
There was little to do after other than sit back and enjoy being on this piece of flying history. The seat reclined a nice distance and I didn't have to feel too bad about the person behind given the amount of space between seats.
Unfortunately, cloud cover was enough to obscure the Thai coastline below. I was left with only the Jumbo's epic wing to train my lens on.
I checked out the very rear of the passenger cabin which houses an impressive concentration of lavatories. Lots of empty seats back here, allowing me to shoot some of the typical rows and their legroom.
Precious little time remained of the flight, and at 10:55 I felt the nose angle downwards to initiate our descent.
Breaking the cloud cover, we made landfall over the murky river delta waters at about 9,000ft. This meant a flypast of BKK to the left at just 7,000ft, giving excellent views over the whole airport.
A tight U-turn then put us on course for landing on runway 19R at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Wheels were down at 11:19; 11 minutes ahead of schedule and concluded a flight time of 1:06. It was a mercifully short taxi to the gate, passing the usual midday BKK traffic.
Reaching the stand by 11:24, I was in no rush to leave and let the rest of the passengers vacate before having one last look around the Queen.
The forward economy rows have envious views out over the 747's powerplants. These were the views from rows 35K and 32K (bulkhead) respectively.
I was courteously yet firmly then directed to the exit by the crew, leaving me to step off a 747-400 for what's hopefully not the last time. HS-TGB would go on to operate TG660 to Tokyo Haneda at 1pm.
No decent views of the Jumbo parked up thanks to BKK's infamous spotted windows, so instead it was straight through to baggage reclaim where I was reunited with my rucksack at 11:52.
From there it was a quick walk to locate the Don Muang shuttle bus - a free service for passengers connecting between the airports. It's available to anyone with a ticket from the opposite airport either that day or the next, and I strongly recommend making use of this service rather than trying to navigate the public transport system or high taxi fares between the two hubs. The journey took 50 minutes and drops you right outside departures at DMK.
Thus concludes my flights with Thai Airways, the 747 and the domestic part of this trip. It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to fly the Queen of the Skies so comfortably and affordably, even with the double-ticket gaffe. I don't know TG's plans for its 747 fleet but I sure hope they keep them flying for a few more years with the cabin currently installed, and it'll be a sad day when they are no longer a sight at airports around the world.
Thanks for reading, check out the day's route in its entirety below:
Another great flight on TG, made all the better by being on a 747. I'd have no hesitation in flying it on longer routes, although I believe only Sydney remains as Thai's solitary long-haul 747 destination. It can also be found on mid-haul routes such as CTS, HND, DEL and DPS. Catch them while you can!