CRUCIAL CONNECTION #5: THE CALCUTTA BOUND CONUNDRUM!
Hey everyone! A continuation of the previous part on Thai Airways as my brother and I were making our way back to Kolkata from Phnom Penh. With a 1hr25min connection, and the middle of a peak Thai Airways international bank, and the long security line that we saw on the outbound, in addition to a 25min delay, we had cards stacked against us. There was still yet one ace up our hands that we had to play…
LAYOVER AT BANGKOK SUVARNABHUMI
Got off the bus at 2256 hours, 49 minutes to departure. We bolted across travelators. We ran past people taking selfies as they made their ‘landed in Bangkok’ posts. It was a race against time, and by far the most stressful seeing as we were within a fighting chance of making it.
While big brother gathered information from the help desk, I saw that TG313 to Kolkata was from gate C10 - we cross-checked this with each other and headed for the transfer security. While not a long snaking line at the bottom, I knew the top would be much busier. 2305 hours, 40 minutes to departure. Our hopes lay in the decision of the individual manning the line - the one who’d let wheelchair folk through.
And so, we duly showed our boarding passes while explaining that the flight from Phnom Penh was delayed. This worked! This absolutely worked! We were allowed to cut through, and security went by pretty alright. 2315 hours, 30 minutes to spare, we knew that we’d make the flight, while the bags ehhhh not sure.
Boarding pass issued at PNH
Of course, no time for spotting or anything, as it was dark out, BKK isn’t the friendliest for spotting, C10 was a walk away, and of course - there was no time :)
We made it to C10 with 19 minutes to spare, unsurprisingly boarding had already commenced so we made our way to the airplane. From a distance - it looked a Boeing 777-200: was this the equipment swap I was looking for?!
Unfortunately, the BE on the nose wheel door, Trent 700 engines, winglets meant that we were indeed heading towards an A330-300: HS-TBE, a 6 years old A330-300 named Sakon Nakhon. The crew were pretty welcoming, unfortunately the passengers who were already onboard were in others’ way slowing down the boarding process & not listening to the crew. Why is this almost always the case on sub-continent bound flights. :(
Took our seats 51A and 51C: we were in our seats with 12 minutes to spare! Shortest layover ever, with exactly 40 minutes between the coach taking us from the plane to the terminal to us getting to the seats - whoa, this crucial connection had been made, barely. I was expecting more delays as boarding continued. Pillows, blankets & headsets were already placed on the seats.
Pillow & blanket A timely announcement from the Captain: it would be a 2hr15min flight across with some bumps along the way, and some weather around Kolkata as well. Coming down from the adrenaline rush, I actually started to fall asleep a little bit! I guess I was *that* tired!
Departure time, 2345 hours: I was actually surprised to see the jet bridge be pulled away, amazing we were on for an on time departure! Safety video played while the crew did their best to sit passengers down, pushed back at 2352 hours, 7 minutes behind schedule. The Rolls Royce Trent 700s were fired up with no issues.
It was a fun taxi to Runway 19L: I spotted every single type (and sub type!) of wide body airplanes in Thai’s fleet - perhaps this is their ultimate failing, but more on that later. Could you tell this was a busy hub time at BKK?! :D
There was some traffic ahead of us departing, but we lined up at 0005 hours, 20 minutes behind schedule before departing just fine towards the south before turning northwest on course to Kolkata. A smooth climb up, barring some bumps. Lovely sounds of the Trent 700s, too!
Played around with the IFE and once again settled on Bob’s burgers for entertainment. Usual announcements happened as we got up to 40000 feet right off the bat. The IFE itself isn’t bad at all - while a little laggy it was a significant amount of content that would keep you busy for hours on end. The seat felt comfortable on this occasion weirdly, so that’s nice. Did I say usual announcements? I meant welcome announcements that they’d usually do on the ground - I guess they did not have time to get with it.
Bob's Brugers: F(an)art
The crew sprung in to action - special meals were given out first, and most of them looked like it was the Hindu Vegetarian meal. I am glad I made the change at Phnom Penh via email, seeing as the Hindu Meal was the exact same as what my brother and I received on CCU-BKK a few days ago.. Two carts rolled up to the front, and that’s about it. Despite that, it looked like service was being conducted pretty quickly.
In a first for me - it looked like ordering the non vegetarian meal seemed to have got me more than normal: a strategy that Air India often employs on their international flights. While the main meal itself is vegetarian, some extra chicken provided in an aluminum foil. Nice!
The tray consisted of some fruit (melon, dragonfruit, pineapple) which was nice & fresh.
The main course itself was paneer (Indian cottage cheese), rice and a potato curry. While it tasted decent it wasn’t anything out of this world. The chicken however was fantastic. Like most Indian meals, there was a paratha - Indian bread, in addition to a bread roll. Carb heavy, that’s for sure! A desert - coconut based - was a lovely way to end the meal.
There was a bottle of water - for the drink service itself I had a vodka and sprite, perhaps my favorite combination onboard a plane for whatever reason. Overall, it was a fairly above average meal.
Hot beverage service had to be stopped for a little (10-15 min) due to turbulence in the area, which is not uncommon for the time of year. We even lost about 100 feet which I noticed on the inflight entertainment. Service resumed pretty quick though. In the meantime I switched to watching Independence Day (the original, not the new crap) - 1hr10min in to the flight service was complete and lights were turned off.
30 minutes of non-activity passed by as most of us retired for the night - but that wasn’t until the captain made their announcements of commencing descent, transition to arrival in to Kolkata. A little bottle of water was handed to all passengers, before the crew followed suit, and had started preparing the cabin for arrival. Interestingly however, they mentioned that photography is banned in India. Huh I wonder if Thai were living in 2002 still…
Almost home! :)
DESCENT & ARRIVAL
Pretty soon we were in the downwind for 19L, before we made the final couple of turns, where I saw another airplane in the downwind as we joined final. We touched down pretty smoothly at 0052 hours, 7 minutes behind schedule.
Unsurprisingly, passengers once again started to get up and make a beeline for their overhead stored baggage, the crew being proactive and trying to stop this as best as they could. Taxied towards the gate, and everything went pretty smooth. Docked at gate 10, 0058 hours, 13 minutes behind schedule. An announcement was made that baggage would be out on carousel 13, which was helpful.
Disembarked at 0106 hours, I thanked the crew for their service, and off to immigration.
CathayDragon A320 from Hong Kong
Lines weren’t exactly long, but there was the predictable individual that ‘held their spot’ in line, while the rest of the family tried to cut through, but none of the others were having this, stood firm and sent the one guy back. Why, just why are people like this!! Anyway, got done with immigration at 0115 hours and headed down to the baggage claim where our bags were some of the first to come out because they were loaded amongst the last :) Awesome!
Ahh, been a while since I've seen this around! (Air Deccan have since stopped operations again…)
Kinda busy outside the intl side of things
From 0106, where I stepped out of the plane, to 0126 curbside after than international flight arriving in India: I was fairly impressed. Well done to the ground crew at Kolkata to getting things done efficiently! Found a taxi and headed home with no further issues.
Before heading to bed, here is HS-TBE heading back to Bangkok, well in line with the other long haul international flights flying in Bangkok, the morning rush:
In the next part, the return trip back to the USA!
Bangkok - BKK
Kolkata - CCU
First of all, I was quite surprised that we made the flight itself, following the delay on the flight from Phnom Penh! BKK isn’t the most efficient when it comes to transit security, but that’s what it is. For this flight itself everything went as well as it could - pretty much on time, the crew performed at their efficient best, IFE was decent, seat was good, and the food, while satisfactory there was nothing memorable about it.
Now for Thai Airways in general: honestly I was quite impressed with Thai. It was a bit unfortunate that I was not able to try out the 777-200 on this occasion, giving me a new aircraft sub type and something rather old to experience, but the A330s were a sure step up in product offered. With that being said, it is great to see Thai expand capacity to Kolkata, albeit with the ThaiSmile A320-200, while TG313/314 continues to see 777-200. In addition, HS-TBD has also been ret-painted in to the Star Alliance livery! With a total of 10 types + sub types of airplanes and several of them grounded due to manufacturer issues it is easy to see why Thai have been losing out severely these past couple of years. There are talks of a shut down - I for one hope that this isn’t the case. Thai are a great Star Alliance option if SQ turn out to be quite expensive (which it often is). I look forward to the opportunity of trying out Thai Airways once again in the future, and hope for their turnaround because 2019 has seen enough airlines go down already.
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