In the days since I published the previous 2 flight reports in this series, the aviation world has seen the tragic losses of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 and Air Algerie flight AH5017, in addition to the earlier mentioned Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. My thoughts are with the families of the passengers and crew on all these flights.
After two and half weeks traipsing around Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, including a very well planned (or unplanned) stay in Berlin when Germany won the World Cup, it was finally time to go home. We had arrived in Frankfurt from Berlin the day before, to give ourselves enough time to get to the airport and settle our departure formalities (in Asian speak, this means to get our VAT refunds processed).
After hopping off the S-Bahn from the Hauptbahnhof, we had to navigate a maze of underground corridors to get to the Thai Airways check-in counters at Area C in Terminal 1. There was a short queue when we arrived but it moved quickly and we were at the counter in less than 10 minutes. Our boarding passes for both FRA-BKK and BKK-SIN were issued with no problems. Because we were getting our VAT refunded, we had our bags tagged at the counter but had to bring them over to the customs counter to get the exit stamp. Thankfully, we could just leave them there instead of having to drag them back to the check-in counter.
Terminal 1 seems to be undergoing a refurbishment at the moment, so there were several areas that were boarded up. We decided to head airside and had a torrid time passing through security, with all of us being stopped and searched, with my friend being brought into a room for his bags to be swabbed and tested. The security guy who searched my bag remarked that he had never seen so much chocolate being carried (ok… it wasn’t even that much). From there, it was a short stroll through passport control, where the most uninterested looking immigration officer leafed through my passport before stamping it. He did look a little bit like Peter Griffin from Family Guy.
We settled our tax refunds, and then proceeded to McDonalds for a quick meal, probably because it had the best view of the apron for the lowest price. Thankfully, the airport provided free wifi and we were able to get all our internet surfing done before the long flight to Bangkok. We headed down to the gate area, which was absolutely packed.
HS-TUA ‘Si Rattana’ at Gate B46
Boarding started for First, Business and Star Alliance Gold passengers, following by passengers needing assistance and those travelling with young children. It was then followed by Economy by section. Since we were seated at the aft end of the lower deck economy cabin, we boarded quite early on. Boarding was strictly enforced by the gate agents.
We were once again welcomed onboard with the traditional sawadee by the female cabin crew members manning Door 2L dressed in the traditional thai uniform. It was quite a long trek down the main deck to Row 69, albeit not as long as the A340-600 we flew up on. The cabin was arranged in the typical A380 lower deck 3-4-3 configuration, with brightly coloured Recaro seats fitted with Panasonic eX2 IFE systems.
After placing my carry-on in the bin and settling down in my seat, the IFE welcome was showing an image of Thai’s upcoming Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was delivered to Thai shortly after I took this flight. This being an A380, I immediately selected the tail camera view on the IFE screen, which provided an overview of the apron where we were parked.
Thai’s new 787 Dreamliner plastered on the IFE welcome screen
Tail camera view on the IFE
The view from seat 69A
A380 Safety Card
We pushed back from the gate on schedule, backing past a TUIfly 737 which was boarding at a remote stand. Many passengers boarding via the rear stairs turned their heads to watch as the A380 started its engines right in front of their eyes. We then taxied the length of the airport towards runway 18 for a departure to the south, passing numerous aircraft on the way. The safety video played on the screens as the cabin crew secured the cabin for takeoff.
Pushing back from Gate B46
D-ATUF in the midst of boarding
Adria Airways’ newest aircraft, a CRJ-900LR registered as S5-AAV
Turning onto runway 18
Liftoff – 10 hours to Bangkok
Banking over suburban Frankfurt towards the east
Frankfurt Airport in the distance
Rear economy cabin
The aircraft climbed quickly to our cruise altitude of 37000feet, and the seatbelt sign was turned off following which a drinks service was quickly conducted, with salted peanuts given out. This was shortly followed by a lunch service, which on this sector consisted of a seafood pasta salad, a choice of stir fried garlic and pepper chicken with rice and zucchini or pork meat balls in a red wine sauce with potatoes and brussels sprouts. This was served with a bread roll and a berry cake for dessert.
Lunch is served! The stir fried chicken was a bit dry but still tasty
Watching the sun set over Central Asia
The cabin crew dimmed the lights as the sun set outside, and the bulk of the passengers in the cabin chose to get some shut eye through the night. Well, all except the couple seated behind me, who kept their reading lights on the entire flight. Now, on a B777 this would not be a hindrance since those lights are pretty well positioned directly over the seat, and are not particularly intrusive to the passengers in front or behind. However, as I came to realise, the reading lights on the A380 are positioned a bit ahead of the seat row, and therefore are directly over the row in front when the seat is reclined. I was not going to get any sleep with a halo of light shining directly down on me. Instead I chose to watch Snowpiercer and some episodes of Major Crimes.
The airshow about halfway through the flight
The map above shows the route that TG921 took on 16th July 2014, in which the flight passed directly overhead Donetsk in East Ukraine. Who could’ve known that just 21 hours after that photo was taken, MH17 would meet its tragic end in the same patch of sky? It’s quite scary knowing that it was the luck of the draw, and that any flight could just as easily have been knocked out of the sky by some trigger happy moron.
The cabin crew made regular drink runs through the cabin, offering orange juice, apple juice and water. However, there was no mid-flight snack offered at any time during the flight, which I thought was a bit underwhelming. They were friendly enough, going about their jobs with a smile on their faces. They were also quite quick to respond to call buttons.
Breakfast was served about one and a half hours out of Bangkok, over the Bay of Bengal. That made for some fun as the plane was tossed about in some moderate turbulence over the water. The only choice was a fruit cocktail with yoghurt, with a main consisting of an omelette with hash browns, a sausage and spinach. This was served with a bread roll.
I don’t usually go for eggs on planes, but in the grand scheme of things this meal was tasty enough.
The sun started to rise and that led to some beautiful views over the wing as we started our descent into Bangkok.
Sunrise over the Bay of Bengal
Final approach for runway 19R at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
We touched down in Bangkok 30 minutes ahead of schedule, and after a short taxi pulled up to the gate next to another Thai A380.
Overall, the flight was pleasant enough, once you take away the fact that the couple behind me, in their infinite wisdom, left their reading lights on the entire duration of the flight without reading a single book. I guess they needed to feel bright. The Recaro seats were comfortable for about the first hour, then they became an absolute pain in the a**. I wouldn't suggest any flight longer than 3-4 hours in those without some kind of extra cushioning. The food was decent (though I think the meals catered out of their Asian ports, and particularly out of BKK are much better), the crew was friendly enough, and the IFE kept me sufficiently occupied to not try and pop out the door for a breath of fresh air.
Happy and safe flying!
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