Breakfast in Bed between Bucharest and Budapest
[I am a frequent flyer with Thai Airways, and last year clocked up enough miles to have my Gold FF card renewed. As part of that I was awarded a free upgrade to be used whenever I wanted. On this occasion I used it to upgrade to a first-class flight to Frankfurt; I certainly could not have afforded to pay for it!]
I arrived in Bangkok after a short one-hour flight from Chiang Mai, flying at the blunt end of the plane and surrounded by tidy but plain-clothed off-duty Thai Airways staff relocating to the capital, and a slightly more scruffy man who collapsed into the seat beside me, fell asleep and snored and grunted quietly for the entire flight. When I left my seat, he had not budged – so perhaps he is still there and will have to be removed by the cleaners as they sweep up the discarded food wrappers and crushed potato crisps.
- Hall, Mr Christopher?
A young man was standing at the end of the airbridge into the terminal with a sign showing my name.
- You are Mr Christopher?
- Yes – more or less
- You are flying first class to Frankfurt?
- Yes – that’s right
- Please come with me and I will take you to the lounge
I was rather disappointed that there was not a gold-plated golf cart with liveried drivers waiting for me, along with, perhaps, just a small brass band and perhaps only three strutting drum majorettes tossing batons, pom poms and pert buttocks skywards.
Where did the days of proper service and kowtowing go?
However, as we had to go through security and passport checking (again) and up a staircase or two, the golf cart (gold-plated or not) would have had some difficulty making the journey. Perhaps the pert drum majorettes could have carried a small sedan chair for me.
- Good evening Mr Christopher and welcome to the Royal First lounge. At what time would you like your massage, and do you want a traditional Thai massage or a full-body oil massage?
Yes! As if there had to be another reason to fly first class with Thai Airways!
If these questions did not offer enough of a problem, as soon as I was shown to a comfortable armchair more posers were tossed at me:
- Would you like a glass of champagne or something else?
- Err …
- And something to eat?
Take pot luck with the thermidor or …
As I had already gone online and ordered my dinner for the flight from the yummo menu (lobster, sirloin, NZ lamb chops, all sorts of Asian meals) I settled for a few cashew nuts and a G&T to see me through to the massage.
The lounge was quiet, comfortable, offered a full bar service, a small snack area with smoked salmon open sandwiches (but disappointingly no Vegemite sandwiches) and a wide selection of other food that could be prepared to order and served in a very nice little dining room (cleverly called “The Dining Room”) with starched linen and four or five tables set for pairs of diners. Perhaps I will call on the chef after the massage …
The Royal Orchid Spa is a few steps from the lounge but a world away from the noise of taxiing and taking-off aircraft and the melodious madam reminding me endlessly that I must place all my liquids in a clear plastic bag.
The soundproofing is enhanced by an audio track of calming music – pan pipes, twittering birdsong, a Tibetan gong or two, and far too much trickling of cool running mountain waters: I kept feeling as if I should make a dash to the WC. In any case the ensuite marble bathrooms were kitted out with L’Occitane toiletries, hot and cold running towels, a great shower – and a tap over the hand basin that fell off in my hand.
The massage was a lovely add-on to the Thai first class experience, and while the therapist gave me quite a good session, at sixty minutes it is just a little short to be fully relaxing. I sensed that she was working to quite a tight schedule. Still – it certainly beat queuing for a stale meat pie and tomato sauce somewhere else.
A little while before we were due to board the flight, an attentive Thai Airways staff member came to me to tell me about arrangements for boarding. A golf car would be ready (Yea!) and staff would escort me and the other two passengers on the same flight to the boarding gate, which was a long way away from the lounge. So I am glad the wheels were there for us.
Aboard the A380
The Thai Airways A380 has separate airbridges for those on the lower deck and those upstairs. And rightly so, too. Keep the riff raff in their place. There were only a dozen or so seats in the first class cabin and all but two or three were occupied. I plonked myself into 2K on the right-hand side or the plane, away from the galley and the WC.
The lavatory nearest my seat was the largest I have ever seen on a plane.
It had a small waiting room with bench seats and mirrors as well as the all-important facilities in an adjacent area. I could have invited a friend to watch my affairs, rather like the courtiers at Louis XIV’s court in attendance for La Levée at Versailles. The room was certainly spacious enough to change into the TG lounging pyjamas that came in a nice little embroidered bag.
- Would you like a glass of Dom Pérignon, Mr Hall?
And so started a few hours of great food and wines and service – but as it was all happening at midnight, and although I merely pecked at each of the courses, by the time the staff had made my bed, I had a very full belly and tossed and turned throughout the night. My fault, of course, as the bed was long enough and wide enough to stretch out fully.
As it was a night flight, the stand-up bar at the front of the first class cabin was not used – but it would be fun to stroll up to the bar for a glass of DP, stand chatting to friends, or go to the small lounge area adjacent to the bar – and that huge WC.
Breakfast in bed
A few hours before we were due to land in Germany, breakfast was served just as the dawn faded up to give glimpses of city lights peeking through clouds, and the huge television screen in my space gave details of the places we were flying past – Bucharest was the largest to start with, then somewhere below us huddled Oisjek, Tigu Mures, Pecs, Arad and Nuj-Napoca – all places I had never heard of and soon to be added to my “must visit” list of towns … once I figure out what countries they are in.
Budapest drifted into and out of sight, Wien, Innsbruck and Lausanne came and went, and then the long slow descent into Frankfurt, where ground crew were waiting for me and another Australian passenger, to take us to our connecting flights: him to Amsterdam; me to Dublin.
- TG / Thai Airways First Class travel – too good!
Text and lounge / spa photos © Christopher Hall 2018
Photographs of A380, guests in first-class seats and route map from Internet
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If a man ascended into heaven and gazed upon the whole workings of the universe and the beauty of the stars, the marvellous sight would give him no joy if he had to keep it to himself. And yet, if only there had been someone to describe the spectacle to, it would have filled him with delight.
Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero – On Friendship