Thai Airways First Class Golf Carts And Spa Treatments Will Be Missed

Thai Airways has been a basket case of a business for many years, a political plaything run for the benefit of its managers and connected politicians. It bought every variant of aircraft in small quantities, presumably with benefits flowing to airline decision-makers as part of the package.

Part of its problem has been featherbedding, part contracting, and part having too few planes of each type and too many types to generate any real economies of scale.

The airline is going through a bankruptcy restructuring. We haven’t seen an exit plan yet. But they’ve reduced their headcount and they are retiring aircraft types. That all makes sense.

Making progress on the cost problem alone won’t fix the carrier. They still face tremendous competition from low cost carriers and from premium carriers, both on domestic and international routes. However it should help stem the losses at least.

What I find sad, though, is that as Matthew Klint points out in retiring its Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 fleet they eliminate the last aircraft they have which are currently equipped with a first class cabin. Thai Airways A350s, Boeing 787s, and Boeing 777s offer business (“Royal Silk”) class but not first class.

That’s sad because Thai Airways offered perhaps the best ground handling of first class passengers in the world at their Bangkok hub. (They did a nice job in Hong Kong, too.)

  • Passengers met curbside by porters with luggage carts, and an escort to check-in (with a comfortable seating area)

  • Escort through immigration formalities and a golf cart ride through the business class lounge to the first class lounge.

The first class lounge was dated, but service was usually good (though you did sometimes had to flag someone down for attention). There were semi-private living rooms, and a food menu to order off of.

Thai operates a spa in the Bangkok airport, with longer treatments and priority access for first class passengers. An hour-long thai massage and pre- and post-showed before long haul flying is really a special experience.

Then when it’s time for your flight, someone would collect you from the lounge and escort you to the boarding door at your gate – and depending where you were leaving from that might entail another golf cart ride as well.

Other airlines have spa treatments (Qantas does a great job with 20 minute massages) and even more elaborate escorts to the plane (such as tarmac transfers in a car). But the combination of personal escorts and spa treatments Thai offered to its first class passengers was very special and will be missed, especially as part of Star Alliance award redemptions.

Is it wrong to hope that the airline’s rehabilitation plan includes retrofitting existing long haul aircraft with a first class cabin? That’s probably more of a political move (to appease minor royal relatives and generals) than a business one, but I’ve genuinely valued access to their excess inventory through miles and points over the last two decades.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Glad my wife and I were able to experience the Thai First Class experience at BKK (more than once!)

    Hope they are able to recover quickly. I think Thailand will be well positioned for the resumption of tourism, hopefully the airline will benefit as well.

  2. When US Airways still existed and still was in the Star Alliance, my girlfriend and I took many ridiculous business and first class routings to travel through Asia and Europe. Every itinerary involved at least two layovers in BKK — which to this day is still the airport through which I’ve had more layovers (13) than any other in the world. Thai Air was the linking pin which made all those trips possible. And Gary’s generous sharing of expertise on Flyertalk paved the way for all these trips!

  3. Just get me from point A to point B with zero delays or flight changes, you can keep the frou frou.

  4. I will miss the First Class indeed picked up on landing in BKK then quickly through immigration,On departure to that special area the same again please think about that service continuing in BC or s few First Class seats in the other aircrafts from BKK to SYD return.

  5. Sighing disapprovingly at the riff raft in the business lounge from the golf cart was one of life’s highlights.

  6. Thai First in the air and on the ground has been my pleasure to enjoy for the last 30 years. Efficient, gracious and unhurried, it was simply the best. Will be sadly missed 🙁

  7. I will miss all aspects of the service, especially the ground. In the air, TG never had the polish or precision of Singapore or Cathay, but it was consistently friendly and warm. I felt welcome. We had some truly outstanding flights over the years…

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