Flight TG478, Sydney to Phuket
Boeing 777-300ER, one of 14 in the Thai Airways International fleet.
THE LOYALTY PROGRAM
Royal Orchid Plus, Star Alliance
Royal Silk (Business)
Eight hours and 40 minutes, non-stop
CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSION
2.3 tonnes for a business class passenger. Thailand’s voluntary carbon offset program, designed to minimize environmental impacts, aligns with the International Air Transport Association’s CO2 offsetting guidelines.
This new service started in early December 2021 and operates three times a week from Sydney to Phuket before ending in Bangkok. Departing Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m., it reaches Phuket at 2:40 p.m. This is the first time that Thai Airways has operated a non-stop flight from Sydney to Phuket (the airline previously flew from Sydney via Melbourne). Thai Airways flights from Melbourne are expected to resume in April.
This is the maiden flight, made before the surge of Omicron. Passengers are required to present at check-in proof of a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours, vaccination certificates, specified travel insurance, government-issued “Thailand Pass” and confirmed hotel accommodation certified from Phuket (Thailand Pass requirements change often, so keep checking). Another PCR test is performed upon landing. Except when eating and drinking, masks are mandatory everywhere in Sydney Airport and on board the aircraft.
Gone are the days of arriving two hours before takeoff. Three hours are now recommended for staff to review passengers’ medical and travel documents, almost doubling check-in time. Before the day of departure, check regularly for the latest updates.
Royal Silk Class has 42 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Singles enjoy the privacy of window seats while traveling pairs can sit next door in the center block; a sliding panel between these latter seats provides privacy when needed. Master the control panel options for back, leg and lumbar support and you’re set for a comfortable flight. All seats recline to a 180 degree bed. Two USB ports and a 110-volt outlet support your devices, but on this flight neither Wi-Fi nor phone service is available. There is a retractable table but surprisingly little storage, other than in the overhead bins, for laptops and personal items. Passengers cannot change assigned seats due to COVID safety protocols.
The checked baggage allowance in Royal Silk class is 35 kg, including 7 kg for hand-carry. Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyers receive bonus allowances: an additional 10kg for Silver members and 20kg for Gold, with similar allowances for eligible Star Alliance members.
The handset’s touchscreen and controls provide access to some 40 films and 20 documentaries, plus a handful of children’s films. The offerings are mostly Hollywood, with little to no arthouse or European content. The bland selection is spiced up with several Asian “world movies” options. Audio programs and docos are more stimulating but there is almost no music. Instead, the excellent noise-canceling headphones improve playback without disturbance.
Thai Airways was voted third in the World’s Best Cabin Crew category at the Skytrax 2021 World Airline Awards. Royal Silk passengers enjoy priority check-in. Health protocols to protect staff and passengers mean contact and services are kept to a minimum. The Cabin Crew Members confined themselves to their posts but remained attentive and on call. There are no magazines, printed menus or duty-free sales. The Porsche-branded equipment kit is stylish but lacks one essential item, the eye mask.
It’s the maiden flight, so at the start there’s celebratory French champagne all around. Drinks, otherwise, are only served at mealtimes, but generously. The first meal, presented about an hour after takeoff, is a choice of beef or chicken goulash, followed by a wrapped slice of dry sponge cake, plus brandy. The choice of wines and spirits is limited. No “between meal” snacks or drinks are offered. The second meal, served two hours before landing, is stir-fried pork and Hokkien noodles. No options. This is not the usual Royal Silk Class dining standard, but neither are these circumstances.
ONE MORE THING
Don’t underestimate how time-consuming preparing for international travel is. You’ll spend hours, online and offline, gathering and uploading the documents needed to enter Thailand in accordance with changing vaccination and isolation rules. A lack of complete documentation may result in denied boarding at the airport. Similar difficulties can be encountered in obtaining the online travel declaration to Australia that you will need for the return flight. Either way, start early.
Despite the setbacks of a maiden voyage, as well as the constraints of travel in the time of COVID, the flight itself is a breeze, with the Thai cabin crew working hard but making it all looks like fun.
OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE
The writer flew courtesy of Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) and COMO Point Yamu Resort (comohotels.com).