Airbus A350-900. Thai currently has 12 A350s in its fleet.
Melbourne to Bangkok
Economy, seat 52C.
Royal Orchid Plus (Star Alliance)
8 hours, 55 minutes
Eleven flights per week.
The economy cabin has 289 seats in a 3-3-3 layout. Seats offer 32 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide
In economy class, passengers are allowed up to 30kg of checked luggage (20kg for certain discount fares) and one carry-on bag of up to 7kg, plus one personal item.
Having only three seats between the aisles reduces your chances of getting a middle seat and although the actual dimensions of the seat are not any bigger than some other international carriers, the Thai design does feel roomy and comfortable. I'm not a fan of the hard fold-down footrest as it digs into my shins while retracted and gets in the way of my legs when it's down. The tray table folds in half for when you only want to set down a drink. It's an increasingly common, and welcome, design feature.
It's a large, wide touchscreen, bright with a crisp picture. There's a retractable remote house in the seatback below the screen and USB power. Thai recently added live TV to its system. There are currently four channels: BBC World News, CNN, Sport 24 and NHK World Premium. The movie selection is pretty much all mainstream blockbusters, with a wide enough selection to get you through this leg, but a return flight to London might see you running out of quality options. The communal screens show vision from a camera mounted on the tail of the plane, which is pretty cool (you can also view this on your own screen).
Thai has a strong reputation on this front and based on this flight it's well deserved. As soon as the seatbelt sign is switched off the drink cart is out and a small bag of crispy nibbles handed out. The crewmen look great in their uniforms with traditional flourishes and deliver efficient and polite service. Even after the lights go out, the crew regularly come through with water for anyone needing to rehydrate.
The menu is on the entertainment system, so we know well in advance what our choices will be. Strangely though, both meals are listed as "Breakfast" – odd since this is an afternoon/evening flight. The first meal choice is between green curry chicken or beef goulash, served with potato salad, bread roll and banana cake. I apply the rule of Asian airlines – always order the Asian meal. The curry is fine, if not particularly impressive. The second meal options are stir-fried noodles with chicken or stir-fried vegetables, both served with fruits and cookies.
ONE MORE THING
The A350 offers similar cabin pressure to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, promising to reduce jet lag for passengers. While it's hard to tell whether or not this is true on this mostly daytime flight, one thing I do notice is how quiet the cabin seems.
This is my first time flying Airbus' much-vaunted rival to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and I'm impressed. Thai's cabin configuration and seat design make this one of the most comfortable economy class flights in the sky. It's not surprising to learn Thai Airways won the award for world's best economy class in this year's World Airlines Awards. The only thing lacking is a larger selection of entertainment.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Reviewed by Craig Platt, who flew at his own expense.