Flight TG478, Sydney to Phuket
Boeing 777-300ER, one of 14 in Thai Airways International's fleet.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Royal Orchid Plus, Star Alliance
Royal Silk (Business)
Eight hours and 40 minutes, non-stop
2.3 tonnes for a business class passenger. Thai's Voluntary Carbon Offset Program, designed to minimise environmental impacts, aligns with the International Air Transport Association's guidelines for CO2 emission offsets.
This new service started in early December, 2021, and operates three times a week from Sydney to Phuket before terminating in Bangkok. Departing on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 9.30am it reaches Phuket at 2.40pm. It's the first time Thai Airways has flown non-stop from Sydney to Phuket (the airline had previously flown from Sydney via Melbourne). Thai Airways flights from Melbourne are scheduled to resume in April.
This is the inaugural flight, made before the Omicron surge. Passengers are required to show at check-in proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours, vaccination certificates, specified travel insurance, a government-issued "Thailand Pass" and confirmed accommodation in a certified Phuket hotel (the Thailand Pass requirements change often, so keep checking). Another PCR test is taken on landing. Except while eating and drinking, masks are mandatory everywhere within Sydney airport and onboard the aircraft.
Gone are the days of arriving two hours before take-off. Three hours is now recommended for staff to scrutinise passengers' medical and travel documents, which almost doubles the check-in time. Before departure day, check regularly for the latest updates.
Royal Silk Class has 42 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Singles enjoy window-seat privacy while travelling pairs may sit adjacent in the centre block; a sliding panel between the latter seats ensures privacy when needed. Master the control panel options for back, leg and lumbar support and you're in for a comfortable flight. All seats recline to a 180-degree bed. Two USB ports and a 110-volt outlet support your devices, however on this flight neither the Wi-Fi nor phone service is available. There's a retractable table but surprisingly little stowage, other than in overhead bins, for laptops and personal items. Passengers may not change allocated seats due to COVID-safe protocols.
The checked baggage allowance in Royal Silk Class is 35 kg, with 7kg for hand carry. Thai's Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyers receive bonus allowances: an extra 10kg for Silver level members and 20kg for Gold, with similar allowances for eligible Star Alliance members.
Touch-screen and handset controls allow access to some 40 movies and 20 documentaries, plus a handful of kids' films. The offerings are predominantly mainstream Hollywood, with little or no art house or European content. The bland selection is leavened by several Asian "world movies" options. The audio programs and docos are more stimulating but there is almost no music. Instead, the excellent noise-cancelling headphones enhance undisturbed reading.
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 safeguard staff and passengers mean contact and services are kept to a minimum. Cabin crew confine themselves to their stations but remain attentive and on-call. There are no magazines, printed menus or duty-free sales. The Porsche-branded amenities kit is stylish but lacks a vital element, the eye-mask.
This is the inaugural flight, so on departure there's celebratory French champagne all round. Drinks, otherwise, are served only at mealtimes, but generously. The first meal, presented about an hour after take-off, is a choice of beef goulash or chicken, followed by a packaged slice of dry sponge cake, plus brandy. The wine and spirits choice is limited. No "between meals" snacks or drinks are offered. The second meal, served two hours before landing, is hokkien stir-fried pork and noodles. No options. This is not the customary Royal Silk Class dining standard, but nor are these circumstances.
ONE MORE THING
Don't underestimate how time consuming the preparation for international travel has become. You will spend hours, online and off, in gathering and uploading the documents needed for entry to Thailand, according to the changing vaccination and isolation rules. A lack of full documentation can mean being denied boarding at the airport. Similar difficulty can be experienced in obtaining the online Australia Travel Declaration you'll need for the return flight. In both cases, start early.
Notwithstanding the hiccups of an inaugural journey, plus the strictures of travel in a time of COVID, the flight itself is a breeze, with the Thai cabin crew working hard but making it all seem like a pleasure.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE