Old Apr 27, 09, 6:13 pm
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: London
Programs: BA
Posts: 2,361
A day trip to Hong Kong via Bangkok (Part 4)

Check-in at Delhi
After a hectic trip it was time to go home. Although of course I wasn’t going straight home, no I was flying east to spend a day in Hong Kong before flying west back to London. I questioned my sanity for no more than 4 or 5 seconds before heading for the airport.

Driving towards the International terminal, I was (not for the first time on this trip), pleasantly surprised to see the level of construction and progress at the airport. Once I had been allowed into the terminal (a very cursory glance of my e-ticket) I was taken aback by how different the check-in area looked. The shabby and randomly strewn desks had made way for a brighter and airier configuration. The information screens pointed me towards the Thai check-in area on the far left hand side of the building.

The far left bank of check-in desks was split between Air France and Thai, though there was little action in the AF section. Thai had 6 desks open, 4 Economy, 1 Business Class and 1 *A Gold. Two of the Economy desks were checking in a huge group of tourists travelling to Koh Samui. Consequently, the other 4 desks had fairly sizable queues. I joined the queue for the Business Class desk, which happened to be the longest and waited patiently. A few minutes later a Thai rep appeared and combined the task of handing out hand baggage tags with policing the queue. Minutes later I found myself third and not thirteenth in the queue.

The queue moved slowly but eventually I reached the front and checked-in. My boarding pass to Bangkok swiftly popped out of the printer but despite furious tapping away by the agent, my BKK-HKG boarding pass refused to follow. The agent explained that she couldn’t get the printer to format the boarding pass correctly to fit on a First Class boarding pass. I explained that I really didn’t mind what it was printed on as I was quite happy to get it sorted out in Bangkok. She laughed and said that she refused to let the computer win and continued to try, enlisting the assistance of three other members of staff. 10 minutes and a computer failure later, she gave up and handwrote the details of my BKK-HKG flight onto a blank boarding pass which she handed to me along with a lounge invitation. The lounge invite was ticked to indicate which of the lounges I was permitted access to.

There were no queues at the embarkation control point and I quickly found myself at security staring at a huge duty free shop. Again, when last at Delhi in 2003 I remember the inadequate seating and a duty free shop that was seemingly stocked with goods last seen in Russia circa 1972.

I almost made the error of going through security when I remembered that the lounges are upstairs before the checkpoint. I went into the ITC lounge and found a seat. I was glad to have turned up early as the lounge continued to fill at a rapid pace. I enjoyed a glass of Laphroig and surfed the internet, interrupted only by staff walking around enquiring if I was on Flight x, as they rounded up the stragglers.

Rather than wait until the last minute, I left for the gate 20 minutes before the boarding time indicated on my boarding pass. I wanted to have a look around the duty free shops and boarding area. Security took less than five minutes to pass through and I had ample time to wander around.

I arrived at the gate at boarding time to see that the flight was pretty full. A 777-300 with a small C cabin can hold a huge number of people and they were all here, chomping at the bit to get on board. Five minutes passed and finally there was an announcement that as the incoming flight had arrived 30 minutes late, boarding would be put back for he same amount of time. That’ll teach me to leave the lounge so early!

I wasted 15 minutes walking around the shops again and came back to see people slightly more agitated that before. As I arrived back, the gate staff announced that there were two lines, one for business class passengers and *A gold card holders and another for economy class passengers. A general scrum formed alongside the far wall where the two lines were supposed to be and I took that as my cue to sit down and wait.

The check-in agent who tried so hard to print out my F boarding pass to HKG spotted me and came over. She had finally managed to get the computer to print out a proper F boarding pass and replaced the handwritten one she had earlier provided.

I thanked her and she asked why I had sat down and not joined the queue. I explained that I was going to wait until it was less busy. She said ‘no, no, follow me’ and led to me the front of the queue, beyond the rope so that I stood in no-mans-land in between the rest of the passengers and the gate agents. Whilst it must have been no more than 10 minutes, standing there on my own as I heard others comment and question as to who I was and why I was there, felt like an eternity. Boarding was announced and I made my way onto the aircraft. I could see it was the new Thai livery, but my seat number gave away the fact that I knew it was an old business class config.

DEL-BKK: Seat 22H – Thai Regional Business Class on a 777-300
At check-in, the agent said that she would try and block the seat next to me. Alas a few minutes after I settled into my seat someone arrived to sit in 22K. A FA came over and invited him to sit in 22A instead. He told us that the load was such this evening that they would be able to sit everyone with a free seat next to them unless they wanted to sit as a pair.

I happily quaffed a glass of juice as I completed my usual pre-flight checks consisting of looking at everything in the seat pocket, playing with the seat controls and putting the amenity kit in my hand luggage. I made a quick trip to the lavatory before the seat belt sign went on.

I settled back into my seat. The Thai old style business class seat is like a big comfy armchair. The recline was sufficient for a short nap but as I would later discover, if the seats in front of you are both reclined and you are in the window seat, the chances of getting past the person in the aisle seat were slim to none. An accomplished lapdancer would have struggled to exit 22K with grace.

Shortly before we pushed back the juice glasses were collected and dinner menus handed out. I had planned on eating dinner before getting to the airport and sleeping on this flight but some last minute matters had cropped up before I left and so I was hungry despite it being just after midnight.
I made the long journey out to the new runway for the final time and we took off into what was beginning to look like a murky Delhi night. I would later discover on FT that several flights after mine were delayed due to the infamous Delhi fog.

The couple in front of me reclined their seats as soon as the seat belt sign was extinguished and slept all the way to Bangkok. The pangs of hunger and sleep began to compete. I selected my main course and explained that as I was quite tired, would it be possible to skip the starter and just have the Japanese croquettes. The FA said yes but must have forgotten as I was presented with a starter moments later.

I reminded him of my choice and he apologised explaining that he would be back in a moment to collect it and bring my main course. Sadly, this coincided with a patch of turbulance that last just over a quarter of an hour. As soon as they were able to continue service, he whisked away the starter plate and replaced it with the croquettes, sticky rice and pickled vegetables.

Hunger had defeated fatigue by now and I tucked into a meal that hit the spot. Just what I needed at coming 12.45am. As few people had decided to take dinner, my plate was cleared quickly and desert, coffee and a sedative Gran Marnier substituted.

I made short work of those and had around 2 hours sleep before being woken up as we approached Bangkok.

Thai Royal First Lounge and Spa at Bangkok
It was dark as we approached Bangkok but the airport shone bright like a beacon. There was a Thai representative at the door of the aircraft to meet me. She apologised that there was no buggy but we were at the cluster of gates next to the lounge so the walk would be short. At the Royal First lounge she handed me over to her collegue who, sensing that I need a bit more sleep asked me if I wanted a slumber room. I grinned like a child in a sweet shop and was led away to get some more shut eye. Before going into the slumber room, I asked to be woken 15 minutes before I had to leave the lounge so that I could have a coffee and take a quick look around.
Sure enough, I was woken with 15 minutes to go with a coffee ready for me. I wandered around the lounge with my coffee, stopping briefly to look at the room with plastic food. To explain, rather than have a menu, you are invited to have a look at various plates of food and select your dish. The chef looked disappointed when I said I only had 10 minutes before I had to leave and assured me that there were things he could make quickly. I thanked him and politely declined as I made my way back to reception.

I was driven to my gate. At first I felt a bit silly being able bodied and yet being driven what I presumed was a short distance to the aircraft. It soon became apparent however, that the gate was some distance away and I was quite appreciative for the ride. The Thai girl spoke virtually no English but cheerily said ‘Goodbye’ as I left to board the aircraft.

In a reversal of the previous flight, the aircraft was sporting the old Thai livery but had the new F and J config seats.

BKK-HKG : Seat 1A – Thai First Class on a 747-400
I was the last person to board the aircraft. The F cabin had only one other passenger, a tall wiry Thai man with an immaculate moustache. He immediately reminded me of a stern Brigadier dressed in civies. Perhaps he was?

I was welcomed at the door and escorted to me seat. I put my bag in the overhead locker and settled into 1A. There was a glass of champagne waiting for me along with a box of chocolates. No amenity kit on this short sector. The FA asked me whether I wanted to take breakfast or whether I would like to sleep after take off. She knew that I had arrived in BKK on the overnight flight from DEL and was happy to make up my bed if I wanted a little more sleep.

As we pushed back, I took a couple of photos of the main screen (used for the safety demo video) and 1K across from me. By only having 12 F seats there is a huge amount of space between 1A and 1K and it makes the cabin feel spacious.

I had indicated earlier that I would take breakfast. I was given a copy of the menu shortly after take off and asked whether I wanted the Tom Yung Khung that I had pre-ordered before or after the main breakfast items. Not feeling that hungry, I opted to have the fruit followed by the TYK.

The fruit was fresh but the soup was terrible. It was meek and lacked the right sour and hot notes. I was disappointed and the FA was insistent that I try something else. She offered to get me something from business class if I didn’t fancy the first class breakfast. I politely declined and decided that with 1.30 to go, I could get a quick hours snooze in. I woke almost exactly an hour later and within seconds the FA was at my side checking whether I wanted something to eat or drink. She brought me a coffee and stopped to have a chat. We talked for a few minutes and whilst it was clearly on her checklist (must talk to each passenger once), it didn’t seem forced or stilted. She came back with a second coffee, a Hong Kong Immigration card and a pen, which saved me from having to retrieve my jacket.

I filled in the card and then watched from the slightly different vantage point that 1A gives you as we came into land at Hong Kong.

Arriving in Hong-Kong
After a short taxi to our gate, I gathered my belongings and stood by 1L. I had a final chat with the FA who had served me as we waited for the door to open. Once it did, I walked up the airbridge and saw someone holding a placard with my name on it. Sure enough, there was a buggy waiting to take me to Immigration (though not one for my fellow F passenger). I felt silly again, partly because I was perfectly capable of walking but also because the buggy was limited to 5mph. My fellow F passenger walked and arrived at Immigration less than a minute after me.

Last edited by baggageinhall; Apr 27, 09 at 6:22 pm
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