Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

Champlagnes - (TG F, OZ J & F, NH F) - (Sofitel, Hyatt, Conrad, Hilton)

Champlagnes - (TG F, OZ J & F, NH F) - (Sofitel, Hyatt, Conrad, Hilton)

Old Apr 28, 14, 1:29 am
  #1  
Original Poster
Accor Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: London, UK
Programs: Ronin - churn and burn
Posts: 696
Champlagnes - (TG F, OZ J & F, NH F) - (Sofitel, Hyatt, Conrad, Hilton)

Planning

After a couple of months of reading the TR forum on FT, I slowly became aware that an itinerary involving multiple flights in international First Class, was no longer a lottery winning dream. This could actually be done. Not only that but with judicious routing and planning it could be done cheaply and awesomely, maximising all the little extras that make each airline unique.

I read about buggies, massages, the private room, 380 vs 747, suites, Krug, Dom, Rimowa, the FCT, the Wing, bed and seat side by side... rubber ducks. Well you get the idea.

In the past I had skimmed past blog and forum posts concerning USDM but one day a post appeared on Lucky’s blog caught my attention. It said that USDM were available for super cheap… provided you had miles to begin with. These miles could be used to book international F itineraries on *A with up to 8 segments, including a stopover. Alas, much like needing money to make money, with Share Miles bonuses; you need miles to make miles.

Having never flown US, I searched around for a way to get the miles I needed. I could have transferred some SPG points but these take a long time to post and the Share Miles bonus was only on until the end of the week.
So, I decided to use the well documented miles multiplier method.
I was a little apprehensive about having $10,000 of flights sitting on my credit card account.

But I guess all of us involved in this hobby, have that moment where we take a leap of faith.

After waiting for five agonising days, the 25k multiplier miles posted.

I immediately transferred these to my girlfriend… and the transaction was put on hold. There was only one day left until the promotion ended and I couldn’t afford to wait. I kept hitting refresh on the points.com website chat portal, for at least an hour, until I finally got through to somebody on the chat.

The guy from points.com was super helpful. He instantly pushed the transfer through. My girlfriend checked her USDM account:

Balance 50,000 points.
“oooh, that’s a lot of points” she said.

I was delighted. She immediately kicked the 50k points back to my account… and again the transaction was put on hold. So after another chat with points.com and a couple of excruciating hours wait (not sure why this one took longer than the first), I ended up with 100k points in my account.

At this stage I wasn’t sure what my exact itinerary would be, I just knew that having 100k USDM was a good idea. I was certain however, that a couple of key factors were going to come into play:

I like to eat… a lot.
I like Krug… a lot.

I spent the next week trawling through the ANA search engine, trying all sorts combinations of flights and carriers. Call me crazy but piecing together an itinerary, to me, is one of the most satisfying parts of the travel ‘experience’.

I found a NRT-LHR flight, in NH F, in late Feb and decided to base the entire itinerary around this.

The Kaiseki tasting menu, Rimowa amenity kit and bottomless Krug sounded too good miss. Not to mention the fact that NH F availability is enormously scarce and usually limited to the first 3 months of the year.

When you live in London you tend to base your entire life around the weather.

“what degree of awful is the weather going to be today?”
“moderately awful? Excellent! I’ll reduce my exogenous vitamin D intake to 2000 iu and take my smaller umbrella to work today”

Come February, you begin to get pretty sick of this.
Thankfully there are countries where it is warm year round.
One of these countries has a national carrier in *A, with proper international F, including massages, in-terminal transportation and a shiny new F cabin in its 747s… and some awesome F availability.

So, TG F outbound and NH F return.

All I needed was a middle:

I wanted to fly a whalejet for the first time, after being wooed by glimpses of them on the tarmac, in the past. I was also keen to try the service in OZ F, having heard that it was one of the best in the sky.

So, my routing ended up looking like this:

LHR-BKK TG 747 new F
BKK-HKG TG 380 F
HKG-ICN OZ 767 C (with captain Kirk seat!)
ICN-NRT OZ 747 F
NRT-LHR NH 777 F





I arranged a hotel for a few nights of much needed sun and spicy food in Bangkok.

My hotel criteria:

• Elite benefits
• reasonably priced
• modern
• on the right side of the Chao Phraya river
• Infinity pool

After hours of (immensely pleasurable) trawling through hotel comparison sites, trip advisor and the miles and points forum; I had a hotel:

Sofitel So Bangkok

Before booking I asked the manager for clarification of elite benefits.
As an Accor Platinum, I would be upgraded to a club room when booking the cheapest room available and they were prepared to accommodate my 6am arrival into BKK. This along with the excellent pool and amazing looking rooms, was more than enough to sway me.

In Incheon I would spend a night at the Hyatt Regency, supposedly the best airport hotel in the World. The pool looked amazing in pictures and its location would make my turnaround at ICN super simple.

In Tokyo I am fortunate enough to have a friend who’s wife works for Hilton, so I left this in her hands - and didn’t know where I’d be staying until a couple of nights before setting off for BKK.


Unfortunately, as all great plans tend to - this one sharply unravelled.

In the space of 2 days I received an email telling me that there was no longer a captain Kirk chair for me on HKG-ICN. The plane was now an absolutely rubbish A321.

This was followed by an even more crushing blow, as a result of the unrest in Thailand: BKK-HKG was downsizing from an A380 to a 747.

As I often do in times of woe, I decided to bury myself in TRs.
After pining over the TG A380 in one particular report, I suddenly realised that I could use the route from the TR! (provided USDM agents allowed me). I had non-refundable hotels booked in BKK and ICN so wasn’t keen to drop my nights there.

On the other hand, I wasn’t particularly fussed about transiting in HKG and was even less thrilled about the prospect of a long flight in C and a short one in F, to get me from BKK-ICN. I decided I would try my luck with the USDM phone agents, to see if I could book:


LHR-BKK TG 747 new F
3 days later
BKK-NRT TG 380 F (a flight more than twice as long as the one to HKG, plus it has a Rimowa kit!)
2.5 hour connection
NRT-ICN OZ 747 C (in an F seat, as this flight sells F as C)
Overnight in Incheon
ICN-NRT OZ 747 F (same seat, better booze and service, interesting for a comparison)
2 days later
NRT-LHR NH 777 F




I watched the A380 space like a hawk, rejoicing as day by day the ANA portal showed another new day of availability. Then, on the day the award space should have opened up for me, the logic broke down and no seat was made available.

I had a big night out planned that night, so decided to drink away my sorrow, at the lack of A380 F space. Arriving home in the early hours of the morning, I thought “what the hell” and fired up the ANA engine.

I say fired up, what actually happened was that I incoherently bumbled my way through the screens, in a state of ape-like confusion. Nonetheless my deepest, most primitive, neurological stem region was able to immediately recognise one thing: the F space on the BKK-NRT flight was now open.

There was no option, I was going to have to go on a charm offensive with a USDM agent – immediately.

I called up USDM, full of hope. The first agent instantly said ‘no dice’, she said something about changing my destination to NRT and this prohibiting me from staying there again on my return.
Didn’t even try to argue.
HUCA.

The next agent was helpful, spent an hour re-confirming all my flights, was about to take payment for the change fee… and the phone cut out.
Curse you Skype, curse you to hell.

2 hours since my last drink… I was just about ready to start drinking all over again.

One final try.

routing - legal
change fee - $150
change in taxes - $14
tickets issued immediately.

Happy dance.



Index

Chapter 1: LHR-BKK TG F 747
Chapter 2: Sofitel So Bangkok – (Water Room)
Chapter 3: Bangkok sights
Chapter 4: BKK-NRT TG F 380
Chapter 5: NRT-ICN OZ C 747
Chapter 6: Hyatt Regency Incheon
Chapter 7: ICN-NRT OZ F 747
Chapter 8: Conrad Tokyo
Chapter 9: Hilton Shinjuku Tokyo and Tokyo sights
Chapter 10: NRT-LHR NH F 777 - Part I
Chapter 11: NRT-LHR NH F 777 - Part II

Last edited by Jermyn; Jul 9, 14 at 4:27 pm
Jermyn is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 1:55 am
  #2  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,992
Looking forward to reading this.

Out of interest, how come you didnt leave from Europe to avoid the APD?

^

Last edited by FlyerTalker7654; Apr 28, 14 at 5:45 am Reason: .
FlyerTalker7654 is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 4:42 am
  #3  
Original Poster
Accor Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: London, UK
Programs: Ronin - churn and burn
Posts: 696
Glad to hear it.
I've got 700+ photos, so it's taken a while to put together!

To be honest the APD is a bit of an annoyance but given the inconvenience and cost of buying flights to Europe; plus the possibility of a missed connection, thereby invalidating my entire trip, I figured it was better to play it safe.
Jermyn is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 7:42 am
  #4  
Accor Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 4,765
Looking forward to the photos.
TOMFORD is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 10:35 am
  #5  
Original Poster
Accor Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: London, UK
Programs: Ronin - churn and burn
Posts: 696
LHR-BKK TG F 747 and SQ F lounge (LHR)


After months of waiting, the day had finally arrived.
This was to be my first ever multi-segment trip in F.

I had previously flown UA F from BKK-NRT on and ID90 and had been left thoroughly underwhelmed. After reading TRs on FT, I knew that UA F was about as low as it gets.

I was sure of it, this trip would be immeasurably better.

And so, I boarded the DLR (the coolest form of public transport in London) and enjoyed the sunshine, on my way to Paddington.



View towards my house.
Pro tip: If you sit at the front, you can pretend you're driving


I had managed to slash the price of the HEX by using a train booking voucher code, found on Raffles' blog (headforpoints.co.uk). This combined with my Annual London Transport Gold card, brought the price down to a very manageable £8.90 return. Others who boarded the train without tickets were forking out over 3 times this amount for the same trip. Still though, nothing compared to my F seat costs vs that of the other passengers on my upcoming flight.



Heathrow Express Legroom (my pics do get better)

Upon arriving at the airport, I excitedly headed over to the TG F counter. Enjoying the general buzz of being fawned over and having my cases taken from me, as opposed to the usual: stand in a very long line, periodically kicking my hand luggage along the floor, apologising whenever the kick sends it into the back of somebody else’s legs.

Immediately I was greeted with some rather unfortunate news.
“sir, I’m sorry but your aircraft has been switched to an older plane”
“the one with 10 seats, instead of 9?”
“yes, sir. I’m sorry”

At this stage I experienced some quite mixed emotions. I immediately felt my DYKWIA senses tingling (this never really happens when you fly Y) but also felt oddly happy to have been TG’ed. It felt like now, I was part of the club. Everybody gets TG’ed sooner or later, hopefully if I got it out of the way now, I’d be safe when it came to the A380 in a few days.

With that, I headed into the fast-track security channel and made my way to the SQ F lounge.

On the way I made sure to pick up a bottle of cologne in the duty free.
I can’t remember which TR mentioned this but I remember reading about buying a cologne before a memorable trip, so that your memories will forever be anchored by the smell. For what it’s worth I went with Tom Ford and it has worked really well. I don’t use it every day but when I do, I’m instantly brought back to all the experiences that made this trip so great!




The LHR SQ lounge has a very open reception, with stairs leading up to the J lounge on the right and a short corridor, leading to the F lounge, on the left.



The F lounge is small, quiet and perfectly functional.







Costa Coffee!

Service was good and my order of scrambled eggs and salmon was well presented and well cooked.



There’s nothing worse than springy, spongy scrambled eggs.

I spent about an hour in the lounge and was able to eat, drink, send a couple of emails and sort through all my papers and reservations for the rest of the trip. It was much nicer than waiting at the gate but really not worth turning up early for.

If I’d paid the big bucks for SQ suites, I would certainly view this lounge as a disappointment. Within Terminal 3 alone, there is a better J lounge (the VS clubhouse).

I checked the screens and saw that my flight was now ready to board, with that my months of anticipation were finally over. I was going to take seat 1A in TG F !


TG911
LHR-BKK
11:50am

Boeing 747-400
Seat 1A
load: 6/10





My first impression was one of space and light.
There are so many windows to look through. The cabin is self contained in a really cool way.




Seat 1A

There are 2 lavs at the back of the cabin, with the doors facing towards the seats, rather than the galley. The galley then runs vertically down the length of the lavs, instead of cutting horizontally across the fuselage, as in most planes.

Somehow this arrangement makes the cabin seem more spacious and private than usual. The cabin shows its age a little, with the usual scuffs and scrapes one would expect on a 747. However, no other cabin ever feels as exclusive as the nose of a jumbo.



Upon taking my seat, I immediately reached for the white Rimowa kit and noticed that there was a black mark on it. This quickly fell to the back of my mind, as I saw a male FA approach with a bottle of Dom. He greeted me by name and asked if I would like a glass. I of course, obliged. He showed me the label, poured a glass for me and placed it on my windowsill, along with some mixed nuts.



This is what a glass of Dom looks like (nuts not pictured)

I thanked the FA and mentioned the stain on the amenity kit, he was very apologetic and asked if there was another colour I would prefer. I told him white was fine and he immediately returned with a new kit.

With that I began to gently sip my Dom and enjoy the views on the tarmac.



Unusual livery (does anybody know what the deal is with this)?

One of the big advantages to the old F cabin, is the amount you can see during take-off and landing. When we finished taxiing and the engines revved up for take-off, the feeling was exhilarating. Seeing the world rushing past, through 15 or more windows, gave me the impression that I myself was flying. As opposed to the usual feeling of just being along for the ride, in a metal tube.

Shortly after the seat belt signs were turned off, one of the 2 female FAs came over with menus:

















The FA addressed me by name and said that my pre-order of Lobster Thermidor had been noted but I was free to change my mind. I thought this was a nice touch, a real indicator that First Class gives you choice and freedom in addition to the extra space.

I was served another glass of Dom with my amuse bouche. The amuse bouche wasn’t anything particularly special but being moderately spicy and fried, I destroyed it in about 2 seconds.




consumption speed: circa 1 second per 'amusement'


Then came a hot towel.



I hear that one FT'er in particular, is keen on these.


The caviar trolley was something I had really been looking forward to.
Somehow seeing it wheel by, in this slightly aged cabin, gave me the impression of having travelled back to a bygone era. When the majority of your flying is done on Ryanair and Easyjet; the sight of a polished trolley draped in linen, amidst a quiet - punctuated only by the clinking of spoon against crystal serving bowl, is quite surreal.




The caviar itself was of a decent standard, with large pearls and a very smooth, buttery, mouthfeel. I chose to keep my use of garnishes to a minimum, on the caviar itself, but soon realised I was hungry and boozy; so I decided to just eat heaps of garnishes on bread, before the main course was served. This served to immediately eliminate any aspirations I may have had, of being a man of refinement.



Next up was the salad and pork terrine.
Pretty good but not spectacular.





This took me longer to eat, than the amuse bouche perhaps 30 seconds.

This course seemed to be a ‘by numbers’ affair more than anything else.
i.e. a salad course is required in international F class, so this one will do.
Not a complaint per se, more of an observation. I could easily have done without this; although I guess the salad served to assuage my guilt over the endless stream of food, that I was already on course to consume.

Next came the lobster Thermidor. Not bad at all.



The flesh was soft and mixed well with the béchamel. I prefer a little more crunch (supplied by carrots and celery) when I cook this at home, also I would probably choose different vegetables. There is something a little cheap in the presentation of the peas and tomato.

After this, I was asked if I’d like some fruit or cheese. I figured, ‘what the hell’ and went for both. The cheese was served at the correct temperature with a decent glass of port. Hard to screw that one up.



I brought my lunch to its conclusion with a ballet of chocolate based savagery.



Crisp resonant shell, yielding to unctuous liquid and mousse in the centre.
Glorious.

The espresso that accompanied it? Good, not just good for a plane but actually an espresso I would like to drink. My pet peeve is bad coffee in premium cabins (1% problem), so glad that TG are on top of this.

After all that I was ready to kick back with a movie from the IFE. The choice was decent and the system was fairly responsive, although the picture quality could have been better.

After the movie I decided to try and get some rest, as soon as I got up with my PJs in hand, the male FA came over and asked if he could make my bed. Throughout the flight this guy was on fire. Cranking out his hospitality A game.

He was not just responsive but also proactive, whilst also able to make jokes. Not an easy job at all. Seriously, all the FAs were great but this guy took it to another level.

Anyway, I came back to a made bed. At which point a few others asked to have theirs made.

At this point I need to mention the quality of the PJs. They have buttons on the sleeves and partially down the front, the colour scheme is very muted and elegant. Aside from this, they are comfortable, stretchy where needed and not shaped for obscurely rotund people with thin legs (a major issue with almost all airline PJs). I’ve kept and used these since and would say they are the best airline PJs I’ve come across. A friend of mine flies TG F regularly and gave me one of the old, baby blue, PJs. The difference in style and quality to those, is like night and day.



PJs in the wrapper (forgot to take PCLS - post-changing lav selfie)


After all the beds were made, the cabin lights were dimmed, and a selection of drinks was left in the centre station of row 2. I have to say, that leaving a proactive bottle of Dom on ice, next to me, is one of the greatest things anybody has ever done. The pour it yourself, bottle of Dom, is reason enough to fly TG F in my opinion.

After a few hours of watching movies and drifting in and out of micro sleep - not an indictment of the bed, more a reflection on my inability to sleep in dry cabin air - it was time for breakfast.

I started with another excellent double espresso, followed by a really fresh fruit salad.




Then things took a turn for the horrific:



The horrific


The quiche was a claggy, sodden mess of dough and oil. The rest of the dish was not much of an improvement. If TG want to work on bettering their F&B I would suggest they look here first. Honestly, this dish would not have been out of place in economy.

Overall not a huge problem for me though.
As long as I have good, strong coffee at breakfast. I’m happy.

The landing was even more epic than the take-off. Hearing the landing gear deploying about 2 foot beneath me, air screaming past it, followed by a final clunk, was awesome. Seeing the lights of BKK flying past the cavernous cabin’s windows, punctuated by the powerful beast’s thud onto the runway was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced.



Panoramic shot of the cabin, whilst landing


Honestly, suites are great but seeing a side view of a landing, from 3 windows, on an A380 is nothing compared to the noise, energy and massive 15 window view on a 747. Where the A380 gently glides onto the runway, the 747 headbutts the runway and screams at it. Horses for courses but I know what I prefer.

Our taxi through BKK took us past a menagerie of TG planes including a couple of whale jets. I snapped some pics excited to see the plane that may well be taking me on the next a leg of my journey, in a few days’ time.



F deplaned first and we were immediately greeted by TG assistants, bearing our names on signs. There was no buggy as we were literally 20 yards from immigration. My assistant took my hand-luggage and passport and then whisked me through the diplomatic immigration channel. He then told me to take a seat by the luggage reclaim, waited for my suitcase, loaded it onto a trolley and took me to the taxi rank.



At this point the taxi driver took my luggage and drove me down the almost deserted highway to Lumphini, site of my hotel: Sofitel So Bangkok.

Last edited by Jermyn; May 11, 14 at 5:51 am
Jermyn is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 10:49 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: YVR
Programs: Aeroplan
Posts: 216
I don't see the photos !
choupeo is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 11:09 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: RNO, NV, USA.
Programs: UA 1K 2MM
Posts: 4,618
Yes, I don't see the photos either!
restlessinRNO is online now  
Old Apr 28, 14, 11:23 am
  #8  
Original Poster
Accor Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: London, UK
Programs: Ronin - churn and burn
Posts: 696
Thanks guys.
Fixed. ^
Jermyn is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 12:30 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: India
Programs: Star Alliance Gold, SkyTeam Elite Plus, Hilton Gold
Posts: 892
Great Start

Super TR so far, love especially your detailed booking part. Continue the momentum ^
deovrat is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 1:45 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Programs: Virtuoso, Marriott Stars/Luminous, Hilton Impresario, IHG Luxury & Lifestyle, Hyatt Prive etc
Posts: 1,978
Really enjoying the TR.
The unusual livery is a place BA had designed by Tracy Emin as a special for the olympics. It is supposed to be a dove and represent freedom (or something).
I am something of a TG F addict - I always think one trip will be my last chance (end of BMI, end of US etc) but then manage to book another trip. Next Feb, have 4 F flights
price123 is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 1:55 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Programs: BA Bronze
Posts: 46
The BA gold livery I think was for the Olympics and it carried the torch as part of the relay.
travelgirl88 is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 8:45 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: 6km East of EPAYE
Programs: UA Silver, AA Platinum, AS & DL GM Marriott TE, Hilton Gold
Posts: 9,582
Great TR!!

Flying BKK-LHR in F in a few months - lots to look forward to.

Looking forward to the rest.
Madone59 is offline  
Old Apr 28, 14, 10:54 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 6,331
Great TR!
yerffej201 is offline  
Old Apr 29, 14, 6:19 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Programs: BAEC Gold
Posts: 332
Amazing TR. Looking forward to the rest.
avneeshj is offline  
Old Apr 29, 14, 12:47 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: MCO/TPA
Posts: 33
Jermyn did they, Thai Air, call a taxi because you wanted one?

I am flying Thai first from FRA in June. I would assume just take the subway. Did you find the taxi to be quick and easy? Did you have to haggle a price?
thesly is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread