​Thai Airways, Boeing 777-300ER, Business Class, Sydney to Phuket

THE DISTANCE

Flight TG478, Sydney to Phuket

THE PLANE

Boeing 777-300ER, one of 14 in Thai Airways International’s fleet.

THE LOYALTY PROGRAM

Royal Orchid Plus, Star Alliance

CLASS

Royal Silk (Business)

LENGTH OF TIME

Eight hours and 40 minutes, non-stop

CO2 EMISSIONS

2.3 tons for a business class passenger. Thai’s Voluntary Carbon Offset Program, designed to minimize environmental impact, follows International Air Transport Association guidelines for carbon offsetting.

FREQUENCY

This new service started in early December 2021 and will operate three times a week from Sydney to Phuket before terminating in Bangkok. Departs Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 9.30am, arrives Phuket at 2.40pm. It is 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 set to resume in April.

HEALTH

This is the inaugural flight made before the Omicron wave. Passengers are required to present proof of a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours upon check-in, vaccination certificates, specified travel insurance, a government-issued “Thailand Passport” and confirmed accommodation at a certified hotel in Phuket (the Thailand passport requirements change frequently, so keep checking). Another PCR test will be performed upon landing. Except for eating and drinking, masks are mandatory everywhere at Sydney Airport and on board the aircraft.

CHECK IN

Gone are the days of arriving two hours before departure. Three hours is now recommended for staff to check passengers’ medical and travel documents, nearly doubling check-in time. Check back regularly for the latest updates before your departure day.

THE SEAT

The Royal Silk Class has 42 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Singles enjoy privacy at the window seat, while traveling couples can sit next to each other in the center block; a sliding wall between the latter seats provides privacy when needed. Master the panel options for back, leg and lumbar support and you will experience a comfortable flight. All seats recline into a 180 degree bed. Two USB ports and a 110-volt outlet support your devices, but WiFi and phone are not available on this flight. There’s a retractable table, but surprisingly little storage space for laptops and personal items other than in the overhead lockers. Passengers are not allowed to change assigned seats due to COVID-secure protocols.

BAGGAGE

The baggage allowance for checked baggage in Royal Silk Class is 35 kg, of which 7 kg is for carry-on baggage. Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyers in Thailand receive bonus allowances: an additional 10kg for Silver members and 20kg for Gold members, with similar allowances for eligible Star Alliance members.

ENTERTAINMENT

Touchscreen and handset control allow access to around 40 films and 20 documentaries as well as a handful of children’s films. Offerings are mostly mainstream Hollywood, with little or no art house or European content. The boring selection is acidified by several Asian “World Movies” options. The audio programs and documentaries are more stimulating, but there is almost no music. Instead, the excellent noise-cancelling headphones ensure undisturbed reading.

SERVICE

Thai Airways was voted third place 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. Cabin crew are confined to their stations but remain alert and on call. There are no magazines, printed menus or duty-free sales. The Porsche-branded trim set is stylish but lacks one key element, the eye mask.

FOOD

This is the first flight, so there’s celebratory French champagne all around on departure. Drinks are otherwise only served with meals, but generously. The first meal, served about an hour after takeoff, is a choice of beef stew or chicken, followed by a pre-packaged slice of stale sponge cake plus brandy. Wine and spirits selection is limited. No “between meals” snacks or drinks will be offered. The second meal, served two hours before landing, consists of fried Hokkien pork and noodles. No options. This is not the usual Royal Silk Class dining standard, but neither is this circumstance.

JUST ONE THING

Don’t underestimate how time-consuming preparations for international travel have become. You will spend hours online and offline compiling and uploading the documents required to enter Thailand in accordance with the changing vaccination and isolation rules. A lack of complete documentation may result in you being denied boarding at the airport. Similar difficulties can arise when obtaining the online Australia travel declaration you need for the return flight. Either way, start early.

THE JUDGMENT

Regardless of the hiccups of a first trip and travel restrictions in times of COVID, the flight itself is a breeze as Thai cabin crew work hard but make everything seem like a pleasure.

OUR RATING OF FIVE

★★★★

The author flew courtesy of Thai Airways (thaiairways.com) and COMO Point Yamu Resort (comohotels.com).

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