Asia’s Airlines: Thai Airways

We are starting a series to profile the businesses and importance of Asian airlines. We’ll start with one of the oldest and still highly rated, Thai Airways which has their main hub in Bangko.

Thai Airways, like many carriers, has been trying to reinvent themselves for years.  It’s tough being a flag carrier in a nation which has seen its share of upheavals but which also remains one of the world’s busiest and most competitive tourist markets. So I have to give Thai marks for its efforts.

A couple of years ago they launched their own discount airline Thai Smile, to compete with all of the LCCs serving Bangkok and they have tried to pare back their route network and their fleet.  Thai used to have an almost unmanageable variety of planes and they were renowned for constantly swapping out aircraft. But now they have focused on a mix of Boeing and Airbus aircraft which seem better configured to their route and service offerings.

They have six A380s, and they still operate nine 747s. Both planes still offer their Royal First Class product, all their other planes only offer Royal Silk their business as a premium cabin. 

The 777 in various forms is their workhorse with 26 but they also have nine A330s. Their new commitment to the A350 and 787-9 and 787-8 is impressive. Finally they also operate two variations of the A320 for Thai Smile.

While we love the 747 for sentimental reasons, and still think it is about the nicest looking plane in the sky, Thai’s fleet is feeling dated. Their hard product on board isn’t a lay flat seat and the overhead bins are quite small upstairs. We still love the plane, but you can’t compare it to the hard product on their new A350s and 787s. They’ve done a great job configuring the Business Class cabin on these. And they still retain the little touches such as having an orchid on every seat and using cloth towels in the restrooms.

The airline no longer flies to North America although Los Angeles is supposed to return now that they have the A350. Time will tell. They are well covered with flights to Europe and India with routes also to the Middle East and Australia and New Zealand. Their short haul and medium haul Asian flights typically offer an excellent business product and their cabin service is predictably authentic, friendly and attentive. We’d much rather fly Thai to and from China than a Chinese carrier and the same thing for Korea. It’s a toss up for Japan but for most destinations in Asia Thai competes very well.

Their frequent flyer program is called Royal Orchid Plus. As a founder member of the Star Alliance, Thai allows their members to use and earn points on many carriers, this includes EVA from Taiwan and Singapore Airlines, two of the best carriers in the world. Star Alliance carriers fly to 1,312 destinations around the world so Thai’s customers have a lot of options for earning and burning points.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is busy and Customs & Immigration can be busy but Thai has their own provide check-in area for first and business travelers with its own security and Customs. This makes moving through the airport a breeze. Their main signature lounge is also excellent, though the smaller ones closer to the gates tend to be less well stocked with food and drinks.