Andrew Stone checks out Thai Airways new Boeing 787-9 — the Dreamliner — from Auckland to Bangkok.
The Dreamliner seems to stretch forever when you board the aircraft. The aisle curves slightly as it disappears down the plane, as if the horizon has been turned on its side. The plane has been flying the Thailand-New Zealand route for a couple of weeks. It feels fresh and crisp.
Class: Economy. The return fare is about $1000.
My seat: 56F. I'm on the aisle, about halfway between the midplane and the rear loos.
The flight: Thai 492 leaves Mangere at 3.10pm, 15 minutes after its scheduled departure.
There is an empty seat between me and another passenger, a player with the White Ferns heading for two games in Bangkok. Seats in the Economy section are in rows of nine arranged 3-3-3. They are firm but generously sized and tilt backwards to a pleasing degree. The cabin seems fairly full. Across the cabin passengers with window seats have amazing views through supersize portholes, and a nifty dial to darken the view. The overhead lockers are roomy and accommodate those passengers who insist on dragging extra bags on board.
Entertainment: The selection of movies is more limited than other airlines. Even the number of Asian titles on offer seems narrow, compared with the in-flight menu of some other companies flying in the region. The flight tracker, however, keeps tabs on the journey from a range of perspectives. Eventually I settle down with a book. Food and drink: Although I was seated just a few rows from the rear of the aircraft the choice of mains had halved when the cart reached my seat. So no Thai beef, just fish with pasta, creamy sauce, carrots and broccoli. It was bland, but okay. My sense is that the airline missed a trick to offer a memorable Thai meal. A second meal of chicken curry with noodle and bok choy was wheeled through about seven hours into the flight — it, too, fell into the satisfactory category — and a beef sandwich was offered an hour or so before landing. We didn't go hungry but Thai food lovers might have felt disappointed.
Service: Attentive and pleasant. The cabin staff were apologetic over the lack of choice with the food cart, and were never far away with steaming pots of tea and coffee. If you wanted to drink, there were spirits, Thai beer and French wine.
Toilets: New and clean.
Airport experience: Perfectly fine. Perhaps it wasn't a busy day at Auckland but I sailed through check-in, helped by a decision to travel light and stick to carry-on baggage.
Arriving on time at Bangkok, a 10-minute bus ride takes you to the terminal. It's a case of following the signs and the escalators to passport control, Customs and the rail station.
It's a sprawling and potentially confusing place but there are information boards and help desks to assist with navigation.
The conclusion: Thai's Dreamliner is a majestic aircraft. It feels big and heavy rumbling along the runway but at altitude it is stable and quiet. The journey seems effortless.
Putting aside the meal hiccup and the shortish list of movies, it makes the flight to Asia enjoyable.
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