Thai Airways – Smiles or Substance?

Thai Airways is the flag carrier of Thailand, the land of smiles – but will you find substance behind the smiles?

Thai Airways – who are they?

Thai Airways (airline code TG) is the flag carrier airline of Thailand, based out of Suvarnabhumi aiport (BKK) in the capital Bangkok. TG serves 73 destinations in 35 countries, with the majority in Asia (46 destinations) and strong links to Europe (13 destinations). In the rest of the world, they only fly to Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Dubai and Muscat.

SkyTrax rates Thai as a 4 (out of 5) star airline, putting them ahead of United, Delta or American and in one class with Emirates or Lufthansa. AirlineRating gives them 6 (out of 7) stars for safety, with one star missing for Thailand as a country missing one of 8 criteria in the ICAO country audit.

Thai has a mix of mostly wide-body planes to serve these long-distance flights, a regional subsidiary, Thai Smile, for short-haul flights as well as a stake in a discount carrier, Nok Air. Thai Airways is part of Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world, providing access to a global network of airlines and rewards programs.

Why should I care?

If you have ever stepped onto a Thai plane, welcomed by flight attendants in traditional Thai dresses, wearing the warmest possible smile, you probably will never want to go back to a US carrier! The service is the key differentiator and rivals other top airlines. If you are fortunate enough to fly in their premium cabin through Bangkok or have Gold Star Alliance status, you will have access to their excellent lounges. I spent several hours in their Royal Orchid lounge during the tumultuous airport blockade in 2008 and the food, drinks and free massage service in the Spa certainly made for an amazing experience. As a Star Alliance member, Thai makes for great aspirational award travel in their Business and First Class to Asia. They often have very good award availability via United Airlines.

What else do I need to know?

Thai is going through a fleet renewal program, leaving it with a wide variety of old and new planes, with vastly different seats, so make sure to check your plane before booking at Business Class can range from outstanding flat beds in their Airbus 380 to angled flat seats on older planes and even recliner seats on regional flights. Service is available online, by phone or via mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. The global web site is in English & Thai, with localized sites for target markets, ie Germany, France or China. They operate contact centers and offices in more than 40 countries. The web site and mobile apps are not as good as some of the leaders with respect to usability and functionality.
Thai Airways is one of my favorite airlines, because of of their great services onboard and on the ground and the stylish planes – so there are substance and smiles to be head!

Sounds great – where do I find more information?

Royal Orchid Plus Frequent Flyer Program
Royal First Class Review
Royal Silk (Business) Class Review
Royal Orchid Lounge & Spa Review (coming soon)


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