Smooth as silk, with a little help from Airbus

Travel Daily’s Mark Elliott reviews the in-flight experience of Thai Airways’ brand new Airbus A380…

Thai Airways has long promised to offer the best of oriental service and Thai hospitality in the sky, but the extent to which it has delivered on this promise has, in the past, been open to debate.

While the airline’s service standards are usually excellent, its cabin products have increasingly been viewed as out-of-date, especially compared with many of the Middle Eastern airlines now competing with THAI on its major European routes.

THAI's A380
THAI’s A380

Last week however, THAI took delivery of an aircraft which is set to restore its reputation with an in-flight experience comparable to any airline in the sky today: the Airbus A380.

THAI, of course, is not the first airline to receive this gargantuan aircraft (in fact it is the ninth), but almost a decade after placing its A380 order THAI has finally started flying a product that has the potential to restore the airline’s reputation and help it live up to its slogan – “smooth as silk”.

People say the first thing you notice about the A380 is how quiet it is, but that’s not strictly true. The first thing you realise, upon walking through the door, is how damn big it is. For all their advanced aerodynamics and modern interiors, passenger aircraft have never exactly been roomy. Usually when boarding, passengers are forced to squeeze past two smiling flight attendants who are trying to be helpful but, let’s face it, are simply getting in the way. On the A380 however, the entrance is almost cavernous – an LED-lit, soothing pink and purple lobby, wide-enough to walk two-abreast past the helpful cabin crew, directing you down either aisle or up the central staircase.

For those lucky enough to be guided upstairs to the Royal First or Royal Silk (business class) cabins, the experience is truly impressive. One would expect semi-private cubicle-style seats in first class – and this is exactly what you get – but onboard THAI’s A380 this sense of having a “suite” rather than a “seat” extends into business class.

Royal Silk business class
Royal Silk business class

All Royal Silk seats have aisle access, but feel enclosed – a small haven of comfort, separated from the outside world. Passengers are flanked by a small table and reading light on one side, and for those fortunate enough to have a window seat, a deep storage space and large window on the other. Facing you are a large screen and deep footrest, which eventually becomes part of a fully-flat bed.

The layout is straight, making it more comfortable and ergonomically-friendly than THAI’s Boeing 777 business class layout, where the angled seats make window-gazing awkward and figuring out how to access the tray tables and seatback screens is trickier than completing a Rubic’s Cube.

There are no such problems in the A380’s business class seats. The wide windows offer panoramic views of the world below, and all conveniences are within easy reach and don’t require a Mensa certificate to unlock or operate. There is also a power socket perfect for those who need to settle down to work.

The economy class cabin is also surprisingly spacious, with ample room for all but the very leggiest of passengers. The tray tables sit a good three inches above the knees of an average sized male, and there are a couple of inches of extra space either side of the average male behind.

Economy class
Economy class

As a tip, THAI’s A380s have a small economy section at the rear of the upper deck, which is far from the madding crowds (and screaming kids) of the all-economy lower deck, and which also offers a full row (79) of extra legroom seats.

The A380 is doubtless a stunning aircraft, but the products THAI has equipped it with takes the passenger experience to impressive new heights. Quiet, comfortable and colourful, THAI’s new aircraft finally allows the airline to live up to its brand promise. Once again, flying THAI is “smooth as silk” – following a little help from Airbus.

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