By Daniel Tay for Singalaidean Travels.
Back in 2014, when the Airbus A350-900 has yet to enter service, the hype was all about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner when it came to introducing a new aircraft type.
While it had its problems from the start, the Dreamliner proved itself to be the plane for the 21st Century, providing airlines a chance to open “long and thin” routes; city pairs with demand but not enough to fill up a widebody aircraft like the Boeing 747 or 777.
I hopped on the chance to fly the THAI Dreamliner, the first of which is named Ongkharak, on its inaugural from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Check-In & Pre-Boarding
Another friend, who is also an AvGeek, was my companion for the trip. We arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport around 90 minutes before departure and checked in at Row C. Upon checking in, we enquired about the aircraft type, just to be sure, as THAI has a tendency to change aircraft types at the last minute and this is the last thing we want for this flight.
Us: Is the aircraft type a Boeing 787?
Agent: Sorry Sir, it is an Airbus
*both our hearts stopped a beat*
Us: Are you sure? Could you please check again?
Agent: Sorry Sir, you are right, it is a Boeing 787. Enjoy your flight!
In the end, we realized that she mixed up the aircraft types for the first flight of the day to Chiang Mai on Thai Smile, which operates a fleet of Airbus A320s.
As you can see in the photo, there was absolutely zero indication that this flight was to be a special one. No banners, no announcements or any signs that the Dreamliner will be flying for THAI for the first time. This was a surprise to us as we expected at least a ceremony to launch the new aircraft type.
Since it was boarding time soon, we decided to head to the gate to see if anything was up. Other than a brand new Dreamliner docked at the jetway, it looked like any other flight and the passengers seem unaware.
Boarding was soon called and we were greeted with a very warm Sawasdeekrup/kaa by the crew, the usual on THAI flights. It was easy to see who booked the flight for the plane and who just wanted transport as the AvGeeks onboard went shutter crazy.
I was slightly disappointed when I reached my seat, 55K by the “window”.
Thankfully, I had half a window to utilize. THAI’s Dreamliner seats were decked out in a purple-orange color scheme, deviating away usual plain colored seats. They make the Dreamliner’s cabin look even more modern.
Each seat comes with a high definition screen complete with AVOD. The controller can be found right under the screen but there is not a need to use as the PTV is fully touchscreen. Legroom was decent for the short flight but it might get a little tight for longer flights.
We were soon pushed back and there was also no water cannon salute – a ceremony usually given to inaugural flights. I decided to switch to the airshow channel and the safety video was soon played.
As we taxied to the runway, I realize that we were going to leave behind a huge piece of overcast sky in Bangkok as we trek north. Shortly after takeoff, some music was played – very loudly. Not sure if it signifies anything as I have never heard that on any of my previous THAI flights.
Since it was a 100% full flight with 3-3-3 seating, I decided to stay in my seat. Soon, we were handed a snack box which consisted of some pastries and a packet of orange juice. The crew also went around doing runs for tea and coffee.
The interesting feature on the Boeing 787 windows is that they are electronically controlled – no physical window shades are present. This gives the crew the power to dim the entire cabin’s windows at once after meal service for longer flights and simply brighten them when it is time for landing.
For a flight of this length, it was not a surprise when the Captain announced that we were soon arriving at Chiang Mai International Airport.
The weather in Chiang Mai was bright and sunny, a great end to our equally great flight. As disembarkation commenced, we started taking photos of the cabin again. To our surprise, the crew even asked us if we would like our photos taken!
Being my very first Boeing 787 flight, I certainly enjoyed it and THAI delivered way beyond my expectation for a domestic flight. One day, I hope to fly in Business with THAI again, hopefully on their Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350.