Thai | Airbus A300/B744 | BKK-HKT-BKK

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Welcome all to the second part of my latest series following my trip to Thailand, Dubai and Muscat. The first part can be found here:

Arabia & Thailand 2013 1: LHR-DXB-BKK EK A380/77W

As I had a spare day in Bangkok before heading back to Dubai, I was looking around for things to do. I looked at things locally, but one thing that was making more noises than most was a bit of regional Asian flying. Although I had wanted to see a bit of Bangkok, I decided to explore options anyway. Where to go though? Kuala Lumpur? Nope, going there already. Singapore? Possibly but I want to visit there in its own right rather than as a tag on to another trip – plus flight timings weren’t great. Vietnam? Hmmm didn’t really appeal. Phuket? Well maybe? I checked out Air Asia, but prices didn’t seem all that great, plus public transport links to Don Muang didn’t seem to be very good either. Bangkok Airways? Again, prices weren’t great plus much like Air Asia, it would be a pair of A32X’s. Nok Air? Not bad prices and great livery, but again not an interesting enough option to warrant reaching for my wallet. Finally I looked at Thai. Well the prices were reasonable, but I still felt like I wanted to explore Bangkok a little more. I made a random status update on Facebook and a fellow a.netter made a comment that Thai actually operate A300’s and 747’s on that route… do they?!?! I immediately took a closer look at the TG website, and indeed they were correct!

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Well that was enough to get me reaching for my wallet!

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A few moments later the booking confirmation was in my inbox and my already short stay in Bangkok got a day shorter!

Check in was made the day before on my iPad:

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As I had a few hours to explore Phuket, I booked a car – for the grand total of £27 for the day.

My alarm went off at 06:00, I got ready and headed downstairs to grab some breakfast.

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I then made my way on the busy metro to Pattya Thai station to connect to the airport train.

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I arrived at the airport at just before 08:00. I then made my way to zone C to grab the boarding pass I couldn’t get yesterday.

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All on time… I think?
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I was seen to very quickly, and then made my way down to domestic security. This was probably the easiest security experience I’d ever had – the whole process took as long as it took my bag to pass through the X-ray machine!

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It was then a long walk down to gate B1, through some pretty dark corridors, where I would find HS-TAX waiting. This particular aircraft is one of the newer A300’s around, having entered service in 1998.

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There were a few views to be had from inside the holding pen:

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Once in the holding pen, it seemed the flight would be pretty busy – mostly with Indians with a select few Aussies thrown in.

Boarding started on time at 09:30, and as usual everybody seemed to be in need of some assistance.

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General boarding was announced a couple of minutes later.

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7th May 2013
A300-622R / HS-TAX Thepsatri
Seat: 35A / Economy
Scheduled: 10:00/11:20
Off Stand: 10:22/11:44
On Stand: 10:53/12:05

Once onboard, I was pretty impressed with how clean the cabin was. Being an older frame, I was expecting it to be worn and falling to bits for some reason!

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Although there were still some signs of the age of the design.

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I took my assigned seat of 35A.

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35B however seemed to be a game of musical chairs. First of all, one person sat there, then was moved by the crew. Then a second person sat there, only to move themselves. Finally somebody settled there.

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A few moments past our scheduled departure time, the captain was on the PA, first speaking in Thai, then English. He welcomed everybody on board, gave our routing and a weather update before finally announcing a flight time on an hour and five minutes. He then mentioned that due to ATC delays we wouldn’t be pushing back until 09:30… And then following up with a further announcement saying he meant 10:30. As it was already 10:10 by the time this announcement came, I figured he meant 10:30 anyway.

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At just after 10:20, we finally pushed back. Good thing too as it was getting a little warm onboard, due to the lack of air conditioning nozzles in the overhead.

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We made a long taxi out to the furthest runway. It seemed that the airport had gone down to single runway ops, as we had to wait for quite a while for both arriving and departing aircraft, whilst nothing seemed to be using the other runway.

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When we finally reached the end of the runway, there was a bit of a wait for a Bangkok Airways A320 to land, and then it was our turn.

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At around 10:50, we pulled on to the runway, the engines started to spool up to N1, and we started to roll but we didn’t seem to be gaining any speed? Hmm. After rolling for around a couple of hundred meters or so, I started to get the feeling of déjà vu from a few of my trips last year (Nice, Amsterdam, Madrid…) After a further hundred meters or so I was almost certain that we wouldn’t be lifting off on this attempt, and shortly afterwards we exited the runway to the right.

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A few moments later, we were back on to a remote stand by the side of the runway. The captain came over the PA and said that there was a hydraulic problem – and that he would update us further a little later.

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At least our new parking position had a better view of the movements, although undortunately this aircraft had the type of windows that made taking pictures pretty difficult.

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A couple of vans pulled up to our aircraft but not a lot seemed to happen.

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Also the flaps were still extended, so that would probably go some way to explaining our issue.

The crew jumped up shortly afterwards and distributed some water.

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During which time I explored what was in the seat pocket.

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Some fifteen minutes later the captain was on again saying that the engineer was working on the problem and that the job should be finished in 15/20 minutes. By my estimation, that would mean nearly a two hour delay by the time we get going. I was hoping we would get going again soon, due to it still being pretty warm onboard.

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A further few minutes later, and it sounded like one of the engines were starting. Promising. After a few more moments, the flaps were retracted and then extended again after which the engine was shut down. Around five minutes later the cabin crew were asked to arm the doors once more and we appeared to be off again.

We once more pushed back and made our way out to the runway, although this time in the opposite direction.

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Upon reaching the end of the runway there was a bit of a hold for a Vietnam A321 to depart.

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The captain came over the PA once more, first in Thai, then in English, saying that we were still having hydraulic issues and would return to stand once again. We did a 180 degree turn and made our way back once more – what was going on?!

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World’s tallest control tower.
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Back to the same stand once again

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Upon pulling on to stand, the captain updated us once more, saying we would now be going on a different plane. Upon announcing this, almost the entire cabin was up. Despite the crew telling people to take their seats as we wouldn’t disembark for a while yet, although nobody listened.

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However, I could see we wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soon, due to both the steps not being attached and no coaches available. It was at this point I was having doubts about continuing this trip. With a 19:00 departure back from HKT, I had plenty of time at this point… But would I have any time to do any of the things I wanted to whilst I was there? I didn’t really fancy going down there, only to turn around and rush straight back again, especially as I had an early flight out of BKK the following morning. I didn’t want to risk getting stranded in Phuket and missing my flight back to DXB. I made a deal with myself that if I was still in BKK at 15:00, I would abandon.

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A6-EDG – The A380 that flew me LHR-DXB just a few days earlier.

Eventually, around thirty minutes later a line of coaches appeared to take us to gate B8.

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A few minutes later we were given the instruction to disembark.

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It was then off on the third tour of BKK for the day, although this time it was on something a little less interesting.

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Farewell HS-TAX
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First sighting of the new RBA livery
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Wouldn’t mind a go on this down to HKT

A few moments later we arrived at the bus gate and made our way in.

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As I was entering the gate area, I glanced at the computer screen in front of the ground staff and noticed it said “330 as the type. The staff were bombarded with all sorts of questions, however mine was the most important – what type of plane will it be?!. Something was a little lost in translation, as the answer I got was that the plane is broken… But what about the new one? Yes you’re getting a new one. Ok, I’ll try a different approach – will I have the same seat as before? Yes sir. Well that’s at least some promising news – being in an A seat almost guaranteed a window no matter what we would be flying on.

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The new departure time was 13:15. That was better than I had expected actually. Upon looking out of the window, I couldn’t actually see any A300’s around – only 744’s and A330’s, so now it was a waiting game to see what I’d actually end up on. With a 744 scheduled for my return, if an A300 wasn’t available, I was hoping for an A330.

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Some moments later, I saw a few buses turn up – so figured boarding would be soon.

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I pulled myself away from the window and went a little nearer to the podium so I could hear the announcement’s, as things were getting a little rowdy:

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What was the need for this? Boarding was near anyway, and the gate agent can only do so much

Boarding for the second time was called at 13:25, and it was pandemonium. It wasn’t really a case of waiting your turn – rather just going with the flow. Eventually though, I was on my third… Or was it fourth tour of BKK of the day. Now it was a case if seeing what I end up on. We headed down to the maintenance area on the bus and along the way there were a few A330’s, a few 744’s and a couple of 777’s around – so take your pick!

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Eventually though, there was an A300 hiding at the end of the line – phew! Boarding was via the front or rear stairs – so I chose the rear, grabbing a few pictures along the way> luckily nobody seemed to mind.

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7th May 2013
A300-622R / HS-TAZ Srisubhan
Seat: 35A / Economy
Scheduled: 10:00/11:20
Off Stand: 13:53
On Stand: 15:16

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The legroom etc was identical to the previous jet, as was the crew.

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We finally pushed back just after 13:50, and made the long taxi out to the runway.

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Finally, at 14:15 – some four and a quarter hours later than planned, we lifted off, and I was treated to some of those Asian clouds I’d heard so much about, but hadn’t yet experienced.

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No less than ten minutes after departure, the crew sprang into action.

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It was then pretty overcast outside, so not a huge amount to be seen. Of interest was that the flight crew made no announcements on this flight. I guess they figured we had heard enough of them by now!

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Eventually the captain did get in touch – apologizing for the delay, giving a weather update, mentioning that we were cruising at 34,000ft and an estimated time of arrival of 15:20 – so giving me around ninety minutes in Phuket. Pretty annoying as I’d planned to see a couple of things, but I guess now it’s an excuse to pay another visit.

There was then time for a second drinks run – which impressed me, as on a UK domestic, once the initial service has been completed, that’s generally your lot.

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Around this time, descent started. It was very scenic – ill just let you see for yourselves. My seatmate leaned over me a couple of times to take some pictures too – I didn’t mind though as she cleared my tray table for me while I was taking pictures earlier!

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Touchdown was made at just past 15:10 and we made the short taxi on to stand. Interestingly the flaps were left extended?

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We finally pulled on to stand and disembarked fairly quickly:

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It was then through to arrivals.

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And then disaster number 2 of the day. When I got to the Avis desk, they had my reservation, but instead of wanting to charge me the 1200 baht (£27) as agreed, they wanted 20,000 (£430!)… Erm no thanks. It wasn’t even a pre-authorization either – they actually tried to take the money! Luckily, I tried to use my card I reserve for pre-authorizations, therefore it not only had a low limit, but had a chunk of it blocked off already or else it could have worked out pretty expensive. Already in a bad mood I walked away. A clever taxi operator saw all this and did me a “great” deal to take me where I wanted to go – just around the corner infact, for around the equivalent of £13. Expensive, but still cheaper than the car by a long way!

So I took a taxi to the beach – having to give instructions along the way – not that he understood – which left me feeling even more frustrated – as despite pointing which road to go down, and showing him on the map, he still wanted to take me where he felt like going…. Pa-Tong maybe?! I left him at the desired spot and agreed to meet him back there in an hour – fully expecting not to see him again!

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I then wondered along the great beach. I slapped on the sun cream, took my shoes off and had a bit of a paddle, although not having any swimming gear meant I could only get ankle deep. Oh, there were a couple of departures to watch too, and that’s where disaster number three turned up – not only was my battery dying on my camera, but for some reason most of the shots were coming up massively under exposed. I expect it was a dirty sensor, as I had to turn it on and off a few times in order for them to come out correctly – and when you’re trying to catch something fast moving this isn’t ideal. Taking the lens off and attempting to clean it on a beach wasn’t an ideal option either. It would eventually turn out to be a faulty aperture, which would continue to plague me for the rest of the trip.

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After a great hour on the beach, I reluctantly walked back to where I’d agreed to meet the taxi driver – and amazingly he was actually there waiting for me. We then made the short drive back to the airport, and he dropped me at departures.

Almost straight away there was a security check, however not as stringent as the full blown security around the corner.

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It was then upstairs through a corridor that wouldn’t look out of place in the local hospital.

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It was then to the Thai airways check in counter to grab my boarding pass – where it was actually pretty busy due to all the staff being trainees. There was an Australian girl in front and she mentioned that the staff were all trainees… however in all the noise I misheard her and thought she said they were all Chinese. I made a comment about not speaking Chinese, had a bit of a think and then realized she actually meant Trainees and figured that’s probably why she gave me the funny look. This was made all the more awkward by not only the fact she was on my flight, but also bumping into her continually for the rest of the evening.

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I was handed my boarding pass in the end however, and I headed straight to the gents to wash the beach off of myself!

Once I had freshened up, I brought a sandwich from the Thai Airways cafe then headed through security – this was as quick as in BKK earlier, due to the fact I was the only person there. It was shortly after this point I realized why – there isn’t an awful lot airside in HKT! Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so hasty.

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I grabbed a much needed drink to go with the sandwich and updated the trip report, then sat and waited for the next hour for boarding – hoping things would go more smoothly on this flight. I did do a few laps of the departure lounge too.

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I then spotted a sign for an outdoor terrace, however it didn’t provide any views – and it was far too smoky for my liking.

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Happy New Year? Its May!
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Still on time so far…

Although by 18:10, no aircraft had arrived, so I was having doubts that we would be boarding at 18:30. A few moments later however, the familiar shape of the 747 appeared through the sunset.

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I’d like to say boarding was announced at 18:30 – but there wasn’t much of an announcement – more a case of somebody appearing at the desk and then a mass stampede. Suited me though, as it meant that we could get through to the gate area, and I could grab some better pics!

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Due to boarding not officially being announced there was a bit of a hold up in no mans land between the gate area and the jet bridge. There were a lot of photos being taken of our jet in the sun during this time.

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7th May 2013
747-4D7 / HS-TGB Si Satchanalai
Seat: 64A / Economy
Scheduled: 19:00/20:25
Off Stand: 19:02
On Stand: 20:25

I was one of the first to board this full flight, of mostly Chinese (not trainees). As Win had mentioned at dinner the previous night, a few of the TG 747’s had been refurbished and they do crop up on the BKK-HKT route from time to time – and this was one of those occasions. I later found out that this aircraft had operated the LHR-BKK sector earlier in the day before heading down here. The load was pretty full – I had a pair of Chinese seatmates – in fact I’m pretty sure I crashed a Chinese school party as everybody in the rear section seemed to know each other.

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This one had a fairly good IFE, although I didn’t explore all that much of it.

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Something a little more local next door

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The downside of having IFE

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Good footrest, however the IFE box made stowing anything more than a rucksack under the seat pretty difficult

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Not much overhead

Just before pushback, the safety video was played.

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Pushback came a couple of minutes behind schedule, and we made the very sort taxi over to the runway – which had now shifted direction to earlier. The sun was just about setting too. We had to hold for a while at the end of the taxi way for the crew to secure the cabin.

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Following this was a very powerful takeoff at 19:10 – if you can’t get the upper deck on the 747, sit just behind the wing – you can really feel the power back there!

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Very shortly after take off, there was a dog barking in the cabin? I never knew dogs were allowed in the cabin?

And not long after that, the lunch boxes were given out. Slightly more substantial than earlier – they included a couple of sandwiches. Couldn’t say what was in one of them, but they both tasted good enough.

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Is this Thai’s way of saying not to take it home?

As it was too dark to really see anything outside, it was pretty much a case of just sitting back, watching our progress on the skymap and waiting to start descent, which occurred at 19:50

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During descent, I noticed a few lightning strikes outside. These didn’t affect things too much though.

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Touchdown was at 20:15, and we then made the way over to the gate.

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Being followed
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I’m assuming this one was heading a bit further on its next mission, as everybody was shepherded out of the door on the jetway and on to the ramp, to catch a bus to domestic arrivals.

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I purposely missed the first bus, so I could hang around for a few more minutes. Although despite it being night time, it was still very warm and sticky.

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On the journey in, I noticed this mornings stricken jet still on the same remote stand looking a little bit sorry for itself.

Once the bus had arrived, it was a case of following the signs to the exit – and not everybody else who were connecting!

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You go that way, I’ll go this way.

I could bypass baggage reclaim and head straight for the train to the city.

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I had wanted to stop by the Siam Paragon to grab some dinner, but by the time I was near there it would be getting near to closing time – so had to make other arrangements – in the way of some room service. I did have a brief look around a plaza near to my hotel, but nothing really jumped out at me. Plus after a pretty long (and slightly frustrating) day, I wanted to get back and relax.

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Didn’t look all that much, but was actually pretty good.

Once back at the hotel, it was dinner, a shower and then pretty much straight to bed as I had to be back at BKK in just a few hours time.