Welcome to the return flight report of EK 385 from Hong Kong – Bangkok in First Class on the A380. After staying at the Siam@Siam Hotel in Bangkok, someone on the street tried to sell me an airport taxi for 500 baht, taking one with the meter turned out to be 220 baht. The message- in Bangkok, take a metered taxi and refrain from bartering. But it was a taxi ride of great fear, with the driver rolling backwards on manual hill starts, driving in two lanes at once at 120 km/h, cutting off traffic and cutting across 3 lanes in 100 metres to take the right exit. We take simple things like road laws for granted where I’m from in Australia.
Earlier in the day I checked on the seat map and the other two pax in the F cabin appeared to have cancelled
How likely would I be that I would get the whole F cabin to myself? There had to be a catch as it became apparent to me on the last sector that EK must make a killing on F for this route- people like me doing the three hour hop as almost everyone in F got off at BKK. By the way, if you want to see how many seats are free on your flight, check out FlightStats. You even get the breakdown by fare class.
At 12pm, I was relieved to be at BKK in one piece. I headed direct to the EK First counter, where there was no line. With plenty of THB left over, the taxi driver got a nice tip that was probably not appropriate given the lack of driving ability, but I was pleased not to have spent 500 THB on the fare.
Check in was lightening efficiency- as one would expect in F- and my bag was tagged for HKG and priority tag issued.
The lines for J and Y were a fraction longer than the still empty F
The premium lane was quick and easy today and the staff very friendly and jovial. I wonder how working in the premium lane with its light workload is decided? The premium lane at BKK would have to be one of the best setups I’ve experienced in any airport to date, so well done BKK. Going through regular immigration will see surly staff no emotion, but in the premium line the staff crack jokes and make things generally more pleasant.
Just 15 minutes after arriving kerbside I was at the entry to the lounge
EK satay vs. MH satay (best airline signature dish)- pretty proud of my plating skills. Can you tell the difference?
Scenes of the lounge
I went to the business centre for some catch up, the computers had Windows XP taken over by some Emirates program that kept everything in lockdown, I guess much more secure than other lounges. My phone wouldn’t charge in the USB port which was a minor annoyance. I had to vacate pretty quickly as another passenger finished on the computer and moved to one of the few armchairs in the room, then started snoring at full volume…the grunts and gaps for air resembled the sound made by a suckling pig …perhaps overly comfortable armchairs in the business centre aren’t the best idea.
When I got to gate E4, the aircraft was none other than A6-EEC, the same as the previous sector which meant I’d be in the same seat on the same aircraft. On the last sector it was on its 4th scheduled flight, today it made it up to flight number 11, having travelled to CDG, then back to BKK and HKG, then back to CDG again.
Not quite ready for boarding, so let’s go for a walk and get some snaps. The flight was late due to the favourite excuse of ‘late inbound arrival of the aircraft’. Airlines love this excuse as nobody seems to wonder why the aircraft arrived late. Probably due to late arrival of the aircraft on the sector before that.
Back to the gate with the ‘closed gate’ system. These long lines aren’t very first class- how hard would a dedicated channel be to keep premium customers happy?
An airline I’ve never heard of on pushback
Not a fan of BKK boarding- they could learn from HKG. Announcements were few and far between, passengers were barely informed of the delay (I was really only in the loop from being in the lounge) and the whole thing just felt disorganised. In the gate area it became obvious that other people had “FIRST” on their boarding pass killing the dream of the entire cabin to myself, but I can’t say I was really surprised with such a great product at these prices.
The word got around the gate lounge that they were inviting “Fur and business car” to come forward, and go onto the other side of the ropes in preparation for boarding. I joined the group. Another 5 minutes passed standing on the other side of the ropes with my fellow premium pax, before we were finally invited on.
To the upper deck
Date: 7 December 2012
Flight: EK 384
Route: BKK (VTBS) – HKG (VHHH)
Aircraft: Airbus A380-861
This aircraft is brand new so there’s no pictures
Quick facts: First flight was on 05/07/2012. This aircraft is 0.6 years old. This is only its 11th scheduled flight ever.
Scheduled / Actual Departure (gate): 1:45pm / 1:58pm UTC+7
Scheduled / Actual Arrival (date): 5:30pm / 5:35pm UTC+8
Flight Time (gate to gate) / Scheduled: 2h51m / 2h37m
I was welcomed onboard, then directed but not shown to my suite. I put this down to the BKK model where everyone boards all at once.
Sitting down, wonder how many people have sat in this seat since I was last here.
View from the suite
The sticker is still there
Welcome champagne…only Moet no vintage Dom
Some excuse of ‘the bar is closed’ was given about the lack of Dom. My thoughts were, OK, the law means no alcohol on the ground at BKK, I’ll just have some sparkling water, but then I was offer Moet, so not sure what the reasoning was there.
Menus were brought around
Menu for the previous sector was all A la Carte
Arabic coffee (date hidden)
Orders were taken, this time from the rear of the aircraft forward, so I got in early on my requested prawns for the starter and pasta for main course.
After missing out on the shower on the last sector, I tried to get in by proactively asking the flight attendant serving me if it was possible. I know others have done it on these short flights. There was lots of umms and aahhs but she said she would ask the purser.
She returned and apparently the purser had said yes, but I might need to eat quickly or miss a couple of courses. Fine by me, I can be very efficient when showering at FL390 is presented as an opportunity. She promised to send a staff member to me after takeoff to escort me to the ‘spa’.
By 2:58pm the aerobridge was away and doors were closed.
Being escorted on the taxi out
Not sure if this is fire fighting on the way out or what but we had a convoy of two trucks and a van
After take off
Within minutes a flight attendant came to my seat “You wanted to have a shower? Please follow me”
I was ushered into the shower on the port side of the aircraft which was, as others have said, very large, spacious and luxurious for a passenger aircraft. I was shown how it all worked ,and what to do in heavy turbulence (“hold onto this”) a decompression (an oxygen mask would fall from above, then I’d imagine that you would want to hold on for dear life as the emergency descent started while getting dressed), then reminded to lock the door. And it was just me.
Screen keeps you up to speed on where we are.
Panorama of the shower suite- View full file
I then enjoyed the relaxing sensation of the shower spa. I had to hunch over inside (being 6 foot 7) and the shower head was too low to use, but this was fine- it’s an onboard shower. I ended up using all the water in one go, being conscious of the flight time. The shower cubicle was spacious with a bench for sitting down- presumably a safety requirement in the event of turbulence. The drainage system is very clever in its design so that water doesn’t run into undesirable places, while preventing passengers from putting debris and other items down the drain.
On stepping out, I noticed that the floor was heated although it rarely gets chilly on an aircraft. What a great experience.
After the shower only 15 minutes of the flight time had been used, I was impressed by my efforts. The tables hadn’t even been set yet.
The purser came around and asked if I had my shower and how it was. I was obviously known as “that annoying F pax who wants a shower”.
Post the shower
Putting on some music on ICE
The section on ICE I’d missed last time so you can watch airshow, enjoy the cameras and hear your music
I was on such a high that I forgot to take a picture until after bite number one of the starter.
The usual from the bread basket
Well on our way
The curvature of the earth from the tail camera is interesting viewing
Panorama of the suite and aisle- View full file
With the starter and salad course complete, it was time to bring out the main. The pasta was small and simple, but very effective and cooked al dente.
Views during the main
With the main out of the way, I was offered dessert which I accepted
To see what privacy is like I closed the suite doors
I’m surprised that people reject the idea of enclosed suites- apparently the majority of people don’t appreciate them according to TG who went with a more open design. I believe MH also doesn’t have doors on its A380 suites. I think it was very private but without feeling caved in. The upper deck of the A380 with its side bins due to the curvature of the fuselage gives airlines a bit of room to play with, and EK has done this well with plentiful storage compartments and other features.
A mirror also fills the gaps between the suite wall and fuselage for added privacy.
Luckily there is an emergency backup to escape
It was time to keep ticking off the bucket list on this short flight, and the next item was a trip to the bar.
As usual there were plenty of people hanging out
Bistro Bites Menu
Making small talk
I was asked what I wanted to drink and said Baileys, this was somehow misheard as champagne- never mind, it’s all good so I didn’t bother to protest
Panorama of the bar that turned out pretty well- View full file
I took some photos of other passengers, then they offered to photograph me, so I decided why not.
Back at the seat, there was strangely some time to kill (this sector was shorter but there was more time…not sure where the time on the last sector was lost). Why not order the cheese selection. I emphasised the word ‘small selection’ but got the full trimmings. That’s an inconvenience I can live with.
Just 34 minutes now between us and HKG
Why not pour myself a Perrier from the mini bar?
I was asked to complete a survey- not sure why me- were they under quota for males in the under 25 age bracket or something?
Then some great news from the flight deck, traffic was busy at HKG so we’d be holding. Win.
In the holding pattern
Gentle turns for the race track flight path
The setting sun on the bed of clouds offers some great photo opportunities
A word on the crew at this point. Initial impression was not as good as the last sector…less being called by name (small, superficial but makes a real difference to the overall feeling of the flight…I’ve applied this lesson to my clients. Attention to detail on airlines is what ends up deciding the quality of the soft product). On the last sector I invited a flight attendant to use my first name, and on this sector a flight attendant called me by my first name automatically. Could this be due to some preference being recorded on some database somewhere?
On the last sector my glass literally never was left emptied, the bottle of Dom, water, or port came around without me even asking. It was a shame I neglected to get the flight attendant’s name who was serving me on the previous sector. On this sector things were a little slower, and a little less proactive. However, this all changed when the flight attendant serving me came by and asked if I had been to the bar/lounge yet. I said I’d ticked everything off the bucket list for this short flight, then we launched into a full conversation about my other flights, how new the aircraft was (she couldn’t understand how I knew that this aircraft was on its 11th scheduled flight and that it’s delivery flight was on 1/12/12), the EK first experience and the ticket buying process. At this point I was called Mr. Themit9 in all encounters, and was offered an amenity kit.
The amenity kit offering turned out to be a full gift bag with the luxurious First amenity kit, sleep suit, decks of cards and the like. “Sorry it’s so small, usually we have more but there’s not much left from the previous flight?”. I think I can manage with the pitiful offerings…
Deck of cards- don’t think we’ll be removing these from the packaging
It’s always great to have a good conversation that’s down to earth with the people that serve you, she even mentioned that she had a similar passenger before that had travelled to Colombo to get the bargain flight deals with EK. (note to self, check pricing from Colombo for future flights).
Sadly the holding process came to an end, and we started to descend into IFR
The flight attendant came by again to ensure the suite was secured for landing. After staring at the indicator for a few seconds I said “Is it green?” and the reply was “All good, wow you really know your stuff”. From a flight attendant to me there is no higher praise.
On the approach path for 07L
The islands surrounding HKG are quite beautiful
One of the more scenic shots
On landing the track playing on ICE was George Michael with “Flawless” which I think summed up the last two sectors on EK.
On the ground
On exit the crew were all saying “goodbye sir” and so on, but to me all three crew said “Goodbye Mr. MD”. I must now be known around the crew as “that annoying F pax who wanted a shower and is a obsessed with aviation”. Whenever the crew go above and beyond the call of duty for aviation enthusiasts they get a real tick of approval in my book.
Arrival in HKG was the same as what is now normal to me. Due to some technical problem a loud speaker announcement advised that bags wouldn’t be arriving for some time. The finally came at around 6:10pm, and I transferred to the bus service to the Novotel Citygate to await my flight to KUL set for the following day.
Having been up for most of the night, by the time I got to the hotel, it was lights out for me despite only being 8pm…the flight high wore off pretty quickly it seems.
IMPRESSIONS OF EK 384
Check-in: No line, easy, efficient and faultless.
Departure: The BKK priority lane is one of the better offerings at the airports I’ve been to. Gate system disorganised unfortunately.
Lounge: EK does well with consistency and this was on display here. Couldn’t fault it.
Onboard: Hard product was first class all the way. Soft product took a little bit of time to warm up. Despite not being as good as EK 385, this crew still did an excellent job.
Food and Beverages: I can’t think of a single fault
Arrival: HKG you need a premium lane. Delay in bags. Otherwise HKG is a very efficient airport that you can get through without much fuss.
I really enjoyed my time on EK– what a great introduction to a new airline- I can’t think of an airline that’s enjoyed a better introduction. Flying First for the first time probably helps as well. Emirates is strongly on the radar (if it wasn’t already) and I hope to fly them again soon.
Would I take this flight again? At the price paid for the return offering, I’d probably take these flights just for the sake of it if I was in the area again, which is highly likely.
Thanks for reading
If you’ve made it to here, thanks for reading. Please leave a comment- let me know what you liked, what you didn’t like and you’re thoughts on my thoughts. The final part of the series will be posted in the coming days.
You’ve read the report (or at least seen the pictures), now watch the video report.