When I moved to Bangkok more than seven years ago, I flew THAI Airways’ nonstop flight from New York JFK Airport to Bangkok. In the years since, THAI has discontinued both the New York and Los Angeles to Bangkok nonstop flights. In their place is a one-stop flight via Seoul Incheon Airport to Los Angeles. When shopping for tickets for our recent flight to the United States, this Bangkok-Incheon-Los Angeles flight was the cheapest option offered by a Star Alliance carrier.
Click here to view the HD version on youtube.
I’ve edited a nice video that overviews the flight, the cabin, the amenities, and meals served. If you would rather view the pictures and read the story, those follow here:
The flight departs Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 7:10 am, a bit earlier than ideal. Thankfully, we were packed the day before and made it to bed at a reasonable hour. Still, the 3:00 am alarm came much too early! The queue at the airport was short and the wait was less than fifteen minutes to check in. There were no lines at either the security screening or immigration counters.
Just past immigration is a large scale sculpture of one of the most famous episodes in Hindu mythology, the samudra manthan or “churning of the milk ocean”. It is an impressive sculpture that illustrates that this mostly Buddhist culture has strong Hindu and Vedic Brahminist roots.
We made our way to one of the many THAI Airways Royal Silk lounges. These lounges offer a nice respite from the stresses of air travel: a quiet ambience, comfortable seating, and a selection of reading materials, food, and beverage.
Since we had departed home so early, I helped myself to a latte, some small pastries, and (something I never eat!) a box of chocolate breakfast cereal. Maybe this is because my mother would never allow us to have so sugary a cereal in the house when I was a child, now I enjoy having a bit every now and then as a special treat.
Our Boeing 777-300 was waiting at the gate as the sun slowly climbed above the hazy horizon. The windows of the terminal were not very clean, making for this poor-quality image. Boarding commenced a few minutes late but the passenger load was only about 60% so boarding did not take long.
The economy class product is comfortable and modern. The seat maps provided on THAI’s website indicated that certain rows of this plane had 34″ pitch. I brought a small tape measure and samples several rows and found a consistent 32″ pitch. Comfortable enough and an inch more than most US-based carriers, but nothing special. Asiana, Korean, and All-Nippon offer 34″ pitch and EVA offers 33″ pitch as the standard in their long-haul economy class.
The morning breakfast option was pancakes and sausage or (my choice) stir-fried pork with ginger, rice, and pumpkin and egg. The food was tasty enough, although nothing very special.
About four-and-a-half hours later, we arrived at an overcast Incheon and were soon at the gate and off the plane. The same aircraft would take us to Los Angeles but all passengers were required to disembark so the plane could be serviced and a new crew could board.
This is my first time transitting Incheon since they opened the new mid-field concourse. It is a bright, sun-lit place with modern architecture. Within a few minutes, we had cleared the security screening and returned to the departure level.
Despite only having about 80 minutes on the ground, we took the time to stop by the Asiana Airlines lounge. As a holder of the United Club card, I have access to Star Alliance member lounges. This is a nice perk for long-haul travel and this new lounge in Incheon is very nice, with a faux library and a baby grand piano. I wonder what would happen if a guest decided to begin playing it?
The selection of food wasn’t very interesting, but I did help myself to some salad and a glass of draft beer. Truth be told, the beef was very hoppy and as I’m not much of a beer drink, I had only a few sips. On our return trip from Los Angeles, we had a slightly longer layover in Incheon and I took the opportunity to use the individual shower rooms to freshen up.
Returning to the gate area in preparation for boarding, I admired the nice combination of steel, wood, and glass. Despite being very modern, the terminal does not feel cold and impersonal, probably because of the wood floors and many plants.
One sore point about flying through Incheon is that there is a pre-boarding security inspection. All liquids must be disposed of, including any bottled water purchased in the terminal. The claim is that this is for US TSA security reasons, but that makes no sense because at Taipei and Tokyo, passengers can bring liquids from inside the terminal aboard US-bound planes. I hope this restriction is lifted soon because not bringing your own water aboard is an inconvenience that does nothing to improve security.
The flight out of Incheon was only about 50% full, leaving lots of space including an empty seat between Tawn and me. There was only one person in the row ahead of us and she sat in the middle seat, so her recline did not affect our leg room. Once airborne for our 10.5-hour flight to Los Angeles, service began with cocktails. Unlike some airlines that have miniature liquor bottles, THAI carries full-size bottles and mixes drinks to order.
Drinks are served with a retro stir stick featuring THAI’s original 1960s logo. I managed to collect several of these between our four flight segments, figuring they will make a nice collection in the future.
Menus were distributed out of Incheon. Interestingly, the menus include information for both the Bangkok-Incheon and Incheon-Los Angeles segments. I am not sure why menus were not handed out as we departed Bangkok. You could argue that there is really no point of menus but I think it is a nice touch that makes the service appear more sophisticated. Certainly, it is nicer to think of your meal as having four courses rather than just being a single tray of food, even if all four courses are in fact delivered on a single tray!
I opted for the Korean style beef bulgogi, which wasn’t as interesting as I was hoping. It was tasty, though. Note that each tray comes with a package of kimchi! The dessert was a raspberry chocolate cream cake and the appetizer was smoked salmon.
The other selection, which Tawn chose, was a pork green curry served with Thai jasmine rice. Curry is an excellent choice for airplane food because at high, dry altitudes, your sense of taste is diminished. Curry has plenty of flavor and remains enjoyable. Notice, too, that the utensils are metal, even the knives. We can’t bring water aboard but are given an admittedly dull metal knife.
Slightly less than halfway through the flight, we crossed the international date line and jumped back to the start of our day. I dozed only a bit on this flight, instead watching several movies and television programs on the on-demand video service. Gone are the days of sheer boredom on a plane. There are plenty of ways to distract yourself as the hours go by.
Mid-flight, snacks were available in the form of instant noodles and sandwiches. About two hours before landing, a second full meal service was provided. I opted for the boiled glass noodles (made from mung beans) with sauteed beef tenderloin. Actually, I didn’t find any beef in my serving!
The other option, which Tawn chose, was sauteed yakisoba with chicken teriyaki. Neither of these dishes were that interesting and while quality was fine, the meals weren’t as interesting on these flights as they have been on other recent THAI flights.
It was a beautiful day as we descended into Southern California. Because the passenger load was so light, I moved to a window seat to take in the view when we landed. Rain storms had passed through recently, so the sky was clear and visibility was better than normal.
After landing on runway 24-right on the north side of LAX airport, we taxied the long way around to our gate. This took us past the United Airlines hangar where one of their Boeing 787 aircraft sits, stranded by the FAA’s grounding of these new composite jets in late January. Hopefully, the fleet will be released to fly again soon.
Pulling into our gate at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, we had neighbors from China and Japan. Had the price been right, I would have liked to fly All-Nippon on this trip.
All in all, the THAI flight was a pretty good experience. From departure in Bangkok to arrival in Los Angeles was less than 17 hours, one of the shortest routes between the two cities. Service was good and the flight was reasonably comfortable, given that we were traveling in economy class.
What I noticed first was the cleanliness, color and brightness of the airports and lounges there compared to here. I have only flown out of Seatac and also on Army Hops when civilians-or wives were allowed to catch a hop from Fort Lewis or Madigan bases.Your flight looked so comfortable and the food looked yummy.I enjoyed taking the flight with you and Tawn through your video.
Wow, I am totally impressed by the airlines. I have not flow for a time but it sure beats the airlines I have used here. Oh, interesting how Tawn appears in many photos . Kidding.
I enjoyed the video. You have just add another talent in my eyes, my director, producer and movie star. You are so talented in so many ways, never cease to amaze me. Btw, Tawn is always so well dressed,
Pancakes!I’m glad it went quite well =)
that is a long trip and too bad it’s not nonstop anymore. You are a good story teller with your photos.
Many years ago I went on Thai Airlines from HongKong to Bangkok. At that time I thought the food was exceptionally good. But that was MANY moons ago. I love the pictures you have posted here Chris.
What a great blog. I feel like I just took the trip with you! Thanks for sharing!
Welcome to LA. I took EVA both times to BKK, they stop over in Taipei of course. Last time, 8 years ago the new airport wasn’t open yet. EVA has a class between coach and business called Deluxe. Much more room for my long legs, it was worth the extra cost for a long trip.
Enjoyed the travelogue.
@Grannys_Place – Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, the facilities in Asia are generally newer and better maintained than those in the US.@ZSA_MD – Thanks for the recommendation, Dr. Z. I am glad you liked the pictures. Oddly, despite them looking good when I view them on my computer, once uploaded to Xanga they seem to be much lower resolution. Not sure why that is.@EmilyandAtticus – Thanks for the recommendation and I’m glad you felt like you were along for the ride.@Inciteful – Glad you enjoyed it.@Ricardo98 – Yes, I was a loyal EVA flyer until about a year ago and always took their premium economy class. They are joining the Star Alliance in June this year and in preparation, I decided to build up “Gold” level status on the alliance using a membership in Aegean Airlines. They are also a Star member and have lower mileage requirements for the various status tiers. Once EVA joins the alliance, I will go back to flying them across the Pacific.@Texasjillcarmel – You know, what’s interesting is that the nonstop flight wasn’t much shorter than the flight with the stop in Incheon. The great circle route maps directly over Seoul, so you only lose a little bit of time by stopping there. Plus, you can stretch your legs and return to sea level for a few minutes.@nov_way – Pancakes on airplanes rarely make for good eats.@stevew918 – Such kind words Steve. Thank you very much.@Fatcat723 – Americans have become so price conscious that they drove the industry to the lowest common denominator. Sadly, this means low quality and no service is now the new normal. I guess you get what you ask for…
Watching your video at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport does bring back a lot of memories, I still remember how early to wake up in order to catch this outbound flight to LAX. I couldn’t help but start cursing at Thai Airways everytime when I start my trip back to LA. LOL. I guess they’ll never change this time schedule all these years! 🙂
love all the food pictures and airport commentary =) this is getting me excited for my trip to AMS and BCN next week!
i really enjoyed the video chris! the quality is grade A, thanks for taking the time to create and share this with us!
Good point, good point.
i really enjoyed this post i felt like i was taking the trip with you. i liked the sculpture what is the story of the milk ocean? the scandinadians have a mythology of a milk ocean. in the biginning there was a cow and from its four teats flowed the four milk rivers the ice was in the north and the fire was in the south and when the fire melted the ice there was the first man and woman . how does the hindu story go?
oh,that’s good.my brother hasn’t been over there lately but I saw ya’all on House Hunter’s International at Pappaya Beach.
I really think the whole air travel experience has improved so much over the years. Maybe I’m not hard to please, but I really don’t think the airplane food is all that bad… in fact it’s actually decent. I love how so many of the airplanes have the personal TV’s on each seat and people can listen to music, watch TV, or choose from so many different movies. When I flew back from Mexico City two weeks ago I was able to watch two movies and enjoy breakfast, so it made the flight go by extra quickly. A lot of airports around the world seem to have made themselves very modern with some fascinating sculptures and stores to visit. The Vancouver airport has some great artistic displays and lots of stores and restaurants as well. Some airports definitely have better amenities than others.I’ve never been to Asia before, but from the photos you’ve taken they certainly have some wonderfully designed, super modern, and all out beautiful airports. Ultimately people just want to get from one place to another for as quickly and as cheap as possible, but the little things such as meals, and nice surroundings and on flight entertainment really go a long way to making the experience so much better. Have a wonderful trip to Los Angeles ! Kyle
I always enjoy your videos. One of these days, I hope you get Gary or Jason in there. As for the photos, I’m not sure why they are a lower resolution. Maybe when it gets uploaded, Xanga does something to them?
@ElusiveWords – It seems to be a change form the norm. I uploaded the photos for previous entries and they look pretty crisp, but more recent uploads do not. Maybe the browser from which I upload?@kyle061685 – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. From an entertainment perspective, air travel is getting better. Although if you are flying United’s 747s in economy, you are still subjected to the “main screen” at the front of the cabin for a shared viewing experience! Still, non-US carriers seem to remember that it is a customer service industry. US carriers have lowered the bar again and again.@Texasjillcarmel – House Hunter International?@grannykaren – Fascinating! I didn’t know that story. As for the Hindu myth, you can find a nice summary of it here.@nov_way – Thank you, thank you.@l0311879l – So nice of you to say; glad you enjoyed it.@lil_squirrel4ever – I trust you will be sharing your travel experiences with us, right?@CurryPuffy – It is kind of tough because if they don’t have that schedule, they arrive into LAX at a time that doesn’t allow onward connections. That was the problem with the nonstop flight: it arrived at 8:00 pm leaving only a connection to SFO as an option. Now, with a 10:30 am arrival, you can continue on to anywhere else in North America and arrive before bedtime.
it’s a decorating or selling house show on HGTV
soon i’ll get to know incheon airport as i’ll be in seoul by the end of this month. looking forward to the trip. that pork green curry tawn had looks delish. i doubt i’ll get that on Garuda Air, perhaps a different type of curry maybe, but certainly NO pork.