Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur on Lufthansa

Even though the trip was several weeks ago, I’m only now getting to posting my video trip report on YouTube for the trip to Kuala Lumpur. The flight was on Lufthansa, the German airline. They fly it as a tag-on segment to the Frankfurt-Bangkok flight and it is currently the only Boeing 747 being flow between Bangkok and KL.

Here is the nine-minute video trip report for your viewing pleasure. Pictures and brief highlights of the flight are provided below.

Since I had a mid-afternoon departure and was traveling light, I decided to take the Airport Link train to the airport. Since it opened in the second half of 2010 (blog entry about it here), the service has been a money-loser. Ultimately, it isn’t very convenient and the main in-city terminal is located near a subway station but is not connected to it. (In fairness, they are a month or two away from finally opening an elevated walkway to connect the two.) The system has a notable lack of down-direction escalators, making for a lot of heavy lifting or waiting for the single elevator at each station is you have heavy bags. The State Railways promises to add escalators at key stations but no timetable has been provided.

The airport itself is a wonder of glass, steel, and concrete. In many ways, it is hard to distinguish from any other major international airport, although as you can see, some Thai touches have been snuck in. This is a Buddha image that ostensibly contains a relic from the Lord Buddha. It was set up with a large display of flowers right in the middle of the departures hall as a temporary display sponsored by some company.

Hidden upstairs, high above the ticketing counters, is an observation deck. The view is largely obstructed by roof and wall support structures and a scale model of the airport, which has seen better day, is displayed there. Looking closely, I noticed that it had suffered much damage while being moved. It seems a jumbo jet has crash landed on the entrance road to the airport connecting from the expressway!

Before the flight, I visited the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge. One of the luxuries I allow myself is a Star Alliance Gold tier membership, which provides me with lounge access when flying Star Alliance carriers. Having a quiet space away from the bustle of the airport makes air travel a lot more enjoyable. This lounge, in particular, is very nice with views of a large garden area.

The beverage and food selection surprised me with its breadth. In addition to a variety of cold cuts, cheeses, and desserts, there were several different types of proper food including soups, a salad bar, Chinese steamed dumplings, and a few main courses.

I was especially impressed that they had set up a make-your-own “khao chae” bar. Khao Chae (I wrote about it here last year) is a Thai hot season treat, rice served in cool, fragrant jasmine water with a selection of condiments. Not the type of thing you would expect to find in an airline lounge and something that was not on offer over at the THAI Airways lounge! Kudos to Singapore Airlines for their attention to detail.

A small selection of desserts, including a traditional Thai dessert cooked in a pandan leaf box, served with a cappuccino. While the desserts were not breathtaking, they were tasty and a wide variety was offered.

Our bird as seen through the dirty windows of Suvarnabhumi International Airport. This Boeing 747-400 is nicknamed Duisburg after the famous steel-making city in Germany. It entered the Lufthansa fleet on June 5, 1991 but the interior was in remarkably good shape for a plane quickly approaching its 22nd birthday. 

Quick review of the safety demonstration card before departure. You can never be too careful, right?

If I had to sit in these tight economy class seats for ten or twelve hours, I would not be happy, but for the short flight to KL, it was fine. The seats have large touch-screen monitors playing an extensive selection of films and TV shows. One thing I like about these seats is that the magazines are moved to a pouch behind the tray table, freeing up a little more room for your knees. Still, seat pitch was just 31 or 32″, comparable to economy class on most US carriers. 

Our “meal service” was a snack box with a sandwich that contained the thinnest slice of chicken and the saddest looking leaf of lettuce I have ever seen. A muffin and a KitKat candy bar rounded out the meal. Beverage service was the small bottled water. I think you could go to the galley and request a juice or soft drink but no beverage cart was rolled through the aisles. While it is a short flight, this seems a pretty sad offering for an airline that claims to be full-service.

Beginning our descent into Kuala Lumpur on a beautiful late afternoon with high clouds. Closer to the ground, though, the skies were hazy and visibility was limited. Overall, the flight was smooth and reasonably comfortable. The crew, while being pretty senior, was friendly, professional, and seemed to genuinely enjoy working the flight.


Boeing 747-8 Emergency Slides


Came across this photo that shows Boeing’s newest jumbo jet, the B-747-8, with its emergency slides deployed.  What caught my eye is that the upper deck slides now have a built-in structural support in the form of an arch.  Considering how far above the ground the upper deck is, I guess the arch provides support against gusting winds.  Talk about a fun-house slide!

On a related note, here’s a short video showing the deployment of the upper deck slide on an Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400, the previous generation of the plane.  The slide’s support structure is less elaborate, but it is still interesting to see how it deploys.  Let’s hope I never have to see one of these deploy in person.

Related link: Airbus A380 upper deck slide deployment.


747 Graveyard

Sorry that my posting (and reading and responding to others’ entries) has been slower than usual as of late.  Many of my recent entries have required a lot more leg work.  Here’s the latest:

Two Saturdays ago, as Tawn and I were driving along Ramkhamhaeng Road on an errand to the northeastern outskirts of Bangkok, we were taken by surprise when we saw the front third of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet propped up alongside the street.


This is neither an industrial area nor anywhere particularly close to the airport, so for there to be a pair of airplanes being disassembled in this neighborhood is downright strange.  While there is a fence along the front of the property, there is no proper gate along the entrance.


Curious, we headed back early the next morning, arriving just after 7:30.  A street sweeper sat in her small rest shack, more of an open-air stand, and Tawn chatted with her while I wandered around taking pictures and video.  “Sure, go on in,” she said.  “The workers won’t be up and working for a while still.”

The result of the exploring is a five-minute video.  I think you’ll find it very interesting.  I’m happy with the results.  For those of you without five minutes to spare, here are some of the pictures:


The entire site is probably four acres (16,000 sq meters), adjacent to a school, temple, and canal.  Condo towers and office buildings are visible in the distance and it is really a strange place to be disassembling airplanes.


The monk’s dormitory (robes hanging to dry) is visible next door.  I guess this view reminds them of the fundamental Buddhist teaching about all things being impermanent.


There are two planes here, both from Orient Thai Airways, a local carrier that operates limited scheduled service and also does charters.  I like how the top of this plane looks like a whale surfacing from the waves.


You could be mistaken for thinking this was the set of an airplane disaster movie.  Every area that has been cut by a welding torch is scorched black and there also looks to have been a few small fires set.  Pieces are still very identifiable, though, provided you know your airplane parts.


The vertical stabilizer (tail) of the plane, being cut into smaller segments for disposal.  The red and blue color scheme, which was meant to represent the Thai flag blowing in the wind, has been deconstructed.


There were hundreds of oxygen masks on the property, most still stowed in the overhead compartments that had ben removed and stacked.


Near the front of the property, galleys and lavatories, which are modular units, were standing about, stripped of carts and other supplies, although with the ovens still intact.  Recalling his days working as a regional flight attendant for United, Tawn pretended to be setting the ovens to warm a meal.


Orient Thai had a fleet of about a half-dozen older model 747s.  Their only scheduled international service was to Hong Kong and Seoul, and they used their larger planes mainly for charters, especially during the Haj.  Note the lavatory signage in Arabic as well as in Japanese.  This plane’s original operator was Japan Air Lines.


A two-door segment of one of the planes – basically, the front third of it – was intact and propped upright.  The street cleaner explained that it was destined to be sent somewhere to become an airplane-themed coffee shop.  “You can climb up!” she said.  The homemade ladder had very narrow and widely-spaced rungs!


Inside, the ceiling, carpet, and seats had been removed but wall panels were still intact.  This picture is taken from the nose section, the front of what would have been first class, looking back.  The opening in the floor is the access hatch to the avionics bay.  Looking at the wallpaper, I noticed it is identical to that which was on the Orient Thai 747 that I flew as part of an inaugural test flight from the Don Meuang Airport to the new Suvarnabhumi Airport in July 2006, about two months before the new airport opened.  I wonder if this was the same plane?


I climbed the stairs to the upper deck.  Used as business class for most airlines, both Japan Air Lines and Orient Thai had put additional economy seats up here.


The avionics had been stripped from the cockpit but it was still relatively intact.  The flight engineer’s station on the right-hand side is a clue to the airplane’s age: at least 21.  The last 747 with a three-person cockpit crew was a 747-300 built in September 1990.  Since then, they have been flown by just two people, with computers handling the functions that the flight engineer used to.


After working up a sweat and shooting some 250 pictures and 30 video segments, I finally decided it was time to wrap up and head home.  I felt a bit of nostalgia and melancholy, sorry to see planes that had been so technically sophisticated, and that had flown hundreds of thousands of people around the world, reach the point where their only value was for their scrap.

Edit: Found this link listing the history of all of Orient Thai’s former 747s.  Looks like the plane that is completely scrapped was originally delivered in March 1979 to Japan Airlines and the one with the intact front third was delivered in December 1986, also to Japan Airlines.  From that website I was also able to confirm that, as of this past December at least, the plane I flew on the test flight to Suvarnabhumi is still in operation.