Farewell to Thai's Airbus 345

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  1. calvinoeh
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    I had a business trip to the US and instead of my normal choice of Singapore or United Airlines, I decided to fly on Thai after finding out that they would be replacing the direct Airbus 345 flight to LAX with a one stop flight through Seoul on a Boeing 772 making this probably the last time I would fly on this plane. Nothing beats popping a couple of sleeping pills and falling asleep on a ~15-18 hour flight and waking up a couple of hours close to landing. I find the stops on flights to the US annoying and tiresome.

    I've actually taken this flight once a couple of years ago (before we started writing trip reports) and loved the non-stop flight and great seat pitch in economy but never flew on this route again because of the long layover times in Bangkok on both the inbound and outbound flights.

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    With the 8 and almost 12 hour layover in Bangkok on both the inbound and outbound, Thai provides a day room with a choice of the transit hotel airside, the Novotel Bangkok Airport hotel or a downtown hotel. I decided on staying at the Novotel on the way to the US and a downtown hotel on the way back to Penang.

    I would also be flying on United Airlines from Los Angeles to get to Austin.

    SXSW was also going on in Austin forcing me to hop hotels due to lack of availability in my preferred Embassy Suites Townlake. I did manage to find a hotel for a long stretch of time but it was a 30-45 minute commute to work.

    As usual the full post will be available on my blog with installments below:

     
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  2. calvinoeh
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    Penang to Bangkok

    After saying good bye to Lydia who dropped me off at the airport, I made my way to check-in. The check-in agent at the business class counter took a wee longer than expected as she struggled with the paperwork needed for a US bound passenger. With boarding passes collected and bags tagged to Los Angeles, I made my way through immigration and to the MAS lounge that Thai uses in Penang. The lounge was surprisingly crowded with passengers on MAS early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur in the lounge. I gave the rest of the family an early morning call before enjoying my usual hearty nasi lemak for breakfast.

    (Click here for pictures of the MAS lounge from my previous visit).

    This would be my first time flying in economy on Thai's aging and "colorful" 737-400 (previous flight was in business). Not sure if it was because of my Star Gold status but I had an empty seat next to me giving more room to wiggle around. In economy class, a snack box consisting cold sandwiches, juice and some fruit was served. The attendants also went around offering hot coffee or tea.
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  3. calvinoeh
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    Bangkok to Los Angeles

    I enjoyed a relaxing and cheap hour long foot and shoulder massage land-side before going through the long immigration lines that took me a thirty minutes to get out off. One good thing about the long lines was that the immigration officer was probably too busy to notice or care that I did not pay the departure tax.

    One of the best known secrets when flying in Business Class on Star alliance or having Star Gold status is use the Singapore Airlines Silverkris Lounge instead of Thai's own Royal Orchid Lounges. The food is much better at the Silverkris Lounge and the only downside is that there are no showers or rest rooms. The lounge was packed when I arrived but I was the only one left after SQ's flight to Bangkok left a couple of minutes later.
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    I caught up on email and talked to the wife while enjoying glasses of whiskey and fresh coconut juice that should get me in the mood for the long 15 hour flight ahead.
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    As with all flights to the US, there was an additional security screen at the gate. Boarding was called a couple of minutes later with priority strictly enforced. Wheel chaired passengers were boarded first and I was surprised by how many wheel chaired passengers that had on this flight.

    The flight was almost full with only a couple of empty seats around in economy. The 34" seat pitch was great and thankfully the IFE was functional. On my first A345 flight a couple years ago, the IFE broke down and that wasn't fun.
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  4. calvinoeh
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    Radisson LAX

    My flight from Bangkok arrived in LAX ~9pm making too late for any decent connections to Austin. Yea, there were probably red-eyes to Houston which could get me to Austin early in the morning but after ~15 hours of flying, I needed a shower and more importantly a REAL bed.

    I like the Radisson LAX because I get a good corp rate of less than $100 USD that not only earns points but also includes continental breakfast. As with most LAX hotels, the Radisson LAX provides complimentary shuttle from the airport.
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  5. calvinoeh
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    Los Angeles to Austin
    There were no lines at the United premier check-in counters at LAX. I was done with check-in in about 5 minutes before approaching a relatively long security line. I was allowed to use the premium lines which was much shorter thanks to my Star Gold status and I was in United Club a quick 15 minutes after I arrived at LAX.
    As usual, I caught on email and coffee in the lounge. I also manage to snag a free upgrade to Economy Plus in lounge by just asking the ticketing agents working in the lounge. Yay to more leg room.

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    Retro United Livery​

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  6. calvinoeh
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    Embassy Suites Townlake, Austin


    One of my favorite places to stay when I visit Austin for work is the Embassy Suites Townlake. It's located on South Congress right by the lake and the "bat bridge" giving easy access for my morning/evening runs. The free breakfast and cocktail hour was also a plus but the rooms were pretty dated that is until my last visit (click here for my previous visit).
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    Amazing view of downtown Austin from my room​
    I didn't realize that the hotel had finished renovations on all their rooms and was pleasantly surprised by the new furniture when I walked into the rooms. New beds, sofa, and bathrooms - nice!
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  7. calvinoeh
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    Homewood Suites Austin Round Rock

    I had to move to Homewood Suites in Round Rock which was a 30 minute commute to and from work as the Embassy Suites and other hotels in Austin were fully booked due to SXSW. Homewood Suites is an extended stay hotel that comes equipped with a kitchen. I was initially excited about the possibility of cooking but after 16 hour days, cooking was the last thing I wanted to do.
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    Living Area​

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  8. milchap
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    Thanks for the report. I always enjoy travelling vicariously. No jet lag. :D
     
  9. calvinoeh
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    Extended Stay Austin Southwest

    I had a "gap day" in which I couldn't find a preferred Hilton hotel for a reasonable price. When situations like this happens, my preferred booking method is through hotels.com where I get a one free night for every 10 hotel nights.

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  10. calvinoeh
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    Austin to Los Angeles

    I arrived at Austin airport after a slow day at work and spending part of the day looking for places to stay at Austin. I had actually gotten to the airport way too early at 3pm for a 7pm flight since I was already tired from the house hunting and didn't have a hotel at this point. The plan was to chill out at the United Club with some gin and tonics.

    When I tried to check-in at the automated kiosk, the machine offered if I wanted to get an on earlier flight but could not complete the request when I said yes. A ground agent had to help out and got me on a flight to Los Angeles via Houston that was leaving in 30 minutes. After rushing through security, boarding for the United flight to Houston was already underway.

    The short flight to Houston by a pretty brand new 737-800 that comes with the new interiors but there were no PTVs on this flight.
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  11. calvinoeh
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    Los Angeles Layover

    I had a whole day to spend in Los Angeles. I checked out of the Radisson LAX around noon and headed back to LAX on their complimentary shuttle before catching another shuttle to Hertz to get a rental car. By the time I got the car, I was starving and headed to Korea town for some authentic Soon Tofu and BBQ ribs at a restaurant I used to frequent going to college at USC.
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    I spent a good part of the rest of the day at USC just walking around and restocking on my USC gear. The last time I visited was about 3 years ago and the new buildings
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  12. calvinoeh
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    Los Angeles to Bangkok

    I got to LAX at 5.30pm and the check-in counters for my Thai flight to Bangkok were still occupied by Turkish Airlines. They were already a couple of other passengers waiting for the counter switch over to happen and for check in to start. While waiting, there was a couple who showed up and were shocked they couldn't check in for their flight to Istanbul even though it was 30 minutes to departure and obviously check-in had already closed.

    Check-in started about 45 minutes later and I was the forth passenger in the business class line. I tried to pay for an upgrade to Premium Economy but it would have costs me an extra USD $850 since I was supposedly booked on a cheap economy class fare. Oh well but at least I did manage to get them to open an aisle seat at the last row for me.
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    LAX TBIT​

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  13. calvinoeh
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    Bangkok Layover - Indra Regent Hotel

    Thai offers day rooms to passengers which long layover and I opted for a day room in town since I had close to a 12 hour layover until my flight back to Penang. The day room also included transfer provided by AOT Limo to and from the airport in a Toyota Camry and meals at the hotel.

    The hotel is a typical 3 star frequented by big tour groups. The rooms were slightly dated but adequate for the couple of hours. The complimentary breakfast and lunch provided was disappointing and I should have just eaten out.
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