How To Fix Thai Airways First Class Downgrade

I recently wrote about how operationally unreliable Thai Airways is, given how many last minute equipment swaps they have. If you book a flight a year out, it’s not unusual to have the equipment type changed a handful of times. It’s what I (not so) endearingly like to refer to as “getting TGed.”

Most recently, Thai Airways cancelled first class service to Sydney, by changing the plane they fly on the route from a three class 747-400 to a two class 777-300. This ended one of the only realistic Star Alliance first class award options to Australia, which was terrible for everybody who had booked first class awards on this route.

Thai-Airways-First
Thai Airways’ previous generation 747 first class cabin (10 seats)

Earlier this month, Thai reversed course by rescheduling a three class 747-400 on the Bangkok to Sydney route, once again offering a first class product. But this time the issue isn’t what Thai did do… it’s what Thai didn’t do.

As I had mentioned in my previous post:

Go figure they downgraded all the first class passengers to business class, and now they’re still confirmed in business class even though the flights once again have first class.

Taking a look at ExpertFlyer, I can see that Thai Airways is theoretically offering a first class cabin, but none of the seats for close in travel are for sale (F, A, and P fare buckets are all zeroed out). But how can that be if they downgraded everybody who was in business class?

thai-airways-availability-bangkok-sydney
Thai Airways flight availability 

Of course the seat map tells a different story — all the seats are unassigned. Those that show a blue “X” are actually blocked seats, whereby an assigned seat would show as just blue.

thai-airways-first-class-seatmap

Thai Airways 747-400 first class seat map 

Several trips I had booked through my award booking service had been downgraded, with most booked through United MileagePlus pre-devaluation. Calling United led to no help, so I tried my new trick of being my own liaison.

I called Thai Airways reservations, explained the downgrade, and the agent immediately knew what to do. While she admitted first class had no seats available for sale, she also mentioned the cabin wasn’t booked at all.

She waitlisted the segment for “O” class (the Star Alliance first class award fare code) and it was immediately viewable on United.com. She then sent off a message to Bangkok reservations, asked for my phone number, and told me I’d receive a call the next day letting me know the outcome.

Not even a day later, Thai had called to let me know Bangkok-Sydney was once again in first class. After that it was just a quick call over to United to re-issue the ticket.

While ExpertFlyer might show first class as being sold out, it’s almost certain that Thai has just blocked the sale of first class for the time being. Because it took a call on my part, it doesn’t appear that Thai is being proactive with upgrading downgraded customers. Or maybe they’re still not actually decided on which plane they want to fly in the market, and are just erring on the side of caution by not selling first class.

Have you been downgraded from first to business class on Thai’s Sydney route? If so, hopefully this trick gets you back in first class!

Comments

  1. Just flew new TG F in 747 out of BLK. Window seats are way better, bizarrely they are out of medium and large pajamas. I was most disappointed the rimowa luggage amenity kits are out (Purser told me till mid Oct). Instead they are giving out Porsche design bags which they also give out in medium haul business which is sad…

    Not sure how they can run out of those things. They know the maximum number of passengers that can fly F in a given period.

  2. I have a 1st class ticket SYD-BKK in January that was issued by USAirways. When you first alerted us to this issue, I checked my TG record, and sure enough, I had been downgraded to business. I just checked again (figuring this was going to be a major pain now that USAirways is out of StarAlliance) – but found that I was back in First Class. My seat assignment was gone – but I was able to select a seat again (need to check back in 24 hours to make sure it is confirmed.)

    Crazy. I wonder how many more changes to expect before the actual flight. I shouldn’t complain. You have long given us fair warning about these problems with Thai.

    Thanks for keeping us up to date!

  3. Lucky,
    I did what you said, and I am back in F from SYD-BKK on 747, but the segment has disappeared on USAirways itinerary, US can not re-issue the ticket. Called back to Thai, they said the record on their itinerary is the one that matters, which showed I am in F, CheckMyTrip showed the same also. They do not know how to make the segment to show on USAirways, but assure me everything is good. Am I OK in this situation? Anything else to do to make sure I will be on that flight?

  4. @pm6163 — Just checked my USAirways Itinerary, and I have the same problem. The SYD-BKK flight is completely gone from the US itinerary – thought is still shows up on the TG record. Not comforting. My trip is still several months away – I’ll think about it later.

  5. Happened to me on PEK – BKK route. I was booked in first on 747, then they changed it to 777 and back 747. Of course, I was downgraded to Biz, even when it was swapped back. one call and a day later back in the new first. Now I keep my fingers crossed nothing changes again. P. S. It was US air reservation.

  6. I just checked my BKK-PEK itinerary in F for Oct 31 and lo and behold I was downgraded to business. Called Thai CS and got them to change it back but they said I have to call United now to “reconfirm” my reservation or else it will get lost… We’ll see.

  7. @Jason It must be my fault. I made off with 8 of them in July asking for extras on each F segment and making my fiancé do the same. We’re definitely the reason they’re out. 😉

  8. Also downgraded on PEK-BKK. Made dummy booking on Thai site and it shows old F 14 seats. Called Thai and got moved back into first – agent claimed its new 9 seat F. Waiting for the update to show on United site.

  9. Interesting! I had a first flight booked with Thai via lifemiles on Xmas eve from Sydney to Zurich via Bangkok and was downgraded, but as soon as I saw your first post, I checked the lifemiles site, saw first availability and called to get re-upgraded. Had to call a few times as is usually the case with lifemiles, but on the third go was rebooked without issue (and then chose my seats via the Thai site). Must have been lucky!

  10. Is there also the possibility that Thai is not going to be offering first class service on this plane; just the First class cabin perhaps catered and served to business class standards?

    FDW

  11. @Jason – funny I had a similar experience on the pj front on both segments Frankfurt – BKK and BKK – SYD just the other day, on both they only had Small or Extra Large 🙁 it felt like Sales season! Also had the Porsche amenities for all flights as well 🙁 Flights in F with them later this year (thru US Air) have also dropped off the U.S. Air site but TG have confirmed we’re back in First and have our seats allocated …

  12. @ FlyingDoctorWu — If they offer first class I do think they’ll sell it. To be honest, I think they still haven’t decided which plane they want to fly on the route yet.

  13. thanks for this. I manage dozens of such bookings and the remedy I’d applied was to simply rebook on F about 1-2 weeks before departure when F space typically showed on star partners again.

    TG has never flown the 777s to SYD with any consistency – only to MEL and BNE as their product guide shows. Btw recently their product guide was updated to show that the 747s to SYD feature new biz and F products, which is not true at all…

  14. I have a United award. The transpac Tokyo to Washington remains 1st class but the Bangkok to Tokyo segment on Thai F was downgraded to J. I assume they booted me out of F for paying customers since the flight still has F. Do I have an argument to change routing to get F back or am I screwed because the transpac still remains F?

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