A bespoke lounge for royalty

Finding the Royal First Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi was a bit of a challenge when we first arrived for our departing flight. While the airport is physically stunning,  actually navigating it is more problematic. It doesn’t help that everything is just so spread out. We entered the terminal at the wrong end, and had to walk what seemed like miles (it was actually a quarter mile, but still, that’s pretty far) until we finally found what we were looking for: the premium check in desk. It only got better — much, much better — from there.

thai royal first lounge check in private
The entrance to the premium area at Suvarnabhumi

High ceilings, which characterize Suvarnabhumi’s contemporary architectural style, are generally good for acoustics. The airport, despite that design choice, is still loud and chaotic. The incessant hustle and bustle throughout the main terminal is inescapable and exacerbated by echoes… until you step in to the premium area. It’s surprising how much more quiet your surroundings become, although it makes sense, given that the amount of foot traffic drops off too. Access to this section is limited to just those flying in Thai’s premium cabins and those who hold elite status; there are security guards who cross check guests’ passports and reservations to ensure that no one sneaks in.

thai royal first lounge check in lounge
Couches await inside the premium check-in area

Those who are flying in Thai first class — so not my father and me — are invited to relax on the couches as they check-in. Passengers simply hand over their credentials and luggage, and, should they want to, sip beverages while they wait. We took seats at some leather “bar stools” in front of a counter instead, and an attendant appeared shortly thereafter.

thai royal first lounge check in counters
An empty premium check-in area

There weren’t any other passengers, so within just a few moments, our bags were processed, and we were on through to private immigration and a security screening. We cleared all of this in about five minutes (!!!), and then approached the escalators to take us down to the entrance of the lounge.

thai royal first lounge entrance escalators
Descending to the lounges
thai royal first lounge entrance
Not the most glamorous entrance, but it more than makes up for that once you get inside!

The receptionists there questioned whether or not we should be admitted in to the lounge. While we weren’t flying in Thai Royal First, we were flying in partner first class (i.e. United Polaris First), and those customers (plus a guest) are welcomed. That policy is stated on the website, and after offering that information, we were allowed entry, albeit with restrictions. We were informed that we would have to take ourselves to the gate in lieu of being driven in a golf cart though. Alas…

thai airways royal first lounge entrance
Upon entering the Royal First Lounge…

The various features of the lounge are all centered around a long, wide corridor. The primary public seating area can be found off to the left when you first walk in. Despite a low-to-the-ground, dark ceiling, the space is well lit and has an abundance of comfortable chairs.

thai royal first lounge general seating area
The primary seating area in the Royal First Lounge

There are also separate banks of armchairs situated in corners and near televisions. They’re removed slightly from the main rows of seats, and feel slightly more private.

thai royal first lounge general seating area chairs
A more private seating area, with CNN International playing in the background

Opposite of these seating sections are a collection of private “living rooms.” I’ve never seen anything quite like this in other lounges, and I’m a fan. It’s an absurd amount of personal space, and each features a set of sliding doors to further partition yourself off should you need even more privacy.

thai royal first lounge living room
A Royal First “Living Room”

Each room comes fully equipped with a variety of sofas and armchairs, a high-definition television, and a computer. There are a number of universal outlets available to charge devices, and should you still need one, the lounge loans out adapters. While I never had a chance to pull out my computer to test the wifi, I had no issues connecting my phone and subsequently sending snapchats.

thai royal first lounge living room technology
The computer and the television in one frame

There is also a full-sized desk with a small selection of magazines available. For road-warriors, this room becomes a private office. For others, it’s a haven within another haven. I could see a large family loving this as much as, if not more than, an executive making a conference call (or something like that) before a flight.

thai royal first lounge living room computer
A private work space

If you need more to read, there’s a literature rack around the corner. There’s a good number of publications in both Thai and English (and other languages), although the general theme seems to be focused on “lifestyle.” I would have wanted to see more material on current events. A selection of international newspapers was noticeably lacking…

thai royal first lounge literature rack
Everything here is free!

Anyway, all but one of these private rooms were occupied during our stay, so fortunately my father and I were able to snag one. Shortly thereafter, an attendant came to take orders, using an iPad as a menu. Since we didn’t have too much time before boarding, we only ordered glasses of champagne. Thai offers a la carte dining here, which can be consumed in your suite, or in a separate dining area. I poked my head in there, and it very much looked and felt like a fancy restaurant. I can’t speak to the quality of the food though… (but I’ve heard it’s fantastic!)

thai royal first lounge spread private dining
A la carte dining can be enjoyed here, or in the privacy of your room

Adjacent to The Dining Room is a bar, although there’s nowhere for anyone to sit… but there’s good reason for that. The service concept is as such that you, the passenger, shouldn’t have to get a drink on your own, but rather, you should just ask someone from the staff for whatever you desire.

thai royal first lounge bar
Waitresses and a bartender working

That said, nothing is stopping you from going up and asking “Can I have a…?”

thai royal first lounge entrance corridor
An art display further past the bar

As you walk deeper and deeper in to the lounge, there are fewer areas to sit, and correspondingly, there’s less foot traffic. It’s a tranquil space back there, and exploring there is worth your while: there are some unique spots, like the spa and a cigar room (if either of those pique your interest).

thai royal first lounge smoking room
The cigar lounge, set behind a glass window and (hopefully!) well-ventilated

There wasn’t enough time for me to get one of the hour long treatments offered to first class passengers, nor visit the two saunas or streamrooms. That’s a moot point though: the spa was closed when I was there. Oh well, maybe next time!

thai royal first lounge bathroom seating area
The entrance to the…men’s room?

The restrooms can also be found toward the back of the lounge. To say they’re incredible is an understatement, and perhaps their designs are even a bit over the top… I mean, is there really a demand for a sitting area next to the toilets (as pictured above)?

thai royal first lounge bathroom corridor
A corridor leading to the private bathrooms

Each, uh, “throne” has its own fully enclosed suite — no stalls to be found here — and are cleaned and replenished after each use.

thai royal first lounge bathroom private stall
Notice the nice counters, the ornate towels, and the bamboo… it’s damn near royal

Hand soaps and ltions are provided by L’Occitane, and smell nice and clean and citrus-y.

thai royal first lounge bathroom toiletries
Bathroom toiletries

If these accommodations aren’t sufficient, the Royal First Lounge has four showers available, which are just as good as the other, shower-less restrooms. They’re certainly spacious…

thai royal first lounge shower room shower
Who doesn’t love a rain shower?

…and the fixtures are definitely top notch…

thai royal first lounge shower room sink
A sink in the shower room
thai royal first lounge shower room toilet
A “throne” in the Royal First shower room

…and there are practical and convenient furnishings…

thai royal first lounge shower room bench
I’ve never seen a hamper in a lounge before…

…and the toiletries, also provided by L’Occitane, are high quality and abundant. Attendants can also provide you with whatever else you may need.

thai royal first lounge shower room toiletries
Everything you could want is here!

If you’re so inclined, you can go from a massage to a shower to a nap; there are a few sleeping rooms right next door. While they don’t feature “real” beds, they do have comfortable day beds, soft blankets, and a variety of pillows.

thai royal first lounge nap room
A nap room in the Thai Royal First Lounge
thai royal first lounge nap room suitcase
There’s space for your suitcases…
thai royal first lounge nap room night table
… And soft light that makes for a nice place to read a book!

I’m still bummed I didn’t have enough time to indulge in all of these luxuries, and I certainly understand why these are such noteworthy features. What more could anyone want during a long layover? Sure, the lounge may not be cutting edge nowadays, but it’s hard to find a more complete and a more consistent package elsewhere in the world (although there are some that are just as good, if not better…).

For the more hurried travelers, you can be pampered too, but not to the same degree as those who get the full service experience. For one, you won’t be waited on for food, rather, you’ll have to serve yourself (but not like that’s a huge issue though, right?). There’s a nook containing small plates and beverages that’s located right next to the private living rooms. Guests are welcome to the buffet at anytime, and the selection doesn’t really change throughout the day.

thai royal first lounge spread
The self serve section of the lounge
thai royal first lounge spread plates
Grab a plate (or a banana), and help yourself!

The spread is decent and varied, and includes both Thai and Western cuisines for all possible meal times.

thai royal first lounge spread deli options
The self serve spread in the Thai Royal First Lounge…
thai royal first lounge spread fridge
…complemented by another spread in the fridge

If you want breakfast, there are pastries and quiches and fruit…

thai royal first lounge spread pastries
Pastries available
thai royal first lounge spread quiche
Mini-quiches if you want some eggs
thai royal first lounge spread chilled snacks
Chilled fruit salads

… and some other snacks, like salads and shrimps and sweet treats.

thai royal first lounge spread side salad
A small salad available (with a large selection of dressings)
thai royal first lounge spread shrimp
Some shrimp and other cold cuts
thai royal first lounge spread desserts

There’s also a small table with cookies and other goodies opposite the self serve section…

thai royal first lounge spread snack
Pre-packaged foods can be found here

And of course, you can find alcohol at the bottom of the fridge…

thai royal first lounge spread beer
It’s never too early when you’re in an airport!

I’m not going to explicitly say that this food was bad, but it was definitely underwhelming. If the lounge were for business class passengers only, then it would meet my expectations, but herein lies the issue: this is the Royal First Lounge. Even for a quick-bites self serve area, I think Thai could go a little further above the status quo for the lesser class of service. The a la carte dining options are excellent though, so it’s hard to dock the lounge too much when it does more than enough to compensate. Plan ahead, and you won’t find yourself out in the terminal far too soon, sprinting to catch a flight. That was us; that was unsurprisingly the most regrettable part of our stay.

thai royal first lounge suvarnabhumi terminal
Preparing to board at Suvarnabhumi Airport

It’s easy to understand why the Thai Royal First Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi has been held in such high regard for so long. It’s exceptional, and with the private living rooms for guests, you’ll feel as if you’re in your own personal bubble of luxury. This high level of praise is coming from someone who didn’t even get to take in the best that is offered here: the massages, the a la carte dining, and the golf cart ride to the plane. The complete experience I’m sure is that much more special, and puts Thai’s club on par with the best of what the industry has to offer elsewhere in the world. I’m eager to return one day, and when that happens, I’ll be eager to see how it has improved further!

The good, the bad, the ugly of the Thai First Class Lounge

  • The Good
    • The private “living rooms” are supremely well-executed. They work wonders in making the lounge feel a lot less crowded than it may be otherwise, plus, occupying one represents the epitome of a reprieve from the chaotic terminal.
    • Elsewhere, the lounge is spacious and well-laid out. Nowhere (outside of an airport, that is) have I had so much space to use the bathroom.
    • The service is attentive and comprehensive, and there’s nothing quite like having fine champagne delivered to you as you watch CNN in a private chaise lounger.
  • The Bad
    • The food options, especially in the self-serve section, looked comparable to those in a business class lounge. That’s not to say the quality is bad, but I was expecting more. Thank God for the a la carte dining option!
    • The spa was closed during our visit, so there were no complimentary massages for us before our flight.
  • The Ugly
    • Because we weren’t flying in Thai’s first class, we weren’t driven to the plane in a buggy. VERY disappointing, but I suppose walking is acceptable too… 😉
    • The design of the lounge may not be to everyone’s taste. Objectively speaking, the furnishing styles are largely outdated, and the low ceilings and low lighting might make people feel claustrophobic.

“Southeast Asian Summer Vacation” Trip Report

Have you visited the Thai Royal First Lounge in Bangkok? What are your thoughts?