Bangkok Bound: Thai 1st class, and my uh-oh moment

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Join me as I travel in style to Bangkok and back.

You know that moment when you first realize that something has gone very, very wrong, and it feels as if your heart has dropped into your stomach?  Well, that happened to me in a big way on my descent into Bangkok…

Last night I flew Thai First Class from Frankfurt to Bangkok on a 777.  First Class had two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration and was completely full.  Each seat is designed to be like an almost private room in that you can slide closed the doors to your seat/room and, if you’re in the middle (as I was), you can raise a partition between you and the passenger next to you.  Here’s a grainy, wobbly  photo to give you an idea of what it was like:

2013-02-01 22.18.37

I intended to take better photos in the morning with more light, but it turned out that I was preoccupied.  More on that in a moment.

Food and service were excellent.  The inflight entertainment system had a gigantic screen and a very good selection of movies.  Unfortunately there seemed to be something wrong with my screen: in dark scenes, I couldn’t see anything, even with the brightness turned all the way up.  Luckily I was able to find a bright enough movie to overcome most of that effect.

When I was ready for bed, I changed into my new Thai Airways pajamas, and the flight attendant prepared my bed.  It was awesome.  It was by far the most comfortable in-air bed I’ve experienced to-date.  Of course, so far, I’ve only tried one other first class lie-flat product, and that was with Lufthansa’s old-style seats, but still this was great.  One big quibble: the partition between my seat and my neighbor’s was broken so I never did experience the fully private “room”.  In the end I was still very happy with the amazing first class experience, but I would have liked to have tried it out as intended.

Upon descent, we were handed arrival cards to fill out for Customs.  When I got to the part asking for my passport number, I reached into the bin next to my seat where I had stored all of the stuff from my pockets the night before.  I took out everything one by one, but my passport wasn’t there.  Oh crap.  That was when the sinking feeling hit me.  Crap, crap, crap.  I thought that maybe I had shoved it into my backpack, so I rifled through it, but it wasn’t there.  Then, I completely emptied my backpack just to be sure.  I searched through the seat cushions and in every nook and cranny I could find.  It was gone.

Everyone got in on the search.  Two flight attendants and my seat neighbors to either side all helped search for my passport, but to no avail.  We lowered the seat to flat position to see if that would uncover it.  No dice.  I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably spend the rest of the day or longer at the airport with Customs officials.  I did have a photo of my passport on my phone so I hoped that would help expedite things.

Then, I remembered a trick that my wife had taught me.  Even in a well lit room, it can help to use a flashlight to find things.  It really does help.  So, I asked for a flashlight and looked into the side bin where I had thought I had left my passport.  I then noticed something interesting.  There was a gap between the wall of the bin and the floor of the bin.  This photo is a view looking down and into the bin.  See the gap?

2013-02-02 07.18.00

When I shined (shone?) the flashlight into the gap, I saw something.  I had no way to know if that something was my passport, but I was hopeful.  Unfortunately, there was no way for me to get to it.

The lead flight attendant took care of things.  He called ahead to the ground maintenance crew so that they were ready when we landed.  After the other passengers left, the maintenance crew practically disassembled the entire seat.  And sure enough, the thing I was able to see through the crack was my passport, and they retrieved it!  Disaster averted!  Now onto Bangkok…

2013-02-02 13.34.27

 

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[…] I have a very interesting experience when traveling (like this; or this), then I’m always happy to write it up.  Or, if I have experiences that are noteworthy […]

Wendy Sedore

Wow, what a day! I’m glad you found it!

BTW, what an example of great service from Thai. “So, you think your passport ‘might’ have fallen in that crack? We’ll get a team to take the plane apart for you, pronto.”

Man, FM, that makes for good reading, but I’m sure you didn’t enjoy the drama as much as we did. I can empathize with the “oh, crap” feeling when something’s not where it’s supposed to be.

Aldo

A few years back, flying on Delta to South America from Cali, my friend left his passport on the seat bag in front of him. When we got to our new gate for our fly to S.A. he started searching for his passport and he immediately remember he left it on the previous flight. Attendants got on their 2way radios and within 10 minutes the passport was brought to our gate!

Awesome of Delta!

webazoid

How bought buying a compact point and shoot camera for your trip reports? Camera photos struggle in the low light situations.

JP

I’m with frequent churner… hurry home. We need you here to plot and plan. No more reliving the whew, that was a close one moment… Tap those ruby slippers together, put the passport in a safe place, and quick like a bunny come home and tell us all what to next with our Ink cards.

Will

I keep a scanned passport copy in my email and a printed one stashed somewhere other than my passport wallet – idiot insurance. Once I was on Phi Phi Island in Thailand and walked up the hill to a lookout over the island to get some photos. When I made it back down to the bottom where the houses were there was a Thai man standing there with a sign with my name scribbled on it. I thought what the hell??? Turns out I dropped my wallet and he found it.

frequent churner

Hurry back FM! There’s evil doings transpiring at OD. We need your help!

WishyAnand

Be glad that you have an American passport in case you ever do loose it. In my country of birth, it once took me over 3 months to get a new passport — even after some bribes/tips to speed up the process.

stephan

@Esa – In NA the term “Customs” is often (incorrectly) used to generally refer to both processes.

Esa vajra

Nice report. Always interested in THAI related stuff. But you really don’t know the difference between customs and immigration?