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

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

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. hah! I would have been freaking out a bit too. Glad it ended well, and you enjoyed the 1st class product. Did you manage to get a massage at the BKK airport, or it that only on departures?

  2. That’s a shitty feeling… I once had my passport slip out of my hand and drop into the bottom of the enclosed seat on AA 90 ORD-LHR. Fortunately I saw it happen and it was early in the flight, but the FA was not particularly pleased with me for the rest of the flight.

  3. (1) Take a photo. (2) Memorize your number. (3) Don’t put your passport in cubbies; leave them in a bag, preferably a zippered compartment.

    Follow the same rules for your wallet, keys, foreign currency, etc. I’ve made all the same mistakes (maybe not with such results), and those three steps have finally put a stop to me losing things.

  4. You know, I appreciate stories of the “seasoned” travelers getting in bad positions. It happens to all of us at some time. Glad it all turned out okay.

  5. I was sitting in Business bulk head seat on a thai flight and our (GF and mine) passport went underneath the first class seat ahead of us took about five mins to get it back from underneath… That moment sucks….

  6. Wow… I had a similar experience last month on Qantas 747 J. My daughter’s passport slipped under the seat along the gap between the cushion and back. It was a heart breaking moment for her when we noticed it was gone at the custom checkpoint. I ran back plane right before the door closed and helped by a maintenance crew located it eventually. I hugged that guy and praised him to be my hero of the day.

  7. UAs 787 has a nice 1/4″ gap between the seat pod and the bulkhead in its first class cabin. Just enough for anything you put on the little “shelf” to fall right down into no mans land… Should be grounded for that IMHO! @Scottrick’s advice is dead on!

  8. On my last trip I lost my wallet. I was mostly using a money belt and kept the wallet in safes during trip. Either I left it in a hotel safe and someone took it or when we were transitioning cities i had it fall out of a pocket.

    I spent a lot of time searches all of my bags, pockets repeatedly and called the hotels. No luck. Fortunaely it only had a cc, little bit of cash and my drivers license.

    Still was frustrating. Glad yours went better

  9. Glad to see the adventure continues. Losing a passport right before disembarking is one of those travel nightmares! Kudos for quick thinking and the crew for making sure they did everything to recover you passport!

  10. I think the Thai crews did an excellent job in getting staffs to decompose the chair and recover your passport without having to wait too long.

  11. Not to detract but would be nice to get a report from blogger beyond the SFO-FzrA-BKK(Sin)-SFO(plus MAL) routes. Beyond the main bus lines what is out there that we can use our miles on. hope you don’t mind if i push you beyond the pedestrian crowd.

  12. I agree with Scottrick – basically never let your passport out of your sight. My niece left hers in the seatback pocket once. I keep mine on my person almost the entire time I am traveling, but if I have to let it out of my sight, it goes in a certain place in one of my carry on bags.

  13. Once happened to me on a MaxJet flight back when they existed and flew Stansted to Las Vegas. Worst part on that flight was that the flight was eight hours delayed and they had to add on a stop at KEF so we got in at 2:30 in the morning and it took an hour to find it. I know the feeling. It sucks.

  14. I had a similar experience flying Thai in biz – things just did not work. The movie would play with no sound and after system restart would not play at all… until the FA messed around with the screen next to me, then mine started working. The power outlets were dead in my seat and other open seats. They did work in few other seats for other people. There was something else that didn’t work, can’t remember now. Service was excellent but Thai equipment disappointed.

  15. You can download a flashlight app for your smart phone. This works in a pinch as well. That must have been a bad feeling waiting for them to pull apart the seat, hoping you would find the passport. Glad it all worked out.

  16. Wow, I’m amazed at how many people have had similar experiences! Just for the record, I do have a flashlight app on my iPhone and I did use it, but it wasn’t until I used a big Double-D-Battery-filled flashlight that I found the opening.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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

  22. 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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *