Thai Airways Flight Delayed Because Off-Duty Pilots Wanted First Class Seats

Filed Under: Thai

Several of you have forwarded me stories about what supposedly happened on Thai Airways flight 971 from Zurich to Bangkok on October 11, 2018.

The story sounds scandalous — there were off-duty pilots onboard, and the captain operating the flight refused to depart until his colleagues were allocated first class seats, even though all first class seats were taken by passengers. Only after two passengers offered to downgrade from first to business class seats did the flight continue.

The flight took off about 2.5 hours late because of this incident, and landed about 1.5 hours late.

Thai Airways’ president has apologized for the incident and taken responsibility:

“I express sorrow and apologize to all passengers affected by the unprofessional action that caused the delay. And I apologize to the passengers who were directly affected by the seat change. I take responsibility…”

But what really happened?

Well, based on the research I’ve done, it seems that this may not have been quite as it seems. It’s still bad, but no one here got downgraded to a cabin below what they paid for.

First of all, Thai Airways uses a combination of 777-300ERs and 747-400s on their route between Bangkok and Zurich. They don’t sell the first class cabin on this flight, so no one actually paid for a first class seat. Rather the first class seats are available to be assigned by business class passengers on a first come first served basis.

For example, here’s the seatmap for an upcoming flight, showing the first class cabin as the first three rows of business class:

It would appear that this 747-400 flight to Bangkok had four deadheading pilots onboard (this means they were flying as passengers, but on company business in this case). That makes sense, since the previous flights had been operated by 777-300ERs, so they were likely 777 pilots and not 747 pilots.

Here’s a memo written regarding the incident, which is in Thai. Here’s part of it translated, via Google Translate:

“Due to the flight case. TG971 / 11OCT / ZRH-BKK 49C 325Y, B777-300ER Config. 42C 306Y, due to the B777 and B747 airplane changes, resulting in Passive Crew 2FC and 2FP. Please refer to the Flight Crew Standard Passage Crew’s Seat for Passenger Crew and Passive Crew Summer 2018 which determines the 24AB / EF seat. The seating 16AB / JK, a seat in the C-class Upper deck replacement “due to change flight times to change the flight in advance (refer to ASM YS 252 dated September 13, 2561) makes the reservation the seating chart in. First Class Zone (Row 1-3) for business class passengers. And passengers have already booked seats.

“TG971 / 11OCT has 39C 275Y passengers, with all seats in the First Class Zone (9 seats) reserved in advance. When all the pilots and crew arrived. The Passenger Crew’s Passenger Crew number is 16AB / JK (2FC / 2FP). The PIC denies and confirms that both Passive FCs are seated in the First Class Zone. Will perform as requested. The station. Passengers are required to seat in First Class Zone for individual seats. But it has been totally rejected. Until XXX, the passenger number XXXXX and his wife decided to move the seat to 16AB. Later, the passenger stated that the passenger was XXXXX and his wife. And ask for a solution to prevent such problems again.

So I’m still not completely sure what exactly triggered this incident. I’m not sure how much of this comes down to a technicality of a plane with first class being operated in a way where they’re not selling first class.

At a minimum it sounds like pilots are entitled to certain business class seats in this configuration, and it sounds like deadheading captains might be entitled to first class seats, even. But they weren’t selling first class on this service yet all the seats were assigned, so…

Regardless, I find it ridiculous that this couldn’t be resolved in a faster manner. Delaying a flight by 2.5 hours over an employee seat issue is simply embarrassing.

At the same time, I do think it’s worth acknowledging that no one was downgraded here to a cabin below what they paid for. Seat assignments are always subject to change, and that includes if you can snag a “free” upgrade to a first class seat on a flight where the cabin isn’t for sale.

What do you make of this situation? Can anyone who speaks Thai fully make sense of the memo and what exactly Thai’s policy is for deadheading pilots?

  1. Wow, this is a completely ridiculous move on the airline’s part. If they needed the pilots to be in first class they showed have worked all that out even before assigning seats & boarding. All the passengers on that flight should be compensated with a full refund or a free future roundtrip, just based on the complete unprofessionalism of the airline during the entire situation.

  2. Lucky, my Thai partner (who actually works for TG) just translated for me.

    In a nutshell…

    It’s SOP for dead-heading TG flight crew to fly First Class if available on the aircraft. In this case, the flying captain argued that as F was being sold as J Class then pax should have to make way for the dead-heading crew.

    The Captain was adamant about the crew flying in F seats as apparently he truly believed that if he relented and said it was ok for the crew to fly in J seats then management would use this incident to then change the standard policy from here on regarding off-duty tech crew being allocated to be allocated in J Class seats instead of F. He didn’t want to “the one” whose actions changed an employee policy for something worse and believed he should stand up for employee rates on behalf of his colleagues.

    Sounds a bit nutty, but given how TG is these days with their inept management and generally low staff morale and mis-trust of the powers that be in TG Head Office, it actually makes sense to me.

    TG will have a full investigation into the incident.

    Hope this helps. Cheers.

  3. Sorry… Typo in my post above.

    I meant employee RIGHTS, not RATES.

    Can’t edit original post and wanted to clarify. Cheers.

  4. While I appreciate the position of the captain and standing up for his rights and the rights of his fellow colleagues, there are HUNDREDS of passengers that need to get where they are going.

    Those passengers should not be inconvenienced simply to resolve an internal employee dispute.

  5. Too easy to see why TG is in a messy shape. They easily botched everyday stuffs such as ensure that crew have seats, etc. always fascinate me how they have many different kinds of jets… Boeing and Airbus must love those folks, because it’s too easy to convince them to buy planes 555

    However, I’m waiting for updates on TG’s potential nonstop flight to USA. Wishful thinking but I’d see JFK-BKK nonstop flight.

  6. Lucky, what is avgeek about this?

    This is becoming an aviation gossip site. Similar to poop kings ‘national Enquirer’.

  7. @MooNoi
    I don’t think that is in a nut shell, you sound more like representative of the pilot union trying to explain ‘why’ but not ‘what’.

    Rough translation I got (with some deducing and translating in smaller bits to yields better results) is:
    This route swap 777 and 747.
    Crew should have been assigned 24 AB/EF but from picture, 24E was taken. (Blame the IT for not blocking)
    Crew then got 16 AB/JK (bulkhead upper deck) as seen from picture blocked as replacement. (Still from C to C)
    Due to swap was made in September all seats in row 1-3 was taken (Blame the IT again for not blocking).

    And with @MooNoi bit of info, SOP gives F seats to crew.

    Unless there IS a SOP for F seat sold as C, I would consider this flight has NO F and proceed as 2 class SOP.

    Too harsh to fire the pilot in command, just demote him to first officer. TG MUST TAKE ACTION, they look like fools in the aviation world. (Think Lucky’s favorite Air Belgium but with Emirates’ subsidy)

    @MooNoi go tell the TG pilot union, that HE IS THE ONE who made the changes by embarrassing the whole world with his selfish action and no customer service mind.

  8. This was only the captain making sure part of the T/Cs of pilots contract was adhered to. We have similar language in our contract which I will be using for first class seat today. I am with the crew on this although it should have been blocked earlier.
    As someone who works on the contract side it is a negotiated item. If the contract isn’t held up what good is it. I realize this falls on deaf ears here but if you had something that you were contractually allowed you would be in same position.

  9. If TG knew there would be off duty flight crew on this flight, why didn’t they block off those F seats for them in the first place?

  10. Agreed with the crew, I’m not in airline business but the deadheading crews need to get good rest on the flight. They may need to operate another airplane soon once they reach the destination so this is for the sake of everyone’s safety.

  11. Typical Thai male entitlement. The archaic concept of “face” with them is disgusting. They call it the land of smiles, but those smiles are fake.

  12. Sorry guys, but there must be a huge mistake by you.

    There are since many years no 747 flying to Zurich.

    Also not by Thai Airways.

  13. I find it funny that people think pilot would not get any rest in C seats. I would totally agree with the pilot if they were stuck in coach. F vs C in terms of good rest is debatable. I’ve also seen numerous times, crew in F that was supposed to’rest’ enjoy movie after movie. At least disconnect their IFE so they can ‘properly rest’.

    If pilots need rest, why not charter a private jet for pilots.

    Viva collective bargaining, you are part of the reason we don’t have Northwest today and only 3 legacy to control the oligopoly.
    9/11 killed the industry, unions just made sure they die faster.
    Good luck finding Jimmy Hoffa

  14. This would only be a big deal if the passengers seated in first class actually paid for it. They did not, they took an opportunity to seat themselves in the F cabin, and when they could not get it at the end, they make a fuss?

    To all those blaming the airline for not blocking the seats in advance, well, too bad. Suck it up, because those taking the seats are pilots, not just another stranger, if I were you I’d be more than happy to give it up.

    Just goes to show how entitled some have become.

  15. @Christian
    I think you are misinterpreting the policy… by available, Thai means a physical First Class cabin onboard whether it is being sold as Business or not. Regardless, I think Thai’s crews should be ashamed for the way they handled this.

  16. The villain is the IT dept. The pilot was confronted with a situation that shouldn’t exist at flight time and he did what he could, mopping up the milk after it spilled. He had many conflicting interests to reconcile. Seats were inappropriately assigned to pax so it was too late to fix it without disappointment. Deadheading pilots get a certain standard (perfectly reasonable and not debatable anyway cuz it’s contractual) and that capacity should have been protected by blocking. The plane’s seat/cabin configuration didn’t match the service class configuration and IT failed to think through the consequences. I assign zero blame to the on-duty captain, zero to the deadheaders and zero to the savvy J pax who’d originally snagged the F-type seats. All the trouble including the corporate embarrassment could have been entirely prevented with competence by IT or the policymakers who instruct them.

  17. Typical amateurish snaffu by HQ though it’s hard to know who to blame – IT, revenue, HR, etc? Operations control is not strong enough.

    Btw in Asia it DOES matter a lot who was the 1s person who “let the policy go”. Especially at older companies. I’ve seen employees refuse to take budget airlines despite better timing and comfort (compared to some bad legacy carriers) just so they would not be the first to capitulate

  18. @Todd – Google translate is terrible when it comes to Thai. But that’s the Thai year.

    Why not just put them in the crew rest area if they need to rest? The airline is a mess. But to take 2.5 hours to straighten all of this out seems crazy

  19. If their contract said that they were entitled to sit in the F cabin if one existed, then the pilots were in the right. Sucks for the passengers, but it’s TG management’s fault, not the pilots.

  20. This general type of thing happens all the time in the US. Anyone who thinks a pilot is going to put the convenience of passengers over their contractual rights, is sorely mistaken.

  21. @Greg
    Thai is getting rid of most 747s and this means that in a couple years there will only be two 747s and the A380s with a Royal First cabin; even today, many widebody TG planes don’t feature Royal First Class. Further, the 747s have a large flight as well as cabin crew rest area… for these pilots to basically make two revenue passengers move back to the regular Business Class cabin is beyond unacceptable and shows you their complete lack of professionalism. If TG has any common sense, it will fire these pilots for what they did to two revenue passengers.

    You are probably right, but only AA has an international First Class product and only on 777-300ER aircraft (well technically UA does still have a Global First cabin on many 777-200s but they will be retrofitting those with the new Polaris Business seats).

  22. Working for a ‘legacy’ carrier myself, things like cabin eligibility for deadheading crew and union agreements are really important. Agreements are agreements. I think many of us have found in the past when we have forgone our agreements to ‘help the company out’ it usually comes back to bite us in the butt. The company gets the message ‘oh they’ll put up with it if we don’t follow that agreement anymore’ and what used to always be followed seldom becomes followed. So, especially at my airline, crew are likely to stick to their agreements.

    I don’t know what the agreement is at Thai. At my airline, pilots have an F priority for Duty Travel/deadheading. Obviously that only applied on aircraft which have an F cabin. Otherwise it is J. And i’d say that is where this issue has arisen. If the pilots have an F priority and the aircraft has F seats they expect to have them. The downroute groundstaff thought otherwise. These days when nearly all ‘downroute’ or ‘outstation’ ops are left in the hands of contractors these type of issues arise frequently. They often aren’t aware of the intricacies of union agreements. As far as they are concerned, the aircraft is J class only.

    At least things should be clarified now.

  23. It is an “all about me” world. Flight attendants and pilots included. The “pilots too” movement. Pleasant future .

  24. So there was a snafu in the IT/allocation process.
    If deadheading pilots were being asked to fly Economy, then that would be unacceptable (as frankly it should be for anybody expected to work when they get to the other end)
    They had been allocated seats in J where most people manage to sleep, but they are not wonderful.
    Captain should have lodged a protest, told them to go to sleep, and flown.
    Acting, but under protest, is standard procedure for ship’s captains – you don’t ignore the issue, but you park the argument for later, and don’t cause more damage all round by waiting until it is resolved.
    Just like passengers who don’t get their contractual entitlement, the deadheading pilots should have got compensation of cash/family vouchers or whatever.

  25. @Duck Ling
    Per your statement, you work for a “legacy carrier” and we all know the little respect that legacy carriers in general have had for passengers, just like Thai. Delaying a flight until two revenue passengers give up their seats for you is beyond unprofessional. Yes, they have a contract, but without passengers yielding revenue for them, that contract would have never been signed. The Captain in command could have acted with honor, logged the complaint and irregularity that caused two deadheading pilots to fly in the regular Business Class cabin, and follow-up with Corporate upon landing without inconveniencing an entire plane full of paying passengers. Common sense is free…

    Do you see why your airline will never be like Singapore or any truly respectable airline?

  26. @SQFirst/@Bagoly –

    I’m operating under the assumption that the pilots were complying with the rules of their contract. If not, they should be fired. If they were, though, TG is asking them for a variance from the rules in the contract, and they’re under no obligation to do so if their contract doesn’t provide for it.

    I have seen circumstances where a US airline asked crew to work outside of the narrow confines of what they’re obligated to do, and they offered tangible concessions to the crew in exchange for that variance. Either TG didn’t try, or they didn’t offer enough. That’s on management.

    I guarantee that if the pilots tried to work out of compliance with their contract, TG would come down hard on them. It’s the same issue here.

    Again, if the pilots were in compliance with their contract, the fault is entirely TG’s for either (a) not getting it right ahead of time, or (b) not giving some sort of compensation to the pilots in exchange for giving up the seats they’re entitled to sit in.

    I know it’s not a passenger-friendly position, but a union contract is a union contract.

  27. So SQFirst, say they let this one slide. The same happens the next week (well they didn’t kick up a fuss last time they did it). Then what?

    ‘Yes they have a contract but….’ But WHAT? There either is a contract. Period. Or there is not.

    Yes we all know SQ is a wonderful airline from the passengers perspective – they are, afterall, crewed by AI robots that do not DARE step out of line. I don’t know ANY other airline where the crew are trained to learn and repeat phrased verbatim for ‘consistency’. I don’t know of any other airlines pilots that would not have ordered an immediate evacuation when a wing is on fire (oh we don’t want the bad PR). There’s a reason why SQ has amongst the highest staff turnover of all Asian carriers. Few can hack it in the long term.

  28. @Greg
    You raise a valid point. However, the pilots cannot say that THAI denied them any additional compensation because they simply opted to delay the flight until they got what they wanted. I bet you anything that their contract also contains some form of provision in which they agree to not intentionally cause operational delays.

    Clearly these pilots were only concerned about themselves. They just weren’t smart enough to figure out that they could have accepted regular Business Class seating and then filed a complaint through their union which probably would have gotten them some extra compensation in the end knowing how unions operate in Thailand.

  29. There’s lots of things you can do, but that falls with the company, not the pilots. If the contract says pilots get a certain option for a meal and there isn’t one catered, you can pretty much bet the aircraft isn’t moving until the truck comes back with it. It’s not the pilots’ job to work out the details. If they’re entitled to a first class seat, then they’ll sit here and wait until the ground staff figures out how to make it happen.

    @SQFirst – Nah, the passengers can move to the business seat and file a complaint with the airline — not sure what they’ll complain about since that’s the class they purchased to start.

  30. “If pilots need rest, why not charter a private jet for pilots.”
    @Eskimo needs to get out of the igloo and take a nice long vacation in the tropics. Based on his comments like this and others his brain is frozen.

  31. @Duck Ling
    Not surprisingly, you have spoken like the stereotypical underachieving employee of a US airline that just doesn’t care. Your airline can only dream of Singapore Airlines’ quality. Any respectable business takes consistency seriously (as it happens, many of SQ’s Inflight Managers have master and doctoral degrees so of course the airline can easily request them to repeat things; try that with the community college quality of AA/DL/UA crews who can’t even remember safety basics on airplanes without video units). If you had the means to afford good airlines, you would also know that SQ’s cabin crews are some of the nicest and most sincere people out there. I am 100% unapologetic about defending them because they truly work hard, not like the joke of staff US airlines are PLAGUED by.

    Please don’t ever start a business. Paying customers should always come first, even Walmart understands that.

  32. The check in staff screwed up when they assigned those seats. The seats were already taken (improperly, seat regardless) so the pilot was wrong in insisting. He should be fired.

  33. The passengers deserve serious compensation. Some may have misconnected and all were inconvenienced. Customers come first. If there is a contract violation, compensate them accordingly. Frankly, who is the pilot to start enforcing a contract? At least they did not do a Dr. Dao on the passengers sitting in the first class section.

  34. I have noticed TG doing the 747-400 for 777 swap just a couple days before the flight in other markets as well. I was recently seated in J on a TG 777 from CAN to BKK. Luckily, I checked my PNR 2 days before the flight and found the new 747-400 with rows 1-3 shown as business which was not there the day before. I immediately changed to 1A.

    Luckily, there were no demanding deadhead crew aboard so I flew 1A and arrived on time.

  35. This is a flight departing the EU so do the passengers qualify for compensation since it’s over 2.5 hours? BTW, The girl with he peace sign in business class is hilarious!

  36. SQ First. That’s cold!
    Freedom of your expression is equal to ChrisUnited787. He did not make up the rules so if you are not happy with the comments….too bad! If you believe in censorship go elsewhere!

  37. @MCM
    How was I cold? By defending Singapore Airlines’ extremely hard-working crews who never abuse passengers my point was clear. I admit I have zero tolerance for the nonsense of legacy U.S. airline employees who are often the first ones to abuse things (picture them, MIA MCO “due to the short duration of the flight we will not be able to do a beverage service in the main cabin” so they can gossip and read magazines while the Southwest crews on FLL MCO are gladly serving drinks and snacks with a smile).

  38. As one who has flown Thai Airways in the past, I’m not surprised.
    A few years ago, they confiscated my insulin pens and needles as potential “weapons” on a flight from Bangkok to Phuket, despite my protests that they were a medical necessity.
    The Purser kept them in the first class section on a 747 throughout the flight, while we were sitting in coach at the tail end of the plane.
    Meanwhile, they served lunch on this flight with metal knives.
    I filed a complaint with Thai when I returned to the US, only to receive a half-assed apology and Thai Airways men’s tie as compensation.

  39. @SQFirst said:

    Please don’t ever start a business. Paying customers should always come first, even Walmart understands that.”

    The issue is that TG let down their customers. They didn’t operate the flight the way they were contractually obligated to operate it. Do you expect your employees to work for free if you “forget” to issue their paychecks? This is exactly the same thing.

    The pilots are entitled to working conditions exactly as they are articulated in the contract. If TG didn’t provide those, then it’s their fault, not the pilots’ fault. TG management owes the passengers an apology and compensation, not TG’s employees.

    This has nothing to do with culture other than perhaps a culture where management plays fast and loose with employee contracts.

  40. @Greg
    ZRH BKK does not always get 3-class 744s and often 2-class 773s operate the flight. This wasn’t a case of TG not paying pilots nor is Business Class an uncomfortable “working condition”. With your argument, should TG pilots then refuse to work unless their company assigns a 3-class aircraft every time on a route that the airline has determined doesn’t have much demand for 3-class service? You do realize TG has been in deep financial trouble for a while, yes? The actions of the pilots won’t help their company at all. Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, et al. are all 5-star airlines and I don’t ever recall their pilots ever acting in such cavalier way.

    I’m not by any means suggesting that pilots stay quiet when management breaks their contractual agreements, but no ethical pilot is going to do so at the expense of passengers. Clearly Thai’s pilots have no problems doing it, and that alone speaks about their complete lack of decorum and professionalism.

  41. I flew on Thai from SGN to Muc via BKK & was shocked at the lack of communication or courtesy at BKK. The second leg was due to depart a 1230am and there we all were, waiting to board. And we waited… And waited… And waited. Zero announcement At All during this time!

    45 mins after scheduled departure a voice said that the plane was ‘delayed’, thanks for the update guys. No further information, I mean none. I went back up to the lounge for a minute to grab some water & I’m glad I checked back cause they were boarding without having announced it. (staff at lounge were uninformed)

    Pretty shocking the complacency. Just tell us customers what is going on so we can be informed, costs zero dollars to do that. The on board staff were great but I was still shocked by the complacency of Thai airways.

  42. From what I read, and having flown TG eco, biz and first numerous times in various configs and plane. There are a few points I want to contribute.

    1. As this is essentially an equipment swap, and no one paid for first class seating, seat map should never have shown first class, and it should be assigned at check in/gate, based on fare class and elite status with TG. TG is already well know for upgrading by personal connection and not elite status like other good airline and I truely doubt most of the passenger in First really snatch the first class seat by being early to pick their seats.
    2. If it is really true about passenger getting those seat by online booking, the 2 who book last should be reassigned, first come, first served, right. Who want a tired pilot workin their next flight. But reassigning seat have to be transparent and fair.
    3. The seat on 777-300 are flat, which, even if there is no crew rest area, the pilot can proper rest in. It is entirely different on 747, as these are angle flat and very much harder to get a good rest in. So, I understand why the pilot would not want to be sleeping in those seats.

    Ultimately, I think TG should never have open up the first class seat for seat online seat self assignment in the first place and assign them base on marit (fare class and airline elite status) and not personal connection. Having encounter this problem at the gate, those who got first class seats should be reassigned based on marit, force to if needs be. They could be given a choice of their newly assigned seats or not board at all, afterall, it is not as if they paid for first class.

  43. Contractual agreements. Let me tell you something: I work in IT. Much is expected of us, especially that we are totally flexible. So if I were to translate this case into the IT environment, we would probably have flown along as cargo. And that is probably the reason why you have such bad IT systems, which made this situation possible in the first place.

    I am also a sailor and the only good comment I have read so far is Bagoly’s! That is exactly how this situation should have been solved.

  44. @dave needs to grow up and learn sarcasm.

    I did take a long vacation in the tropics, Thailand to be more precise. That is why I understand how messed up TG is and the pilots should be the blame as much as the puppets who run the airline.
    Some surprising facts:
    They have 9 stored A340 (+1 transferred to the Thai government)
    They are 1 of 2 airlines who operate A340 500 and A340-600 together (along with Azerbaijan)
    They operated a fleet of A330s powered by both PW and RR engines.

  45. I just retired recently (at 65) from US airline after they retired our last 747-400. ALPA contract with the airline states that deadheading crew must be provided first or business class seats when deadheading or on other company business. This was the company’s screw up (including customer service management boarding the aircraft). The 4 seats should have been reserved as “positive space” and listed on manifest as such. Captain did the right thing standing up to the company to ensure that his team members were provided for per contractual requirements. I would shake his hand….congrats. Thanks to pax that moved to accommodate the requirement..they should get ticket refund and comp for future travel.

  46. @Mike S
    People like you are the reason why U.S. airlines will never be great. Thank you for doing the world a favor by retiring.

  47. US airlines will never be great for any number of reasons…not amongst them is the quality, experience levels, and professionalism of our cockpit crews. In case you hadn’t noticed “SQ First” the airline involved here is not a US carrier and not a US crew (unless under contract as foreign national..quite common with Asia & middle East based carriers) ) This captain chose to maintain that professionalism that is expected of him both by pax and crew members alike and ensure that contractual requirements were maintained for his fellow crew members..a situation that he was forced into by failures of others further back down the line. While I agree passengers should not be forced to suffer…in this case the seats were not paid for and it becomes a safety issue if adequate rest is not ensured for deadheading crews between trips or segments. There are valid reasons for this seating requirement in the contract.
    Yes I am enjoying my retirement…thank you for asking.

  48. SQFirst you should get your facts correct before making assumptions.

    I am a pilot for Cathay Pacific. When I said ‘legacy carrier’ I wasn’t just referring to the strict US-ism of the term.

    At CX we have exactly the same kind of union agreements in regards to deadheading as TG (F where there is an F cabin) – and you will be shocked to know so do SQ. Yes, SQ. In the eleven years I have flown for CX there has not been a single occasion where I haven’t been sat where my agreement says I should be sat. I imagine SQ gets it right as well. Why do they get it right? Because believe me – if they don’t the jet will not move. And they don’t want that. Unlike our cabin crew colleagues (who frankly have to take a load of sh+t from the company) we are not easy to fire if we are upholding our end of our contracts with the company.

    Next time you fly SQ have a chat with one of the pilots or cabin crew about their agreements. Pilots are expensive to hire and train. The pilot market is competitive…if SQ isn’t offering the benefits, the pilots will look elsewhere. So of course SQ offers benefits and agreements along the same line as their competitors. For the cabin crew it will be a different story. SQ has the highest turnover of cabin crew of all the asian legacy carriers (admittedly, CX is not far behind).

  49. some important news, I was looking last month for TG first on LH Miles and more website. Expecting A380 LHR or FRA. I got availability with the 747 from Zrh . one way 105000 miles. no doubt it was sold as First class, I was surprised because the 777 used here have only 2 classes.

  50. exactly what is wrong with unionized flying. the pilot is more concerned with representing the staff than the pay customers who have connections to make down the line. mission comes first not the employees. Reason I quit flying United because 3/4 of the business class on routes to Hawaii are filled with employees. when the flight staff boards and airplane they are there to meet the obligations of the client not uphold the union contract

  51. @Duck Ling
    You claim you work for CX and yet you use highly vulgar and unprofessional language, e.g. the “s” word. Thanks for making it easier for me to avoid CX and consistently choose SQ over it. Oh and by the way, in case you missed the memo, SQ has high cabin crew turnover because with them excellence is the bare minimum required and not everyone can work under such pressure, but of course you wouldn’t know anything about that since CX just looks for cheap labor over quality. In fact, on some days CX doesn’t even remember its own name or livery. Cathay Paciic was it? 🙂

    Please keep checking your booking. TG is infamous for the amount of equipment changes they make. Once, I had a flight changed from old config 747 to new config 747, to old config 747 again to finally A340-600 where I ended up being alone in Royal First. Even if you are confirmed now in Royal First, if they change the equipment to 777-300ER, this class-of-service will no longer be available. Best of luck!

  52. Zurich Delay: Thai Airways International has ordered four pilots involved in a flight delay in Zurich last week not to discuss the matter in public.
    Zurich-Bangkok flight TG971 was delayed for two hours on Oct 11 because of confusion over seating arrangements, after two off-duty pilots were denied first-class seats by the THAI station manager in the northern Swiss city.

    Two inactive pilots, called deadheads in aviation jargon, believed they were entitled to first-class seats on the flight but all the seats had been taken.

    A deadhead is an airline crew member who is sent to a particular destination to assume a duty or for other purposes. On the flight they are on, they are inactive or not supposed to work as a crew.

    Flight TG971 left Zurich only after a couple agreed to give up their first-class seats for the two pilots.

    The problem emerged after a Boeing B777-300ER, which was supposed to be used for the flight, was found to have a problem in Zurich and a Boeing B747-400 was used instead.

    The pilots who were supposed to fly the B777-300ER were therefore sent home because they were not licensed to fly the substitute plane.

    The B777-300ER did not have first-class seats while the 747 offered them. The station manager therefore upgraded all business-class passengers to first class, leaving no seats for the two inactive pilots.

    News about the delay went viral on social media and the pilots were criticised for thinking only of themselves without caring about the passengers.

    After apologising to the passengers on the flight, THAI set up a panel to investigate the issue.

    A THAI source told Matichon Online on Saturday that all four pilots involved were ordered not give any information about the incident after the chairman of Thai Pilots Association gave an interview and a pilot posted an item on Facebook in their defence.

    The source said the problem stemmed from internal “miscommunication”.

    “There is no clear guideline on what to do once the tickets have been sold on non-first-class flights and a plane with first-class seats is used instead. Should the business-class passengers be upgraded to first class or should the section be closed?

    “What happened on that flight is the business-class passengers were upgraded but all the services remained business class.”

    The source explained that for active pilots, crew cabins are available but if they aren’t, seats must be reserved for them — first class for pilots or business class if a plane doesn’t have a first-class section.

    But for inactive pilots, there is no rule that first-class seats should be reserved for them or not, the source continued.

    “We have to wait for the results of the investigation. What we know now is that all the first-class seats were taken and the inactive pilots should have been able to take business-class seats back home. But the pilots and the station manager should not fight and hold the passengers hostage,” the source said.

  53. O have been flyinh tg 747. The fc is not good enough ss fc anymore

    But instead of upgrading tje sests they sell them as bc.

    I have sitting there and the bc seat is better

  54. If the article is true: “But for inactive pilots, there is no rule that first-class seats should be reserved for them or not, the source continued” then the deadheading pilots were not contractually entitled to first-class seats and thus they had no right to delay the flight until. I hope THAI fires them.

  55. SQFirst lets stick to the topic instead of hurling low brow insults in order to try and deflect from the fact that SQ operates pretty much just the same as TG or CX when it comes to pilots agreements.

    Oh, and I can assure you from many encounters in the crew hotel bar in Shanghai that SQ pilots use ‘vulgar and unprofessional language like the ‘s’ word’ too. The image you have of SQ crew really is laughable. It’s a little like still believing in Santa Claus.

    Please please do your best to send another reply, your SQ promoting and anyone-else bashing is amusing me greatly. SQ…an airline that makes new hire Cabin Crew pay a security BOND upon being hired that they won’t be repaid if they don’t stay a minimum of a year. Great airline! The only other airline I know that has the same practice due to mega-turnover is Ryanair.

    Anyway, this post is not about how great SQ is versus another airline. SQ is the creme de la creme from a passenger perspective FAR superior to CX or pretty much any other airline.

    But my point remains – their pilots enjoy exactly the same benefits and contractual agreements as most of its competitors. And know when to put their foot down to uphold those agreements.

    And as for SQ crew always being on best behaviour in the best interests of the company.

    The article relates to an incident just a month ago.

  56. @Duck Ling
    You are nothing more than disgraceful employee. Keep it going, you are just proving more and more why CX will never be SQ or similar outstanding airline.

    My point remains: based on the latest information, it seems that the deadheading/inactive crew was not entitled to first-class seats. Therefore, they had no right to delay the flight and basically keep passengers hostage. Only other unethical employees would side with pilots who abuse passengers, as I’m sure you out of all people can understand.

  57. SQFirst you are like a PR machine….gloss over the bulk of my previous post (naughty SQ pilots trying to get behind the controls of planes inebriated last month and perhaps even naughtier SQ pilots being complicit in his choice to fly), call me a disgraceful employee (which I guess I must be having reached the rank of Captain with eleven unblemished years service), throw in unethical…and then of course another little ‘never be SQ or similar outstanding airline.’

    You are hysterical! SQ’s little online brown nose. I mean even your SQFirst name says it all. Naueseating. Let me tell you….I couldn’t give a flying f*ck (cover your eyes more ‘vulgar and unprofessional language’ that an employee of SQ would NEVER use) how great you think SQ is or how dire you think CX is. Although I find it interesting when you thought I was an employee of a US carrier your slanging match was aimed fairly at them. It would basically be the case of ANY other airline being crap and ‘that would never happen at SQ’. Well guess what. S*it (wash my mouth out) does happen at SQ. See the link in my previous post. Attempting to take off from closed runways in TPE also springs to mind. My job is to transport my customers from A-B safely and securely which I have been doing with a success rate of 100% throughout my career. I am also the Commander on board and in charge of the rest of the crew and I would support ANY of my crew (and i’ve done many times in the past) adhering to their agreements, their contract, with CX.

    Yes, we have established that the TG issue was a grey area. But this does not negate that in posts previous to that your view was that even if this was a black and white case and the piots were following their agreement they should have shut up and taken whatever seats they were given or be fired.

    The greatest irony is what SQ employees serving you REALLY think about your type:

  58. @Duck Ling
    I’m sorry that you have such limited skills as a Captain and thus unable to do basic research. For years now, SQ’s cabin crews have been ranked higher than CX’s, and that’s a fact, not my opinion. Hard product wise, CX doesn’t even have true suites, so I won’t even waste my time on that. Oh and who had to fire its Head of Product Development for the former terrible long-haul J seats? Oh yes, of course it was your beloved CX, not SQ. Yet somehow, CX ended up again with a pretty uncompetitive hard product, this time in F.

    Moreover, SQ, unlike CX, is very strict with its pilots and they don’t seem them wasting their time attacking passengers who don’t tolerate abuses of other passengers here like you are.

    In fact, why don’t you be brave and provide your name? I’d like to show CX the net loss you have caused them for several F and J class bookings on markets that CX has the best nonstop connections but I have booked OZ and SQ instead to remind myself not to subsidize the salaries of disgraceful airline employees like you.

    I know, life can be so cruel… SQ will never hire you. Of course you know that.

  59. I’m a frequent short haul business traveler. Forget the details of this incident. Under NO circumstances should a paying customer be inconvenienced for the comfort of a prima-donna employee of any airline. Dead headers should only be given coach seats (would help to see what the masses go through the next time they think of saying “sit back and enjoy your flight”) and then they have to PAY for any upgrades. All airlines have forgotten where their revenue comes from and the age old saying “The customer comes first.” In this case some snotty pilots read their press clippings and believe that they’re more important than the paying passengers.

  60. @Oldhand
    Well-said! It is ridiculous for “prima-donna employees” to keep passengers hostage and delay a flight over seats they weren’t even entitled to as inactive pilots.

  61. Eventhough it state on the contract that it’s SOP for dead-heading TG flight crew to fly First Class if available on the aircraft. The seat was already allocated to a paying passenger. I understand the need to fight for Employee’s Rights. I do. But do not hold HUNDREDS of passenger to ransom. Solve the dispute internally.

    Right now things really escalated here in Thailand. It’s like all the THAI pilots are demonstrating against public opinion. Ain’t their have no shame. But then again, this is Thai male’s “Face-Saving” insecurity issues…

  62. This is a big issue in Thailand for the last few days. For more Information please see:

    TG does not operate a first class from Zurich but due to the change of equipment from B 777 to B 747 there were seats formerly First Class BUT used for Business class service.
    There is no clear policy at TG about in-active pilots getting back home.

    Bottomline – there is one party who paid for their tickets (although Business class) and another party who did not pay but gets paid. For me pretty easy to decide without holding hundreds of passenger hostage because of the arrogance and stupidity of some macho pilots.

    TG has enough problems and shoud focus on customer service rather than personal expectations of service staff / pilots.

  63. for the very employees of the airline to make such a fuss and delay the flight by almost 3 hours
    is simply unacceptable.
    they (the employees) are there to facilitate the customers – to get them to where they need to go.
    ON TIME and in a timely manner.
    think of the possible lost connections due to this incident.
    Because the pilots acted unprofessional and the company did not provide for them previously to boarding this flight.
    its simply not acceptable.

  64. Something I would have expected on United. Sad to see the same sort of behavior on Thai Airways, which I have always enjoyed flying.

    Pilots are one of the entitled classes, and they think themselves superior to ordinary mortals. In fact, about 99.99% of what they do could easily be automated, and for the other 0.01%, they screw up as often as they get it right. I used to call them “glorified bus drivers,” but in fact, driving a bus is actually much more difficult, since the roads have all sorts of unpredictable situations, and there is no “auto-pilot” to cover the vast majority of every trip as there is for pilots.

    Obviously their Unions will resist automation, but eventually we will have safe, consistent automated piloting, and responses to emergency conditions, though not perfect, will likely be better than the 50/50 chance we currently get with human pilots.

  65. It’s incredulous that this couldn’t have been resolved quicker than 2 1/2 hours. Cooler heads should have prevailed and the pilots should have taken the other seats without disrupting passengers.

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