Frequent travelers to Asia have been eagerly awaiting Thai Airways' new 17-hour direct flight from New York to Bangkok. But does the experience live up to expectations?T+L dispatched christopher r. cox and rob mckeown to report on the flight from both economy and business classes. Below, their findings:

Thai Airways 791

Economy Class

Passenger Christopher R. Cox

Aircraft Airbus A340-500

Route New York (JFK) to Bangkok (BKK)

Class/Seat No. Economy, 50J

Departure Time 11:05 a.m.

Check-in/Boarding Check-in was a snap. The economy-class queue was brief (a three-minute wait) and the ticket agent was courteous and supremely helpful. Points for the trolley filled with U.S. and Thai publications, including the English-language Bangkok Post and the Nation. GRADE: A-

Cabin I could have done without Thai's florid purple-and-magenta color scheme, but the new aircraft's two-four-two seat configuration is spacious and offers ample legroom. (The footrest is a little unwieldy.) With the seat's 122-degree recline and adjustable headrest, falling asleep was easy. GRADE: B

Service Flight attendants were gracious and attentive throughout the long flight, whether they were dispensing hot towels, distributing immigration forms, or serving drinks. Although I was standing just outside the galley, the stewardess presented my gin and tonic on a silver tray. GRADE: A

Food and Drink The Thai fried cod and roast duck with Chinese barbecue sauce were a little bland, but the guava-topped cheesecake made up for their shortcomings. The printed menu included a little too much health information; I now know that Kaffir lime is used to treat flatulence. GRADE: B+

Tech/Entertainment On a 17-hour flight, the entertainment had better be up to snuff, and Thai's on-demand system did not disappoint. I could choose from among 30 films to watch on my standard, in-seat 8.4-inch TV screen; audio options included 110 CD's and even Thai language instruction. GRADE: A

Overall For a frequent traveler to Asia who loathes the day-plus schlep from the East Coast to Bangkok (usually via Tokyo), the New York–Bangkok nonstop is a godsend. The cabin, catering, and service made for that rare occasion: an enjoyable long-haul economy-class flight. GRADE: A-

Thai Airways 791

Business Class

Passenger Rob McKeown

Aircraft Airbus A340-500

Route New York (JFK) to Bangkok (BKK)

Class/Seat No. Business, 15F

Departure Time 11:05 a.m.

Check-in/Boarding The check-in was quick, and I liked the regal strip of purple carpet leading to the counter. The lounge belonged to Swiss International and, while clean, had slim pickings for food. Free Wi-Fi and tristate calls are a boon, but the lack of a real Thai Airways lounge was glaring. GRADE: C

Cabin The two-by-two-by-two configuration and seats that recline to 170 degrees made sleeping easy. Smart design touches, such as large overhead bins and discreet sliding panels between the seats, added to the cabin's luxurious sense of space. GRADE: A

Service Demonstrating Thais' vaunted grace, the crew was balletic during meal service. They were also quick with assistance and amenable to oddball requests. ("Only the plates, not the serving tray.") But I would have enjoyed a little more warmth of manner. GRADE: B+

Food and Drink Note to other airlines: Thai cuisine makes the ultimate in-flight meal. It's healthful and travels well—even at 37,000 feet. The chicken with pumpkin in a curry sauce hit a home run, and the pad thai was excellent, but the gray-looking, "Western-style" tenderloin never performed. GRADE: A-

Tech/Entertainment The TV screen was easy to view even at full recline. The on-demand options were plentiful, from Steve Martin's Shopgirl to sports, sitcoms, and Bollywood films. Music choices ran a similar gamut, with playlists spanning Al Green, ambient New Age, and saccharine Thai pop. GRADE: A

Overall The best thing about this flight is the routing: direct. And though the experience was near perfect, the business-class extras could still be improved. A better lounge, a more natural style of service, and a few more perks would make this one of the world's best long-haul flights. GRADE: B+

By Christopher R. Cox and Rob McKeown