This year I spent my family holiday in Cyprus. We flew there and back with Thomas Cook. This wasn't the first time that I have flown with that company. I travelled with my husband, son and his girlfriend, and my daughter.
I booked our holiday through Direct holidays, which is discounted holidays from Thomas Cook. It works out cheaper but you are still getting a Thomas Cook holiday with Thomas Cook flights.
Over the last ten years or so I have travelled on different airlines and have had some good and bad experiences. The worst flight I've ever had, and I am sure the whole plane full of passengers would agree that this was very scary, was when I booked flights to the Costa del Sol, Spain, with JMC (a subsidiary of Thomas Cook) and due to severe delays we were sent out on a rescue flight on an ancient looking Greek plane. It was horrendous and although I complained, I got nowhere. This flight brought on a fear of flying. I manage to board a plane and am recovering but I am now nervous, and can't imagine going long haul. Really, the point I am trying to make is that you can feel an airline or travel company has done a good job but the true test is if things go wrong then how they deal with your complaints/issues.
I'm a person who steers clear of budget airlines. I like to book, and this year I even chose, my seats. I want to feel that I've planned things as well as possible so that we can at least begin our journey in a stress free mode. Mind you, when we boarded the plane there was a lady and her grandaughter sitting in my son and his girlfriend's seats, pretending they didn't know where they should be seated. It soon became clear that the girl didn't want to be separated from her gran so they had disregarded their own separate seats hoping, I assumed, that they would get away with it. On the return journey I was also asked, by a steward, if I would change the seat I had payed for, as a man who had the window seat claimed to be claustrophobic and wanted an aisle seat. My aisle seat! Well, so did I and that's why I had paid extra for the privilege. I didn't change but spent the journey feeling guilty.
Back to the flights. Our flight to Paphos, Cyprus was an early morning flight, departing from London Gatwick at seven a.m. Although I'd booked seats and didn't have to be there that early, but we still arrived before five a.m.
We went straight away to check in which was a very speedy process. Also the check in staff, or the ones near to us, were particuarly cheery and pleasant. Cases were weighed and, altogether, were about right. Phew! We were wished a good holiday and went through to departures.
We only managed a quick run around a chaotic Boots the chemists, and W.H. Smith and then were told to make our way to our boarding gate, via screens. A long walk, as is usual at Gatwick, found us at our gate waiting to board, after having passports and boarding passes checked. We were among the last to be called to board the plane but I don't think that's a bad thing when you know which seat you have. We took off at about 7.15 a.m. which I thought was quite good. The flight to Cyprus from London is close to four hours.
I think with many airlines nowadays that the cleanliness isn't as good as it used to be. The seats and trays etc could do with a good clean. There wasn't much room on the plane but that was as expected. However, I find people who put their seat back as soon as we've taken of,f a little irritating. There really isn'ts room for this on these type of cramped planes. It can make the passenger in the seat behind feel very claustrophobic.
One thing that made me cross is the fact that when the tickets had arrived a few weeks before the holiday date, I discovered in the literature that Thomas Cook had surveyed passengers (?) and found that most said they preferred their own entertainment so there would be no video entertainment/music provided. This doesn't bother me as i can't concentrate on TV, when flying, but it does help some who need to take their mind of the flight. The rest of my family like to watch. I wonder if they've stopped this so they can hire out the PSPs at a cost of, £7.50? There weren't even enough to go around!
I also think the meal takes far too long to serve as the crew are so busy selling things. in my opinion sales should come after the meal. I had ordered three vegetarian meals and two normal. As I booked with Directholidays the meal price ( £6.00 each way) was automatically included. I thought the food was nice enough. Up to now I have been satisfied with the food on Thomas Cook flights.
The captain spoke occasionally, infroming us of which country we were flying over and temperatures etc.
On reaching Paphos and leaving the plane, to a very hot blast of air, we boarded the bus which very quickly transported us to the smallish airport of Paphos. Luggage came in a fair amount of time and we exited, to be met by a cheeful Thomas Cook representative who directed us to our coach. He soon joined the coach and was informative and funny.
Sadly, our holiday came to an end and we were waiting for the coach to transfer us to the airport for our flight back home. The flight time was 2.15 p.m. and I thought that the coach arriving at 10.55 a.m. was too soon. There isn't much to do at Paphos airport, and it's expensive and, as it only took thirty minutes from hotel to airport I thought this a case of just getting us out of the way.
We were checked in immediately and efficiently and hurried through to departures. we had something to eat which was too expensive and not very nice. After that we had a wander around and we'd soon seen everything, so just plonked ourselves down near to the boarding gate. We were soon asked to board and again were taken for about a two minute trip by bus to the plane.
The flight took off much to schedule. The meal, again, was pleasant. My meal was a vegetable bririani. Although I enjoyed it I didn't think it a great choice as some people can't eat spicy foods.
My husband had said as soon as seated, that there was less room on this flight, seatwise, than on the flight from Gatwick. We are both quite short and not obese yet my knees were still touching the seat in front. It was extremely cramped, and I think many passengers would have been very uncomfortable. Okay, I know they squeeze in as many seats as possible to keep costs down but maybe this is going too far? There really isn't room, especially when the meal comes around.
Aside from the space issue, and the lack of entertainment, I was still pleased with our flights. There had been no delays, and transfers etc had all been smooth and comfortable. We had no problems at all with getting to the airports, boarding and flying. Also, the flights, which I suppose is down to good fortune with weather conditions, were extremely smooth. Usually travelling to and especially from, Cyprus we have experienced a lot of turbulence, but this timet here was barely any. The seat belt sign only came on for take off and landing.
I thought on our homeward bound flight that a disabled girl was well cared for, as far as I could make out. She was brought on the plane by wheelchair by two attendants and lifted into her chair. She was asked which of her family's reserved seats she would prefer by the attendants, and she chose the middle one. At the end of the flight a chair was waiting.
All I can really say is I don't find Thomas Cook perfect, and there are some slight niggles but, overall I was very pleased, as was my family. I would fly with Thomas Cook again, as our flights this year and last year were very good, but I still believe much of this may be down to luck, and the proof of good service is how quickly and sympathetically you're dealt with if things do go wrong. Fingers crossed this won't be an issue!
So, fortunately, my family and I enjoyed decent flights with Thomas Cook Airlines.