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A few bumps along the way but we got there with Thomson!
Member Name: Wickedinrock
Advantages: Nice staff, comfortable chairs, decent food
Disadvantages: Not a great entertainment package unless you upgrade, delay!
After Christmas the thought of going back to work was so unappealing that my partner and I decided to look into a hot January holiday. We were quite last minute but decided on Mombasa, Kenya as we've always wanted to go on safari and it would certainly get us away from the cold English weather. After some internet research it appeared that a package deal would offer us the best value even though two of the days we would be out of the hotel.
The package we chose was through Thomson as they had the best offer for half board at our chosen hotel. It also had good flight times which meant we would have all 7 days actually at the resort instead of eating into the week.
= Before the flight =
So our experience with Thomson started badly. I received a text message from them on the departure day at 1.00 p.m. to say the 7.50 p.m. flight was delayed for 5 to 6 hours! I couldn't believe it, especially as I had planned my day around it taking my suitcase to work to leave early. It was too big and bulky to take back home so I decided to work late and meet Alex at the airport just a few hours after we would have anyway. It meant a long wait at the airport but we figured that a few drinks and some food would kill some time before the flight. When we arrived at the desk we found out that because we hadn't paid to book our seats we hadn't been allocated seats together and with a full flight we couldn't change this! Great! Anyway, Thomson gave us a £5 food voucher each which I thought was nice of them although didn't make up for the delay. What we didn't realise was that the last scheduled flight on a Friday evening would be at 8.00 p.m. and the shops and restaurants close soon after! Oh dear! Well it was an absolutely shocking start where nothing had gone right but anyway, time passed (slowly) and finally at 1.05pm we set off to Mombasa!
= The flight from London Gatwick to Mombasa =
I was pleasantly surprised as I boarded the plane. Even though the plane was old, the leather seats gave it a modern feel and I immediately noticed that there was more leg room than on other flights and wider aisle space. The air stewards greeted us with a friendly smile despite the fact that they had also been delayed five hours, and each seat had a pillow and a blanket on them. The best thing was the small pack we each received containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, L'Occitane face wipe and socks! I don't think I've ever had anything like that before on a long haul flight and I didn't expect any extras like this on a Thomson flight.
The captain came on over the speaker to apologise for the problems so far and to explain that due to the delay we would be entitled to an upgrade on the entertainment package which meant more films and television programmes. This was great although at 1.00 a.m. and with a nine hour flight in front of me my only intention was to fall asleep! The seats were very comfortable and reclined back to the point where it was easy to get comfortable and fall asleep (even for me who can never sleep on planes no matter how long the journey). This along with the head rest which moved around flexibly allowed me to fall into a perfect position straight away. As soon as the food had been and gone, I fell straight asleep under my blanket.
The air hostesses brought the food round almost as soon as we were in the air. I think they assumed that at 1.00 a.m. everyone would want to get some sleep as soon as possible which I appreciated. We had the choice between sausage and mash or chicken casserole. I went for the sausage and mash which was served with some carrots and gravy. I actually really enjoyed it! In fact I thought it was delicious! This says more about my simple tastes I'm sure than the actual food but I was happy with all of it. It was accompanied by a small pasta starter which I didn't touch - it didn't look great and a chocolate cake which went down very well! The air crew brought round bread rolls which was a welcome addition to the meal. Drinks were not free with Thomson and had to be purchased - however there was a wide selection and we just bought a bottle of water to share. Tea and coffee were served straight after the food but I didn't have any as I wanted to get to sleep!
Alex, my partner watched The Social Network on the plane which he really enjoyed but there were also a lot of other films to choose from including lots of new releases. There were also different television shows available including How I Met Your Mother, Malcolm in the Middle and children's cartoons. Games on the entertainment system included Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and various puzzles. However, like I said, I slept most of the way through the journey so didn't pay much attention to the entertainment!
The flight was relatively painless and I managed to sleep for over 4 hours of the 9 hour flight and dozed through most of the rest of it! Our onward journey to the hotel was also booked with Thomson and after two hours on a hot, stuffy coach we finally arrived at our destination!
= The return leg =
Needless to say, the flight home was a sad affair. We had a fantastic holiday in Kenya and didn't want to leave after such a wonderful experience. The flight was a 10.00 a.m. morning one so very different to our outbound journey. We were wide awake and intended on making the most of the entertainment system. However, to our disappointment we remembered that we had been given the upgraded package on the way out to make up for the delay and that instead we had the choice of just 3 films which all sounded quite average. However this wasn't the worst part - the film was on a circle so you couldn't just start whenever you wanted, you had to start depending on where it was up to in the cycle! Gutted! We didn't actually realise this until a couple of hours into the journey when Alex was laughing at the Jennifer Aniston film 'The Switch' and he tried to pause it to tell me what was going on. After realising he couldn't, I tried to watch it myself to find it was in the exact same place - close to the end! Having watched some random TV shows which were also on a cycle I hadn't noticed this so as soon as he'd finished watching The Switch, I put on my headphones and watched it myself! For anyone who's interested, it's a bit rubbish but easy enough to watch on a plane!
Anyway, food came about two hours into the flight and we were offered a choice of beef casserole or roast chicken. Both Alex and I opted for the chicken which turned out, again, to be very nice. The chicken was in small pieces and served with small cubed roast potatoes with tomato and carrots. It was very tasty and quite filling so once more I was left satisfied with the meal. It was accompanied again by the rubbish plastic looking pasta starter which I didn't touch and a small cheesecake which was okay. Warm bread rolls were served and tea and coffee was offered.
Again, I didn't fancy a hot drink so I asked the lady if I could get a glass of water. She returned with a bottle of water and told me there was no charge! When they found out we were travelling on Alex's birthday they kept coming back to ask how we were doing and gave us something free (but I won't go into detail in case someone loses their job!) Another three hours later we were provided with an afternoon snack box which only contained a piece of Victoria sponge cake and various other bits like a serviette, plastic cutlery, sugar and UHT milk. Luckily we were then given a hot cheese and onion Panini to accompany it which went down very well indeed!
I managed to doze off a few times on the journey which helped pass some time but naturally, 9 hours was boring and I couldn't wait for it to end. However, I was comfortable, ate decent food and was semi-entertained so it wasn't the worst 9 hours of my life.
= Overall =
I was very happy with Thomson - especially how comfortable the aeroplanes were. I liked the little treats that were left on our seats for the overnight journey and thought the food was at least as good as I've had on other long haul flights. I have travelled with BA, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and various other airlines across the world and while Thomson planes might not have looked as attractive or provided the best entertainment or free drinks that others do, I was very impressed. The staff were great on both journeys and I have very few complaints... apart from the huge delay to kick start the holiday! For an airline that I think of as budget, I think Thomson was very decent indeed! 4/5
Summary: A very decent trip with Thomson
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