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Thomson: the hard sell
Member Name: Drifter_2000
Advantages: Low cost, adequate pre-flight service
Disadvantages: A duty-free store with wings. No 'inflight service' to speak of
My first encounter with Thomson Airways (or Thomsonfly as it was then) was during the early 2000s when they operated low-cost flights from Coventry Airport. I used them to fly to Nice, Lyon and Rome and found them to be as good as any budget airline, with the added bonus that they flew from my home town.
This summer, I booked a week to Turkey and due to my previous experiences with the airline, I had no problems with the prospect of flying with Thomson for the 4 hour journey to Bodrum. I had a minor panic on the day of my flight as I'd forgotten to provide the Advanced Passenger Information (API) necessary to fly on this route. However, I phoned Thomson's call centre and was assured that this wouldn't be a problem as I could provide this information at check-in.
I can't hold Thomson Airways solely responsible for the long queues at Manchester Airport, although their decision to check-in a flight to Zante using the same 3 desks probably made the situation a lot worse. Despite this, they had no problems with the fact I'd forgotten to provide API and the check-in process itself was very quick and easy.
I was impressed that Thomson used the Boeing 767 for this route, as it's very spacious inside with a three blocks of seating with two aisles separating them. The same unfortunately couldn't be said for the seat pitch, which at 28 inches felt more like a National Express coach that an intercontinental airliner. While Turkey is technically a short-haul route it would have been nice if the airline had recognised that 4 hours is still a fair amount of time to be on a plane. There was no entertainment to speak of and while we had personal televisions, these were only used to display the safety briefing before takeoff.
As our flight took off at 9.15pm, we expected that they'd treat it as a night flight and dim the lights, leaving us passengers to our own devices. However, once we were in the sky the lights remained on and the hard sell began. Having been spared the task of performing a safety demonstration, the cabin crew could instead turn their attentions to peddling cigarettes, souvenirs and booze for what felt like the entire flight. There was no complimentary drink (I know it's a budget airline, but 4 hours is a long time and I've been given a meal on shorter Monarch Airlines flights before) and no announcements from the flight deck until we were about to land.
There was some improvement on the return flight, which took off at 4am. This time, the staff respected the ungodliness of the hour and we were left in peace. Having flown with Thomson on a relatively long flight I've realised that airlines should develop a more flexible attitude towards their inflight service. It's silly that a short hop to Dublin and a 4 hour flight to Turkey are both classed as 'short haul'. I would happily have paid more for a drink and an inflight film but unfortunately the Thomson experience was an unpleasant bookend to the holiday rather than the simple, painless journey that it should have been.
Summary: Not the best way to begin or end your holiday
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