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Mr Lools and I Thomas Cook' ed it!!!
Member Name: Lools_24
Date: 22/07/09, updated on 15/11/11 (399 review reads)
Advantages: Wide choice of late deals available, staff helpful
Disadvantages: Extra costs added to holiday price, 15kg luggage allowance per person
Mr Lools and I are cutting back on spending as we are expecting a new arrival to the family in February therefore rather than our budget of around £650 per person we had dropped this to £400 per person for our holiday. So we did expect in someway our choice to be limited in comparison to when we usually book a holiday.
Not only did I travel with Thomas Cook for the first time this year I also booked my first "last minute holiday. Usually I would book my holiday at least six months in advance this year I left it until 4 days before I was due to travel, hoping that we could save a few pounds.
I went online to the Thomas Cook website and searched with using a wide search criteria. I selected the dates I wanted to travel between (leaving a window for the departure in a four day time period), the length of time I wanted to book a holiday for, my departure airport, my maximum holiday price per person and the standard of accommodation that I wanted to stay in. This function is very easy to use even my mum who is not confident searching on the internet has used the site to browse for holidays.
This brought back a number of results and I was very surprised at both the variety of destinations and also how low the prices were for holidays staying in 4* hotels (circa £350 per week). I was open to a variety of destination but was very surprised to find a hotel in Cyprus which I had said to Mr Lools last time we visited Cyprus I would like to stay there if I went back. When I noticed that for 7 nights B & B in this particular 4* hotel in central Ayia Napa was available for £355 per person I immediately decided that was where we were going on holiday.
Booking the holiday from this stage was very easy. A screen to enter our personal details and a screen to select holiday extras, insurance. This then gives a final holiday total screen which you click to agree to the terms and conditions and then can enter payment details. There is a fee of around £3 for using a credit card. Once the payment is confirmed you are immediately given a reference number on screen which you can print and also a confirmation email which you take to the airport to collect tickets. We also received a confirmation letter through the post two days before our departure date.
My only criticism of the booking process is that the "holiday price per person" shown does not include extras such as coach transfers and flight meals. If you book with Thomson online they actually include these in the holiday price and you have the option to deselect extras, which actually lowers the price of the holiday. When booking with Thomas Cook you only receive 15kg therefore it cost an extra £30 for us both to have an extra 5kg of baggage, £30 for flight meals, and £40 for transfers to the resort. Therefore it actually cost us £405 per person.
***Flights/ Airport Experience***
When we arrived at Newcastle airport we went straight to the Thomas Cook ticket desk and collected our tickets. It was a Sunday afternoon and was quite busy however there were four members of staff on the ticket desk which meant we stood in a queue for less than 2 minutes and could proceed to check in.
When we arrived at the Thomas Cook check in desk we were dealt with quickly asked the usual questions and asked if we wanted to site next to each other or across the aisle. (We had not opted to pay an extra £20 in advance to guarantee we were sitting together) We were asked about our physical fitness therefore I immediately knew we were sitting next to an emergency exit. When we got onto the plane we had the extra leg room seats, which made a very comfortable flight.
The couple who checked in next to us actually paid an extra £60 to have extra leg room seats and were quite annoyed to find out they were sitting in the same row as us who were given the seats for free.
Flight meals were satisfactory and served quickly with offers of more than one cup of coffee. The staff on board were friendly and helpful and there was no real problems with the flight; in fact we arrived 10 minutes early.
I had previously flown back from Larnaca Airport so I knew what to expect- chaos checking in! However although busy the check in desk queues were controlled by Thomas Cook reps. On the return leg of the resort transfer the rep did warn people that they would be made extra baggage allowance if their case was over their agreed limit. Even so I was still very surprised that the check in desk operators actually enforced this rule and those people that had 15kg allowance were made to pay once they exceed the 16kg limit and those with 20kg made to pay with 21kg. One particular (very annoying) family with teenagers in front of us had four case which were 10kg over the limit each. As you can imagine they were not at all happy about having to pay for 40kg extra of baggage allowance. It was very frustrating to have to stand and wait whilst people tried to protest about having to pay but made me happy that I had paid for extra baggage allowance in advance.
When we returned to the airport the flight was ontime and actually arrived back in Newcastle 30 minutes early. We were not as lucky as on the outbound flight to be allocated an extra leg room seat but the seat was comfortable and I was able to sleep on the flight as this was a night time flight. Meals were satisfactory but in my opinion meals on Thomson flights are a lot nicer.
We were at a slight advantage as we had previously seen the hotel. However the description of the hotel from the brochures and online were correct and accurately described the location and facilities. What maybe should have been mentioned is that there is a nightclub under the hotel which is open on a Wednesday and Saturday. About 20 rooms at the front of the hotel are above this and therefore are noisy until 4am in the morning. (I read this on trip advisor)
I had explained to the rep who brought us into the hotel when checking in that I was pregnant and wanted a quiet room if possible, she knew about this issue and actually made sure that we were allocated a different room on arrival when the receptionist checked us in and also made sure the family behind us didn't end up in one of these rooms. This is obviously not mentioned in the brochure which could be misleading but the reps did try and ensure that when checking in that Thomas Cook customers are not put in these rooms.
Within the hotel the Thomas Cook information (i.e. times to be picked up to return to the airport) were visible. Due to the design of the hotel it may have been advisable for these signs to include WHERE to wait when getting picked up as the coach had to make a pick up on the road outside so there was some confusion over where to wait.
I was very impressed with all of the Thomas Cook staff from those at the ticket collection desk to the reps. The reps were more visible than with other holiday companies and were a lot more helpful as they took control of the situations. For example when we travelled with Thomson last year their reps did not stand controlling the queues and it led to people pushing in and many arguments. The Thomas Cook reps gave out more information and actually were more helpful.
We did not attend a welcome meeting but were given a contact number of our rep if we needed something. This was given to us along with an information pack during the coach ride to our resort. I was impressed that on all of the coaches going to and from the resort there was a rep present who actually came in ensured we got checked in ok.
Would I travel with Thomas Cook again.... Definitely; although I reckon when we book our next package holiday we will have junior in tow! The helpful staff and easy to use booking system were definitely the biggest advantage Thomas Cook have over other travel companies.
My only criticism is the 15kg baggage allowance and the extra costs when booking which are not shown in the holiday search results. Probably the best travel company I have travelled with but I am sure that like all companies there are others who have had a bad experience.
~~~Also posted on ciao 2011~~~
Summary: Value for money package holidays to a variety of locations.
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