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When it comes to charter airlines, they all more-or-less provide the same services with tiny variations! Most have a 'premium' or upgraded economy section somewhere on the long-haul aircraft which is used to provide an additional and more personal service to its passengers.
Thomson has a dedicated premium cabin on board it 767-300 type aircraft at the front. The aircraft carries 315 passengers with 35 of these seats in the premium section of the aircraft. These are rows 1-5 and are in a 2-3-2 configuration to allow for the wider seats. The remainder of the aircraft is economy seats which are in a 2-4-2 configuration.
So what do you get in Thomsonfly Premium?
- Wider Seats - Seat Pitch of 36" (Economy 30") and footrests - Two Hot Meals - Free Drinks - Personal Entertainment system with a wider choice of movies and TV programmes (either a seatback TV or DVD player) with Free headsets for the entertainment - Dedicated Premium cabin, seperated from Economy - Pre-departure drink - Amenity Pack (Return Journey) with eye mask, lip balm, flight socks, toothbrush/paste, moisturiser. - Free Newspaper (Return) - Dedicated check-in up to 1-hour before
So this all sounds fantastic but at a price of £129pp return to selected destinations is that all? Yes, well im afraid it is and its generally the same with most charters. Some others such as First Choice have the same sort of service but with more added extras such as mood lighting. But what does everyone want from a premium section really, the extra legroom, comfortable seats and a wider choice of entertainment.
So off we went to check-in as late as we were allowed, it simply meant less time waiting about at the airport for our flight and we had just enough time to pop into the duty free and have a look around, we didn't need food or drinks, we knew we would get them on the plane anyway!
We boarded first which was great and we could get settled and ready to go without loads of people whacking bags into lockers and pushing past seats...it just seemed much more relaxed. After we boarded the economy passengers followed behind but we were given a drink of orange which was nice and refreshing.
First impressions were not fantastic but I don't expect much but I do like the extras that you get, thats why I pay for them. I don't have to fight over seats at check-in and stand in long queues also.
After we took off we were all given a headset, the same on the way back also so we could watch the entertainment and listen to the music channels.
A toilet is located at the front of the plane and is ideal for the passengers on the left hand side of the aircraft who can reach it easily, for those on the right they would have to pop through the curtain....into economy and use the toilet on that side.
The cabin crew seem to be more attentive in premium, maybe their is not as many passengers to deal with and they are sitting not far away if you need them, or you can just press your call button! They are generally very good at answering them even if they are busy!
The food is served on a larger tray than economy passengers and very well presented! Depending on the time of day would determine the meal that was provided, so an early morning flight the first meal would maybe be a breakfast and later into the flight a couple of hours before landing a afternoon meal is provided. Either meals on both journeys you are given a choice of what you would like to eat, so this should satisfy any fussy eaters, but its nice to have a choice instead of just being given what is provided. The cabin crew will come round with warm croissants and bread rolls for breakfast in addition to the rest of the tray! The same again for dinner but without the croissants... but you get more than an economy passenger. You will also get a Tea or Coffee and another is provided once you have finished that one just incase your a bit thirsty. Meals were tasty and piping hot. The second meal for economy passengers is a cold meal in a box with sandwiches or cereal depending on the flight times.
The drinks are free for premium passengers so do what I do and order a normal drink from the cabin crew when they come round with the drinks trolley and also ask for a bottle of water just to keep you hydrated for the flight. They usually come round two times with a trolley but if you want anymore you can always ask and they will get one for you.
Maybe ask for a bottle of water sometime in the flight and pop it into your bag for when you land, it maybe hot and you have no water for when you transfer to your hotel or arrive. I do and it always comes in handy. They also have water fountains near the toilets on the aircraft which you can either use to top your bottle of water up or just ask for another bottle.
Its a bit of a pain when everyone starts drinking the same as you and they soon run out rosé wine!
I have been on both aircrafts with a DVD player and a seatback monitor. They are both just as good with a great line up of different entertainment but with the DVD player you can pause it if you have to go to the toilet or your mum won't shut up yapping next to you! The seatback entertainment is on a cycle and the channels repeat the entertainment once it has finished. But for a change you can flip over to an information screen which provides a map (which is really exciting in the middle of the atalntic) but shows you the speed of the aircraft, the height etc. The seatback entertainment has a hanset set into the side of the seat which can easily be knocked with your legs so I usually leave it on my lap so I dont end up on the information screen at the most intense point of the fim. Most of the movies are late releases, we watched the new pirates of the carribean - dead mans chest at the same time it was released at the cinema and some other films. Generally very good entertainment, but if you watch everything too quickly you will soon run out of anything to watch! There is a great selection of radio channels from classic, 80's, kids and latest music if you want something different.
An inflight magazine provides an interesting read to waste some time, nothing special but everyone has one. It also shows all the duty free prices available. For smokers they was a fantastic offer to purchase 200 cigs for £16 but if you wanted 400 you only had to pay £22. Much better than in duty free airport shops. But as all the long-haul destinations are outside of the EU your limit is only 200. Some duty free items have great prices and huge savings and loads of offers like buy two certain items for certain price, these seem to be the best offers.
On the way back everyone got a newspaper in the seat-pocket which was a nice touch and economy passengers were given one when they boarded. Which was easier because we didnt have to carry this as-well as our hand luggage!
The amenity kit was ok, I thought i'd only use the lip-balm and eye mask but halfway through the flight I felt nackered and you know how your teeth become furry after eating and drinking constantly so I nipped to the loo armed with my toothbrush and paste and scrubbed them. It felt so much better and would have been nice if they were given on the way out also.
Overall it was a pleasant experience for me, some people expect more I guess and others maybe less. For me I knew what to expect. I would fly in economy also it wasn't too bad. The prices seem a little expennsive and they vary on the destination you visit, but they seem the same as most other charter airlines price wise and you get more or less the same anyway. Anything I expected more of I have probably already written so won't repeat.
However I seem to have noticed they have upgraded all the long-haul from summer 2007 which is on sale already (as I write this review). They have had the long-haul aircrafts re-fitted with new seats and seat-back entertainment throughout with a much wider choice. For premium they have the biggest leg-room than all the charter airlines and some scheduled carriers such as BA and Virgin which looks not to bad at all.
Meals have been re-invented by celebrity chef (unknown to me) Aldo Zilli with a healthier look.
More movies (than economy), newspapers AND magazines for the flights, armchair style leather seats (in premium), CD selection (premium), a larger seatback screen than economy and loads of other extra stuff. It looks a little tempting and the prices don't seem to have changed much at all. I could ramble on all about it but I don't know anything more about it and probably it would deserve a seperate review once it has been launched. So I managed to find more information if your interest here: www.thomsonflysenses.co.uk
I would use the service again more-so now that it has been changed...
Richard, that was a very helpful review, we will be flying with thomsonfly in December in Premium seats - it sounds like you were pleased with the service you had before.
I will do a review when we get back. cheers Mary
SaxMyster007 01.03.2007 16:14
Nice review. Sax
silverstreak 28.02.2007 22:56
The only airline I've used for long-haul flights is Virgin Atlantic, and I have to say that most of the Thomson Premium Economy features you've mentioned are available as standard in Virgin's economy class. I don't know how their prices compare, however.