I've just landed back from a few days back home in Ireland, and after hours of scouring the internet for the best flight times and price I caved into a new experience, and that was to use the company I sell holidays for usually and go with thomsonfly.com from newly operational (emphasis on newly) Coventry.
Booking online was as easy as 1-2-3 and we done it months before travel to get the cheapest price. Unfortunately, this also means there could be timetable changes between booking date and the actual flying date. In my case, thomsonfly called me about a month before I was due to go to say they cant find a plane free to operate my return leg so that's cancelled and I can come back the day after for no fee. this wasnt an option as my partner had to go back to work, so we had to bring it a day forward. not a problem said thomsonfly we'll do all that for ya, and even suggested I move my departure date earlier so I still get the same amount of time with my family..... not a bad idea so after checking with work and my partner we called thomsonfly back to bring the departure date forward too...... at this point I got a miserable kid (sounded no more than 10) saying I could only move effected flights. I was having problems explaining that TOM was the first people to suggest I move my outbound date and that looking at the booking at work there was no restrictions in the terms and conditions to say I couldn't move the outbound date. I bought this up with my area manager at work and before long thomsonfly changed the booking so I flew out Saturday 2nd July instead of Sunday 03rd and back today Wednesday 06th instead of tomorrows cancelled flight. I had prebooked my seats online too which they carried over, but all this went kahoot too later!
Aircraft: 737-500 G-THOC
Routing: Coventry, UK - Shannon, Eire (CVT/SNN)
Seat: 15A Window
Photo © Michael Klein
I woke up from my pit in plenty of time to set out, and even though I'm not too far away from Coventry airport I didn't want to take any chances and my car parking confirmation said I need at least 40 minutes to sort that out so thought I'd better be early and have loads of time spare than be late and miss the flight!
On arrival at Coventry I was well aware that the airport was by no means finished..... and I had been told by customers who have used it that it is very basic. On arrival I thought I'd entered a school trip to a farm, the only thing that secured the fact I had arrived at an airport was the huge tui sign peering over the gates from a bunch (well two) TOM 735's. The 40 minutes on the car parking confirmation turned out to be about 5 seconds as our parking space was about as close to departures as you can get!
I grabbed my cases from the car, and walked over to the departure shed. Yep, nothing more than a port-a-kabin, the check in area wasn't clearly marked out which flights were checking in yet and which were - it was only when one of the workers spotted a large concentration of customers one said "anybody for AMS plane's gonna leave in a bit?" There was a small canteen selling drinks and newspapers and that outside for people who was waiting inbound/outbound customers so I went there to buy a bottle of water whilst I was waiting and beforelong a plastic little sign was suspended from the ceiling inviting passengers to check in for the Shannon flight.
The lady on check in was about as happy as someone about to commit suicide but with hair like hers she had no reason to be happy anyway.... she confirmed our prebooked seat numbers and we went through the bridge of happiness (the security arch). I emptied my pockets only leaving my belt on (which has spikes all over it) and the machine didnt make a sound.... I went through into the departure lounge which resembles a small part of Alcatraz. No windows, two hideous excuses for a shop and a cafe and two boarding channels A and B.
The departure board showed all of the days departures obviously, but was never updated, or indeed stood correct as most of the initial flight departure times were wrong. E.g. TOM271 to Shannon @ 1000 (which was its old timetabled time before they changed that too), and I asked a lady who said 'your flight will leave at ticketed time of 0920) - hmm so boards were a waste of electricity here then.
0920 rolled around and a boarding announcement was made. From this cell, we moved into the 'farmhouse' a room posh enough to have windows and gave a good view of the apron. On stand were THOD and C the latter one being our aircraft. Boarding was rows 1-11 front exit and 12 upwards to the rear stairs.
Once onboard we met a plastic male doll, otherwise known as Dan (I think) part of thomsonfly's cabin crew. He had a fake tan that even dale winton would die for and campness enjected from jullian clairy. The other two members of crew was another male, who actually looked human this time and a female who had just swallowed a sour grape (or indeed looked that way).
Doors were closed and then the captain came on the PA to say he could smell burning in the cockpit but thought it was the thing that supplied electricity to the aircraft whilst on the ground more than anything, this was confirmed and we was pushed off stand and the engines started....
We taxied onto the runway turning around at one end as CVT lacks in taxiways along with humane civilization, and waited for clearance.....and Waited....and Waited.... I'd almost forgot I was meant to be going somewhere until after ten minutes the engines roared and we zoomed down the runway and up to join the carebears.
The flight itself was pretty uneventful routing over Manchester, Dublin and down into Shannon. Weather was good and over Ireland not much cloud cover. The crew threw food and drink around to whoever paid for it and then the duty free came around, but the charter arm have so much more than a petty thomsonfly.com offering. The flight wasn't long at all, with good winds behind us the flight time was just short of an hour block to block. The seats were the 'zoo' style ones found on older charter aircraft (though most have been refitted now anyway) and the seat pitch was in line with most low cost carriers.
All in all this flight was pretty appalling. The flight physically was great but the organisation of the crew both on and off the ground was very unprofessional. The aircraft was comfortable, but it's a 737-500, bound to be on a route like this.
Aircraft: 737-500 G-THOA
Routing: Shannon, Eire - Coventry, UK (SNN/CVT)
Seat: 11A Window Emergancy Exit Row
Photo © Sven Pipjorke
After a fantastic few days living the buzzing nightlife that was Ballybunion (erm yeah) it was time to head home. After a wrist-cutting outbound sector I didnt have much hopes for a fantastic flight back to be honest and as I walked away from the check in desk my suspicions of a crap low cost was about to be confirmed. I prebooked 15A/B both ways and my seat number for todays flight was 11A/B. Why bother to pay and prebook if I dont friggin get them anyway?! It wasn't as if 15A/B was gone because we were the first to check in.... Either way I remembered the seating plan from online and 11A/B I was certain was the exit rows on TOM's 735's. So I went from bad to better and if only for the legroom, was looking forward to flying home.
After grabbing breakfast and doing some last minute shopping in a proper duty free shop (write that down cvt!), we went down to sit near the gate ready for the boarding call to be made.
This was done along with a aer lingus flight to London heathrow so the gates were pretty busy. I was one of the last people to board and we were shown how to operate the exits by a senior crew member who seemed to like power! None the less the crew on todays flight were all female and all towards the older end of the scale.
Excuse the blur, didn't wanna flash in the cabin so to speak!
We taxied towards the active runway and climbed out steep over the Shannon and towards Dublin, then across to Manchester, Cheshire, over Birmingham airport and into Coventry. The flight was longer than the outbound and took a while to come down but the crew were somewhat friendlier than the outbound lot though not by much and nothing seemed rushed like it was on the outbound flight. Landing was smooth unlike the outbound flight he banged it real hard into SNN, and all in all this flight almost restored some of my way lost faith in thomsonfly.com. There were alot of announcements and the seats were fantastic, loads of legroom obviously and same zoo seats.
Overall, expect nothing from Coventry airport the things that didn't set the security beep off in CVT did in SNN and I had to take off shoes and all sorts, though dependent on what crew you get you may have a good thomsonfly experience. Exit rows are a bonus but pay for a completly different row number and you may get them. When is a thursday not a thursday? When you book with thomsonfly so allow for time schedules. Not the best low cost I've been on, but not the worst either!
my low cost week continues tomorrow with a flight to mainland Spain with flybe and back with monarch scheduled. Both reports will be online with pictures early next week
see u soon guys