Spain’s worst Business Class? | Air Europa Review

After my arrival into Malaga with Aer Lingus, I found myself with just 50 minutes to connect from one side of the terminal to another. Luckily for me, when I arrived at my gate there was a Primera Air Boeing 737 still waiting for the final few passengers to arrive, meaning my flight to Madrid would be delayed.

UX5049 Malaga – Madrid:

Finally the 737 pushed back and departed for Billund. The gate staff changed the signage over to Air Europa, and invited all Sky Priority + VIP passengers to come forward for boarding, so I did. I had my mobile boarding pass scanned and I was told to walk down the corridor and wait for a member of staff to direct me. It was only when the whole flight was waiting in the corridor that a member of staff came and lead us to a bus that would take us to the aircraft. So much for my priority boarding…

As we drove across the airfield, the plain white ATR 72 came into view. Today’s flight was being operated by Swiftair and not Air Europa themselves. Much like my Iberia flight from Ibiza to Mallorca. As the doors to the bus opened, the rush of passengers to the aircraft steps began, but not before larger cabin bags were tagged and placed into the aircraft hold.

Whether sitting in Business Class or Economy, the legroom on this aircraft was extremely disappointing…

After boarding I settled into “Business Class” seat 17A; I noticed that for other than an inch or two of extra legroom, this seat was no different to the others on-board. Even without my hand luggage underneath the seat, it was a very tight squeeze to attempt to stretch out. The seat width was the same as the Canaryfly ATR, because of this, I knew I was in for a rough ride. I fully understand that unlike their jet engined counterparts, regional propellor aircraft aren’t as gifted with vast amounts of space. However, despite this I have seen many airlines create a dedicated Business Class cabin on aircraft Including the ATR family.

One of the two crew on-board, who’s names I forget, offered myself and the other three passengers in Business a glass of Orange Juice or Water to drink prior to our departure. I chose the Orange Juice and also accepted the anti-bacterial face wipe offered that I believe substituted for a hot towel. Once boarding had been completed the crew introduced themselves by making several announcements in both Spanish and English. The engines of the turbo prop started up and we began our taxi to the runway.

Welcome drinks, not quite as extravagant as a certain other Spanish airline…

Upon take off from Malaga, we climbed out over the Mediterranean Sea then turned towards the mainland. Once the seatbelt signs had been deactivated, the crew came around to clear the rubbish from the welcome drinks. Offering another selection of drinks, I chose a Coca-Cola and folded down the tray table to begin writing up the Aer Lingus review on my laptop. Only, when it was all of the way down, It rested on my lap and left me with no space whatsoever. After resting my drink on my laptop (being very careful not to spill it), they offered a selection of newspapers that had become very creased from sitting in one of the overhead lockers. Declining this, I was offered my in-flight meal.

A tray of peculiar looking sandwiches was presented to me, two choices, Chicken or Ham. Choosing the latter, I opened it to find it was quite simply ham on a tomato bread. Talk about fine dining! I was also given a small packet of salted nuts and later offered a bag of ready salted potato chips. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting selection in the world, that’s for sure.

Attempting to take a working lunch didn’t go as planned…

No In-flight Entertainment is offered, so anyone planning to travel with on the ATR best pack a book otherwise you could be in for a very boring and uncomfortable flight. To pass the time, I cursed myself for not choosing to take the Renfe First Class service from Malaga to Madrid’s central train station. At least I would have had a large reclining leather seat, warm meal and most importantly, a cool air conditioned cabin. 

Much to the relief of I imagine most people that had booked into this ‘Business Class’ service, the city of Madrid came into view and we began to make our approach. The crew passed through the cabin to collect any rubbish that was lying around and then took their seats for landing.

I have to be completely honest, this isn’t at all what I had expected when booking onto a Business Class flight with Air Europa. The quite frankly disappointing seat space available and very basic food options that were offered, really leave me wondering if the nearly £200 I paid for this 1 hour 30 minute flight was worth it. The only saving grace for my experience was the crew. They were fantastic from take off to touch down, and honestly couldn’t do enough for you.

EC-MIY, the aircraft that flew me from Malaga to Madrid

Many reading this may be quick to point out that, as I mentioned, it was not Air Europa that operated this flight. It is however, the airlines choice to allow fare paying passengers to fly in a Business Class that is no different than the economy product offered.

My advice to anyone thinking of flying Business on a Air Europa service operated by Swiftair would be this; don’t do it. Save yourself the disappointment and discomfort and fly with Iberia instead.

Aer Lingus A330 Economy Review

Every summer airlines tend to assign wide-body aircraft to short-haul routes to cope with the demand for seats. Aer Lingus are one such airline that does this, at peak times the Irish carrier’s Airbus A330 fleet operates to popular holiday destinations such as Malaga and Faro.

All through August, Aer Lingus are operating Dublin – Malaga – Dublin as flights EI582 and EI583 on the A330. Departing at 0700 and scheduled to arrive at 1110, this allows holiday makers to enjoy a full first day on their well-earned vacation. The return flight departs at 1220 to arrive at 1430.

Having never flown Aer Lingus before, I hopped on-board flight EI582 from Dublin to Malaga to try them for myself.

EI582 Dublin – Malaga:

Travelling with hand baggage only allowed me to check in to my flight 2 days prior to departure using the mobile app. After arriving at Dublin’s Terminal 2, I made my way through security and to the Aer Lingus lounge; access to which was included in my fare. You can read my review on the lounge here.

EI-FNH sat at the gate

As 6am approached, I took a short walk to gate 422, where my aircraft EI-FNH was waiting for me. When the gate staff announced that boarding would be commencing shortly, I joined the Priority Boarding lane which is reserved for Aer Club members and those sat in premium seats.

Making my way down the air bridge to the aircraft, I was greeted with a friendly warm welcome from Louise, one of the Senior Cabin Crew on-board today. She directed me to my seat, 3K. As soon as I stepped into the A330’s Business Class cabin, I was immediately impressed with the modern feel to the cabin; the black and silver colour scheme of the cabin is really easy on the eye.

Business Class Cabin (Image Credit: independent.ie)

Settling into my seat, I couldn’t believe how much space was available to me. The seating configuration varies depending on which row you sit in. Some are set out in a 2-2-2 style, whereas my row was configured in a 1-2-1 layout. For anyone travelling on the Aer Lingus A330 and you are unsure which business class seat to choose, I highly recommend seat 3K. This is mainly for the fact that you get two windows all to yourself!

Now, it’s at this moment that I should point out that for this whole flight I was actually an economy passenger. When operating the A330 on these sectors, the airline cannot simply remove the upper class cabins; so instead they sell the business class seats off as premium seats. I purchased mine for €79.99, which to some may seem expensive, but believe me, it’s worth it.

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All of the seats in this cabin convert from traditional upright seats into fully lie-flat 6.5ft long beds. Providing a seat width of 22″, these are almost certainly one of the most comfortable airline seats I have sat in for quite sometime! Not only do you get tonnes of space, but there are storage compartments everywhere. There’s even your own magazine rack to keep your literature and laptop in whenever you’re not using it. Whilst the layout of the cabin and the spacing may not be as luxurious as other A330 operators such as Virgin Atlantic, it does provide ample amounts of comfort to get you through a long-haul flight.

We made an on-time departure from Dublin and began our journey to the south of Spain. The bar service passed through the cabin when we had reached our cruising altitude of 39,000 feet. I treated myself to a warm breakfast option of a Sausage and Bacon baguette. At €5 this was hardly breaking the bank, and surprisingly actually tasted really good! A can of Fanta cost just €2.50; it must be noted that all options offered in Aer Lingus’ bar service were really well priced.

For once an airline breakfast that was great value & tasty!

The combination of a very early start and a hearty meal had me feeling a little on the tired side. I reclined my seat into the full lie-flat position and stuck on the latest Star Wars film to entertain myself. Had I wanted too, I could have chosen from any number of Hollywood hits, complete box sets of TV shows such as The Walking Dead or even updated my Facebook using the chargeable on-board Wi-Fi. The IFE remote is located within the armrest of the chair, luckily for me it was behind a flap that doesn’t dig into your thigh leaving you feeling uncomfortable.

Despite today’s flight being full in both cabins, I didn’t get that same feeling. Aer Lingus feature 30 lie flat beds in the front cabin and 287 economy seats in the main cabin. When stretching my legs, I didn’t find myself having to worry about knocking into someone when walking down the aisle. If you’re travelling with a partner in the near future on this aircraft in economy, I would highly recommend booking seats A & C or H & K. This A330’s economy is set in the traditional Airbus 2-4-2 configuration, meaning that you get a window seat and a row all to yourselves!

Shamrock 582 Heavy fully established in the cruise!

As the Interactive map flicked onto the screen, we started to decrease our altitude and the Costa del Sol came into view on my right hand side. Making our way out parallel to the airport and then turning to make our final approach over the Mediterranean Sea, I realised that I had grown fondly attached to this Airbus A330-300. Two years ago I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Qantas’ Airbus A330-200 and I had thoroughly enjoyed my first 330 experience with them. This flight however has certainly lived up to my previous experience, and certainly surpassed all expectations I had.

Aer Lingus’ fabulous crew and unique Irish charm has clearly won me over. My experience with the airline has left me with no doubts that they are one of the best airlines that I have flown with. I personally, cannot wait until I am flying on an aircraft that carries the “Shamrock” call sign again. Hopefully It will be a transatlantic flight with them so that I can test out their Business Class product properly.

I guess it’s true what they say, “Smart flies Aer Lingus”.

Note: At the request of the crew on-board, I was asked to respect my fellow passengers privacy and not photograph the cabin whilst in-flight.

Aer Lingus Dublin Lounge Review (again)

Split over two terminals, Dublin Airport is rapidly growing into one of Europe’s major hubs. The sleek, modern Terminal 2 is the home of Aer Lingus as well as other major transatlantic carriers.

Before my Dublin – Malaga flight, where I reviewed Aer Lingus’ Airbus A330, you can read that review here, I decided to head on down to the lounge to experience some award winning Irish hospitality for myself.

Entrance to the lounge in T2

Once you have cleared security and get airside, getting to the lounge is a simple case of following the clearly displayed signage, heading down a level in an elevator, turning a corner and hey presto you’ve arrived!

As soon as I stepped through the door, I was immediately greeted by Gloria, who was manning the welcome desk this morning. After a quick check of my boarding pass, I was given a card with the Wi-Fi details printed on it, and I was wished a very pleasant stay.

The firs thing I noticed when I walked through into the seating area was an unmistakable sense of peace and tranquillity. The lounge has TV sets mounted on the walls at various points throughout the lounge, all of which are set to mute to allow guests the opportunity to relax before their flight and to let them catch up on work. Giant floor to ceiling windows allow lots of natural light to flood into the lounge; they also give guests inside the lounge a view of the distinctive shamrock that is on the tail of every Aer Lingus aircraft.

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This mornings buffet consisted of a cold selection of cereals, pastries, yoghurt and fruit salad. There was some snacks such as biscuits and every airline’s favourite sour cream and chive pretzels. I had previously read about the disappointing array of food options available here at the lounge, and Its very clear that nothing has changed. All food is accompanied by fresh fruit juices, hot drinks and a selection of sodas from the fridge.

Split over two levels, the lounge offers an upstairs seating area that is designated as the quiet zone. Also on the top level are complimentary shower rooms that guests transiting through Dublin can use. My experience with airport lounge shower rooms is that they can become quite hot and humid very quickly, however without using Aer Lingus’, I can’t comment on them.

The upstairs seating area is designated as the quiet zone. There is also a giant Airbus A350 model that I really wanted to take home with me!

As the flight information display screens indicated that it was time for me to head to the gate so that I could board my flight to Malaga, I got the sense that the Aer Lingus lounge is ideal for an hour or so whilst you wait for your flight. In my honest opinion, If the access had not have been included in my fare, I wouldn’t have lost any sleep over it. The lounge is practical and modern, but not quite what I expected from a Skytrax 4* rated airline.

Hainan Boeing 787 Economy Review

Those of you that follow the @londonspotter Instagram page will know that Raj is currently jetting around China reviewing brand new airlines and aircraft types exclusively for us. Earlier in July he flew from London to Changsha in Hainan’s 787 business class. Wanting to give you guys, our dedicated readers, the best possible coverage of a new airline to the website, I decided to jump on-board with them to check out their Boeing 787 Dreamliner economy class.

B-2729 lining up for it’s departure from Dublin

With Chinese tourism having contributed a whopping £26.5 million to Edinburgh’s economy, It makes perfect business sense for an airline to launch a direct air link between Scotland and China. When Hainan Airlines entered the Scottish aviation market, they initially flew the route on Airbus A330-300 aircraft. However, demand has proven so popular that the airline took the decision to upgrade the service to a 787 Dreamliner.

Hainan fly from Beijing to Edinburgh then onto Dublin every Tuesday and Saturday under flight number HU749, and from Beijing to Dublin then Edinburgh every Thursday and Sunday as flight HU751. With each sector bookable individually, I hopped on from Edinburgh to the Irish capital to try them for myself.

Having never flown from Edinburgh before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. After boarding the airport shuttle from the hotel to the terminal, I immediately noticed the array of carriers that stood parked waiting for the mornings first passengers. Regionals such as Loganair and Flybe had a presence, but the most noticeable tails were that of the British Airways jets waiting to make the short flights back to London’s airports. All were dwarfed however by the distinctive red and yellow tail of the Hainan 787.

Hainan’s 787 sitting at the gate in Edinburgh

Inside the terminal, check in desks 41-45 were allocated for flight HU749. With only a handful of passengers checking in for the Edinburgh to Dublin sector, and even fewer staying on until Beijing, the airline could of easily coped with just two desks open. Security on the other hand wasn’t as quiet. I had expected it to be fairly busy but with an expected queueing time of 20 minutes, I decided that spending just £5 for the fast track security was worth it. After passing through security I made my way to the departure gate which was just a short walk away.

HU749 Edinburgh – Dublin:

I have flown my fair share of Dreamliners in past, but none of them in economy; for this simple reason, I was intrigued to see how it compares to my previous economy long haul flights on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777.

Seat selection came free of charge when booking my flight, so I knew that I need not worry about getting seat 37K, a window seat with a superb view! Luckily for me when boarding only the aisle seat was occupied on my row, leaving both myself and my fellow passenger relieved that we wouldn’t have to do any fighting for the middle arm rests. After a quick photo shoot of the cabin, the Captain of the flight made his introductions in both Chinese and English and shortly afterwards we pushed back. He explained that he had 37 years of flying experience and that we would be climbing to a cruising altitude of 34,000 feet on our short 46 minute flight to the Irish east coast.

The view from seat 37K!

Upon take off from Edinburgh’s runway 24, I opened my hearty In-flight meal which consisted of a sole Ham & Cheese sandwich and a bottle of water that was handed out by the crew upon boarding. It was a rather odd meal choice I thought, especially considering the listed meal service for this flight was ‘Breakfast’. With the flight being so short I wasn’t expecting a full hot meal service to be offered, but the food choice could have been tailored to the flight timing better in my opinion.

Not quite what I expected as my In-flight meal…

As most of the passengers from the Beijing – Edinburgh sector had disembarked in Scotland, It gave me chance to have a wonder and grab some photo’s. To my surprise the business class cabin directly in front of economy was completely empty! The 2-2-2 configuration gave it a really spacious feel; but I won’t go into too much detail, you can read all about Hainan Business Class in Raj’s review here. Heading back to economy, the cabin is set in a 3-3-3 layout. This for me works a lot better on long haul aircraft, it gives the cabins a smaller more intimate vibe but doesn’t leave passengers feeling as if their personal space is being invaded by the person next to you. With 177 sitting in economy when fully loaded, this Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner offers a generous 31-32” of legroom per seat. This was more than ample for me to get comfortable and have my giant pink rucksack underneath the seat. Quite simply, It’s a seat that I would be more than happy to spend a long haul flight sat in.

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Between grabbing some photo’s and beginning to type up this review, I didn’t have much time to check out the In-flight Entertainment options offered. A quick flick through gave me many films suited to both Asian and European travellers. In terms of the latest Hollywood releases I was struggling to find them. The seat back screen is some 15” which gives a clear picture to anyone watching. In the seat pocket was the In-flight magazine and, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t read or understand any of it as It was all printed in Chinese!

Other than pointing out the emergency exits on the aircraft, myself nor many other passengers had any interaction with the flight crew. They were however, proudly showing off their brand new uniform which looked immaculate.

Almost as quickly as we had taken off, the Captain began our descent into a rather gloomy looking Dublin and before long we had touched down. We taxied then waited for a Qatar 787 to vacate from our gate so we could pull onto stand.

On final approach into Dublin

As I disembarked, I left feeling satisfied with my Hainan experience. For a mere £70 I had flown from Edinburgh to Dublin with a 5* Skytrax rated airline, and not with a certain low cost Irish carrier that need not be named. I would certainly love to fly with them again to experience their economy product In full swing on a much longer flight to more exotic destination than Dublin!

Note: This review is independent and not endorsed by Hainan Airlines In an way.

Want more 787 dreamliner reviews?

July 2018 Fare Finder

Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best value airfares for July!

Looking to save money on last minute flights? Try Kayak!

basel, switzerland:

Switzerland’s third most populated city lies on the northeastern borders with France and Germany.  The cities 175,000 residents live within close proximity of the River Rhine and the riverbanks are lined with Renaissance era buildings. For visitors looking for local attractions to keep them entertained, they need look no further than Basel Zoo, Switzerland’s largest and oldest. Many art museums based here are open to the public and feature a range of traditional and contemporary displays.

BA’s A319 fleet fly multiple times per day to Basel.

British Airways fly four times daily to Basel using their Airbus A319 fleet. Travellers flying with BA will be flying in the Euro Traveller cabin and the airlines lowest economy fare. However for  just £71 per person return, people can’t have any complaints for their cheap getaway to Switzerland. With multiple flights leaving per day, head over to Kayak to pick your prefered flight times.

TOULOUSE, FRANCE:

If ever a city deserved little introduction, it would be Toulouse. Home to Airbus and some of its final assembly lines, avgeeks will feel right at home here. Whether it’s taking a guided tour of the factories and hitting the gift shop afterwards (better leave space in your hand luggage for souvenirs!) or taking in a days spotting eagerly awaiting the latest A350 or brand new A330 NEO to be towed across the airfield, this is a must visit for anyone with even half an interest in aviation!

Aircraft waiting to be delivered at Toulouse (Photo Credit: Airbus).

As reliable as the sky being blue and England being knocked out of a World Cup on penalties (wait a minute…), you can always guarantee easyJet to have low-cost fares waiting to fly willing passengers across Europe. Flying from the Generation easyJet stronghold of London Luton, a return fare can be booked for as little as £67 return! As usual, head on over to the easyJet website to book your next trip!

Orlando, florida, usa:

THE ultimate place for families to visit. Universal studios, Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens and Kennedy Space Centre, these are just a few of the fun filled action packed days out that await you across the Atlantic. With most theme parks offering 14 day tickets for the price of just 7 days, the hardest choice you will have to make will be, where to first?!

Thomas Cook Airlines will be whisking you away to the Sunshine State. Their Airbus A330 will be departing Glasgow as it takes you away on your 14 day vacation. Priced at £460 per person return, many reading this will be thinking that the price is a bit extortionate. Well… If you look at the end of July, flights alone will set you back in the region of £800 per person! Why not head over to Momondo to book, and see for yourself!

MALLORCA, SPAIN:

A stalwart whenever it comes to holiday destinations. Popular and much loved with the British; famed for it’s golden sandy beaches and lively nightlife, Mallorca never fails to leave families flying back home with smiles on their faces. If it’s partying the night away you want, then look no further than Magalluf. Want a relaxed family break? Head up north to Alcudia with its golden stretch of beach that never seems to end!

Primera’s A321 NEOs fly transatlantic from their Stansted base (Photo Credit: Primera).

Regular flyers from Birmingham may have heard the recent news that Primera Air have ceased their BHX long haul operations until 2019. Despite recent negative press, Primera have announced a last-minute summer sale to their remaining short-haul destinations. For £68 round trip, last-minute travellers can be getting away for a whole week before the main school holidays in August. Primera Air flights can be booked here.

 

in next months fare finder:

We’ll find last-minute deals for August!

Boeing Unveils Hypersonic Aircraft

Ever since Concorde landed for the final time in 2003, aviation lovers and passengers alike have long-awaited it’s replacement. Now, Boeing have revealed their concept to the world; a hypersonic aircraft capable of cruising at Mach 5.

Initial reports are suggesting that the as of yet unnamed jet will have a cruising altitude of 95,000 feet, some 30,000 feet higher than Concorde. Current estimates predict that the jet will be able to cross the Atlantic in approximately 2 hours, and flights from Eastern Asia to the West Coast of America could take 3 hours, as opposed to the 10 hours that it currently takes Delta’s Boeing 777s to fly.

First released image of the concept aircraft. (Credit: Boeing).

The plans have received some criticism from environmentalist groups that are concerned what effect this aircraft will have on the Earth’s atmosphere, especially when it comes to the amount of fuel that an aircraft like this would consume. However, the jet isn’t expected to be airborne for another 20 – 30 years, giving Boeing some time to work on a solution that would satisfy its critiques.

Estimated to be smaller in size than a Boeing 737-800, the aircraft will no doubt provide first class service to an elite clientele, much like it’s predecessor Concorde.

Concorde famously flew JFK-LHR in a record 2 Hours, 52 Minutes and 59 Seconds. (Credit: British Airways).

The Chicago based aircraft manufacturer has a record of working towards hypersonic flight, with their experimental X-51 Waverider drone reaching Mach 5 whilst cruising at 70,000 feet back in 2013.

With the supersonic and now hypersonic aircraft market already facing fierce competition from companies such as Boom!, Virgin and even NASA; Boeing will surely be hoping that their concept takes off.

What do you think of the Hypersonic Jet? Is it a good idea? Let us know on social media by using #LondonSpotter!

Primera suspend Birmingham routes

Latvian carrier Primera Air have announced that they will be suspending long haul operations from Birmingham Airport until 2019.

Andri Mar Ingolfsson, Airline CEO, has blamed the cancellation of services on the delayed delivery of long range Airbus A321 NEO aircraft. Primera currently have 2 A321 NEO’s in their fleet, and are currently deployed on routes from London Stansted.

Since their launch, services from Birmingham to Newark have been flown on a Boeing 757 operated by American carrier National Airlines. Many of these flights have been criticised by passengers who have experienced long delays.

The temporary axing of these flights takes effect from June 21st, meaning Toronto services have been suspended before they have even taken off, much like the planned Birmingham to Boston route. All affected passengers are being offered refunds or a transfer onto services from Stansted.

Long range Airbus A321 NEO’s are severely delayed in production and delivery. (Photo: Primera Air)

Primera have stressed that short haul routes to destinations such as Palma de Mallorca and Malaga will not be affected, as these are flown on Boeing 737 aircraft. Long haul flights from Stansted will also remain unaffected.

Anyone who has booked flights with Primera Air should contact the airline’s customer service department by following this link to their website.

Have you been affected by the cancellations? Let us know your views on social media by using the hashtag #LondonSpotter

June 2018 Fare Finder

Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best value airfares for June!

If you’re looking to get away before the kids summer holidays, why not check out some of these cracking deals!

sorrento, italy:

Located to the south of Naples and lying in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento is a great base for any holiday whether you’re travelling as a couple or as a family. This resort still retains it’s traditional charm and many of the local hotels still remain family run. Excursions from Sorrento include tours of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, giving you the chance to explore the remarkably preserved town that was buried in 79 A.D.

Naples is the closest airport, an hours drive north of Sorrento. Many airlines fly into Naples International from the UK, but the cheapest flights we have found for June are departing London Gatwick with Norwegian. 7 days return will cost just £59 per person. Flights can be booked through SkyScanner.

almeria, spain:

This particular Spanish town might not be as popular as others, but that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t as charming. A city steeped in history, and home to the stunning Alcazaba, an ancient Muslim built fortress similar to the Alhambra in nearby Granada. If you move out of the city, you will find unspoilt beaches and coves that offer peace and tranquillity.

Almeria with the Alcazaba in the foreground

Thomas Cook Airlines fly direct into Almeria from a number of airports, with Birmingham being one of these. A one way economy ticket will cost £39 per person. With the successful launch of Economy Plus on short haul flights, why not treat yourself to an upgrade? Book through Thomas Cook Airlines here.

gibraltar:

Often described as Britain in the sun, Gibraltar sits on the southern tip of Spain but still manages to keep it’s unique British charm. The Iconic rock offers extraordinary 360° views, including Africa on a clear day, for anyone that ventures to the top. With the WW2 era tunnels that run deep into the rock open for public exhibition and dolphin cruises available from the marina; you will struggle to find so much to do in such a small space anywhere else in the world!

The Rock as seen from the Airport’s Terminal

Flights from the UK are now only provided by two airlines, one of which being easyJet. Bristol to Gibraltar one way will cost £58 per person. With 10kgs hand luggage allowed, there’s certainly no need to pay the sometimes extortionate checked baggage costs. Compare travel dates and book through Kayak.

thessaloniki, greece:

Did you know that Thessaloniki is Greece’s second most populated city? Often described as a cultural melting pot, this northern Greek city attracts history buffs from all over Europe. Once occupied by the Romans, Byzantines and the Ottomans, there is much to see and explore in this diverse city. When the sun goes down, seafront bars and restaurants become a hive of activity, selling both traditional and modern contemporary dishes.

Thessaloniki Promenade

Recently re branded TUI will fly you from Newcastle to Thessaloniki for a 7 night stay. A return ticket will cost just £89 per person. With such an interesting and alternative destination compared to most, you would be foolish not to be tempted. Flights can be booked through the TUI website.

in next months fare finder:

We look forward to bringing you the best flight deals for July!

 

Thomas Cook Economy Plus A321 Review

Towards the end of 2017, Thomas Cook Airlines announced that they would be launching an Economy Plus service on their short and medium haul services. Traditionally, Premium Economy services are only found on short-haul routes when operated by wide-bodied aircraft; intrigued to see how this would fare on a much smaller Airbus A321, I hopped on board with Thomas Cook from Palma to Birmingham.

When booking my flight, I could have travelled in the main economy cabin for as little as £10.99! The Economy Plus ticket cost £65.99, which I feel was great value for everything that was Included. Any passenger travelling on this fare can check one piece of luggage weighing up to 25kgs, one piece of hand luggage up to 10kgs, a whole host of other extras, including a tasty James Martin Inflight meal and complimentary drinks are packaged together into this exceptional money-saving fare.

The Plus fare includes a wide range of extras for one low price! Credit: Thomas Cook Airlines
MT1249 PALMA DE MALLORCA – BIRMINGHAM:

Having checked in online for my flight, I was able to head straight to security when arriving at the terminal. Access to the Priority Security Lane was included in my ticket and allowed me to quickly head through into the departures hall. After a spot of duty free shopping and a quick bite to eat, I made my way down to the gate and waited for my flight to begin boarding.

When arriving at the gate, myself and my fellow passengers arrived to find that It was still occupied by an easyJet flight to Gatwick. They were awaiting the final passengers to come forward for boarding, but with no sign of them rushing to the gate, it was clear that a delay may be in store. 15 minutes after boarding should of commenced, the screen changed over to a Thomas Cook logo with Birmingham labelled across it.

The gate agent apologised for the delay, and invited priority passengers and families to come forward for boarding. After making my way on board the bus, a short ride took us to a remote stand where our Airbus A321 was waiting. G-TCDE would be flying me back to Brum and after a quick photo, I made my way up the stairs to board. Before reaching my seat, I was greeted by the familiar face of one of my former Monarch colleagues.  Following a brief catch up, I settled into my bulkhead seat, 1A. Before my flight I had used Thomas Cook’s Airshoppen service which allows you to pre order your duty free to be delivered on the flight. This was bought to me at my seat before the doors had even closed.

Boarding G-TCDE

After another short slot delay, we eventually pushed back and departed from Runway 06R. A bumpy climb through the clouds over the Mediterranean kept us seated for slightly longer than usual but eventually the seat belt signs were switched off and Inflight services begun. It was at this point that I encountered my only issue in an otherwise great flight experience. As the meal service began, I found myself not served. As the bar service came through, I ordered myself a Pepsi Max and found myself being asked to pay. I asked the crew member serving me if drinks were complimentary to economy plus passengers, she replied that they were, but that I was a normal economy passenger!

After taking away my boarding pass and booking confirmation email to show the cabin manager. I received a swift apology, my drink and my meal. All Inflight meals served on board Thomas Cook Airlines are designed in co-operation with celebrity chef James Martin. Today’s offering was a Chicken Tikka Masala and coconut rice, accompanied by a Treacle Sponge Pudding with crackers and cheese. The food served was delicious! It’s clear to see why Thomas Cook take pride in working with James Martin and want to push their Inflight Meals as much as possible. For anyone travelling with them in the future, I highly recommend pre purchasing a meal as they are very tasty and great value for money. For anyone that doesn’t, Thomas Cook don’t offer any sandwiches on their bar services so you will be going hungry for the duration of the flight!

The Tikka Masala was a lot tastier than it looked!

After my meal was cleared away, I caught up on some sleep before my arrival back home. Economy Plus doesn’t have a separate cabin on board the Airbus A321, but passengers will find themselves seated in rows 1-4. The seats on board aren’t big and bulky, unlike those that can be found on other airlines flying the A321. I personally found the ones on board very comfortable, lightweight and quite spacious. Being 6” 0’  tall, legroom is normally something I have to struggle with, but not on this flight thanks to my bulkhead seat. With seat selection being complimentary, I made sure that I had the best seat available to me. The overall cabin appearance is well presented, however seeing the drop down IFE screens on an aircraft that is just 4 years old did surprise me.

Old school IFE screens on a 4 year old aircraft!

Our descent into Birmingham began soon after the crew passed through the cabin collecting donations for their partner charity. After arriving onto stand, the worlds best ground handling agency (If you’ve ever flown into Birmingham, you will know that this is me being sarcastic!), Swissport, managed to encounter a problem operating the air bridge. Rather than wait for it to be fixed, disembarkation began at the rear of the aircraft. After a while, the air bridge was reattached to the aircraft, and I was free to make my way home.

summary:

As mentioned before in the article, my experience with Thomas Cook was exceptional. All of the crew on board took genuine pride in being able to deliver a nice experience on board my flight and being able to catch up with an old friend was an unexpected privilege. To find a fare that includes everything you can possible need when flying on a budget carrier for a very low price is quite frankly brilliant. Should I ever be flying out to a leisure destination again and be faced with a choice of flying with the likes of TUI, Jet2 and Thomas Cook, I certainly know who I will be choosing!

 

Want More Airbus A320 Family Reviews? Check Them Out Below!

 

Air Nostrum: Island Hopping

Air Nostrum are a regular sight when flying into or out of the Balearic Islands. Their mixed fleet of Turbo Prop and Jet engine aircraft fly in the colours of Iberia Regional and connect both passengers and cargo to destinations that aren’t always on the beaten track. On my recent trip to Spain, I flew with Air Nostrum between Ibiza and Palma, to experience what life is like on these sometimes essential services.

Always wanting to get the best possible deal, I used Momondo to find the cheapest flight price!

Despite lying only a 40 minute flight away, the islands of Ibiza and Mallorca are a 2 hours away from each other by ferry. With locals having to travel between the two Islands often to see family, for work or to collect essential supplies for everyday life; the air services that are provided are vital to some Island residents.

The ‘retro’ style information boards in Ibiza
ib8111 ibiza – palma de mallorca:

When booking my flight I was supposed to be flying on the Bombardier CRJ1000. Just a few days before my departure however, I received an email from Iberia notifying me of a change to my itinerary. My flight would now be on a ATR 72-500, Operated by Canaryfly for Air Nostrum on behalf of Iberia!

The day of the flight came and I arrived at Ibiza Airport one hour before my departure. With the peak holiday season not yet underway across Europe, I was expecting the airport to be quiet but getting air side in 5 minutes was a surprise to me. With some sections of security closed for refurbishment, I can imagine that there are some delays when the airport is operating at full capacity.

Large sections of Security and the Departures Hall are sectioned off.

With some gift shops and food outlets, I had soon explored all of the departures lounge and was glad to hear that Iberia Flight 8111 was now ready for boarding at Gate 5. The gate agents invited families, passengers requiring special assistance and priority passengers to board first. Then came the turn of any passengers sat in rows 20 – 10, the finally my self and my fellow passengers sat in rows 10 – 1.

As I approached the desk, my mobile boarding pass was scanned and my cabin baggage was tagged to go into the hold as it was too large to be placed into the overhead locker. That’s when the problem started…

The doors to the tarmac are controlled by magnetised locks and a key card access panel. As passengers were boarding the doors were naturally open but they returned to the closed position as the last group of passengers arrived. With her card not working on the panel, the gate agent rang a colleague and explained the situation to them. After a five minute wait, an engineer arrived and after a few seconds pressing buttons on the panel, I got the impression that he had come to the conclusion that the door was broken. After another phone call and wait, the door on the adjoining gate was opened so that we could make our way to the aircraft.

Boarding EC-KRY from the rear steps

As I boarded the 10 year old ATR, I took to seat 3A that I had pre-booked for free when checking in on the Iberia App. Immediately after sitting down, I began the struggle of getting comfortable is this rather cramped seat with very little legroom. The interior for this whole aircraft was dated and certainly showed it’s age. Luckily for me, this flight has an average flying time of just 25 minutes. I wouldn’t have to be uncomfortable for very long.

As we pushed back from the stand just a few minutes behind schedule, the Captain made his introduction in both Spanish and English, and the following safety demonstration was again broadcast in both languages. The short taxi to Runway 24 came to an end, the crew secured the cabin and we began our hop over to Majorca.

These seats have an advertised legroom of 30″. It feels a lot smaller!

Not particularly looking forward to fighting the passenger next to me for the middle arm rest, I moved into row 2 as soon as the seat belt signs were switched off. With both seats being free, I was able to stretch out and settle into the flight. Understandably, no Inflight services are carried out on this flight, although items from the bar are available upon request. Interested in exploring my Inflight entertainment options, I pulled out a fairly worn copy of ‘Ronda‘, the Inflight magazine, after a quick flick through and coming to the conclusion that there were no Hollywood blockbusters to be watched, my headphones went on and I sat looking out the window.

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The approach into Palma was turbulent but soon we were taxiing off of the runway and towards our gate. Coming into this flight I hadn’t expected much, I certainly knew It wouldn’t be comparable to my recent Business Class flight with Qatar. However, as I sat and looked around this dated cabin, I knew that this flight Isn’t operated to make large amounts of money. It is operated almost as a public obligation so that residents of the Balearic Islands can carry on with their day to day lives.

 

Want More Like This?  Check out our Iberia Express review, are they worse than Ryanair?!