I’m not a particularly frequent flier. In fact, aside from a brief job hunting period in 2015 that saw me leaving SEA for a different destination each week for three weeks straight, I haven’t flown on commercial airliners more than twice a year ever. With that in mind, it was an interesting contrast when I booked my Delta Air Lines tickets for PAX South (a video game fan convention) with a route of FSD-MSP-ATL-SAT in economy to get there, and SAT-MSP-FSD in first class on the way home.
My trip planning had been determined by two main factors. The first was that the outbound routing gave me two legs on the MD-90. I love the DC-9 aircraft family, and will happily grab any opportunity to fly on them, particularly as they’re becoming increasingly rare in the fleets of major carriers. The second factor was my returning connection. When I booked my flight, I was only going to have a forty-five-minute layover in Minneapolis. I hoped that booking myself into seat 1A would ensure that I could make my connection, no matter how many terminals apart my two flights were.
Austrian Airlines A321-100 “Pinzgau” – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
Following a five-day trip to Austria, my son and I flew back from Vienna International Airport (VIE) to London Heathrow (LHR) in economy on Austrian Airlines — flight OS455. We had sampled a serious amount of wiener schnitzel over the last few days and that was important; we had to bench test Austrian’s own wiener schnitzel on the way home.
The airline’s slogan is “We fly for your smile,” and we were hoping to find lots of smiles.
We Fly For Your Smile – Austrian Business Lounge reception at Gate F – Photo: Bo Long | AirlineReporter
We arrived at VIE and made directly for Austrian’s short-haul business lounge at Gate F in Terminal 3 — courtesy of the airline. The friendly receptionist found us on her list and gave my son an Austrian branded set of aircraft Mega Trumpf (top trumps) cards – we didn’t even need to fly for his first smile.
I recently had the opportunity to fly Air Transat’s Club Class on their service from Manchester to Vancouver using an Airbus A330-200.
Club Class on Air Transat is more equal to premium economy on other European carriers, or World Traveller Plus on British Airways; it is not a true business class. That said, there are only two rows of seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, the seats sport a 36-inch pitch, and there is a dedicated cabin crew member; all this makes the cabin feel very personal.
From Manchester to Vancouver – Photo: GCMap.com
Although my flight did not depart until mid-day, I arrived very early at the check-in area which turned out to be a mistake. On a Friday morning, Air Transat also has a flight to Toronto that departs an hour before the Vancouver service. This meant that my flight was not yet open. After a 30-minute wait I was ready to check in. Although Club Class has its own desk, passengers still had to join a general melee to be processed and have passports checked by the handling agent’s security personnel. Having overcome this early problem, the rest of the processing was quick and the staff were polite.
A Thomas Cook Airbus A330 taxis by the Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Every few days, I tweet out another installment of my “airline you’ve (probably) never heard of before” series. For many of you reading this, Thomas Cook Airlines probably fits that description. Thomas Cook is not a new airline, or really even that small. But unless you are European and going on holiday, you probably have not come across Thomas Cook as an option before.
That is slowly changing, as Thomas Cook starts its transformation from a primarily holiday booking and charter operation to full-time scheduled airline alongside its sister airline Condor. This is a daunting challenge, nearly as difficult as starting up a new airline from scratch in some regards. The airline reached out to me to give me a look at how they are changing, and offered a review flight in its Premium Class product. My response to them, basically, was “you have a premium class product?” It does, and it is worth a closer look.
The Premium Class cabin on my Thomas Cook A330 – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Before I continue, it’s important to convey that Thomas Cook is not competing with other airlines on a basis of lie-flat seats or posh lounges. What it brings to the table is a specific value proposition. Getting passengers from A to B in relative comfort for the lowest fare possible. The airline is often hundreds of dollars less than its competitors flying between New York and Manchester — the route that I flew.
I wouldn’t blame you if you were to say “save hundreds of dollars? The flight is probably crap, right?” It isn’t. In fact, flying between New York and Manchester, it’s one of the better options. The Thomas Cook intercontinental fleet operates using the Airbus A330, and each aircraft has recently been refurbished. Each A330 sports economy in a 2-4-2 configuration, not the squishy 3-3-3 you might have found in the past. Each seat has its own on-demand entertainment screen, complete with USB port to charge your own device. You won’t find either of those things on a certain U.S.-based airline also operating this route.