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.
KLM 737-900 (PH-BXT) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, ready to take us to Prague, with a 737-700 (PH-BGW) taxiing behind
Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij is not exactly a household name in most of the world, but its initials “KLM” and sky blue branding and livery are easily recognizable. I had a quick visit to Amsterdam before moving on to Prague this past spring, so flying on the national carrier of The Netherlands out of its homebase was the most obvious choice.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, the European concept of business class (some better service, but the same seat as in economy, just with the middle seat blocked) is never worth it on personal trips, especially for a short flight blocked for 90 minutes gate-to-gate. Addtionally, flying KLM (being a member of SkyTeam) meant flying outside my alliance, so no priority anything nor lounge access.
What could possibly go wrong?!
A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER taxis for departure at Sydney – Photo: Rory Delaney
It has been over eight years since my last Singapore Airlines (SQ) flight. I have always had a great fondness for SQ; after all, it was the first airline I traveled on internationally when I was just four years old, going from Australia to Europe. Even when I flew them eight years ago, they were still in my opinion the carrier to beat in economy class. With much excitement and anticipation, I booked my next series of flights with Singapore Airlines, as they turned out to be the cheapest and most convenient option for a recent work trip to Southeast Asia. I was curious to see if they were still able to deliver a class-leading product in economy class, even with the ever increasing threat of competition from the three large Middle Eastern carriers.
I ended up taking four flights for my trip, but I will focus on the first flight I took from Munich to Singapore. This flight left the strongest impression on me, and the fact that there were only about 80 passengers in economy class made for a very comfortable flight.
Turkish Airlines economy cabin in a 777-300ER
Just recently I wrote about my business class experience from Chicago to Istanbul. After just two full days on the ground in beautiful and historic Istanbul, it was time to head home. I was still beaming from the “wow factor” I had on the nine-hour flight in, and had high hopes that I might secure a battlefield upgrade for a second time. Sadly, fate was not in my favor and I would be taking the eleven-hour transatlantic trek in the second-to-last row of an almost full 777-300ER. Bad news for me, good news for our editors, and you, our loyal readers. You want more economy class reviews? You got it!