Flying with Thomas Cook Airlines Nordics’ Airbus A321 to Gambia

Just a short review of our trip with Thomas Cook Nordic from Stockholm to Banjul, Gambia via Las Palmas in their Airbus A321 (booked trough Swedish tour compamy Ving).

When previously flying to Cape Verde with Thomas Cook Airlines, they put us in their large twin aisle A330 aircraft. Hence, I was a little surprised when we booked a trip to Gambia, which is about the same distance, but for this trip the much smaller single aisle A321 is used. Unlike the larger aircrafts, there’s only economy class onboard, but you can “upgrade yourself” with extras such as seat pairs, fancier meals and proper champagne to make the trip a bit more bearable.

Seat pairs

To get some extra privacy we pre-booked one of four seat pairs (rows 10 and 24) for about 500 sek for two, one way. The problem with these seats though is that you are right in front of the emergency exits, meaning no window, and that you, when seated on the right hand side also sits next to the crew seat. That is not a great concern, but it means that the crew will slam down next to you the few seconds before take off our landing.

Crowded for such a long flight

The plane, since not really intended for such a long flight as Stockholm-Banjul (about 9 hours), feels quite crammed. There are four lavatories – one in the front and three in the back. And since it’s a “charter” flight, people tend to drink quite a lot, and hence there’s usually a line, especially in the front.

Thomas Cook Airlines Onboard Menu

I usually like to read onboard menus before traveling, must like because I’m a total geek. But if you’re like me: here you are.

Food onboard

We opted to upgrade to a ‘Royal Meal Meat’ which is 295 sek per person. It is quite steep, but then a drink of choice (except champagne) is included, so in the end it is 130 sek (€14) more than a regular meal and a beverage – in my mind it was worth it. The Royal Meal came on a tray with ‘real’ porcelain bowls and plates, and all dishes were served at the same time. First up was a Swedish Skagenröra, meaning a shrimp, dill and mayo salad, and some sliced salmon. Both were surprisingly good, especially the shrimp salad. Warm bread was also served. Second was a “grilled”, it actually had decent charr marks, beef fillet served with green peppercorn sauce and potato gratin. As usual, the meat was quite cremated, but flavours were good. After that was a few slices of nice quality cheese, crackers and a few pieces of fruit (grapes and dried apricota). Finally a square of a really nice mint-chocolate cake that would’ve been yummy even outside of a plane. This was washed down with Nicolas Feuilatte champagne (90 sek) and Wooly Sheep Pinot Noir from New Zealand (60 sek). Credit to Thomas Cook for providing decent wine onboard!

On the shorter leg to and from Banjul, a small complimentary meal was served. Bread, pastrami and coleslaw on the way to Banjul. Pasta salad, salmon and bread on the way from.

Las Palmas Stop

Since the plane is so small, it has to land on Gran Canaria for refueling, adding about two hours to the trip. On the way there, we just sat around in the plane while refueling. On the return flight however, we had to de-board, go through passport control and security check before reboarding. As I understood it though, this was an exception due to planned service of the plane we arrived in. We kept our seats as it was the same plane model but obviously had to remove all our stuff from the plane.

Did we survive?

All in all, the flight to The Gambia was pretty much a breeze since it’s during daytime. We brought and Ipad, ate our upgraded meals and drank champagne. The return was worse though as the plane is tiny and you fly home at night, meaning you’d probably want to sleep. It was nearly impossible to find a surviveable sleeping position (and I’m not a tall person). Since we had the crew seat next to us, there was no window to lean on either for extra support. But, it is still about 8 hours of flying in total, so of course we survived, and it was absolutely worth it to visit amazing Gambia.

Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class (sort of a review)

Just got back from our trip to Cape Verde. We traveled there with Swedish tour operator Ving, which is part of Thomas Cook Northern Europe. Hence, we flew with Thomas Cook Airlines for our 7 hour trip (actually 6 hours, 40 minutes) to Cape Verde.

I will write more about the actual Cape Verde trip (and the food) in a separate post. UPDATE: Here it is – a guide to what to eat in Sal’s Santa Maria.

Anyway, as the cost for upgrading to Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class was quite affordable (600 kr or about €60) return, we opted to go for it. What it gave us was basically another 10 cms of space and our own front of the plane-cabin. Otherwise food, personal tv screens and service was the same as regular economy. So this “review” pretty much covers that as well, for the interested.

The whole plane, an Airbus A330-300 felt quite new and clean. The personal screens were HD and was one of the best I’ve seen on any flight. You had to pay to access movies (35 kr/sek) and some of the other content. However using the inflight map, listening to music and viewing some of the other content was free. You could also plug in your own headphones and charge your USB-device through the screen which in my mind is a huge plus.

dsc_0043 dsc_0047

Food and drink
I eavesdropped to a conversation about the food between one of my fellow passengers and one of the flight attendants. Apparently Swedish pre-fab food company Dafgårds handles the inflight food catering for Thomas Cook Scandinavia. The food was quite good for being on a plane actually. Everyone was served the same dish which on the outbound trip was chicken salad followed by pannbiffar (Swedish burger patties) with peppercorn-cream sauce and mash as well as a standard airplane dessert. Warm, really fresh (best on a plane I’ve had I think) bread was also served. On the return we had Skagen mix (it’s supposed to be shrimps in mayo – this was more likely surimi or something similarly awful), followed by a really (for an airplane) tasty beef stroganoff. The finale was a tasty but very sweet chocolate mousse.

Drinks were sold, and you could get a small bottle of Pommery Champagne for 90 kr, or a glass of nice New Zealand Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc (3 Wooly sheep) for 65 kr. There was also a less expensive wine as well as a couple of drink packages. We opted for the “Bon Voyage” with one bottle of Pommery Champagne, one bottle of whatever wine you prefered as well as snacks and water for 150 sek.

This meant we got pretty much a Intra-Europe business class experience (with more legroom) at the cost of roughly 1000 kr or €100 extra per person. It was surprisingly nice to be honest and for a total of almost 14 hours in the air, quite a bargain according to me. Now they just need to install wifi, and I’d be thrilled to fly Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class again. 🙂