Myt332 From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 9112 posts, RR: 70 Posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 5 days ago) and read 13142 times:
Charter airlines and the package holiday. They’re something that ooze British values and sum up our way of life pretty well but thanks to a saturated market of low cost carriers, they’ve been on a bit of a decline as of late. Of course you can make fun of these holidays to the sun, hell knows I do but from time to time I also find myself on one them and this was one of those times.
Antalya, Turkey; much loved destination of many Europeans and at the end of January there were bargains to be had. A family member who works for Thomas Cook found our holiday which was selling at just £210 for a week all inclusive in a 5* hotel and leaving in early February. The hotel was allocated on arrival but it was preferable to staying at home. The cheap prices worked out at just £30 per day for the hotel, food and drinks and then squeeze into that the cost of 9 hours flying on a B757-300 which would take us there and back. It’s not bad at all.
The outbound flight was leaving at 0835 so this meant being up a lot earlier than usual at 0430. The taxi was booked for 30 minutes later which after picking up some other family members from my village made its way to Manchester Airport, arriving just before 0600. It was winter so it was dark outside, not to mention cold, as we unloaded our luggage outside Terminal 1. We made sure the taxi driver had our return flight details as we headed inside and to the left over towards the dedicated Thomas Cook check in area. The desks were manned well enough so that there was a waiting empty desk for us to use. This made things a lot easier since we had young children with us but of course, the desks aren’t always so pleasant!
Our seats together as a family were arranged when we booked so there was no hassle trying to get us all together. The whole check-in process took some time since there were seven of us but after a while we were making our way through security and into the T1 departure lounge. I don’t mind the lounge when I’m travelling alone as I’ll go to the bar area which suits me fine but there does seem to be a general lack of seating for groups which can get annoying. Seats with a view anyway. However, we did get some window seats luckily enough and I went and got myself a bacon Panini from Est Bar Est as I was starved.
At roughly 0745 our flight was told to go to gate although my grandparents and mother didn’t want to move since it was too early they said. They always do this so I went off with my dad and younger brother and sister and happily pre-boarded ourselves! It’s a bit of a perk and I’m not going to pass it up, it’s not like we need to go on first but it’s a lot easier if you do I’m sure you’ll agree.
I thought I would be sitting quite far back considering I was in 28A but as it turns out, I was mid way over the wing, they sure do pack them in on these things with 28” seat pitch. Apart from that the overall cabin was quite nice since it was one of the later 757’s to be built. I gave Dazultra a quick call when I’d taken my seat to see how he was doing as he had agreed to go to 24L and shoot a few photos of my departure. It was 0810 when I’d gotten onboard and he was just about to leave his house. I was worried he wasn’t going to make it on time but as ever we got delayed, this time thanks to a technical fault with the aircraft.
The problem was rectified fair quickly and we pushed back from Gate 22 at 0845 onto taxiway Mike and began our taxi to runway 24L.
Taxiing past a TCX and MYT332.
We arrived on taxiway Victor on the south side of the airfield at 0905 as there was a fair amount of traffic this time of morning. I turned my phone back on at this point to see if Daz had replied to an earlier txt I’d sent him. He was apparently in position at what is know as the rotation point about a mile away and could see us in the queue. We txt each other a few jokes about pushing in front as apparently he was a bit cold and tired of waiting!
At the southside of the airfield in the departure queue.
We finally got our turn after a brief wait at VB1 and at 0910 taxied into position and held for the departing traffic. I took this last opportunity to quickly write a txt to Daz saying, “I’m a coming to get you!” or something stupid to that effect, then sent it and turned my phone off. A few seconds later we started our takeoff roll and whilst it was a 757 it was just a bit lacking thanks to all the extra weight it carries being a 300 series!
After around 35 seconds we started to rotate and I stuck my hand up to the window and waved to Daz as I went, near enough, flying by. I briefly managed to see the blur that was Daz and couldn’t help but feel bad as I left him standing in that wet and cold field as I headed off to sunny Asia! Being the trooper that he is though he continued to take photos until we were out of range of his lens, the last photo below showing us after turning right on the HON1Y sid.
Here's my flight coming down 24L.
You can see my hand here.
Off we go.
Smokey engines on our initial climb.
Following the HON1Y SID
The flight was pretty standard but Thomas Cook have a good standard so it wasn’t too bad. We hooked a left over the M6 at Knutsford Services, reached TABLY and levelled out pointing straight towards HON which was 62 miles away. The flight climbed up through the cloud that was blanketing most of the country and the IFE got switched on. I wasn’t too much in the mood for watching the film so I did my usual trick and listened to the radio.
Through the clouds on our climb towards Birmingham.
Breakfast was brought around for those who had ordered it; of course we had as it was a fairly long flight. It was your typical reheated full English type with sausage, scrambled egg, bacon, mushrooms and the tomato that always gets left. There was the bread roll with preserves and a cup for tea/coffee as well as some fresh orange juice. It really was quite edible and I won’t complain about it. The tea and coffee was served although I passed on it and just went for water per usual.
The whole of mainland Europe now appeared to be covered in a thick white cover of cloud so I had no idea where we were and only knew we were at FL330 thanks to the captain’s announcement prior to leaving MAN. I figured then I’d get some sleep since I’d been up early so after the trays were cleared away I hit recline and tried to get a bit of sleep. I find that on a charter aircraft this can be a bit difficult but if you take your shoes off you can normally manage to just about fully stretch out under the seat in front of you. It’s a skill that takes a while to master but if you do it then you’ll find yourself flying to more obscure charter destinations more often.
Cruising at 33,000 ft over Europe.
When I finally woke up I found most of the people around me were asleep which was irritating as I wanted to ask where we were, maybe they’d know. I figured then I’d work it out like I used to when I was a kid by seeing what time it was now, seeing what time we left and how long the flight was scheduled. I’d then roughly divide up the map from the in-flight magazine and voila, you’d get a very rough idea of where you were. It does work in a basic fashion before you start laughing at me!
Soon after that I noticed a contrail ahead in the distance that was running pretty much parallel to us so I grabbed my 300D and changed to a bigger lens. The plane was higher than us and got steadily closer until it became apparent it was an Austrian A320. We sat near enough side by side for about ten minutes as we casually undertook it.
You can make out what it is just about.
It came closer which was handy.
Soon after another contrail was spotted heading towards us, this time it was coming from behind and heading slightly to our right. In soon turned out to be a BA B763 heading from LHR-LCA. I got a few shots as she passed over head on her course further south.
The BA B767-300ER on it's way to Cyprus.
A bar service was passed around about 1.5 hours prior to landing and since it was midday now, I got a beer. The remainder of the flight passed fairly quickly as you can imagine. We made a shallow descent into Antalya and touchdown after a light shower had passed over the airport. This wasn’t my first time to this region of Turkey, it was in fact my third visit but funnily enough this was my first time seeing the airport in daylight so it was still somewhat new to me I guess.
My previous flights to the airport were in 1999 with Flying Colours and in 2000 with JMC. An interesting piece of trivia is that both those airlines are what make up today’s Thomas Cook airlines. The previous flights were as follows:
MAN-AYT, Flying Colours, A320-200, June 1999, G-BXKD
AYT-MAN, Flying Colours, A320-200, June 1999, G-BXKB
MAN-AYT, JMC Air, A320-200, April 2000, G-BVYA
AYT-MAN, JMC Air, A320-200, April 2000, G-CVYG
So this was my first time visiting for 70 months, quite a while.
Once on stand we all headed toward towards passport control but first had to pay for our entrance visa into the country which still stands at £10 Sterling. You get a little sticker in your passport from a guy in a booth to acknowledge you’ve paid before you can head off to passport control for your stamp and then finally baggage reclaim.
We collected our baggage after a brief wait and we were soon on the transfer coach to our hotel although as per the tradition in Turkey our luggage followed behind us in a van even though the couch could easily have taken it. Bizarre!
The next week comprised of doing largely sod all which is just how I like it sometimes. We took full advantage of the hotel bar with me drinking gallons of Efes and a bottle or two of vodka. All Inclusive hotels may not have the best named spirits; the whiskey was an absolute mess making Bells look nice but the vodka was ok and the local beer in these places I normally find palatable.
The resort we stayed at, Belek, is a popular place with golfers. Surrounded by a pine forest it apparently offers a few golf courses. There is also an influx of low level apartments being built to accommodate for overseas buyers when Turkey joins the EU. It was also very interesting to note that most of the cars in the area carried EU style registration plates, part of the first stage if integration I assume.
The hotel we stayed at was the Atlantis and it has wild ideas of being a 5* but I’d place it as a 3* plus at best. Sure it was nice but the level of service wasn’t there, although there is scope for it to be I’d say.
We took a few trips too, you know to take in the culture and the rest of it? We visited a village called Kadriye one day which was just down the road from Belek, it was an experience. February is hardly peak season but regardless the shop keepers were all at work or rather were sitting patiently waiting for a customer. They saw me and the family walking down the street and each took their turn at trying to sell the entire contents of their shops. Handbags, rugs, belts, cheap plastic toys from Taiwan? No thank you, I don’t want it! Suffice to say we didn’t spend too long in the village and left soon after taking a taxi back to the hotel.
Now the taxis in this region of Turkey are slightly unusual in the sense that me and my brother were made to sit on the boot of the five seat taxi on two wooden stools. It was interesting I’ll admit.
Me and my brother in the back.
On another weekday we also went and visited the city of Antalya considering the fact we hadn’t actually ever been there except to use the airport. It’s a busy city, a nice place to walk around and has its own charms. We arranged a price with the taxi driver to take us the 70km there and back for £15 which was good for seven people. Sadly I made the journey sat on the stool in the boot so when I arrived I was a bit sore!
There was surprisingly few English in the city which made for an interesting experience. A man who was about six foot tall, in his mid twenties, well groomed and dressed in a suit had noticed us when we arrived in the city centre and started talking to us. My dad was the only person who trusted this guy, the rest of us thought he was a conman and wanted to get rid of him. However, he became our tour guide and as it turned out, it wasn’t so bad. He wasn’t even Turkish; he was from the city of Baku in Azerbaijan but was living in Antalya to make money for his family. It’s just unbelievable how some things in life turn out. It’s these types of things that make me love travelling; you just couldn’t think it up.
So this guy showed us around the city, taking us to the old town, taking us to places you wouldn’t normally find and it was great. We visited a small café which overlooked the bay with a backdrop of the mountains behind. We drank Efes and watched the world go by, the Turkish world that is, it was great. We were the odd ones out here.
The old town in Antalya.
Some rugged coast.
Mountains in the distance
Walking through a public park.
The thing that makes this story even better and kind of restores your faith in humanity is that when we went to leave the city my dad went to give the guy some money, as a thank you. He didn’t want it though and gave it us back; he just said it was his pleasure and a privilege to show us his new city. It was bizarre at the time, still is bizarre now but it just goes to show that we can be too cynical at times.
A week was spent down in Turkey and it was a good time I have to admit. Embarrassing as it maybe be but for the first time I read a novel to the end and through intoxication and the wonders of GPRS, I made up with a friend. We have Efes to thank for that!
Turkish style isn't so bad but the lime green isn't a great look!
The beach, 22C and snow topped mountains in the background.
The beach is a bit empty in winter.
Now that is winer sun.
On Valentines Day 2006 our coach turned up outside the hotel and we left for the airport. We arrived just ahead of the other coaches from various resorts around Antalya that were bringing all the passengers back for the flight home. There was a slow and tedious queue to check in but it didn’t faze me nor did it anybody else apparently.
The check in area was clad in marble and well ventilated with air-conditioning. There were four check in desks nicely spread out for our flight whilst down in the corner was another flight checking in. It was quite calm and relaxed; a nice atmosphere to end the week with. When we finally got to the front of the queue I handed over the paper tickets and all seven passports, took a step back with my luggage lined up for the belt and watched the Turkish agent get to work. It all went smoothly and I requested an extra luggage tag for the pram to take to the gate.
Upstairs and through security we went and we got our exit stamp from passport control. We took some seats by the windows whilst we waited for the inbound aircraft to land. As I sat down I noticed sat across from me was two familiar faces which only turned out to be family; my uncle’s mother and father in law! Damn it, I hate the guys and we had to make conversation with them now. The worst thing of course was that they were on our flight back and apparently were on the outbound flight too but thankfully we had avoided each other.
I finally managed to shake these over friendly people off and went for a walk around the departures lounge although not much had changed in the six years I had been away. There was still the purpose built circular hole that looked down into arrivals where a piano gently played. The Thomas Cook flight from Newcastle soon landed and I watched as 230 Geordies walked underneath me, heading to pay their £10 Visa entrance fee. That was me a week a go.
Burger King was still there, it was fairly busy and I was fairly hungry but I had no money. I tried finding a cash machine but to no avail. Whilst I was searching I did however find an executive lounge on an upper level that ran down the centre of the terminal. I went up and had a look, there was a young woman on the desk but her English was worse than my Turkish so she quickly came back with a guy whose English matched my Turkish. It really was no use, BK just wasn’t meant to be!
In my seat back by the window I watched as G-FCLI, whom I once flew to FUE, pushed back and headed back to NCL. After she had left an aircraft soon landed, it was long and thin and had a globe on the tail, who could this be?
The aircraft, the same one as the week previous, had landed within ten minutes of schedule. When they were ready priority boarding was given to families with young children so that meant us again. We boarded the aircraft via door 1L as the air bridge was double fingered and we took our seats in rows 8 and 9. There seemed less leg room up in the front cabin although maybe it was just me?
G-JMAA on stand at Antalya.
We pushed twenty five minutes behind schedule just as a company A320 was taxiing on to stand after arrival as TCX 066K from LGW. It was funny to see this aircraft here as she was the one that first brought me to Antalya in 1999 when she was flying for Flying Colours; see above. Incidentally she was also the A320 that lost one of its nose gear tyres after departure from LGW the other year but that’s not too relevant!
G-BXKD arrives from London Gatwick.
We headed out to Runway 18R which is the shorter of the two runways at 9,809ft compared to 18L which is 11,154ft. After departure we headed out over to the sea before turning a full 180 degrees which took us north and parallel to the airport.
In a right turn after departure.
Coming back towards the airport.
Antalya is a farely big airport.
We climbed up to FL340 and turned North West to head back home. It really was quite amazing to be passing over high snow topped mountains after such little time from departure. However, the bar service was brought around and I got a beer, Kronenbourg 1664, that warmed me up inside!
Passing over central Turkey.
End of the first beer.
The in-flight entertainment was showing fairly soon, I tried to get into what ever film was showing but gave it up as a bad job in the end. I can’t even recall what it was, that’s how good it was. The meal was soon passed out; I really was hungry by this point! It was some sort of chicken dish, pretty good for an airline.
Now back in February there was a user that posted a lot, does anybody here remember Orion737 and his constant ramblings about boiled sweets and free tea and coffee? Do you also remember his post about a TCX A320 that had one toilet that wasn’t working as if it was the end of the world? Well if you do then that’s good because it seems my B753 was also suffering the fate, shock horror! I took a photo for him but sadly he isn’t around anymore.
Out of service toilet.
Despite that the flight continued just fine even though we were a little late. A second bar service showed its head as we passed over a white, wintry Europe getting closer to the UK.
I decided to take a photo of the cabin from where I was seated which also happened to include the cute flight attendant that I’d been keeping an eye on for the past 4 hours. Wouldn’t you know it?
Front cabin of the B753.
Near the end of the flight.
After I finished my beer the Duty Free sales was passed through the cabin followed by a cabin cleanup by the crew. The sun had well and truly set by the point as we began our descent, apparently overhead Hemel Hempstead, for Manchester. We passed over the Pennines, going in and our of low cloud cover before turning for the ILS of Runway 24R. The skies over Manchester itself were nice and clear so I got a few shots as we headed in.
Manchester at night.
The M60 in Stockport
We touched down and vacated the runway 4 hours and 26 minutes after we took off from Antalya and over 5 hours since we boarded the aircraft; I was looking forward to getting off now, my legs couldn’t take much more! Thankfully we were sat just in front of the exit and fairly soon we were back in Terminal 1 and headed through passport control to baggage reclaim.
All in all I can say I had a pretty good experience with Thomas Cook. The onboard product they offer is comparable and better in some areas to other established charter airlines. From booking the holiday to check-in, takeoff to hotel transfer and back again there is excellent brand recognition and customer service. Maybe this is the influence of their efficient German owners, Lufthansa and Karstadt? It’s a complex set up but it seems to be the trend at the moment in Europe. TUI and MyTravel come to mind.
In all honesty I wouldn’t hesitate to go with Thomas Cook again; charter airlines have a stigma that isn’t always justified. If you know what to expect then you’ll be alright; I hope what I’ve written here does go to help somebody somewhere. Anybody can take a schedule flight to the usual destinations but not everybody gets to see the more obscure places out there and that may be through snobbery or ignorance but whatever it is I feel it’s somewhat a shame. Just give it a chance and you may be pleasantly surprised. Then again….
Jamman From United Kingdom, joined May 2007, 142 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 12751 times:
Great report there, been a while since I've been on a charter but looks like nothings changed, their still packin them in!
Did you take any photos of T1 past security? its been a while since I've been in there.
TurkishWings From United States of America, joined May 2006, 1441 posts, RR: 8
Reply 7, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 12629 times:
Great report and pictures man!!
It's funny how you describe Antalya as "Asia". Does Thomas Cook sell it as an Asian destination?
As for your "taxi" experience: Those taxis are especially designed for groups of tourists who prefer to take 1 taxi instead of two. It has a seating capacity of 4 pax just like any other taxi. So don't complain about it
Quoting Myt332 (Thread starter): We climbed up to FL340 and turned North West to head back home. It really was quite amazing to be passing over high snow topped mountains after such little time from departure
AYT is one of the few destinations in the world where you can ski half an hour after you swim in the sea
Myt332 From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 9112 posts, RR: 70
Reply 8, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 12595 times:
Quoting Buck3y3nut (Reply 4): May I ask which camera you have used to capture these amazing pictures?
I use the Canon 300D with 18-55mm lens for the close ups and the 75-300mm lens for the longer ones. It does me fine, I can just about use it after 2 years but there are better models and lens' out there these days. Still, I'm happy and apparently so are you, cheers!
Quoting Jamman (Reply 6): Did you take any photos of T1 past security?
I don't sorry but it's changed quite a bit in recent years. It's nice and all but the majority of seats don't look out over the apron; where's the fun in that!
Quoting TurkishWings (Reply 7): It's funny how you describe Antalya as "Asia". Does Thomas Cook sell it as an Asian destination?
Well they advertise it as a winter and summer sun destination just like any other place within a 5 hour radius of the UK. Calling it Asia wasn't derogatory, just me being sensationalist if you will. It's a good place to visit.
Quoting TurkishWings (Reply 7): It has a seating capacity of 4 pax just like any other taxi. So don't complain about it
Well the was 8 of us in total. It was fun, I just had a bit of a numb backside when I got out! I'd say it was more pleasant than a dolmus I took in Yalikavac once. There were live chickens flapping about on that!