GLASGOW – I’ve been trying to fly onboard a Boeing 757 for quite a few years now. I’ve recalled it with my parents and I hadn’t when I was younger. My family’s Holiday during Summer was to the Canary Island of Lanzarote.
I was tasked with looking at flights and to my luck, TUI Airways were the cheapest. What made it even better is Glasgow is a 757 base, with one 757 based throughout the year, so my opportunity arose, and I took it with open arms. A win, win for my family as well because TUI was the cheapest option by a considerable margin.
Some TUI Airways Facts
TUI Airways has a fleet of 62 aircraft, with an average age of 8.4 Years. It is the largest charter airline in the world, carrying 11.2 Million Passengers in 2017. This figure makes it the UK’s third-largest airline in terms of passenger numbers. The airline is one of five airlines within the TUI Group, which consists of TUI Airways, TUIfly, TUI Airlines Belgium, TUI Airlines Netherlands and TUIfly Nordic.
We drove up to Glasgow Airport as we had pre-booked our car parking. The whole process was a breeze. Check-in was quite busy, as the flight was fully booked. The queue moved quickly, it wasn’t long until the friendly check-in agents, checked everyone in and issued our boarding passes.
Glasgow Airport security was a breeze, everyone was through within 5 minutes. Today’s flight to Lanzarote is displayed on the massive departures board, just before the walk-through duty-free. Today’s flight number BY1448 was displayed on the board and showed the flight would be departing on time. A quick drink at one of the bars in the departures area, before it was time to head to Gate 27.
Surprisingly, the weather was good which is a rare occurrence in Scotland. It’s easy to get good views everything that’s happening on the apron at Glasgow, so it was nice to watch the plane getting prepared for the flight, whilst waiting to board.
Parked up, after arriving from Dubrovnik an hour before was Boeing 757-236 G-CPEU. Interestingly, this Boeing 757 was delivered to British Airways first, in May 1999, before joining Air 2000 in 2002, which became First Choice, which then merged into Thomsonfly to form Thomson Airways, which has since rebranded to TUI Airways. It’s certainly been through a lot of rebrands, to say the least.
Boarding was fairly quick, all TUI check-in agents were pleasant. The exact same can be said about the flight attendants as we all boarded. The cabin was outdated, but we reserved extra legroom seats for an extra cost and it certainly added to the flight. The older seats were really comfortable, easy to get comfortable in, there was also mood lighting, which added a modern feel the outdated cabin.
I’m over 6 foot so this certainly made a difference the seat pitch in Economy is 31 inches and the extra legroom seats have 34 inches of pitch. There is a total of 27 extra legroom seats onboard TUI’s 757s. The smaller members of the family, my mum and gran had too much pitch, with their legs dangling from the seats, mind you, they are little midgets.
The flight from Glasgow to Lanzarote takes around 4 hours, the captain announced the flight time would be 4 hours and 10 minutes.
An on-time push back, followed by the sound from the two Rolls-Royce RB211s starting up was music to my ears, the best engines ever built in my opinion. Within a few minutes we were taxing to runway 23, which is the runway used around 80% of the year at Glasgow, as most of the year, the winds come from a westerly direction.
Before I knew it, we were lining up on the runway, which was followed by the two RB211s spooling up to full power, for an immediate take-off, the sound was incredible. The takeoff and climb out were smooth, with some stunning views, due to the unusually sunny weather.
Around 10 minutes after Take-off, the pilots switched off the fasten seatbelt sign. Out of my window, I could see Prestwick Airport, which is technically Glasgow’s second airport, located only 30 miles from the city centre. Another 10 minutes passed, as we crossed over the most southerly point of Scotland, the Mull of Galloway, which eventually faded into the distance.
At this point, the cabin crew started their first onboard service. The service was fairly quick, whilst waiting, I continued gazing out the window and could see the Isle of Man in the faint distance. Since I never ate anything at the airport I decided to get something to eat, so did the rest of my family.
TUI, like most leisure carriers, low-cost airlines and charter airlines offer a buy onboard menu. They also offer an online pre-order meal service. I opted for Penne Pasta, with a tomato sauce, a blueberry muffin and to top it off, a can of Irn Bru.
This was part of TUI’s meal deal offer, which includes hot food, a drink and a snack for £6.50. Scottish people like myself can’t get enough of this stuff and TUI airways sell it exclusively on their Scotland flights, I wonder why… The penne pasta tasted good, but I would have preferred a slightly bigger portion. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much. The blueberry muffin also tasted good.
After eating I got stuck into my inflight entertainment, some reading and watching TV shows on my IPad. Around 1 hour before landing, a second snack service commenced, again quick service by the crew. Since the penne pasta didn’t quite fill my appetite, I decided to get a Caesar Salad wrap, which cost £4.00, it tasted great and the portion size was good this time around.
In between the two inflight services, around halfway through the flight, the crew carried out their duty-free service. I decided to Buy the TUI Snuggle kit, their version of a travel kit basically. It came with an eye mask, a blow-up pillow and a blanket. The blanket was really soft and comfortable, whilst the eye mask and pillow were very average for a leisure orientated airline. Despite this, it was £6 well spent as I do still use the blanket from time to time. I also really liked the TUI logo and branding on the snuggle kit.
Around 20 minutes after the second service was cleared, we started our descent into Lanzarote. Eventually, I could see Lanzarote and neighbouring canary island Fuerteventura, whilst on the final approach. The touchdown was smooth and a couple of minutes later we arrived at the gate. Everyone then deboarded quite swiftly and the crew said their goodbyes.
The Return Flight
Before we dropped the hire car off at the airport, my family knew there was a delay. The based 757 at Glasgow, departed 12 hours late to Dubrovnik, which is the aircraft’s first flight of the day on Thursday’s. A backup 757, had to be flown up from London Gatwick to Glasgow, to operate the outbound flight. The delay ended up being two and a half hours.
Lanzarote’s departure lounge was alright, with a few shops and restaurants, plus a Burger King. It was quite dark as well, there were two areas you could go outside and sit as well but they were facing the island’s dormant volcano. Our flight would be the last departure of the day, so everywhere was shut an hour before our departure.
Eventually, we were bused to our plane, which was on a remote stand this time around. The gate queue went down quite fast. This Boeing 757-204, G-BYAY, was the same age as the 757 I flew on board, on the outbound. G-BYAY started it’s life Britannia Airways, which was the original name of TUI Airways back in the day. Like the outbound aircraft, it’s been through a lot of rebrands.
The seats were newer, with the overheat panel area being the same as was the mood lighting. We sat in the same row but on the opposite side this time around. Same story again with the legroom.
It turns out there’s a takeoff curfew at Lanzarote, all flights are suspended between midnight at 6 am in the morning, every day. The crew were eager to depart, as soon as all the passengers were on board, the doors were closed, followed by some more music from the RB211s. We departed Lanzarote at 11:59 pm, a minute before the curfew. The takeoff was fast and the Island quickly disappeared as we passed through the clouds.
Within 20 minutes we were at our cruising altitude. The pilots then announced we were getting a fast track, cutting down our flight time by around 20 minutes, and we were going to fly a little faster since the skies were pretty quiet.
Shortly afterwards, the crew commenced with swift onboard service. I went for a little midnight snack, a Chicken Caesar Salad, a bottle of water and a can of Irn Bru. This all cost £7, which was reasonable enough. The wrap was just like the outbound flight and tasted great and Irn Bru is Irn Bru, nothing comes close to it.
After I ate, I decided to watch some TV Shows and a film on my Ipad. Started off with a couple of family guy episodes, before watching a film. The cabin lights were dimmed, most passengers apart from handful stayed awake the entire flight. I was one of them, whilst the rest of my family had a few hours sleep.
On the newer seats, the safety card, menu and inflight seats were in a pocket near the top of the seat, which could also be used as an iPad/Tablet holder as well. The routing back to Glasgow was practically the same as the outbound flight. The flight went in quite quickly actually before I knew it we were 40 minutes from landing and I could see Dublin from my side all lit up.
During the descent, the sun was starting to rise and oh my, what a sunrise it was. The overall approach and landing were absolutely stunning, with the sun a very fiery orange. Definitely one of the best sunrises I’ve witnessed. Since we were able to go a little faster, our flight time was 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Oddly enough back home was warmed than Lanzarote, as when we were away it was the warmest week of the year, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees across most of the country. A number of all-time temperature records were broken during the week as well.
Around 30 minutes before landing, I took a cabin photo, which I usually tend to do, one of the cabin crew spotted and asked me what I was doing. Unknown to me earlier, they noticed me filming the takeoff, basically coming to the conclusion I’m an enthusiast. She asked if I would like a visit to the cockpit and I said yes.
The Boeing 757 cockpit is quite narrow with a step down to get to the seat. The cockpit itself really is a piece of history, very retro compared to the latest generation of aircraft, the Airbus A350XWB and Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It was like a step into the past, the only modern thing in the cockpit was the Ipads, that the crew used for charts. Yes, there were some screens on the aircraft, but a lot of it was analogue and dials, a step back into the 80s fur sure.
I’m really grateful for the crew asking me about a cockpit visit, as to be honest, I was shattered at this pointed and wanted to dive into my bed. I got chatting to the Captain who said TUI Airways are planning to withdraw their Boeing 757s around 2021/2022, but this has been changing a lot. He also said the crew were then positioning back down to London Gatwick in an hour. I felt a bit sorry for them, as it must have been a struggle, a positioning flight and two 4 hour sectors is a lot.
After chatting for about 10 more minutes and taking a number of photos and videos, I deboarded and thanked the crew, who were great, throughout the entire flight. It was literally a mirror of the outbound, the service was identical. If I’m being completely honest I actually preferred the flight home.
Overall, I was impressed with TUI Airways. Two great flights, comfortable seats, friendly crew, speedy service, pretty much everything I expected were ticked. I would go as far and say the crew went above and beyond, especially on the return flight. If there was something I would be picky about, it would the onboard menu. I wouldn’t mind a few more food and drink options, but not too many so I can actually make my mind up.
I would definitely book to fly with TUI Airways again, especially on a longer flight with Europe, maybe even back to the Canary Islands. Even if TUI Airways cost a little extra I would happily pay the price, as I know their onboard service and flight experience will be consistent.
The MAX Situation
Since taking the flight in Summer 2018, the Glasgow base was to undergo some changes, with a second aircraft being brought back. The Boeing 757 was supposed to be swapped for a single Boeing 737-800, before changing to two Boeing 737 MAX 8s, in May 2019. The last Boeing 757-200 flight operated from Glasgow at the end of February 2019, a few weeks before the worldwide grounding of the type.
The Glasgow base now has a second based aircraft and the 757 has been reinstated at the base for the time being. The final retirement date of the type has probably been extended for the foreseeable future, as no one knows exactly when the Boeing 737 MAX will fly again.