Published on June 18th, 2015 | by Jim Lee1
Thomson Airways brings Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ to Dublin
On Wednesday 17th June, Dublin Airport welcomed Thomson Airways 787 ‘Dreamliner’ to celebrate the launch of two long-haul routes to Mexico and Jamaica, direct from Dublin Airport during summer 2016. It gave an opportunity to showcase the aircraft to the travel industry, and appropriately enough, it was G-TUII, the latest arrival to the fleet – only delivered on 29th May – that was tasked for this first visit.
On hand to meet the aircraft was a large gathering of industry and travel trade representatives and many staff from Falcon Holidays, part of the TUI AG group of companies, as is Thomson Airways. There were joined by staff from the DAA and delegations from the Mexican and Jamaican tourist authorities and other VIPs including His Excellency, Carlos Garcia De Alba, Mexican Ambassador to Ireland.
Thomason Airways, is the first UK airline to fly the ‘Dreamliner’ and they will use it to operate on behalf of tour operators, Falcon and Thomson, on the previously announced (see here) direct non stop services from Dublin to Montego Bay in Jamaica and Cancun in Mexico, which will start from 12th/13th June 2016.
TUI Aviation’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Browne and Director of Engineering Jason Mahoney were on board the state of the art aircraft for its inaugural flight to Dublin. It was flown by Thomson Airways’ Managing Director, Captain John Murphy and touched down on an overcast runway 28 at 09:59 and taxied to stand 350C in Terminal 1.
Amongst those present to greet the aircraft and the Thomson Airways personnel was DAA Chief Executive Kevin Toland, who said Dublin Airport was delighted to welcome the ‘Dreamliner’ and was pleased that Falcon, Thomson and Thomson Airways would operate the aircraft next summer. Mr Toland added that the ‘Dreamliner’ has created significant new opportunities for TUI’s brands in the Irish market.
“Thomson’s decision to operate a ‘Dreamliner’ from Dublin Airport brings additional choice into the market and we look forward to working with them to promote these new routes and to expand the company’s overall business at Dublin Airport.”
Chris Logan, Head of Ireland for Falcon and Thomson, said it was a special day to have the 787 ‘Dreamliner’ touch down in Dublin, only two years after Thomson Airways became the first UK airline to operate the revolutionary aircraft. It currently operates nine examples (G-TUIA/B/C/D/E/F/G/H and I), the first of which was delivered on 31st May 2013. The airline has recently unveiled a move to expand its ‘Dreamliner’ fleet with up to four new, larger Boeing 787-9 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, increasing the Thomson Airways fleet to 13 ‘Dreamliners’. The first 787-9 aircraft will arrive in June 2016.
“It is even more special to have the aircraft flown in by Managing Director John Murphy with TUI Aviation’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chris Browne and Director of Engineering Jason Mahoney on board – all of Irish descent.” He said Irish customers will be amazed at the unique look, feel and service of this fabulous new aircraft when the new routes begin next summer. Falcon and Thomson will operate its new charter programme from Dublin with a Thomson Airways Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’, which includes Premium Club.
The service to Montego Bay will begin on 12th June 2016, while the new Cancun service begins on 13th June. Each route will operate weekly for six weeks. Cancun, which is on the coast of the Yucatán peninsula, is one of Mexico’s leading tourist destinations and the gateway to the resorts of the Playa Car and Riviera Maya to the south. Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second largest city and is one of its premier tourist resorts, along with Negril and Ocho Rios. The addition of Mexico and Jamaica means that Dublin Airport will have 20 long-haul destinations next summer, with 17 destinations in the Americas and the Caribbean, two destinations in the Middle East and one destination in Africa.
Speaking at the event, TUI Aviation’s COO Chris Browne, who hails from Strabane in Co Tyrone, spoke of her fondness for the ‘Dreamliner’ and the significant part the aircraft has played in her life and career at TUI Aviation. Known for her love of shopping, the purchase of the ‘Dreamliner’ has had to have been one of her biggest and best shopping sprees to date! Speaking of the decision to launch long haul services from Dublin, she said that “the aim has always been to ensure we offer ‘Dreamliner’ services from different regions across the UK and Ireland so that customers can experience this aircraft from their doorstep”.
Time to experience the Dream
Soon the assembled guests were to be given this opportunity, as a flight, around the country had been arranged, and by 11:15, with the formalities completed, the assembled, staff guests and VIPs were ushered aboard the aircraft. First impression on boarding was the height of the aircraft fuselage and the very large storage containers. The aircraft is configured with 300 seats with 47 in ‘Premium Club’ laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration. Passing through, you can’t but be impressed by the 38” seat pitch, offering great comfort and bigger recline.
I made my way to 15G, an aisle seat in economy, which, although having a relatively standard 32” pitch, the seat design and comfort level made it seem much more than that. There are 253 seats in economy laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration in an attractive blue/grey colour scheme, which was pleasant on the eye, while the Scottish leather on the seats made them particularly comfortable.
Push back was at 11:28, but due to the relatively high level of traffic departures, we took a rather circuitous route via Apron Taxiway 4, Link 4, Mike 1 and onto runway 16, before proceeding to the hold of 28 for takeoff at 11:51. Take off was both smooth and quite and a right turn around Dunboyne took us out over Dunshauglin and on north-westwards past Navan on towards Bailieborough in Cavan. Unfortunately the weather and low cloud prevented us from seeing much, but we continued north-west towards Monaghan, crossing the boarder and tracking towards Derry. Just beyond Derry, we made a left turn and tracked north of Letterkenny, out towards the west coast, before swinging back in towards Achill before heading south-west towards Galway crossing Galway bay to the west of the city, We continued towards Shannon and on past Mallow before making a turn again, before Cork city, tracking north-easterly, towards Dungarvin in Wexford. Throughout most of the flight, we flew at an altitude of 41,000 ft and at a speed of around 500 knots. The final leg took us south of Kilkenny over Carlow the Wicklow Mountains before heading eastwards towards Greystones and out over the sea to position for landing at 28. Touchdown was at 13:17 and by 13:29 we were back on our stand after a fascinating flight lasting just under 1½ hours.
Although it was a full flight, the cabin crew showed considerable skill in managing to deliver a light cabin service with passengers taking the opportunity to freely walk about the cabin. From the flight deck Captain Murphy kept us informed of our progress while the crew demonstrated the mood lighting in the cabin and innovative cabin windows which brighten and darken at the flip of a switch. Many choose to experiment with the in-flight entertainment system which has a wide range of on demand movies, TV channels, music channels, games and a map system all viable on an adequate 9” backseat TV screen.
With a modern aircraft, good cabin service and a good product it is no surprise that Thomson Airways, was named ‘World’s Best Leisure Airline’ at the World Airline Awards, held at Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace at the Paris Airshow on 16th June. This is the fifth year out of six that the airline, which takes more than five million customers on holiday every year, has won this category. Thomson Airways is determined to retain the ‘World’s Best Leisure Airline’ title in the future. Last year, the airline unveiled its five year vision to change the face of holiday flying through new state-of-the-art aircraft, more long-haul destinations and innovative on-board product and service concepts including trialling innovative family booths and duo-seating. This includes delivery of 47 new Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts by 2020. The award was collected by Chris Browne, and Chris Birt, Head of Cabin Service Delivery for Thomson Airways.
Overall, the flight was a fine introduction to the comfort and capabilities of this advanced aircraft and we wish Thomson Airways together with their partners Falcon and Thomson travel all part of the TUI AG group of companies, well in this new venture. For Dublin Airport, which is celebrating its 75th birthday this year, it is a welcome development into the long haul charter market. Dublin currently has flights to 167 destinations. It welcomed almost 22 million passengers in 2014, and has seen passenger numbers increase by 15% in the first five months of this year. Hopefully they can build on this short charter series with either longer duration or further routes.