TUI has usually been our go-to choice for our Disney World trips, mainly because they fly from Bristol which is our closest airport. We were happy to know that earlier this year they announced they'll be flying a second plane a week from Bristol so there'll be a little more flexibility on what day of the week we choose to go out there. Sadly, that good news was offset by the announcement that starting in 2022, TUI will stop flying to Sanford International Airport (29 miles from Walt Disney World) and start flying to Orlando Melbourne International Airport (80 miles from Walt Disney World). While this chance may not bother a lot of people (I'm sure TUI are smart enough not to make these changes knowing nobody will fly with them again), it's somewhat bothersome for us as we don't drive and use a transfer service, which with TUI we do not enjoy, and this will add an extra hour or so to that to an already long journey. That being said, let's get started.
The Flight Out
We flew from Bristol and upgraded to premium economy on the 787 Dreamliner. I'm quite tall at just over 6 foot, and have no issue with even economy leg room. I've flown Thomas Cook a few times in the past in economy with no real issues, so the Dreamliner premium economy legroom was plentiful. Although, it's only plentiful if the person in front does not put their seat back, which happened on the way back which I'll get into shortly.
If you've used the Dreamliner before, you'll know the benefits. Better air cabin pressure, mood lighting, quieter engines, bigger windows and more. While overall the Dreamliner is better is some regards, it's not perfect. The in-flight entertainment system is quite poor. Seeing as the Dreamliner fleet are still in the early stages of their life cycles, it's very slow - painfully slow at times. There were two other customers in my area where their screens were not working at all. The flight crew had to reset them over 5 times to get them to work - which took an hour.
The flight crew were pleasant, and it was a relaxing flight overall to Orlando. When we landed, we got through security pretty quickly, as there were no other flights coming in at that time. We grabbed our luggage and headed towards the coaches. We were greeted by a couple happy American TUI reps and got directed to our coach. About 20 minutes go by and the coach is almost filled up. At that point, nobody else was coming onboard, and the driver was stood outside smoking all the cigarettes he could before the haul. Another 20 minutes go by, and nobody else has come aboard, yet we're still here. It wasn't until an hour had past (40 mins after everyone was on board) until a TUI rep arrived. Perhaps I'm just spoiled by the efficiency of the Magical Express, but this seemed to have taken a long time, which feels even longer after a long flight and you just want to go moving. When the rep came on board, she was nice and friendly, and then started talking to us about what the journey will entail. However, for some reason didn't want to do this while we were moving, as she didn't instruct the bus driver to leave until after she stopped talking.
While there is a fine line between up-selling and being helpful, I'm not sure what side TUI is on here. Getting told how good the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party is at the same time being told to buy the tickets through TUI got my eyes rolling a little. However, as a Disney regular, I didn't need it, but the non-regulars might enjoy the reps taking the time telling everyone what's going on at the parks, (even though Disney requires you to plan 6 months out so having a spare evening to go to a Halloween party might not an option for most unless they've already planned for it).
After we got moving, the rep makes her way through to see if anyone has any questions to answer privately, which i think is great and should be praised. A lot of people can be uncomfortable about something - especially first timers - so this is a great way to speak to someone that's not too public. When she got to us, we didn't have any questions (of course) so she asked if were we going to the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party, we said no, we went last year and it was way too crowded to fork out another $200 for 5 more hours of that - and she didn't disagree. But, we said we're doing the After Hours which so far we've loved doing. You also get given a welcome pack with useful numbers to contact TUI and other important contacts like a doctor etc.
After over an hour in coach we finally got to Walt Disney World and lived happily ever after...
.. then it was home time.
The Flight Back
TUI now use their app to tell you your return pick up times, which become available near the end of your stay. We were outside and the coach turns up right on time! The rep on the way back was fantastic, he was happy, cheerful and trying to lift the spirits of all the depressed people heading back to the airport.
The flight back was less pleasant than the flight out there, but to no real fault of TUI per se. I've never given it all that much thought because I don't remember a time on any flight i've had someone put their seat back in front of me, but it happened this time. While discussions around this topic can get a little heated, I do firmly believe that you have paid for your seat and you are free to put your seat back because it's part of the function of the seat. However, I was brought up with the ideology of don't do, what you don't want done to yourself, so I never put my seat back. (So if any of you want a pleasant flight, sit behind me.) My issue is the plane seats are designed where the extra I have paid for premium economy legroom is completely negated when someone puts their seat back, leaving me with little to no room and an uncomfortable flight.
(Poor image quality due to it being quite dark)
The guy in front fell asleep as the drinks came around, and I asked the flight crew if these seat designs are "acceptable" paying the extra money for premium economy when that extra room is gone when someone puts their seat down, she replied "it's worse back there" pointing to economy.
I did whatever sane Brit would do and complained/gave feedback to TUI when I returned, this is the response I got:
"We are concerned when a customer has cause to complain and we are sorry that you were disappointed on this occasion. I’ve taken the opportunity to read through your complaint and have noted all the points you have raised.
I am sorry to read that you found the flight seats not up to your standard. I am sorry for the inconvenience caused to you on this occasion. I would like to inform you that aircraft may change due to unforeseen circumstances which leads to changes in the seating arrangements as well as the seats may vary from one aircraft to the other. Please be assured that I am sharing your feedback with relevant team for future improvements to be made.
We take customer feedback very seriously and use all of the comments we receive to actively improve the service we offer on future holidays. I do hope that despite your experience on this occasion you will not be deterred from considering TUI when making future travel plans.
I can fully understand that you’ve felt disappointed on this occasion, and would like to reassure you that all customer feedback we receive is monitored and shared with our relevant teams, both overseas and in the UK, in order for considerations and improvements to be made.
Finally, may I thank you once more for getting in touch and for sharing your experience with us. I do hope you will still consider TUI when making future travel arrangements so we have the opportunity to restore your faith in us once more.
The below link will take you to a survey from TUI and First Choice. We would like to ask you some questions about the service you received from us during your recent interaction and will only take 2 minutes. "
So basically bugger off from a scripted copy/paste reply.
With TUI no longer flying to Sanford, it's unlikely they'll be our go-to from 2022, but we'll worry about that when the changes happens to see what effect it has. While I'm a big fan of the Dreamliner (aside from the seat back issues) and not yet had a bad personal experience with TUI while out there (that pointless complaint reply above notwithstanding), and with the coach transfers being a little wonky, their just another airline with good parts and bad parts, you just have to choose what isn't great with what is great comparing airlines and choose what is best for you.
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