This Thomson Mexico holiday had a lot of firsts for me - first time flying to Puerto Vallarta airport, first time booking with Thomson and first time on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In this post, I will show you what it's like inside the Thomson Dreamliner with cool features like window tint, what the Dreamliner extra legroom seats are like, how the in-flight meals were both on the way to and from Puerto Vallarta, what the long flight is like for a tall person and also what to expect in the Puerto Vallarta airport.
You may also like: Places to visit during your Puerto Vallarta holiday
First of all, the thing I was the most excited about - Boeing 787 Dreamliner itself. I have always been fascinated by planes and the technology behind them, so I was really looking forward to getting on board a Dreamliner for the flight to Mexico. Why is that, you might ask? Well, this plane incorporates innovative technology, promising enhanced passenger comfort due to bigger windows, roomier cabin, less noise and more oxygen delivered to your blood (explained in more detail on the Thomson website here).
You can easily tell the Dreamliner apart from other planes as it has a different shape to its wings (which unfortunately were too long to fit on the photo). When you board, the front of the Thomson Boeing 787 has the Premium Club seats (in the 2-3-2 layout), the middle is standard seating and the back has the extra legroom seats (3-3-3 layout for both). The cabin does feel roomier than on other planes.
As the flight from London to Puerto Vallarta is so long (about 11 1/2 hours on the way there and about 10 1/2 hours on the way back), and with both myself and my husband being quite tall, we did not feel adventurous enough to go for standard seats and paid for extra legroom (I am 5'11 or 179cm and you can see how much legroom that gives me in one of the photos above - click on the photos to view full size). And boy am I glad we did. Without the extra legroom it would have been completely unbearable; with extra legroom it was just almost unbearable. You might have the legroom, but it's still essentially an economy class seat and being stuck in one for 11 hours is really, really tiring. Even more so if you are flying overnight and trying to sleep, which I spectacularly failed at as there just isn't a comfortable position that I can take in that space. What I really wanted was to know how much extra Premium Club seats cost because they certainly seemed more appealing, but that option wasn't available to book or upgrade anywhere online, so I guess we'll never know.
When you get into your seat, you start to notice how techy this plane really is. The light switch as well as the flight attendant call button are operated via the seatback touchscreen rather than through a physical button above the head. And then you see the windows, which are something else! There is no plastic blind to pull down - instead there is a switch under the window that allows you to adjust the level of tint in the pane in 5 stages, which I thought was absolutely brilliant! You can see three different tint settings in the photos:
This much for the cool techy stuff, now on to promises that didn't quite get there for me. While the 787 Dreamliner is indeed quieter on takeoff and landing, the noise at cruising is still quite loud, so it's too early to discard your noise cancelling headphones. Also, that whole fresh feeling and more oxygen was not something I felt at all - it still seemed like the regular weird plane air to me and I most certainly did not feel refreshed at the end of the flight, anything but! Another thing that I found bothersome is the lack of standing space - the aisles were too narrow, the space by the middle toilets was the legroom for those who paid extra (incidentally, avoid those seats as people queuing for the toilets do still get in the way), and the rear galley space gets curtained off quite a lot of the time, with the remaining space only enough for a couple of people waiting to use the toilet. So nowhere really to stretch out for a bit.
In terms of service during the flight, I think Thomson did well. You get free drinks as well as two meals during each leg of the journey. On the way to Puerto Vallarta, we got lunch and afternoon tea and on the flight back to London they served dinner and a hot breakfast. I haven't had hot airplane meals for a while and my memories of the ones I did have are of congealed inedible blobs - so I was pleasantly surprised to find all Thomson meals tasty. I should have taken a photo of the breakfast as well really, but by then I pretty much lost the will to live after a sleepless night and all I wanted was to get out of that seat and off the plane.
Finally, Puerto Vallarta airport on arrival was CHAOS. It seemed that all the flights for the day had arrived at roughly the same time, so there were crowds and mass confusion around baggage carousels. Midway through delivering our suitcases, it looked like the staff loading them on decided to take a break -for some reason everything stopped for a while and nobody knew what was happening. Then, once the suitcases finally made it out, there was a huge queue to get through customs (where you get randomly selected for checks by pressing a button after giving your customs form to the employee). It wasn't because the checks were taking so long, it's just that the amount of tourists there at the time was overwhelming for the small airport. Finally, the Thomson rep was outside by the exit and taxi pickup area, not inside, and wasn't easy to spot amongst the crowds of people trying to figure out where to go. So prepare yourself to spend some time navigating through all of that on arrival.
On the way back, we were faced with more chaos - a long traffic jam to get to departures (if the taxi driver tells you it would be faster to get off early and walk, believe him!) and a long queue to check in (that is, after we had located it amongst all the other long queues to check in, not as easy as you may think!). Shared bus transfer is easier in this case - you will bypass the traffic jam and a rep will show you which queue you need. You will also need to have enough cash on you to pay departure tax - while most airlines include the said tax in the ticket price, Thomson doesn't (April 2017) and the lady collecting the payment (in the check-in queue, shortly before you get to the counters - I suppose I should be happy there wasn't another queue to pay somewhere else altogether) does not take cards. You can pay in pounds or dollars as well as pesos though - on April 8th 2017 the fee was 1350 pesos or £60 per person - a significant amount of cash, so there really should be a better way of paying this.
However, it spite of the airport chaos and all my moaning about the lack of comfort on a long flight, Puerto Vallarta was totally worth it and the holiday itself was great! To leave you with a positive image, here is the town itself from the plane at the beginning of the flight back to London:
If you are planning your holiday to Puerto Vallarta, please also check out my related posts below as well as have a look at the sights of that part of Mexico here.