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Review: TUI Airways 737 (LGW-REU)

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Review Overview

TUI offers an unremarkable experience, which is a compliment for an intra-European low-cost airline. While more akin to a full-service intra-Europe airline than an ultra-low-cost carrier in many ways (e.g. with hand luggage included on all fares), the experience feels heavily geared towards British holidaymakers and flight schedule options are relatively scarce otherwise


In July 2024 I had the chance to fly TUI Airways’ 737 from London to Reus, Spain. I’ve been exploring which low-cost airlines are the best within Europe, and so far I’ve flown Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet, Vueling, and Norwegian, as well as a variety of other airlines’ economy class products. I had the opportunity to be in Tarragona for a day trip, so decided to fly into Reus Airport, and out of Barcelona Airport that evening (on Vueling, which I’ll also be reviewing).

This gave me the chance to fly TUI Airways, a leisure airline that serves as the British arm of the wider TUI Group. TUI prices a large proportion of their flights similarly to Lufthansa and British Airways; much like them, TUI includes some services with all fares such as 10 kg hand baggage, but upcharges on other services such as onboard meals and check-in baggage (for flight-only tickets). One of the big differences between TUI and other airlines is that it has a much larger focus on holidays, offering discounts on flight-and-hotel packages – e.g. a roundtrip flight to Reus and seven nights in Tarragona for two people come out from £594 pp, with options to buy up to all-inclusive deals where all three meals are included. Unlike any other airline website I’ve seen before, the number of passengers when booking a flight defaults to two.

As you’d expect, this business model attracts British holidaymakers (especially couples and families) going on short vacations, and the onboard experience reflected this too on my flight. The lack of any frequent flyer perks or any non-paid onboard food options made TUI feel more like a low-cost airline than full-service airlines such as British Airways, though they do deliver a better product than ultra-low cost carriers with less nickel-and-diming. Here’s my experience.

Booking TUI Airways’ 737

I booked my TUI flight directly through the airline’s website, and had to navigate over to their “flights only” page in order to book my one-way flight from London to Reus. This flight cost £69.

06/07 BY4622 London – Reus dep. 07:50 arr. 10:55 [Standard Class]

The airline doesn’t sell any bundles, so all add-ons are added individually. There were actually a very limited number of add-ons available, including:

  • Seat selection cost £16/seat (this was very pricey – much more so than any competitors!)
  • A 15kg check-in bag cost £19, a 20kg check-in bag cost £23, and a 25kg check-in bag cost £28

Other options, such as priority boarding and meal selection in advance, are absent from the list.

TUI Airways Ground Experience and Baggage Allowance

I headed to the airport at around 6:40 AM ahead of my flight at 7:50 AM. Boarding was scheduled to start at 7:10 AM according to my mobile boarding pass, and online check-in was quite easy. Gatwick North Terminal security was also quite easy to navigate, so I was through fairly quickly.

The gate was originally slated to show at 6:50 AM, though this time kept getting pushed back to 7 AM. We were eventually assigned gate 49, which was a short walk from the central concourse.

an airport with airplanes parked on the ground
TUI 737 at Gatwick Airport

I was aware that our flight was the only one boarding from “our” side of the terminal at this hour. Boarding started basically immediately once we started filing into the gate area, and it was a free-for-all – nobody was boarded first. I had a mobile boarding pass and the gate agent was also unaware that Hong Kong was on the visa-free list for Spain (or I hadn’t conducted a visa check, which I’ve not heard TUI mandate before), so I wasn’t one of the first onboard for the below photos, unfortunately.

TUI Airways Flight BY4622
Saturday, July 6, 2024
Origin: London Gatwick (LGW) T: N Gate: 49 Dep: 07:50 (08:15)
Destination: Reus (REU) Arr: 10:55 (11:25)
Duration: 2 h 5 min (2 h 10 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 Reg: G-TAWI
Seat: 9A (Standard Class)

TUI Airways 737 Cabin and Seat

The TUI 737 cabin was modern. This 12-year-old 737 featured the Boeing Sky Interior, which hid the age of the plane fairly significantly. The blue hues throughout the seats were boring, though not unpleasant.

a man walking in an airplane
TUI 737 Cabin

I’d picked myself seat 9A, which cost a whopping £16 to assign (they go for a little cheaper – around £11-12 if reserving in advance). Keeping in theme with the airline’s high focus on holidaymakers, TUI annoyingly doesn’t let you assign seats with one gap in between (i.e. if the window seat is occupied, you can’t reserve the aisle). Row 9 was an entirely open row on my flight, so I reserved the window seat, which is my preference.

the inside of an airplane
TUI 737 Seat 9A

Note that if you’re paying extra to select a seat, row 11 and 12 don’t have windows.

Seat pitch runs from around 28-30″, though it didn’t feel super tight. I’d say it felt closer to the 30″ mark than the 28″ mark, though neither are a sign of heaps of space.

a person's legs and a sign on a plane
TUI 737 Seat Pitch

These seats do have recline buttons, though the recline can barely be felt. Here’s 9A in the fully reclined position – you basically can’t tell the difference. While not plush or comfortable, I didn’t find the seat to be particularly hard or poorly padded.

a black leather seats in an airplane
TUI 737 Seat Reclined

I was most pleasantly surprised by the very large and sturdy tray table that folded out from the seat in front. This certainly isn’t the train-style tray table you’ll find on easyJet or Vueling, or the sad wobbly tray table you’ll find on Ryanair!

a white rectangular object on a seat
TUI 737 Seat Tray Table

For a short intra-European flight, having seatback TV screens is out of the question. There was an audio-on-demand system located between armrests, though it was turned off, just eating into space without providing any value. This wasn’t great, though the seats didn’t feel horribly narrow, which often can be the case on a 737.

a book and remote control on a seat
TUI 737 Armrest and Entertainment

First row seats cost the same to reserve in advance as the rest of the seats in the cabin (so they get snapped up early), however the exit row seats in rows 15 and 16 do go for a higher cost.

a row of seats in an airplane
TUI 737 Row 1

Much like most narrowbody aircraft, these planes did feature overhead air nozzles.

a seat and ceiling with lights and buttons
TUI 737 Overhead Air Nozzles

TUI Airways 737 Lavatory

TUI’s 737s feature three lavatories – one in front, and two behind. The crew generally tried to encourage passengers to use the rear lavatory, so there would sometimes be a wait for the rear lavatory while the front ones remained empty.

The lavatories themselves were bog-standard 737 lavatories, with TUI-branded foamy hand soap.

a bathroom with a sink and toilet
TUI 737 Lavatory

Taking Off from Gatwick Airport

From glazing across the cabin, the flight looked around 80% full, with a couple of entirely empty rows. Boarding was complete at 7:40 AM, around 10 minutes before our scheduled departure time. Unfortunately at this point the captain said that Gatwick was very busy this morning, and we had a scheduled takeoff slot for 8:30 AM, 40 minutes after our scheduled departure time. He mentioned we’d take off from runway 26L and make a left turn, beginning our 1h 50m flight to Reus.

As it has expanded, Gatwick has a fun contrast of large full-service widebody aircraft and low-cost airlines (big and small). We were parked next to a China Eastern 777 bound for Shanghai, then an easyJet A321neo rolled in.

an airplane at an airport an airplane on the tarmac
Traffic at Gatwick Airport

While we waited on the ground, the crew came around to ask if anybody wanted hot food, to be served after takeoff.

The weather wasn’t particularly great throughout the morning, and there was plenty of rain. I couldn’t get particularly great photos of tarmac traffic due to the wet window.

a window with raindrops on it
Taxiing at Gatwick Airport

It did clear up significantly past 8 AM as we taxied towards runway 26L, where we’d be taking off. After pushing back at around 8:15, we stood by the runway for a further 10-15 minutes, before finally beginning a fairly powerful takeoff roll at 8:35 AM.

a plane on the runway  a window with a view of the sky and clouds an airplane wing and engine above a landscape
Taking off from Gatwick Airport

By the time we flew over the south coast at around 8:40 AM, it was all sunshine, as if the rain had never happened.

an airplane wing and engine above clouds
Taking off from Gatwick Airport

TUI Airways 737 Inflight Entertainment

Much like many low-cost airlines, TUI’s 737s are devoid of any inflight entertainment, with no plans to install WiFi.

TUI Airways 737 Service and Buy-On-Board Menu

Much like most airlines flying within Europe, TUI operates a buy-on-board meal service onboard their shorthaul flights. You can find their full buy-on-board selection here. If you’re flying TUI longhaul, though, meals are included, comparable to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic (and unlike other low-cost models such as Norse Atlantic).

I figured I’d test the quality of their buy-on-board selection, so ordered a chilli con carne, which set me back £8.60. I was struck by how British the buy-on-board options were – it felt like I was buying food at an overpriced Tesco (I guess in the UK we call this a Co-op – just kidding). I could’ve even gotten a meal deal with a snack and drink if I wanted to. Hot food orders were taken on the ground – I don’t think the cabin crew entertained anybody who ordered hot food last-minute. Also note that TUI not only rejects all American Express cards (similar to Wizz Air), but they don’t take any cards issued by Monzo Bank as well.

The box arrived less than 20 minutes after takeoff, and was catered by Yum.me (I believe they also cater for Jet2). The chilli con carne wasn’t particularly flavourful, though was totally fine, and was served with packaged corn chips and two dips.

a black box with a picture on it a hand holding a tray of food
TUI 737 Meal – Chilli con Carne

After the meal service, the crew specifically advertised tobacco products. They announced that there were cigarettes sold on discount, but they weren’t allowed to put on magazine catalogues due to aviation law. I was quite amused that someone a few rows ahead bought a large box of cigarettes.

The crew members were friendly and came back afterwards to collect rubbish, though didn’t otherwise interact with passengers much.

Landing into Reus Airport

The flight was otherwise fairly uneventful, and at around 10:45 AM Spain time we began our descent into Reus. We had great views of the southern Spanish coastline as we approached Reus airport.

an airplane wing and wing of an airplane an airplane wing and a landscape
Landing into Reus Airport

Reus airport is tiny, and we were parked within a few minutes of touchdown at 11:25 AM, half an hour after our scheduled arrival time. We deplaned via airstairs and walked to the terminal for immigration, where we had great views of our TUI 737 along the way.

a woman standing next to a planea plane on the runway
TUI 737 at Reus Airport

Reus Airport’s gate area is mostly outdoors, and we were asked to wait as another flight was boarding to avoid cross-contamination of passengers. We were then escorted through the same walkway into an arrivals hall, where we were the only flight to pass through immigration at that time.

a group of people walking under a covered walkway
Walking to immigration at Reus Airport

Conclusion: TUI Airways 737

Uneventful is good as far as low-cost airlines are concerned, and I’d say my flight on TUI was uneventful. I do like that everyone can bring a 10 kg carry-on for free, though otherwise the experience is quite vanilla, with no in-flight entertainment or WiFi of any sort, and no snacks offered apart from the buy-on-board selection. Even the hot item that I had, considered to be one of the most premium offerings, was a fairly bland and boring chilli con carne.

However, I didn’t feel nickel-and-dimed at any point, and upselling wasn’t in-your-face. Operational reliability is good, and I also quite liked the fact that there weren’t various boarding groups. There are no opportunities to earn airline status with TUI, however.

I’d say that the low point of the experience included the fact that they charge more for seat selection than anybody else. It was hard to part with £16 to assign a single seat for myself, though I imagine costs would add up quickly if you’re trying to assign seats for a larger family.

If you’re a young frequent flyer looking to milk out every drop of spare time to visit new places, you probably aren’t TUI’s target market. TUI targets couples and families, providing affordable travel. They time their flights quite intentionally for the British holidaymaker who is spending a week or so in a European destination, providing discounts on flight-and-hotel packages, and I’d say that they do this quite well.

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