Sunday 15 / Monday 16 / Tuesday 17 January 2017

The holiday may not have been a huge success – but we had come, we had seen and now we wanted to go home please.

Off to the airport, we all get checked in (and that is a lot of people on a Thomson Dreamliner), go through security and join the many other people waiting for flights somewhere in the terminal.  Except in our area people go through gates and depart.

Worryingly we see no sign of anyone to commence loading onto our plane.  Eventually an announcement is made that the plane had some error lights showing on the displays when the flight arrived and so they need to sort this out before we can load and fly away.

So someone pulls the master switch and the plane is turned off and then turned on again – it later becomes clear that the computer is the problem in some way.  It seems that did not work (and apparently rebooting a Dreamliner takes an hour or so and I thought my PC was slow!).  So they are now on the phone to technical support in Luton (Luton?).  The conversation was probably along the lines that “no-one has ever seen anything like that before – have you tried turning it off and on again?  Hmm, that should not happen, I think I had better get Seattle on the other line”.  Seattle of course is the place where Dreamliners are assembled.

After a few hours we are informed that even if it was fixed now we could not go anywhere as the crew are out of hours before we could land and so there will be no flight tonight.  We are told they will find hotels and get us all into rooms for the night.  And some of us are also checking what the compensation arrangements are as we are bound to be more than three hours late!  Turns out that the EU compensation works (at least whilst we are in the EU).

We have to go through arrivals and collect our luggage as we will need it for our overnight stay.  Luckily as usual slight over packing means that we have clean clothes.

By the time we get to the new hotel there is virtually no food available but something is better than nothing.  Whilst the hotel was not as great as Azul, being older and therefore a little worn, I am amazed that Thomson actually managed to find enough rooms.  Check in took quite a while – which was another reason we were late eating as we could not do that until we had checked in.

When we gather in the morning it is fair to say that staff used by Thomson are probably worse than useless.  When communicating with a large number of inevitably disgruntled customers some discipline needs to be applied – then make a clear and entirely certain announcement, do not be woolly and do not part reveal the outcome to some in advance of the meeting.  Similarly the previous evening passengers were seeking to contact Thomson in the UK who seemed unaware of the problem and where the website was showing revised departure times for later in the evening.

Later we assemble again to go to the airport and through check in and security.  Thomson (or their agents) give us a packed lunch as we get off the coaches.  Which would be nice except it includes both a bottle of water (which we spot and dump) but also a fruit juice (which we do not spot until the scanner machines do – which means all bags are rescanned after the juice is removed).  That really slows down progress through the security checks.  Everyone knows that you cannot take liquids through security these days – so why was this not even thought about?

No news Thomson is frankly bad news.  And there is no-one on hand to keep us informed.  Many hours pass.  At no time do we see any crew.  Anyone at the gate refuses to make an announcement – why is not clear.  Some information is extracted but the absolute refusal to make a proper announcement is baffling.

Information is hard to come by but piecing the bits together later it seems two engineers flew into Cancun with a complete computer rack and the relevant boards (not sure but I assume from somewhere in the USA rather than UK).  They replaced board by board, turning the Dreamliner off and on and off for each board replacement but were still getting faults.  Eventually the expensive solution was adopted – the entire rack was pulled out.  The new rack with new boards were all inserted and the plane turned on.  Apparently then it worked and the error lights did not come on.  Given that they had the whole lot there they should have replaced the entire kit at one go – it was presumably new and worked.  Piecemeal replacement is often a pain in the neck.

However we had been at the airport many hours.  Why were we brought into the airport so early at a stage when no-one knew when we might depart?  For the mother with no nappies and the others with no funds available being in an airport terminal is not helpful.  It would have made more sense to make the transfer back to the airport later as the hotels were meeting food and refreshment needs.

Then they summoned the crew.  To give the captain his due when he did arrive he did make a couple of announcements and talk to us all – but it was by now very late and we were now well over 24 hours late departing.  And even with a crew we did not board for ages as the flight crew had to go through all of their normal checks and load up stores and equipment.  Passenger patience was in short supply.  I believe it was close to 10 hours between arriving at the airport and boarding the Dreamliner.

Finally we board and take off not long before midnight on the Monday night arriving back at Gatwick well into Tuesday morning.

The next major faux pas from Thomson was that they delivered a written apology at the arrival gate which advised claiming from our insurers and did not mention their legal liability to compensate us under EU legislation.  Come on lads – if you screw up then at least admit you are forced to cough up, provide the right form and tell us what else you might need.  Leaving out such information and pointing us at insurers is simply the wrong approach to take.  In fact it is insulting in this day and age.

This was not the first time that a Dreamliner had gone technical in Cancun for Thomson – there were one or two press reports about it happening previously.  On the outward journey water had dripped on Jackie as we headed towards the ground.  So if water can get into the passenger space it seems likely it can reach the computers as well.

We claimed and compensation was eventually paid – but Thomson took their time.  Their crisis management was appalling, on the ground, in the terminal and on our return – I have no doubt that someone knew what was going on – but 300 plus passengers need looking after and talking to them should happen.

A really sour end to the holiday.

Mileage – 4959 air miles for a single journey so adding something on for the coach journeys the total trip adds up to over 10,000 miles which is not a bad start for the year.