Disadvantages Food is pretty horrendous
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I have recently returned from a two week holiday in Canada, flying with Air Transat. This was an airline I'd not heard of before, and in fact I didn't know I'd even booked with them, because I'd booked through a website called Globespan.com, and thought they were the actual airline.As I have now discovered, Air Transat are actually a charter airline, and you book with them via travel agents, including Globespan. Despite being a charter airline, they have a scheduled service throughout the year.Calgary and Vancouver. From London you can add Montreal.
Air Transat also fly out of various Belgian, French, German, Irish, Italian, Dutch and Portugese airports, as well as north American and central American airports.----------Frequency---------
It's only possible to book directly with Air Transat if you're flying from north America. If you're flying from Europe you need a travel agent - in my case Globespan.com (watch this space for a review).
They do not have any frequent flyer programs.--------Pricing---------------
I have just done a search for weekend flights (departing Saturday returning on a Sunday in July) - the price for 1 return ticket was £601. I put the same dates in Opodo and the cheapest flight was £738.10.Another search, this time in October - a Monday departure and Sunday return because there are no weekend flights scheduled then, and the cost for one person was £291.31 on Air Transat, on Opodo the cheapest ticket was £580.10.
So, significant savings to be made - ranging from £137 to £288 per person in those two examples alone. Certainly not to be sneezed at.The prices above are all economy tickets. They do offer a "Club Class", for £20 per person per flight. According to their website, this offers:
For the sake of £40, over an 8 hour flight I can see this being worthwhile for many people. There are not many of these seats available - I think there were only 10 rows on our plane.---------Service on the ground----------------
I flew from London Gatwick. Check in was like checking in for any other airline, save for one small thing, and one other slightly strange event.Firstly, the tickets warned us to check in 3 hours in advance of departure. This was my first north American flight, but I think that's now pretty standard on all north American flights these days.
Secondly, we were stopped before we got to the desk and asked for ID. We gave the chap our passports, however he said they weren't good enough, because they weren't Canadian or UK passports (we're Australian), and said we needed another form of ID. I asked him why we needed anything other than a passport, but he wouldn't give me a straight answer. As it happened, we both had driver's licences on us, as we were renting an RV in Canda (watch this space for a review). Mine is a UK licence, and hubby's is Australian, but these were deemed sufficient. I was quite annoyed about the whole process, because I'd never struck anything like that before, and I fly A LOT. I also often don't have any other form of ID with me because I only take what I need rather than risk losing it. I asked what would happen if we hadn't had licences with us - at first he wouldn't tell me, but then he said that he would have taken credit cards. How on earth a credit card would have proven our ID I have no idea.I do not know if this was some sort of Gatwick Airport random spot check, whether it was a Canadian requirement, or whether it was an Air-Transat requirement. I think it was ridiculous, and nowhere on the tickets or itinerary did it warn us to have a second form of ID with us. It's never happened before or since, but if you're flying to Canada - you'd be best off making sure you have another form of ID if you don't have a UK passport.
Once we got past the grumpy man asking for ID check in was as normal. Despite being a semi-budget airline, seats are allocated. As usual, I asked to be allocated the emergency exit seats as we're both tall. Sadly, we'd just missed the last ones (if that silly man hadn't slowed us down with ID we would have got them!). The staff weighed our hand luggage, which is pretty rare, and tagged it as well as the checked in luggage, so be warned - you may have difficulty flaunting the rules about size and weight of carry on luggage!Boarding went very smoothly indeed - they board by seat number, which I think is a very good idea.
On our return leg checking in was a little more difficult. The tickets warn you to call 24-48 hours before your return flight to check the times, although you don't need to reconfirm your flights. I did this, luckily, because they had moved our departure from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. They're in the same building in Vancouver so it wasn't a drastic change. However, neither the check-in boards in the domestic terminal nor the international terminal showed our flight or where to check in. We ended up having to ask at the information counter and were directed down to a desk in the domestic terminal which we had missed. Once we found the desk (which I think was probably a problem caused by the airport rather than the airline) check-in was smooth. No one asked for any additional ID! Again we missed out on emergency exit seats, despite being over 3 hours early. The check in desks must open much earlier than the recommended 3 hours, although I forgot to ask when.-----Baggage allowances----------
They allow 10kg carry on and 20kg checked in. They also allow people travelling together to pool their check in allowance.-----------In the air------------------
The fleet are all airbus - either 310 or 330s.On our flight out our plane was half empty and we were allowed to move around the plane to spread out, which was good. The plane stopped at Calgary for an hour, and for the final leg the pilot re-organised the passengers to redistribute the weight properly, however that didn't affect us.
In the air is where the budget stuff comes in. They serve free soft drinks, juices, tea and coffee, and free meals. You have to pay for alcohol and for snacks. The drinks were the usual types available on any flight.The food was quite ordinary. We were given a hot meal and a light meal on each leg. The hot meal was the same both times - a pasta bake which appeared to be vegetarian (no obvious meat, anyway.) This was fine, and was accompanied by a quite edible bean salad, bread roll and piece of cake. The portions were a little small, but I find that with all airline meals.
The "light meal" was one of the most bland things I have ever eaten. It was a cardboardy white bread roll, with a piece of white fatty processed meat which I believe was meant to be chicken, and a piece of orange, rubbery, tasteless substance that I believe was meant to be cheese. There was no butter or margerine, the filling was about half the size of the roll and it was thoroughly tasteless.I think at one stage they also gave us the obligatory packet of crackers and cheese.
On our return leg we were given breakfast, which was yoghurt, fruit and a muffi, from memory. It was unmemorable, but not offensive.The coffee was surprisingly drinkable, for airline coffee. The tea came with optional lemon, which was a nice touch, I thought.
They offer a huge range of special meals, according to their website, and lots of people on our flight had ordered them. They offer the following:
-Diabetic (Sugar-free meal, without added sugar, low in carbohydrate and high in fibre)
-Gluten-free ( Without wheat, gluten, barley, rye or oat products)
-Low-calorie (Low fat and high carbohydrate)
-Low fat and low saturated fat
-Low sodium and no salt added
-No lactose Dairy products free
-High fibre (Contains water-soluble and water insoluble fibre)
-Asian vegetarian ( Representative of Asian culture using traditional ingredients)
-Vegetarian (with dairy product, free of meat or meat products, no fish)
-Vegetarian, dairy product free
-Child meal (available on European flights only) Easy to chew, easy to manipulate
The service was nothing special - no one was rude, but there was also none of the special touches that some flight attendants can use that make a flight memorable. Some of them were friendlier than others. They were worked quite hard, and I certainly can't complain.
The headphones are not complimentary - you had to pay either a dollar or a pound, I don't recall which. I have a set of noise-cancelling headphones and used those. The headphone jacks are just the standard ones that any headphones will fit - not the old double pronged ones that you find on the older planes, so you can save the money if you use your own. Chances are they'll be better anyway.I found the volume really loud - usually I have trouble with the volume on planes, which is the reason I've bought noise-cancelling headphones. I had no problems at all, and had the volume at one of the lowest settings. One slightly annoying thing was that the PA announcements were much louder than the movie volume, so would blast your ears each time.
As well as the television they had the usual radio stations - about 8 or 9 stations, each themed. A lot were francophone rather than English. They also had a fairly short playlist on loop, which was annoying as there was only one or two channels that interested me.The seating and legroom were about average. Pillows were provided for each seat, and I think they gave out blankets on request - I didn't need one.
They also have the usual duty free sales - I never look at these, so I couldn't compare theirs to other airlines.The flight overall was comfortable - no significant turbulance and smooth landings.
---------------Recommendation------------------------I would certainly recommend Air Transat. It was not the most comfortable flight of my life, but equally there was nothing I could complain about, and the additional comforts were not something I'm prepared to pay £137 - £288 extra for. I might consider upgrading for £40 return if I were a little more flush than I am. Their schedule is not as frequent as some of the other north American airlines, or say BA, but in return they fly from a large number of regional airports around the UK and are cheaper to boot! You can't go wrong really.
So much of air travel depends upon how crowded the plane is, and the passengers around you - and there's nothing you can do about those no matter what airline you fly.------------Contact details-------------------
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