So You Want to Go to England: Getting There - Air Transat
25 Apr 2012 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
Photo by Martin Hartland, licensed through Creative Commons
Are you so cheap that paperboys & waiters spit at the mention of your name? So poor you spend your evenings huddled around a burning barrel beneath a bridge? Have you recently been released from prison and found yourself wanting to relive the experience, with the added dimension of possibly plummeting thousands of feet to certain death? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then the next time you plan a vacation you’ll want to give Air Transat a call.
Passenger reviews for the budget airline are mixed, with one passenger describing it as "You either swear by or at Air Transat.” Most speak highly of the carrier’s customer service and denounce everything else with the kind of fury I haven’t seen since Kevin Bacon’s “angry dance” in Footloose. There are no seatback televisions, the seats are narrow and legroom is nonexistent, but with economy class fares up to $500 less than those offered by Air Canada there is something to be said for flying the thrifty skies.
"The in-flight movie is what?"
Unlike the other airlines profiled in this series, Air Transat flies into London’s Gatwick Airport rather than Heathrow. In my experience getting into central London from Gatwick Airport into isn’t much more hassle than it is from Heathrow, although not having done it after a nine-hour flight does put me at a disadvantage.
Fares listed below are in Canadian dollars and represent the cheapest fares available for low & high season as of this writing. These prices should be considered a baseline only as there are endless variations possible, including the day of travel, any holidays that happen to be taking place during your travel period, etc. These prices also exclude any extras you purchase, including Option Plus, Club Class, exit-row seating or additional bags, covered further down the page.
Remember that you will fly the class you have paid for - upgrades are a lie, like eternal happiness and the bulge in David Hasselhoff's shorts.
The Option Plus upgrade, available during the seat selection process, starts at $209 roundtrip for the trip to London. Advantages include priority check-in, baggage handling & the fast-lane at security (Montreal & Vancouver only) along with additional baggage and food privileges (see below).
Club Class is not available as an upgrade, must be chosen at the time of booking and seems to fill quickly. It represents a substantial jump in price (around $800 during the high season) but includes all the perks of Options Plus with the added bonus of luxury seating in a separate section at the front of the plane.
Of course this means that should the plane go down over land you’re guaranteed to die, as opposed to the mopes back in steerage who, statistically, have a slightly better chance. You’ll recall from my section on Air Canada what happens should your flight have a “water landing”.
Air Transat offers Economy Class 1 bag free to a maximum of 51lbs. The second bag will cost you $100 and $200 apiece for every bag after that but let’s face it – no one who flies Air Transat can afford to own three suitcases full of stuff, let alone be able to bring it on vacation.
Option Plus & Club Class passengers get two bags free but before you pack up your collection of lead paperweights be aware that while your baggage allowance doubles your weight limit does not. OP passengers have a maximum weight limit of 72lbs between their two bags and Club Class gets 88, meaning technically your increased allowance is between 1½ & 1¾ pieces of luggage.
This will be appreciated by those among you packing for a semester at Hogwarts.
Excess baggage credits can be purchased from Air Transat via a system called KiloFlex that I cannot be bothered to puzzle out.
All passenger classes are permitted one carry-on bag.
Picture courtesy of Lisa Bettany,
Depending on who you ask the food on Air Transat ranges from “good” (Review Centre) to “It took me a few minutes to figure out which parts I was supposed to eat” (Lisa Bettany of MostlyLisa.com). Meals are included with the cost of your ticket, as are soft drinks, tea & coffee; bottled water, snacks, and alcoholic drinks are available for an additional fee (payment is accepted by credit card only). A glass of wine is included with your meal but there is no solid intelligence on whether or not it’s served out of a paper bag.
Flying Option Plus gets you one selection apiece from the snack & bar service along with priority meal choice and a 200ml bottle of champagne. Bear in mind that you’re still sitting in economy class and may have to knife fight your fellow hobos to hang on to these prizes.
Club Class passengers receive a complimentary welcome cocktail, non-alcoholic drinks, bar service and snacks along with their choice of “gourmet” (their words) in-flight meals. At meal times you will also have a choice of select wines to sip while you come to terms with being bourgeois swine.
Based on customer feedback it seems safe to say that if you have ever needed to shop in a “Big and Tall” store then lengthy flights aboard Air Transat are not for you. From a customer review on AirlineEquality.com,
“The pitch was just about bearable and I could put my right leg out a little into the aisle during take-off so it was more comfortable.”
So, in short, the standard seats are bearable for anorexic contortionists and midgets with fine bones. Exit row seating and premium seats with more leg-room are available for a surcharge of $80 each way although some customer reviews suggest these may not be worth the additional fee. From AirlineEquality.com:
Exit row: [The] only position you can only sit in is bolt upright with your arms folded for 6 or 7 hours due to space restriction rendering you unable to move in seat and lack of space between you and person next to you.”
Additional legroom: “What you are not told is that this [row] also serves as the lateral walkway between the aisles -so you have to endure a constant stream of people pushing past your legs.”
Seats for Air Transat are randomly assigned at check-in; advance seat selection is available for a charge of $20 each way. Seat selection is complimentary for both Option Plus & Club Class passengers.
Kidding aside, Air Transat is the perfect choice for budget-conscious Canadians and masochists with wanderlust. Anyone looking who chooses Air Transat expecting anything more than a nuts-and-bolts flying experience are going to be disappointed and, if they’re unusually wide and/or tall, borderline suicidal. Picture the airborne equivalent of a Greyhound bus – uncomfortable, airless and filled with people in whose company you would ordinarily not be caught dead.
If nothing else you probably won’t have to worry about your flight being hijacked by terrorists – even extremists know the only news story generated by bringing down an Air Transat flight would be about a subsequent drop in the number of welfare recipients.
Don't do it, Poirot! Who will support the bingo hall?
Check back next Wednesday to get the inside scoop on the U.K.'s flagship airline, British Airways