Having had an amazing time in Toronto last year (link to report); returning to Canada this year was high on the cards.
Once again, Air Canada and British Airways had priced themselves well out of the competition (a shame as I would have been able to fly the BA
787); and considering our good experience with Air Transat and their refurbished A330 last year we were more than willing to give them a try once again.
To shake things up a bit this year, we planned a trip that would see us fly in to Toronto and then head up to Ottawa and end in Montreal, catching us much hockey as we could. Canadian Affair gave us the option to do this complete with a car and for just a low deposit we were booked to fly an A330 outbound and one of Air Transat’s aging A310s on the return.
However about 3 months after booking, our outbound flight was changed to also become an A310 however the seat map at least showed it would be one of the Air Transat refreshed cabins.
(Air Transat have refurbished all their A330s to include better seat pitch, mood lighting, the new club seats and individual IFE; they also are refurbishing 6 A310s to keep around in the near term; and these are being fitted with mood lighting, better seat pitch, the new club seats, individual IFE in club only and new flat screen monitors overhead in Economy – on speaking to a member of the crew [who was fantastically insightful and a joy to chat with], I learnt that the new 737-800 additions to the fleet will be fitted the same as the A310s).
Due to the early departure of our flight we planned to stay overnight at the Gatwick Hilton in order to burn my soon to expire AAdvantage miles; and to ensure that we made the most of the day we arrived in Toronto.
Staying overnight at LGW
had many advantages, maybe the biggest being the short walk at 5am to the check in desks; which were still in LGW
’s zone B located in a strange downstairs area hidden away from the main terminal (I like this area, it feels private). Check in moved quickly and was a 50/50 split between both the Vancouver flight and our Toronto departure. The friendly but efficient check in agent was more than happy to reprint my boarding cards (I hate the ones you print out at home) and informed me that today’s flight was full in both cabins.
Clearing security at LGW
around 5.30am was a breeze; and we were through in no time – even if I did have to empty my entire bag out. The departure lounge (when we reached it after travelling through the endless jungle that is the Duty Free store) was still a building site, however since my last travel they have moved the stairs and opened up more “premium” shops that do not interest me in the slightest. Still missing are any windows (besides the ones in the upstairs eateries) and still included are what feels like 6000 outlets of WH
Smiths (or the London news company as they rebranded it at LGW
in attempt to make it feel upmarket), a set of toilets that feels like you may have just walked to your destination and new advertising that tells you your flight number, to wait in lounge and that there is “still time for a Pret A Manger”. I am surprised it has taken this long to integrate adverts in with the Gate info boards; however I am not shocked the first airport I have seen it in is LGW
We headed upstairs to the Bridge Bar and Café, where for marked up prices you can at least enjoy a decent sized breakfast with a view outside.
Sitting at the same table from our previous trip to Berlin; I was able to see the daybreak along with a copious amount of EasyJet planes (they really are huge at LGW
). More exciting aircraft included some VS
744s, a TS
A330 (not ours) and an EK
(easyjet, easyjet, easyjet)
(Air Transat A330 operating the YVR
Soon after we started eating, a thick fog rolled in and within minutes; the outside was impossible to see – I have never seen fog appear so quickly, and I am thankful it cleared as fast as it came in as I did not want to get stuck in LGW
Now you see me
Now you don't
8:50am soon rolled around and we were soon given a gate, unfortunately it was on the more boring main pier which features a lack of windows and a short walk therefore little opportunity to seek out extra photos from the outside.
Our gateroom was already starting to get busy when we arrived, and our near on 21 year old Airbus A310 C-FDAT was parked out front waiting its next flight, looking not a day over 10 years.
C-FDAT ready for an 8 hour stretch
Vancouver flight next to us
C-FDAT is the final A310 to be delivered to Air Transat; and was previously flown by Emirates (A6-EKK), the only sign of its past operator being a small exit sticker near the rear toilets in Arabic.
Boarding began and due to our row 7 position it meant we were to board almost last, not necessarily a bad thing when flying economy and on one of the few airlines to cram 9 people across on the A310.
dep 09:50 / 10:14
arr 12:34 / 12:54
On entering the plane we were immediately hit by the vibrancy from the LED
mood lighting, the brightness of a new aircraft interior; and that sort of new airplane smell. Passing a huge Skytrax Holiday Airline of the year sticker; we walked through the very small club cabin (which looked very good) and into the more cramped looking economy cabin.
The seats were basically the old ones reupholstered which mean they were softer than new seats, however lacked features such as winged headrests and in my opinion felt narrower than the seats from the A330 last year.
Legroom surprisingly is very good
A better idea of seat pitch
In front of us was a large flat screen monitor complete with a rolling slideshow of rather old Air Transat photos (the screen would have been no problem to view had the movies they were showing interested me), and to the side of us were what looked like brand new side panels. To the untrained eye, it would be hard to say this aircraft was 21 years old however elements such as the seat belt lights, call buttons and air conditioning panels did reveal closer to the aircrafts age.
Looking quite modern for a 20+ year plane
Not everything can mask the age though
Hot Lips next door readying for its next long haul adventure
Toilet wise there were 4 toilets located at the rear for the use of economy passengers, which sounded a long way from where we were sitting; but as there are only 33 rows on the entire plane it wasn’t too bad.
The captain announced over the PA that we would be due to arrive into YYZ
at 13:00 giving us a roughly 8 hour flight time; and that it should be quite a smooth flight. He was very sketchy on details which is a shame somewhat.
Being underneath the player for the main screen entertainment, some amusement came when the staff struggled to get the DVD player to play the safety demo video; and with the video finally playing we pushed back and joined the queue for the runway.
We saw the slideshow thats playing on screen quite a lot...
The A310 powered down the runway and into the air; and after banking towards the north we were off heading up over Manchester and out towards the Irish Sea and, eventually the Atlantic.
Cabin service started with landing cards, headphone sales and snack service for anyone in Option Plus (a enhanced Y service sold by Air Transat that features extra baggage, a free snack and alcoholic beverage, a comfort kit and most importantly an antimacassar that says your better than everyone else.
After this drinks were served followed by a wet towel service which is a small thing but always appreciated. Mainscreen entertainment had started by this point (once the staff had again gotten the DVD player) and the slideshow featuring photos of TS
L1101’s was replaced with the movie 42. Not caring for this film, I fired up the iPad and tried to forget the somewhat tight seat width.
Food was served about an hour and a half in, with the options being exactly the same as the previous year: Beef stroganoff, something vegetarian (might have been a risotto) and Sweet Chilli chicken.
The chicken option was a no brainer for myself, and whilst the portion of chicken was small; the flavour was enjoyable and the rice was well cooked. A free glass of wine was served with the meal followed by the usual tea and coffee. Desert was a disappointingly dry cake that made me miss VS
puddings but not the nasty Stem Ginger Biscuits I was served onboard an AA
flight a few years back.
Sweet Chilli Chicken
Close up on the meal, it tasted better than it looks
Trays were eventually cleared after a very long wait (60 mins +) and the queue for the toilets got very long.
I settled in to watch some programs on my iPad, including the new series of The Big Bang theory, and a new Family Guy episode that made me wonder why I still bother with new episodes.
A second drinks service started and we were once again not offered a full can – whilst I remember this from AA
, asking for a full can didn’t appear to be an option and I never saw anyone with a full can.
Thanks to us being on the wrong side of the plane, any chances to see scenery were hampered by an incredibly bright sun; and space was restricted due to what I feel may have been a way excessive recline allowed on the seats.
That is a nexus 7 barely fitting on the table - my iPad wouldn't have fitted
About 2 hours to 1hr 30 before landing, a second hot meal was served; once again it was a pizza which whilst is no Michelin Star meal, for me was substantial enough and pretty tasty.
Pizza - The mood lighting jazzed the photo up a bit too much
A third and final beverage round was done, shortly before a final litter run. The altitude started to lower and out the window it was now possible to see Ontario and this was a sign we would soon be landing. A pre-landing mint was distributed and passengers were asked to remove their headsets; unless they were purchased from TS
Just before 1pm our plane touched down to a wet looking YYZ
and then began a long taxi to the gate. It was announced that border control were doing an inspection at the gate so we would need our passports immediately (never ever had this before, anyone else?) and being in row 7 we were off the plane very promptly and cleared immigration, baggage and customs within 35 minutes.
Outside we jumped on the 192 Airport express bus where we connected to the subway arriving at our Hotel downtown around 1445 – not bad all things considered at all.
For those of you here for just the flights; scroll down a bit further past the next section - for those of you interested in what I did in Canada; read on!
Our first few days were spent catching up with what was new, what we liked previously and what we didn’t see from our previous trip to Toronto.
The CN Tower hidden amongst nearby high rises
Much more exciting shot of it at night
Hard to believe we were 10 minutes from the city
Notably the HHOF was high on the cards; and we also visited Beaches, something we missed previously.
Once again, we were amazed by the friendliness and the generosity of the people of Toronto; including a random valet who was shocked to see my new Dallas Stars jersey – let alone a Stars fan – and a Bar owner who was amazed people would come from the UK just to see hockey and even gave us a Puck signed by Joffrey Lupul.
Additionally we visited our friend in Hamilton; giving us the chance to play street hockey with some local kids, visit a corn maze, and to see our first hockey game of the trip – an AHL matchup between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the St John IceCaps.
Corn maze - Well, why do the corny tourist stuff?
Great view from these seats
Its always good when the goals happen inches from you!
On the Saturday of our trip we left Toronto and started what we hoped would be a 4 and a half hour drive to Ottawa.
Traffic was however horrendous and we arrived in Ottawa some 6 hours later – arguably some of the delay was due to our decision to drive via Smiths Falls, but this route provided us with some much nicer scenery.
Bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau
Part of the canal system
Front row centre 67's hockey
Even better when there is a shootout!
Beavertail - Amazing; if you get the chance have one
Ottawa has quite a different feel and look to it than to other cities Ive visited
Ottawa is a great city with some decent nightlife around the Byward Market. We genuinely enjoyed our time in this city, and of course the crazy cheap front row behind the goal seats at the Ottawa 67’s game.
Three days after arriving we travelled onwards through more traffic to Montreal.
Montreal certainly was a change of pace from Toronto and Ottawa and whether it was the language change or just the city; it really did feel like we had travelled to a different city.
Whilst in the city of Montreal we visited the typical touristy sites as you do; and also managed to catch a Habs game at the Bell Centre. The game atmosphere was amazing, even when the Habs lost to the Preds; and I am glad to have gotten the experience.
Mont-Royal hides behind the skyscrapers
Stunning views of the city offered for free from the top of the mountain
Home to the Canadiens and their very own hall of fame; The Bell Centre
From their entrance to the ice, you would never guess what team play here...
Or what country we were in.
Olympic Park at night
Very European, Montreal's Old Town
The stunning Garden of Light held every year in the fall
Downtown shot as the sun set and the lights turned on
Soon though it was time to return home and after collecting our suitcases from the luggage storage space at the train station we boarded the cunningly named “747 Airport Bus” and headed towards YUL
The Return Airport
Check in was pretty chaotic. A (from what I guess) full flight to Paris was checking in at the same time as us and the queue was fairly lengthy. It moved fast though and soon we reached a desk. Unfortunatly the poor agents computer had just restarted so we were passed to the desk next to her – however the person directing passengers from the queue to the desk didn’t quite agree with this move (we had moved to a desk “reserved” for Air Transat Club Enfant passengers) and after some words between agents in French we were allowed to check in at this desk.
Stopping for an overpriced (by Canadian standards) Burger King, we promptly cleared security and were once more Airside.
The first noticeable thing was that there we lots and lots of windows, which is fantastic; sadly as it was 9pm by now the view outside was hampered by the night; however there was still a good opportunity to see a few plane parked up at gate.
Finding space to sit was not an issue, as the terminal was not only well laid out but also filled with lots of seats, along with plug sockets and free wifi – all you need from an international airport.
The modern and easy to navigate YUL
Lots of space for all
The only shot I could manage of our plane
Today’s flight was to be operated by 22 year old C-GTSH; formerly operated by Lufthansa and delivered to Air Transat in April, 2004.
dep 22:50 / 23:03
arr 10:07 / 10:22
Boarding began slight late, at around 10pm, and with a significantly light load boarding was complete just before 10:50pm and the pilot came on to announce our route back towards the UK and that we should arrive on time.
The cabin onboard this plane actually felt even newer than the outbound so I suspect it was refurbished even more recently. Seating felt fairly hard and there clearly was a “newish” smell in the air. Notably this plane had no individual air nozzles and only 2 toilets at the back of the plane (glad it wasn’t a full flight) – there was no evidence of a former operator here and the only dead giveaway of the plane’s age was once again the seatbelt and call bell panels.
Legroom, again very good
Mood lighting was lowered to a cool purple tint and the staff loaded a Video 8 tape (wow, retro) in order to show the Safety Video; notably a different version from the outbound.
Another good looking cabin
Trippy mood lighting
Shame the moving map couldn't remain on the whole way
The empty plane hurtled down the runway and into the air, and soon the seatbelt lights were turned off and the crew jumped into action offering headphone sales and service to option plus passengers.
Taking note of the empty cabin, I spied the central exit row seats were vacant (these cost extra) – so I asked a cabin crew member if we could take them and they agreed so we moved here and enjoyed the much greater legroom albeit we lost about another half an inch from the somewhat already tight seat width.
Much better legroom
With many other rows of the plane empty one of my friends moved into another row in order to get a “lie flat” seat and sleep (He moaned about mood lighting keeping him awake, notably when the crew accidentally switched the lights to sunrise mode before meal service) whilst I decided to hold out for meal service before trying to sleep.
The movie was started and had it again been of any interest to me (it was the same film from the outbound) I could have easily watched it given my excellent view of the screen in front.
Awaiting meal service I took a walk to the back to get an idea of just how empty this flight was and whilst at the back I had the chance to talk to a very enthusiastic and informative crewmember – I had a chat with him about the plane refurbs, the plans for the future fleet and the 737s TS
were to have delivered. I also learnt about the crew being Montreal based; and how it would work with this being the final flight to LGW
out of YUL
for the season – it appears the flight from YUL
had been fairly quiet for the last few departures however the returns to YUL
were always full. From what the crew member was saying is that the airline hasn’t entirely ruled out fitting individual IFE to the A310s but it will depend on how long they plan to keep the refreshed ones for; and that the refurbishment of the fleet has been very well received by their flying audience.
I headed back to my seat and soon meal service began. Today there was a choice between Beef bourguignon, something vegetarian and Chicken Parmesan.
I chose the chicken option as it sounded good and I was in no way disappointed. Whilst my photo below really doesn’t do justice – there was an excellent amount of chicken, spaghetti and cheese complete with some courgette thrown in too. Desert was a rather naff cake again, however the free glass of red wine was welcomed.
Dinner - again tasted much better than it looks
A slightly better shot of the food
Meal trays were cleared away about 20 or so minutes later and I then attempted to get some shut eye. Having the middle space free and the only moveable armrest next to me I was able to stretch out a bit and at an odd angle managed to fall asleep – About 4 hours or so later I awoke and noticed the crew preparing the cabin for breakfast.
Moodlighting and morning light combine
A simple box was passed around by the crew containing juice, a cinnamon bun and a yogurt. Tea and coffee were offered soon after. Unfortunately the cinnamon bun was fairly dry and the yogurt had the weirdest texture so it wasn’t a great breakfast; however it filled a hole (and on a 6hr 30 flight I’m impressed that we got two meal services) and soon after the breakfast was cleared our plane was starting its descent into LGW
Breakfast mystery box!
Not the best but not the worst by far
Immediately we noticed that it was very grey and wet on approach to LGW
; and whilst I expected a slightly bumpier landing given these conditions it was actually hard to us to tell if we had landed or not; so kudos to the pilots there for one of the best landings I have ever experienced.
After an extended taxi to the far side of Gatwick South (the gates which were formerly connected by the transit system) we disembarked and walked through to the usual miserable passport control and then collected our bags.
Whilst we waited for our bags I noticed a new desk signed “Gatwick Connect” which was a trial system to assist passengers who were connecting between unlinked flights. During our time waiting I didn’t see anyone take up the offer and the worker running up and down the baggage hall endlessly asking anyone and everyone if they had any connections getting again no takers (there were several flights arriving) so I do not know how successful this trial is going.
After getting our bags I grabbed a bottle of water and we made our way to the train station.
I think my flights illustrate much of my conclusion from last years flight. Granted, their seats are quite narrow, however they have some fantastic crew members who go above and beyond to offer great service; they have good legroom and offer a decent soft product with food and drink. The A310s are old and there is no escaping that – however the refreshed ones look great inside and do not give their age away too much (I have heard worse things about the unrefreshed A310s): they even feature the new club class seats which do have AVOD built in to them.
For anyone looking to grab a ride on this short, chubby aircraft type before they all get retired Air Transat is a great option, especially when you compare their price to the others.
Would I fly them again is a yes, preferably on an A330 because they are nicer; however I doubt I would pay a premium to choose them over another carrier and I think this is in line with how they sell themselves: offering a lower cost alternative to the bigger players. If they would drop the extra row on their planes and offer a seat width along the lines of BA
, I would gladly pay more to choose them however.
Thank you for taking the time to read my report and I hope you enjoyed it. I look forward to your comments.
Last years trip report can be found here: Air Transat -New Cabin (LGW-YYZ-LGW) + Photos (by FlyKev Jun 24 2012 in Trip Reports)