Review of Air Transat – London to Canada service

We travel between London and Canada a few times a year and mostly we use Air Transat, as it’s usually the cheapest direct service by a large amount. The last time we booked a flight, which was 2 months ago, for instance, Air Transat was £430 return from London to Toronto, whilst British Airways was £610 and Air Canada was about £500.

The Air Transat booking staff in the UK aren’t great. But then again, from our experience, the booking staff from British Airways and Air Canada aren’t that good either. All very short tempered and acting like they’re doing you a big favour by selling you something. If this were a route that went via the Middle East the competition would be fierce, what with good airlines like Emirates or Qatar servicing those routes as well, but as it is it looks like Air Transat, BA and Air Canada have decided between them that they’ve got the monopoly on the route so they can be as rude and useless as they like in their dealings with customers.

So, to our most recent experience of Air Transat, flying from London to Toronto yesterday. The 2 of us were able to check in online 24 hours before we were due to leave, so we could get seats next to each other, which was good. This didn’t cost any extra, although by the time we did it, which was about 4 hours after on-line check in opened, there was only a few options left where 2 people could sit together as the rest of the plane was already reserved. If you have a party of more than 2, I suggest you get on the website and check in as soon as you are able.

The flight was delayed by more than 3 hours. The check in staff told us that. I had an idea that if the delay was that long we’d get a meal voucher to spend in the airport, or something. The check in staff said to go ask customer service about that. So I took a deep breath and walked over to the unsmiling customer service staff.

‘No,’, the lady said, ‘the delay is only 2 hours 55 minutes, no voucher.’

‘But the check in girl said it was over 3 hours.’

‘No, it will be less.’ To confirm that they weren’t going to give anything away for free, she asked an older man beside her about the voucher situation.

‘No, there are no vouchers,’ he said, ‘the delay isn’t our fault, it’s the weather.’

So began an awful 3 hour, 30 minute wait in Gatwick Airport. Gatwick is small, noisy and has no water fountains at all, so you have to pay the water tax that is being levied at most UK airports now. You either don’t drink for a few hours, or you buy the over-priced water on sale.

The plane boarded and we set off. There was good enough leg room. Only a few drop down TV’s to service the whole cabin though, and it’s pot luck if you’re going to be able to see one from your seat, but I already knew that situation so had bought a book. If you do want to watch the couple of films that they show during the 7 hour flight, then take your own headphones – the type you might use in your mobile phone will work – as Air Transat charge for headphones if you want to use theirs.

I’m usually a vegetarian but have learnt that as with many Western airlines, the veggie food offered is slop on Air Transat so I went for the meat option, in this case bits of beef on a pasta base, instead. It came with a little piece of bread, a bean salad starter and a chocolate brioche type cake for dessert.

It was fine. The problem was, drinks were erratically served, which meant that we didn’t get any drinks at all, no water, juice, anything, until about 30 minutes after we’d finished eating the meal. Pretty poor show really. I had to ask for them, the hostess glared like it was my fault, then offered a very small (150ml) glass of red, a glass of water and then soon after a polystyrene cup of tea.

So look, you get what you pay for. Air Transat are the cheapest carrier servicing this route.

If you want better food and staff that smile then book BA, although the last time I flew them the food they offered wasn’t worth the extra £100 or so the ticket cost.

If you want to be sure that your airline is going to take care of you if there is a delay, then don’t book Air Transat.

But if all you want is to get from London to Toronto in the cheapest possible manner, then Air Transat are ok. The leg room is adequate for me, and I’m 6 foot 1. Take your own headphones, or a book, and it’s fine.

If you want to check out Air Transat then please visit www.airtransat.co.uk

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