After my time in Montreal, I was looking forward to a solo adventure with no known destination. My wife had given me the ok to take a week to myself, and all I knew is that I would not be flying home with them. I went to the airport with her and the kids in order to help her avoid being alone with them for as long as possible.
Though I thought about a train, I quickly opted for a flight since I knew it would make renting a car easier. As I thought about where to go, I decided my only rule was that I had to get closer to Indianapolis with each step since I had to be there a week later. After searching the web, I found a little bed and breakfast outside of Fergus, over an hour northwest of Toronto’s Pearson airport. This sounded like an idyllic spot, so I booked it.
After my family went through security, I had to figure out how to actually get to Toronto. I tried to get my ticket home canceled — I had used Aeroplan miles — at the airport, but the Air Canada agents there said they couldn’t help me. I had to call Aeroplan which was surprisingly not that long of a wait. With that done, I walked over to the domestic side of the terminal and started looking at options.
Though I want to try the airline some day, Porter wasn’t a good plan this time since it would make for a far more difficult drive out to where I was heading. Pearson was a better option. Besides, Porter seemed pricey at about US$450.
Air Canada was even more expensive and nothing new, so I focused on my other options. The two best bets seemed to be a 1:15pm flight on a WestJet Encore Q400 or a 4:30pm flight on an Air Transat A330-200.
I figured Air Transat would be a really interesting one to try, especially on a widebody for such a short hop. I could book it in Sabre, but I couldn’t see the seat map and wanted to make sure I could snag a window. I tried the Air Transat website, but it wouldn’t let me book a ticket for travel the same day. So, I just walked over to the check-in area where there was someone finding out what everyone needed before allowing them in to the counter area.
I told her I wanted to buy a ticket and she looked at me like I was speaking a language she did not understand. I suppose it’s not a surprise that few people actually walk up to buy tickets here, but she quickly snapped to it and told me that they could not sell me one. I would have to call the call center. Could I ask someone to pull up a seat map? No, absolutely not.
So, I got on a long hold, waiting for the call center, while walking over to talk to WestJet, just in case. WestJet said the 1:15pm flight was too close to departure by that point, but they had a 3:20pm which was available… but she could not tell me the price. I would have to call their call center again to buy a ticket. This was very frustrating, so I just grabbed a corner of the cold tile and logged back on to see how much that was running in Sabre.
WestJet wanted well over US$500, and there was no way I was going to pay that. I did an award search, however, and found a winner. For a mere 10,000 Qantas points transferred from Amex plus C$79, I could take that same flight. I stayed on hold with Air Transat just in case, but I decided I’d take the Q400, and I went to book the ticket.
I didn’t get very far. When I tried to transfer the points, Amex said it didn’t recognize my Qantas account, I tried a couple of times and then finally gave up. Instead, I decided to open up a new Qantas account and just transfer the points in there instead. That worked, and I then went on the Qantas website… to find the seat was now gone. I’m guessing it had taken so long that it was then too close to departure. I was just mad at this point and wanted my plans settled.
After half an hour on hold with Air Transat and not getting anywhere, I hung up, because I realized I was being stupid. I just bought the ticket in Sabre, knowing I could void it if I didn’t like my seat options at check in. I then went to check-in online and… nothing. *sigh*
It said it didn’t recognize my information. Crap. I went back to the Air Transat counter and the line-minder let me pass the gauntlet this time, so I could check in at the kiosk. I tried scanning my passport first, but the kiosk said no reservation was found. Then I tried using the record locator but the keyboard only had letters on it and my record locator had some numbers in it. What on earth….
At this point I got in a short but never-moving line to speak with an agent. I was holding my computer trying to look at other options when I decided to try to check in online again. This time, it worked. I guess there’s some lag in the system before it recognizes a Sabre booking. I got out of line and finished check in. I was given seat 24A, so I was happy, even though I did have a fairly long wait ahead until that flight departed. No matter, I had a lot of work to do, and it didn’t matter where I did it.
I initially just sat in the Air Transat check in area doing work, but then I realized that was not the best place to sit, so I went through security which was yet again another mess of an experience. I don’t know how anyone travels in this country.
I first entered the queue where someone scanned my boarding pass to make sure I was actually traveling. It was pretty quiet there, and there were several bored-looking agents standing around. The second my boarding pass was scanned, one of those agents got up… “hello, you have been randomly chosen for a search.” Ok, so we step to the side, he swabs my laptop, opens my bag, etc. After a couple minutes, I’m free to go, though he again has to scan my boarding pass before I can move on to the next stop.
The line was pretty empty, so I got to the front in no time. There, I had to pull my laptop out again, put it in a separate bin, take my shoes off, rip my belt off… all the usual fun stuff. I can’t remember if it was here or somewhere else, but my boarding pass was scanned for a third time. This was just silly.
I got through the checkpoint, but my bag didn’t do so well. It was flagged for further inspection yet again, despite already having been searched a few minutes earlier. When I got through, there was an angry English guy yelling at the agents that he was going to miss his flight. It was going really well for him… they seemed to care deeply. Just kidding, they told him it’s not their fault and had scowls on their faces since I’m sure they get this on a regular basis.
Having already gone through so much, I tried to lighten the mood. I whispered to the agent that I wasn’t going to miss my flight so she could take her time. She flashed a smile before it quickly disappeared as the angry Brit went on and on again. Despite all this, I’m going to bet he didn’t miss his flight.
The agent then looked at my bag, opened my toiletry kit, and took a deep, long look at my shaving cream. She then said there was nothing there, gave me my bag, and I was finally free to wait it out on the concourse as our A330 pulled into the gate.
I sat down at a power outlet and realized I had done absolutely nothing to figure out how I was going to get a car and all that. So I hammered that out, got up and walked around, and realized I probably could have driven to Toronto already. But this would be way more fun. When would I get to fly Air Transat?
The monitor said boarding would begin at 3:50pm, and it did indeed. The agents announced that there were two lines for boarding, and they would be open to all in whatever group number was being called. It was surprisingly efficient, considering that passports/IDs had to be checked by the agents even for this domestic flight. They were so good at getting people through quickly that they filled up the single jet bridge and had to pause for some time.
Once group 7 was called, I boarded.
Air Transat 460
August 13, 2022
➤ Scheduled: 430p, Actual: 443p
➤ From: Gate A51 on Runway 24L
➤ Scheduled: 555p, Actual: 557p
➤ At: Gate B2A on Runway 24L
➤ Type: Airbus A330-243
➤ Delivered: April 29, 2003 to Emirates
➤ Registered: C-GUBC, msn 518
➤ Livery: Light blue tail with star
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 24A
➤ Load: ~85% Full
➤ Flight Time: 49m
There were several things I noticed about the cabin upon entering. First, there’s a funny little bulkhead-less entry at door 2 where there is a gap in the overhead bins above. Second, there is cool blue lighting that runs through the entire cabin. And third, wow, there are a lot of seats on this airplane… 345 of them in a 3-3-3 abreast coach configuration instead of the standard 2-4-2.
There was no trouble getting things in the overhead bins, but when I sat down, it became instantly clear that these seats were remarkably narrow. The guy next to me wasn’t huge, but he did stake his rightful claim to the armrests as a middle-seat occupant. And the guy on the aisle was bigger, so the middle guy leaned toward me, and I leaned toward the window. It was really uncomfortable.
Legroom, on the other hand, was perfectly fine.
Each seat had a TV, and the seats looked nice and new. The captain came on to welcome us aboard and said it would be a short 50 minutes to Toronto. He actually beat that by a minute. We were a little delayed pushing back due to late arriving baggage, but eventually we did get going and made our way to the runways on the south side of the airport.
We took off effortlessly and instead of a 10,000 foot chime, the captain simply turned the seatbelt sign off.
There was a chorus of clicking seatbelts as people undid them. I will never understand why people do that.
I played with the inflight map which seemed to be functional but of a previous generation. There were plenty of movies, TV, and games available. How did I know there were games? Because the person behind me seemed to be in a vigorous battle with her boyfriend to see who could punch the screen the hardest. Games on touchscreens in seatbacks are always a bad idea.
With such a short flight on a leisure airline, I didn’t expect inflight service, but sure enough the crew deftly rolled out the carts with a full beverage service. They were absolutely rock stars. I just had water, and I marveled at how quickly they worked the cabin.
We cruised briefly at 34,000 feet before we started descending. The crews flew through the cabin, took all the trash, and the seatbelt sign came on to indicate it was landing time.
It was a somewhat hazy day as we glided in abeam Lake Ontario, but there was still a nice view of Toronto to the south as we came in on final approach. After touching down, we a really long taxi to get to our gate in the seventh circle of hell in Terminal 3. Parking at gate B2A on this odd random finger extended from the actual terminal meant we had to walk to the beginning of the concourse, go downstairs, walk underground, pop back up in the A concourse, walk again, go back downstairs for awhile, come back up, and then go down to baggage claim.
I walked outside and followed the signs to car rentals. Of course, I had to walk all the way to the far end of the concourse to find National. I crossed into the garage and found… nothing.
There were no cars anywhere. It was weird. An old paper sign posted on the National kiosk said that due to the pandemic, all car rentals were over in Terminal 1. I don’t know if there were signs about this earlier, but I never saw them.
So now I had to go back across the street, head into the terminal, go upstairs to ticketing, go to the middle of the terminal, go upstairs again to the train, wait for the train, take it to Terminal 1, go downstairs into the garage, take the elevator down to level 1, and then I was finally there. I hopped into a Hyundai Kona and made my way out of town. What a miserable experience.
As much as I can’t stand flying in Canada, I have to say I enjoyed Air Transat once onboard. I just can’t imagine flying in that narrow seat all the way to Europe, so I’d probably look for an A321neo instead since they’ve yet to find a way to put 7 abreast on that airplane. Still, it was a nice overall experience with them once I got myself booked.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles posts so far:
- Flying Air Canada to Montreal
- Getting French at Club Med Charlevoix and Beyond
- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: VIA Rail From Quebec City and Visiting Montreal