It's March in the Greater Toronto Area which means its still cold and snowy and generally disgusting out so its the perfect time for me and my family to get the hell out of Dodge and head somewhere sunny for a week.
After going to the Dominican Republic last year I found a nice deal for a package in one of our favourite places down South at beautiful Montego Bay, Jamaica.
One of the things I like about flying Air Transat is that on their widebody flights they offer a full Club service as well of course as the full Club cabin with 2-2-2 seats. A far cry from the cramped 3-3-3 found in the rest of the aircraft.
I believe this is the first review on this site of Air Transat's Club Class (Actually of Air Transat in any cabin suprisingly!) so I've tried to make the report as comprehensive as I can to give you a full idea of what the experience is like. If I had to sum up its a really nice hybrid between Premium Economy and Business Class and certainly a significant step up over the sardine can like conditions in the main cabin.
Being able to fly in comfort, even for just a few hours down South is really important to me, and its one of the first things I look for when figuring out our trip. I wouldn't let it be the sole determining factor, but its a good place to start from.
Fortunately space in Club was available on the dates we wanted to travel to Montego Bay and combined with a nice sale price on an all-inclusive week at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort the decision was made and I booked it right around Christmas time.
Our day started by checking out of the Doubletree Toronto Airport (my favourite YYZ airport hotel by far) and grabbing the shuttle bus over to T3.
Since I was last there Air Transat have moved all their check-in desks (along with Sunwing) to the far Easterly end of the terminal.Because our flight had a very civilised departure time of 12:45 there wasn't a great deal of activity. We approached the dedicated Club line and were called forward instantly to check in.
In this case the priority check in wasn't really needed as the regular queue was not very long but last year it was worth the price of the Club upgrade alone on departure from Punta Cana. Air Transat had 5 flights departing PUJ that afternoon and I'm not exaggerating to say that there must have been 500 people in the economy check in line up. It was pure bedlam and I was so thankful we were in Club as there was only one other couple ahead of us in the Club line. We must have saved at least an hour's wait so to me that more than justified the upgrade cost.
I should note that the Club upgrade is pretty reasonable. Its charged by length of flight but most flights South are in the 3-5 hour range so the prices tend to be the same. One way its CAD$180 per person, so $360 round trip. Personally I find the cost well worth it, and its always presented as an option when booking the package vacation if seats are available (You can also upgrade just one way as well).
The Sunwing area further down the hall
At this point I was eager to try out the Priority security screening lane thanks to my Amex Platinum but it turned out to be completely pointless as there was nobody in the regular line either so we just went through that and were done through security in no time at all.
I've found YYZ both in T1 and now T3 to be so easy to get through if you are travelling any time from about 1000-1400. The airport is quiet and well staffed and pretty much a pleasure to ease through. Hats off to YYZ, I think its improved markedly in the last few years.
After breezing through security we were airside and faced with the long walk to Gate C32 and the lounges.
After handing out a compliment to YYZ I'll hand out a bit more of a moan in that everything at YYZ always seems to be a long walk……..It's probably not really true it just seems that way to me. For example the walk from the C30 gates into arrivals is a very long one and if you even have the slightest mobility restrictions you should ask for help. It's a good 15 minute walk even at a good clip and strangely involves going up a level, lots of walking and then back down a level before you are spit out into Canadian Immigration.
Anyway, after a long trek we arrived at Gate C32 which not only was our departure gate but conveniently where the Plaza Premium lounge was. Taking advantage of my Priority Pass membership it was easy to gain access for the 3 of us. The lounge also serves as the contract J Class lounge for a number of airlines operating out of T3 at YYZ including BA, China Eastern, Etihad, Cathay and China Southern etc.
Once we had taken our seats inside we were greeted by this wonderful view, which is C-GTSN the aircraft that would be taking us down to MoBay this afternoon. Note the weather, while a bit grey, overcast and generally Wintery you can see the Infield Terminal, Skyservice FBO, Midfield Cargo and of course YYZ Tower. Things would not remain like this for long however!
The Plaza Premium T3 International is the very first airport lounge I ever set foot in back in 2012. Back before I knew better and was overjoyed to find you could actually pay to access an airport lounge!
Its not changed at all since that first time, but maybe that's not a bad thing as its a perfectly nice lounge. It's quite small, although I've never seen it too busy, there does appear to be plenty of seating.
Let's take a look around shall we……………..
Lots of different seating areas
Sorry for the wonky angle on some of these, I've got to do a bit better with holding my phone straight!
There are mens and womens washrooms and apparently shower facilities, although I've never used them.
The mens room is always clean and well kept
There is always a fair selection of food and drinks available, including a bar which you can only be served alcohol from after 11am thanks to Ontario's antiquated licensing laws…………..
Sorry about that last blurry one, not sure what happened there!
There is a well stocked fridge with soft drinks………………
And once the bar finally opens this is what you can expect……………
Food wise, I didn't bother this time as when we arrived breakfast was still ongoing and we had eaten a good breakfast at the hotel earlier, but there was a few items to choose from…………
Of course there was complimentary wifi (the lounge's own not just leeching off the free airport wifi too which meant speeds were excellent) and lots of charging ports at the seats.
Time for a boarding pass shot :)
One of the things I love most about this lounge are the views out over the ramp and taxiways A and B as well as 15L/33R
Given the weather the YYZ De-ice bay was in full swing. It is the biggest and busiest central de-icing facility in the World and frankly its a remarkably good and efficient operation. Its fascinating to sit and watch the whole thing in action.
A little hard to tell from this shot but the bay is full currently with all 6 lanes in action and a tidy queue building up waiting to enter. The de-ice facility is to the left of that large Skyservice/Westjet hangar.
The CDF has 6 bays that can accommodate all aircraft up to A380 size. Each bay can be further split into 2 depending on the aircraft type using each lane. It is possible for 12 aircraft to be de-iced at any one time. A widebody for example will take the central lane and that bay can't then be used by any other aircraft. Smaller aircraft like 737/A320 and smaller can both use a bay simultaneously as each bay has a central (widebody) lane and a left and right lane which 2 smaller aircraft would then use.
As the morning progressed the snow started to fall. And then it started to fall heavier and heavier until things started to look like this……
Remember how earlier you could see the Infield Terminal, Midfield Cargo, Tower etc? Yeah not so much now!
Our aircraft had been parked overnight since arriving from Puerto Plata the night before so we were likely de-icing anyway thanks to the cold temperatures and frost layer that had built on the wings, but this snowfall made it a certainty. Check out that wing contamination now!
After leaving the lounge we made our way down to Gate C32.
We arrived to a packed gate, as you would expect for an aircraft on a charter with a C12 Y333 configuration. There were well over 300 people waiting for TS608 today.
Boarding started a little later than advertised but still in good time around 1220.
Airline: Air Transat
Flight Number: TS608
Departure: Toronto Pearson YYZ
Scheduled Departure Time: 1245
Actual Departure Time: 1336
Arrival: Montego Bay Sangster Intl MBJ
Scheduled Arrival Time: 1700
Actual Arrival Time: 1706
Flight Time: 3:29
Travel Date: Saturday March 2nd
Class: Club Class
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Boarding was done in groups and started with Group 1 which was the usual elderly, disabled and those with small children or requiring extra assistance. Next was Group 2 which was us in Club. Boarding priorities were well enforced and with a quick scan of the boarding pass and ID check we were off down the jetway.
We boarded via door L2 and were warmly welcomed by two crew members who directed us to turn left to the Club cabin.
As we approached 1240 the captain announced that we were fully ready but one passenger had not boarded. Finally around 1250 the last passenger boarded and we were then ready to go.
The Club cabin on Air Transat is a very nice and intimate space. With only 12 seats consisting of 2 rows of 2-2-2 seats its a very small premium cabin.
The first thing I noticed was that the space to get into my seat 2A was incredibly tight. Where the small drinks table extends out from the dual armrests it gives you very little room to get in. If seat 1C was reclined I honestly don't see how it would be possible to get out from 2A.
As it was during the flight I would have to virtually crawl across my poor daughter to get out. If you were to be sat next to a stranger you would have to ask them to get up in order for you to get out of your seat.
I'll be demonstrating just how tight that gap is in my review of the return trip………..Stay tuned!
Last year on our trip to Punta Cana we were sat in the first row, which honestly is significantly better then row 2.
I would take row 1 every time (sadly it was booked out when we booked our trip and not available!).
The cabin is quite pleasant, bright and nicely decorated. Although the decal proclaiming to be the 2018 Skytrax Best Leisure Airline looks horribly tacky slapped on the sidewall of the bulkhead.
There is a bulkhead separating Club and Economy. Its a full one behind the middle pair and a partial one with curtains behind the window pairs. The curtains were kept closed and there was an announcement that the forward lavatory was only for Club Class. Flight attendants also strictly enforced this policy. The only foot traffic was from the cabin crew and other Club guests.
Do note the overhead bins above Row 1 are not full sized, however bin space was never an issue with such a small cabin
General overview of the cabin prior to departure
Above the seats, cabin lights but no overhead air vents
This shot gives you an idea of the recline available. You can see 1D is in the fully reclined position compared to 1G which is still upright.
The seats themselves were quite comfortable. Well padded and had a reasonable amount of recline. Legroom was good too, despite the access problems caused by the protruding armrests.
The seat only had one function which was recline and there was a decent amount. As this was only a 3.5 hour daytime flight it wasn't really necessary, and the seat in its upright position was quite comfortable enough.
Here's a view of the recline with 1D in the fully reclined position. There is a definite impact on the space behind in Row 2.
Here's an idea of the legroom which was quite ample.
There was an adjustable footrest which I found I didn't need. Be aware foot space under the C seats is a little less than the A seats due to the presence of a small box which I assume is for the IFE.
You can see a pair of storage spaces on the centre section and there were 2 bottle holders containing water bottles in the forward part of the armrests between our seats.
The seatback touchscreen monitor was large and adjustable and of a good definition.
There was also a typical seatback pocket with literature including safety card, inflight magazine, bistro menu (for buy on board - not required in Club) and a duty free magazine.
Here you can see how the backs of the seats in Row 1 curve back towards Row 2 and that tight space in the middle.
On the next report I'll demonstrate exactly how much of an issue that is
Seat features are rather basic. One recline button (no footrest) and the handset controller which I never found a need to use. Tray table of course extends out from the centre armrest.
Storage space on the left side of the seat
Central armrest section which includes handy USB charging and a small storage area between the armrest and seat
Seat overview including provided Club Class blanket and slippers stored in a handy bag which you are free to take with you (Taken on return flight which is why its sunny!)
All Air Transat Club passengers receive complimentary slippers and a blanket which are provisioned in a very handy bag. The wrapper indicates that you are free to take everything home.
Interestingly on this flight we also had Amenity kits on our seats. We did not get these on either of our flights last year and as we found out on the return leg these were handed out in error. They are supposed to only be for Trans-Atlantic flights and not flights South.
Amenity kit contents. Socks, eye mask, refreshing towelette, dental kit, ear plugs and 2 lotions
Earphones are also handed out and again are yours to keep
I know they don't look much but these earbuds are actually really good quality. The sound is far superior to earbuds I was given on Air Canada and they have also been way more durable than other expensive earbuds I've purchased in stores. So I really rate these and am quite happy to have 2 new pairs!
The IFE screen was excellent.
It was not only fast and responsive but you could control everything including your seat light and cabin attendant call button from there as well as brightness, volume and even powering off the screen.
The definition was excellent and the range of movies and programming was more than enough for a flight of this length.
To the right of the screen was another USB port and the headphone jack
Some of the movie selection…………
A wide range to choose from………….
Some TV shows…………
Flight info and map……….
Service was kicked off by the very warm and friendly crew with a pre-departure drinks offering of sparkling wine or orange juice. My pour looks a bit stingy here but that's only because there had been some consumption prior to the photo!
We pushed back as mentioned a little behind schedule due to the late passenger, but the bulk of our departure delay would be accounted for by the trip to de-ice which you can see was most needed!
The safety video was screened
We made our way gingerly around the very icy taxiways to Pad 6 at de-ice.
ATC will work the aircraft to the de-ice entry area where control is transferred to a dedicated De-Ice controller who using a mix of radio communications and electronic boards issue instructions to the aircraft similar to what you would find at one of those touchless car washes. The callsign for the De-Ice controller is the rather cool "Iceman" :)
We had a short wait while an Air Canada 767 ahead of us got blasted with various types of fluid before we rolled forward and the show began…………
Another AC 787-8 next door in Pad 5
Once De-Ice was completed and we were refreshed with a green coating of Type IV we made our way down to 06L where with little delay we were lined up and made a sprightly take off before turning South, quickly getting above the crud and into the bright sun.
After about 30 minutes the cabin crew came around to take meal orders or if you pre-ordered online as we did to confirm selections. It's nice that Air Transat offer both free seat selection and meal ordering in Club as many legacy carriers do not offer this even in their premium cabins (Looking at you BA! with paid seat selection in J)
While they did this they advised that a bar service would be starting shortly and they took drink orders.
I'd start with a fine Canadian beer and we were given some tasty nibbles as well
After the bar service a refreshing hot towel was handed out
While I think Air Transat gets a lot of things right with its Club offering, the dining is an area where I think it leans distinctly towards the Premium Economy scale and away from proper Business Class.
This was the main meal………….
Now it wasn't bad at all, infact my chicken main was very tasty, but there's nothing really here that to me says Business Class.
This meal will cost you $25 if you are in Economy and want to order one of the "Chef's selection" hot meals. Not worth anywhere near that, but again in its defense it was very tasty and I enjoyed all the food.
Wine was also offered, including 2 choices of both whites and reds. No fill up was offered but I suspect had I asked it would have been done without hesitation. This is something I've noticed is a difference between Asian carriers and the rest of the World, where it seems that you have to ask if you want anything more than just the minimum.
Overall though I'd say this was a very decent PY meal.
After the lunch service was cleared away hot towels were passed out again and tea and coffee was offered.
As a Brit I would have to renounce my citizenship if I turned down a "nice cup of tea"
Can't remember ever having tea in a glass before! But it hit the spot all the same
Service took a while to get finished. By the time food was served we were an hour into the flight and it was a good 90 minutes before we were done.
By this time we were well into the US somewhere over either Virginia or North Carolina…………
At this point I kicked back and watched Bohemian Rhapsody again (Great movie!). There was no further offering of drinks although again I saw other passengers ask and be given drinks from the bar with no issue. Again the crew on this flight were very warm and willing and everything was delivered with a smile and without hesitation.
After a duty free service we were hitting the Caribbean and passing just East of the Bahamas
There were also some fantastic cloud formations
Old Money Below ;)………….
On approach into Montego Bay from the North and we passed this wonderful scene
We positioned on a long base leg for Runway 07 turning final over Sandy Bay
The runway at MBJ is very much like at SXM in some ways, almost looks like you are going to land in the water
We made a nice landing and rolled out all the way to the end of the runway before turning back to head for the Terminal.
The contrast in the weather from departure could not have been more stark!
On the way we passed this nice GA/Biz ramp
TUI Dreamliner from Manchester and a Rouge 767 from YYZ also are already parked up. We had to hold here for a few minutes due to a Condor 767 pushing back for its journey back to Frankfurt.
New-ish Sangster Tower……………Hmmmmm, I could definitely work here :D
After finally getting to our gate there was a bit of a wait for the jetbridge to join up with door L2. My daughter was kindly invited to check out the flightdeck and enjoyed her time as an A330 First Officer :D
Although I think to be honest I enjoyed it all far more than she did :D
With that we bid farewell to the wonderful crew and made our way into the airport.
Unfortunately the scene at immigration was a train wreck. Multiple widebody aircraft had all arrived and there were hundreds and hundreds of people queuing. It took an hour to wind our way through the lines and finally get admitted into Jamaica. However it appears there may be hope for the future as there were a multitude of electronic immigration kiosks being installed that were not ready for use yet. Not sure if they will just be for Jamaican citizens or not but it brings hope that the immigration situation here can be brought under better control.
It depends entirely on when you arrive and what the timing is like with other large aircraft. When we last came to Jamaica in 2015 I paid for the Club Mobay Fast Track as I'd heard horror stories of hour+ wait times. We arrived then at around 2pm and it was totally not needed as there were no line ups at all. This time though it would have been well worth the cost. Live and Learn!
Once we were through all that, bags were obviously long since out on the belts and we made our way out of the airport to our waiting coach to take us to our resort.
Sorry no pictures of the arrival at MBJ as it was a gong show and I just couldn't be bothered at that point, just wanted to get out of there!
This was now the third flight I have done in Air Transat's Club Class. I've found to product to be well worth the additional cost for flights to /from the Caribbean.
The product is difficult to describe. In some ways its a Business Class service in others its more Premium Economy.
The seats while comfortable and offering substantially more room than the 3-3-3 Economy torture configuration don't do much more than recline without even an extending footrest.
There is lots of legroom but getting in and out of the window seats is a massive challenge and if the seat infront is reclined its nigh on impossible.
Entertainment was very good and service was light, informal, friendly and caring. Perhaps a bit more pro-active with refills would go a long way.
Food while tasty wasn't a very premium experience.
Overall though for the price paid CAD360 return and for what you get over sardine class down the back to me Air Transat Club is a no-brainer, I'll take it every time. It's a very good product and attractively priced and for Canadians heading South a great way to travel in a bit of style and comfort.