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.
After a week that seemed more like 3 days with how fast it went, our vacation was over and it was time to leave the superb Hilton Rose Hall Resort and catch our bus back to Sangster Intl airport for the flight home. Back to a cold, harsh reality. From 29C to -6C, so just the 35 Celsisus temperature drop to content with. How wonderful.
After around 20-30 minutes the coach had done all its various hotel stops and we were unloaded at the International Departures area at Sangster.
Upon entering the terminal we made a right turn to head to the Air Transat check in area.
As is usually the case in peak season the whole area was a zoo. Fortunately Club Class came to the rescue again with the dedicated check in lane. I would guess that the Economy line must have had at least 150 people in it, but fortunately the Club line only had 1 family waiting before us while 1 family was already in the process of checking in.
For whatever reason though they took an age to get checked in and we had a good 10 minute wait before being attended to by a rather surly and miserable agent. In fact she managed to display such amazing contempt for the vermin who dared to bother her that day that I almost suggested she should think about applying for cabin crew for one of the US Airlines.
After this less than delightful encounter we were at least checked in and ready to head to the lounge………..
There was a touch of comedy value about this next part of the process…………
So once you are checked in and wish to head to the secure airside area, there are two options. One is to just go through the regular security lanes the other is a marked entrance to Club Mobay and the Fast Track.
There was a desk where you would either show your boarding pass, pay cash or as I was going to do use my Priority Pass to gain access.
The problem was there was one desk agent and seemingly everything took an age to get processed. A British family flying with TUI in Premium had some kind of issue that required multiple phone calls before they could be allowed to pass.
After we were finally processed several minutes had elapsed and the irony was not lost on me that had we simply used the regular security we could have already been through and out the other side in the time it had taken to get access to the "Fast Track".
Next up was surly MBJ agent #2, who insisted that I place all 3 of our boarding passes into all 3 of our passports at the photo page. Once done, I presented them to him only for him to tell me that he didn't need to see them and to proceed to the next desk to have our boarding passes scanned. Thanks for that!
For a country so full of such wonderful, kind, happy and generous people I can't help but wonder how MBJ airport manages to find so many miserable employees. It's not a terrible airport by any means (certainly light years better than the awful slice of hell that is Punta Cana) but its not an airport likely to be remembered fondly by those passing through it.
Security here involved all sorts of farcical theatre like taking shoes and belts off (really there are still places doing this?), even had to place my sweater in a bin to be x-rayed.
Once that was dealt with everyone goes up some stairs to be spat out into a duty free shop.
From there it was off to Gate 12 where the entrance to Club Mobay is located.
From the reception you go down a level to access the lounge in what might be the World's smallest elevator. It says inside maximum occupancy is 8 but unless it was Snow White and her dwarfs I would guess that would be impossible. 4 people plus carryons would be a tight squeeze. There are stairs instead you can take and that's probably the quicker option.
to the right of this area was something called the "Sky Lounge". No idea how you get access to that, it was never mentioned as an option but it looked very nice in there and as I was about to find out would have been substantially better than the Club Mobay lounge.
Once down a level there is a desk and a very narrow corridor that is teaming with people. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing place this is not going to be the lounge for you. To the left were lockers for bag storage and to the right two doors. One for lounge A and the other for B.
There was an agent directing you to one of the lounges.
Once the doors opened we were directed to one of the few free spaces left and took a table. We were advised someone would be here to take drink orders shortly and that it was an open bar and buffet.
The bar looked decent enough from a distance and true enough after a short wait we had drinks orders taken. The table service was a nice touch.
The lounge was very busy so I wasn't going to go around shooting a boatload of photos, so I did the best I could.
Here is a kids play area………….
Here is the buffet area…………..
The food was very uninspiring. It was selection of hot and cold items like sushi, salad, wraps, patties, cakes etc
Water and dry snacks also available……………Also buffet was the same on both sides of the central island
Sorry an unfortunate attack of blurries hit this shot. But its a beer, some wraps and a tasty spicy beef patty
Down the long corridor was a spa (paid) offering various treatments and washrooms.
Again no chance to get anything like useful shots due to the volume of people, although this is the view back down the corridor coming back from the washrooms. Lots of interesting Jamaican history photos adorned the walls
This afternoon's departures………..
And a boarding pass shot………
Not much to add here as amazingly boarding started early. We left the lounge around 1725 for 1730 boarding and as we ultimately were at Gate 13 we basically turned left out of the lounge and were there.
The moment we walked up to the gate area the agent started taking documents for Group 2. A couple rather rudely cut infront of me as I was about to step forward so I couldn't help but have a quiet chortle to myself when they were turned away for being in Group 3.
So no Gate pictures as we were straight off down the jetway and onto C-GTSN once again………
Airline: Air Transat
Flight Number: TS609
Departure: Montego Bay Sangster Intl MBJ
Scheduled Departure Time: 1830
Actual Departure Time: 1821
Arrival: Toronto Pearson YYZ
Scheduled Arrival Time: 2245
Actual Arrival Time: 2210
Flight Time: 3:49
Travel Date: Saturday March 9th
Class: Club Class
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Well, as we are on the same aircraft as we flew on the outbound leg, there's obviously nothing different about the cabin or the seat!
One thing I did want to expand on though was just how incredibly tight these seats are to get in and out of in Row 2.
First though some cabin shots.
Here's a look at the Economy cabin. This is the Option Plus seating area that comes with extra leg room. You can see its a 3-3-3 torture chamber
There is a hard bulkhead to separate the cabins behind the middle seat sections and a partial bulkhead behind the window sections with a curtain divider.
There wasn't really any problem with this, although it was easy to hear conversation from the row behind. The first row in Y here has a lot of legroom.
At night the lights were dimmed and the cabin was quite pleasant
Onto the seat, which is of course exactly the same as on the way down
Now my biggest issue with Row 2 and why Row 1 is a massive upgrade over the 2 rows.
So as you can see here, the seatback curves as does the centre section. There is a significant curve of the Row 1 seats back into Row 2's space.
Let me show you just how bad it is
At floor level the gap between the seats isn't too bad
I'm a US/Canada Size 10 foot and with my heel right up against our centre section its about a foot to the base of Row 1's centre section.
However remember that curve?
The actual space between the back of Row 1 and the edge of the drinks table is this………….
It's about the width of my hand span which is about 8"
That remember is the gap into and out of the seat with both seats in Row 1 upright!
Now imagine that Row 1 is now reclined, and you've lost 4-5" of that space due to 1A and 1C being fully back into your space……………..How on Earth is 2A supposed to get out of the seat?
I actually had to cave and ask the (very nice and understanding) guy in 1A if he could please put his seat up so I could go to the washroom.
I felt OK doing that as they were very nice people and nobody was sleeping. How would it go if you were on an overnight redeye across the Atlantic and Row 1 was asleep? Awkward and unpleasant.
Row 1 has easy access in and out and due to this is why I would much prefer that row even given the loss of under-seat storage.
Legroom is ample, this is the unobstructed foot area for 2A
Here is it for 2C (Footrest deployed) with an obstruction from the seat anchor. At least its quite thin and easy enough to straddle with your feet
This is the much nicer Row 1
Unlike our Southbound flight no amenity kit was here this time.
The passengers in 2H and 2K asked the crew about the lack of amenity kit and were told rather abruptly that they don't give them out on flights to the South and were told they were obviously mistaken. Well no they were not, so once they described the kit the CSM decided they were not full of it and that they must have been given out by mistake.
There was a very clear difference between this crew and our crew on the Southbound leg.
We were again provisioned with blankets and slippers on our seat and again headphones were handed out pre-departure.
Again same as on the way down. Nice high-res display with lots of content
One thing also that I like is that Air Transat IFE is available gate to gate
Decided to watch this………….
Boarding was done well and on time, actually a little early.
Pre departure service was same as last time with drinks handed out on a tray offering sparkling wine and orange juice.
Headphones were also passed out while boarding was ongoing allowing us to enjoy all of the IFE right from the get go which was appreciated.
It soon became obvious that our crew was not going to be anywhere near as nice and warm as our Southbound crew.
After almost insultingly dismissively trying to tell the couple in 2H/K that they were wrong about the Amenity Kits the CSM made it clear she was all business and zero warmth.
She wasn't actively rude at all just made it be known she was in charge and service would be functional but no more.
The vibe was very different from the whole crew and I assume that's a direct link from the tone the CSM likely set right at the start.
Also too worth noting these crews do both South and Nortbound legs on the same turn so its a long day for them.
We pushed back early and were airborne a full 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
The taxi was quick from Gate 13 to Runway 07 and we lined up and took off with no delays.
After 15 minutes in the air or so the bar service was offered and meal orders taken or confirmed.
Once again I had a beer and we were all handed a small ramekin of crunchy snacks
Afterwards a hot towel was again provided
It was then some time before dinner was served. It seems to be Transat policy to serve the meal after at least an hour in the air.
As on the way down, the food was very good. It was tasty but again I felt there was some room for a more premium experience.
Dinner served on a tray, all courses at once and crackers in a plastic bag are all screaming economy. Given that these are not huge multi course dining affairs a la EVA Air, the courses could be brought out individually, and perhaps bread from a basket would give this a much more high quality feel.
This was my meal. It was a lamb dish and the meat was superb. I didn't touch the starter salad as it was awful, but the rest of it was very good. I do like that the bread is warmed before serving. Note as I start my meal my wine glass is empty………….
This was my daughter's meal and I've totally blanked as to what it was because we ordered them months ago. Menus are not handed out, if you don't pre-order (Highly recommended) the cabin crew basically tell you what's left and you pick something
End of my main course and while it was very good what's up with my wine glass?
Yes its empty and un-touched.
Wine was finally offered once everyone had finished eating their main, which to me was a complete fail. Why would you not serve wine when people are actually eating? Row 1 had completely finished all their food before they were offered wine.
This is a 12 seat cabin with 2 dedicated crew. How can you make such a basic service slip?
Again no fill up was offered on the wine and a rather unsatisfactory service finally concluded after around 90 minutes - halfway through the flight. Trays were collected and that was it as the crew went about preparing for the duty free sales tour.
By this point there was 90 minutes left until landing and the flight was in complete darkness.
I finished up my movie and reclined and relaxed for the rest of the flight.
During the course of the flight, we were treated to incredible views of the Sunset
As we headed further North the views became even more remarkable
Until the Sun was finally down
After the dinner service and before duty free the crew offered small miniatures of liqueurs which was different from on the way down.
Baileys was one of the offerings and I didn't see the other (A choice of two) as I wasn't partaking.
The Duty Free sales then swept into high gear (complete with announcements).
The crew did respond to requests for more drinks from 1A/C without issue but again it was just attended to without anything in the way of a friendly or warm demeanour.
I would have to describe the service on this flight as OK but cold and to my mind the slip up with the wine at dinner was a basic faux pas that should not have happened.
The contrast between our crew the week before and this crew was quite stark and unfortunate.
We came inbound over WOZEE (Buffalo, NY) on the LINNG9 arrival, one I know very well. We entered the Terminal area over LINNG without any delays and proceeded to head towards VERKO out over Lake Ontario. The night was cold but clear so we were treated to some fabulous views of Niagara Falls at night as well as the Golden Horseshoe and Hamilton area.
We made a left turn at VERKO and headed South East so I knew we would be arriving on either 05 or 06L. We went downwind for quite some time, so I figured it was the typical late Saturday blast of holiday flights arriving back from the South and sure enough we ended up turning base way out over Walkers Line/Guelph Line out on the Western edge of Milton. It was possible to see many other lights in the Terminal area indicating that it was indeed very busy with inbounds.
We finally established on the 05 localiser overhead Milton and had a bumpy approach. While it was a clear night it was very windy and turbulent with winds at 130/25G30 and we made a textbook crosswind touchdown on 05 almost 30 minutes early at 2210.
Not long after we landed YYZ ended up switching to RW15 operations.
After the taxi to the exact same gate we left a week ago, C32 we were parked up and vacation for now was over.
Its a horrendously long walk from the C30 Gates to arrivals. If you have any kind of mobility issues at all, get assistance otherwise it will be an unbearable walk. You have to go up a level, walk for 20+ minutes and then go down a level again to arrive into the immigration area.
Fortunately there are now dozens of E-Kiosks for immigration and they now seem to work pretty well. We were processed within a couple of minutes and headed to the bag belt where our bags were among the first 20 off the aircraft.
From there it was an easy walk through customs and off to await our pre-booked car and a sharp reminder of the temperature difference between Jamaica in March and Toronto in March!
Thanks for reading this report as always, I hope its been interesting and informative and along with my report on the outbound flight gives a good, complete overview of Air Transat Club Class
The Club Mobay lounge is not a very premium or relaxing experience. If you have Priority Pass, sure but otherwise its probably worth a miss. If you are after real or decent food before your flight check out the better dining options in the Terminal.
Montego Bay airport makes itself very hard to like or enjoy, which is a shame because the Jamaican's are some of the nicest most fun people you could ever meet.
Flight was very similar to the last one. The Transat Club cabin is a nice break from the horrors of 3-3-3 on an A330 although as I showed Row 2 has severe issues with egress especially if Row 1 has reclined to the point where is is virtually impossible to exit the seat unless you are some kind of catwalk supermodel.
The service on this flight was far more disappointing, with a matronly like CSM who was 100% business and 0% customer service. Service was functional but cold and not providing wine until everyone had finished dinner was a brutal miss.
As I said on the last flight though, for the cost and the comfort premium over the rest of the plane its a great way to start and end a vacation in some style and for me will always be worth the cost.
Air Transat Club is a good Business/Premium Economy product that is perfectly suited to their intended market.