I just came back from my extended vacation in Europe, and even though there were too many tours and not enough beach days, I still had a good time. My trip was book-ended by two flights from Air Transat. The flight going to Rome was the worst flight I have ever experienced, while the flight coming home from Athens was the best flight I ever experienced. I will talk about both experiences in the first of my many blog posts from the Europe trip.
I had these flights booked (as well as this trip in general) since last February, and my expectation was that I was going to fly on Air Transat aircraft with Air Transat amenities. A few months later, I found out that for my flight going to Rome, the aircraft will be a leased aircraft for which a third-party airline will operate. I found this incredibly disappointing because there would not be as many amenities that I thought I paid for, but I was not going to back out of this flight now. I paid extra for a seat with more legroom and I would just load up my iPad with movies and shows and watch it for the flight.
When I stepped onto the aircraft bound for Rome, the aircraft and overall experience shocked me. The seats were in a 3-3-3 configuration, which was terrible for seat width. I know I am not the smallest guy, but there was no way an average-sized person would have fit comfortably with the lack of seat width the seats had. I thought I had extra legroom, but there was a wall right in front of my seat, so the legroom was not that much different than sitting in an economy seat. There were no TV screens or any sort of entertainment for an 8–9-hour flight, except for connecting to the in-flight WIFI to see the local Air Transat offering. All of this made for a miserable experience, despite the very good service from the cabin crew.
Let us contrast my flight to Rome starting my Europe trip with coming home from Athens. Trying to avoid another miserable experience from Air Transat, and knowing that this 11-hour flight will be a proper Air Transat offering, I decided to pay $600 CAD for the Air Transat Club Class. Club Class is Air Transat's premium class offering where their seats resemble an upgraded premium economy seat, but Club Class is not quite a business-class experience.
When I got to the Athens airport, I had my own check-in lane for Club Class passengers, and I was able to board first when boarding the aircraft. The seats themselves were very spacious with generous width, legroom, and seat pitch for laying down. The excellent cabin crew service offered us free drinks before take-off, but I was trying to avoid drinking alcohol (because I was drinking all trip), so I settled with orange juice. I received an amenity kit with things like a toothbrush/toothpaste, eye masks, and a big blanket. I finally had a TV screen with complimentary headphones so I can see their offerings of movies and TV shows.
With the Club Class experience, I got an airplane meal (Butternut Squash Ravioli) that tasted reasonably decent. This was the best airplane meal I have ever had on a flight, so, well done Air Transat. I spent most of the flight trying to sleep (which I could not anyways), listening to podcasts, and checking out the catalog of movies and TV shows on the screen. The cabin crew were very attentive and were always on hand with answering my orange juice and ginger ale requests. All in all, paying for the Club Class upgrade was worth it for my comfort, considering the length of the flight.