This is a review of the return service from Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International to London Gatwick. To read the outbound review, see
Flight review: Air Transat A321 neo LR Club Class London-Montreal
Flight TS728 was intended to depart Montreal at 2205 and land at Gatwick at 0950.
I had checked Air Transat’s website earlier that day which said that the flight had arrived but that it was running late and was “under investigation”. The new flight time was listed as midnight, landing at 1138 local time at Gatwick. I also checked Montreal airport’s website but there was no information about the delay, so I arrived early at 1930 just in case – the airport is currently advising passengers to arrive three hours before their flight.
The terminal was extremely busy, with queues left, right and centre. These were not clearly defined, so many converged, and it was impossible to know what you were queueing for. People were waiting for self-service ticket machines, premium and economy (across different airlines) and there was no staff to help or overhead announcements.
I found myself in the economy queue for 20 minutes as it was the only path to the Club Class queue due to the congestion. Once I manoeuvred to the similarly winding queue for Club, it was clear that I would be waiting for a while. There was only one staffed desk and passengers with huge amounts of luggage in front of me.
To add to the cacophony, a whistle was being blown outside every few seconds alongside beeping horns – clearly the chaos extended beyond the terminal walls.
As I was travelling with hand luggage (to avoid queues), I had wanted to check-in online ahead of arriving at the airport, but online check-in had not been working. The self-service ticket machines were also not working, so, I thought that my best bet would be queuing to speak to someone directly.
Eventually, I gave up my space in the Club Class queue and joined one of the random lines for the ticket machines which had started working again and thankfully succeeded in getting a boarding pass. The machine said that boarding would begin at 2105, and the airport screens were not giving any hint of a delay, so I was pleased but doubtful.
I walked quickly to security at 2044 and proceeded to the priority queue, which was quick compared to check-in. Once through, I headed straight to Gate 53C which meant scanning my boarding pass to reach the international part of the terminal. It continued to be chaotic, with passengers having to jump out of the way of those running and shouting with bags flailing to reach their flight.
The international terminals area was extremely busy, and all the shops and restaurants were closed apart from the sit-down U Bar, which looked at capacity, and a small stall selling drinks and crisps at extortionate prices.
The queues can be somewhat explained by the fact that this coincided with the end of a holiday weekend in Quebec, though the security staff told me that this was normal for a Sunday.
Gate 53 had three separate desks (A, B and C) and very narrow aisles with seats either side, meaning that it was already a cramped space even before the crowds. While the board clearly stated that the Air Transat flight was departing from Gate 53C, this happened to be the case for two other flights as well – I was next to people travelling to Mexico and Munich whose gates had already been switched that evening.
The screens at the gate did not show any flights, so I kept returning to the board to make sure my eyesight was not failing me. It remained as Gate 53C and did not mention the delay, though every other flight was signaling delays.
Eventually a screen at Gate C flashed the Air Transat flight, followed by a Lufthansa one, leaving everyone in the area just as confused as before. I decided to walk around the terminal instead of queuing for a flight that probably wasn’t mine.
An announcement was then made at around 2145 to go to (or, in my case, return to) Gate C for boarding. Seemingly the delayed Munich and Mexico flights had finally taken off so there was more room, but the confusion remained.
The screen at C signposted my flight but when I asked the crew at the desk they just pointed to A. I made my way over and asked other passengers who seemed to be the only ones providing information at this point.
We stood queuing until 2205, the supposed departure of the flight, when staff announced that there was (obviously) a delay and they would provide additional information within 15 minutes. Unsurprisingly this did not happen. Instead they invited people to check in hand luggage, and a lot of people volunteered.
At 2315 we were finally invited to board and were crammed onto a shuttle from the terminal. The vehicle lowered from the height of the terminal to transform itself into a bus and drove across the tarmac, braking frequently, to reach the plane. It then rose again to meet the back of the plane. It was a very odd experience which had myself and others wondering if we were hallucinating from the lack of sleep and hours of standing.
For information on the Club Class seat on Air Transat’s A321 neo LR, see the outbound review.
Flight review: Air Transat A321 neo LR Club Class London-Montreal
We boarded from the back of the plane so it took a while to reach 1A at the front, as people were loading their luggage into the overhead bins.
My seat had all the sleeping essentials, including an amenity kit and a sleep kit. The former includes a toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, an eye mask, L’Occitane cream and lip balm. The sleep kit contains a soft blanket, another eye mask and a blow-up travel pillow (which I didn’t use but you are encouraged to take with you after the flight).
While the seat itself was clean, it seemed that the quick turnaround had caused some areas to be missed. The seat pocket had an open bag of chocolate pretzels, which I returned to the crew member for the bin, and the passenger across the aisle from me also asked for the dirty screen in front of him to be wiped.
I had the same seat as on the outbound journey, so the experience was largely the same. The seat next to me was free, the IFE was still temperamental, but the seat was comfortable and well-located.
Noise from the galley did not bother me during the night flight, but I would recommend that people opt for a window seat as you will be distanced from the aisle and therefore less disturbed if you are trying to get some sleep.
After boarding an announcement was made to apologise for the delay, stating that it was due to a late flight from Toronto to Montreal. We took off at 0017 and it was a largely quiet flight, with people aiming to get some sleep on the six hour journey.
There is blue mood lighting on night flights to help with sleeping – hence some bad photography.
Food and drink
On transatlantic flights to Europe after 2100, Club passengers are offered a soup and grilled cheese combo and a choice of drink (wine, beer, juice, soft drinks). Given the lack of food in the terminal, I was ravenous by the time we boarded. After take-off, we were offered an appetiser of cheese twists and the cabin attendant took our order for breakfast (either a frittata or a crêpe).
The meal service was delayed because of turbulence – I tried to nap in the meantime but the rumbling of my stomach made it hard to do so. Dinner was served at 0130. The tomato soup was not warmed through properly, but it’s hard to go wrong with a toastie. I gulped it down and put the tray on the table in the unoccupied seat 1C so that I could attempt sleeping. At 0430 an announcement was made that breakfast would be served ahead of landing, so I removed my eye mask and earplugs. Breakfast was served at 1007 local time and consisted of orange juice, a frittata with baked beans and mashed potato, a warm croissant and some fruit.
The plane landed at 1130 and we quickly disembarked. Immigration was quick and I made it to the train station in Gatwick’s South Terminal by 1205.
While the flight was fine, the four hours preceding it were stressful due to the busy airport and lack of information on the flight situation. At the time, this was the situation at many airports around the world due to staffing crises, a peak in demand over the summer holidays and ongoing Covid-19 cases.
I must add that the delays and cancellations were not restricted to Air Transat. This seemed to be the situation for every airline, so this is a reflection of the disorganisation in the airport rather than the airline itself.
I was disappointed that Air Transat knew that the flight would be delayed, given the information on their website earlier that day, but did not inform passengers once we were at the airport. It added to the existing disruption and meant that passengers couldn’t sit elsewhere in the airport, where it was maybe a little less cramped, because we didn’t know if the flight would suddenly be boarding.
Internet rates in September for a one-way A321 neo Club Class London-Montreal flight start at £1,053