Spending more hours cramped into a single 18-inch wide seat than most people spend in the office every day is the price most of us have to pay to jet off to exotic lands - unless you're able to fork up the crazy high price to travel First Class. Nope, not an option for me either.
They may only be a few rows away, but those Business Class seats are at least a few thousand (air) miles away for most of us. They're also a few thousand pounds more than most of us would be willing to splash on any one day.And that's where Air Transat's Club Class comes in.
What is Air Transat's Club Class?
Right at the front of most Air Transat flights sit two rows of seats. There are 12 seats in total and they're the kind of seats that are hidden away behind a curtain for most of the flight. That means they're bigger, comfier and come with the convenient pull-up tables that are usually resigned to the emergency exit rows (only bigger). Welcome to Air Transat's Club Class.
Let's get one thing straight before we go any further: this isn't quite Business Class. If you only fly Business, you'll need to look elsewhere because you won't find any Business Class seats on Air Transat's flights. The Montreal-based airline exists to provide budget-friendly transatlantic flights, which means the Business Class big spenders aren't really its target customers at all.
But it's definitely not economy, either. Given the food, comfort and personalised service, Club Class really isn't too far from Business Class - and a very noticeable step up if you're used to flying economy. I guess you could say it sits somewhere between Premium Economy and a budget-friendly version of Business. It's a superior experience without the superior price, which, given the airline's mission, is probably exactly what they were going for.
First impressions of Air Transat's Club Class
After a comfortable flight from London Gatwick to Calgary in economy (with Option Plus - but more on that later), I thought the Club seats were probably overrated and a waste of money. I mean, why pay extra for a slightly bigger seat at the front of the plane?
As soon as I turned left on my flight home, however, I knew I was wrong. The Club seats are more like small armchairs and a lot more comfortable than the economy chairs, with two arm rests and an aisle or window seat for everyone. And while they're not quite up there with the solo seats and fully reclinable bed chairs you would expect in First Class, Air Transat's Club Class will only set you back a fraction of the price of most premium fares.
Benefits of Club Class
It wasn't long after I took my seat that we were offered a glass of bubbly and some light snacks to enjoy while the rest of the plane boarded. We were also offered complimentary newspapers to read during this time, but I declined to work on photo editing instead. The service continued as it started for the rest of the flight, and I'd had a rum and Diet Coke, jasmine green tea and Bailey's on ice all within the first 2.5 hours.
But it was the food that really made it. On the flight out, the economy meals were fine but disappointingly small given the length of the flight. On the way back, on the other hand, they were almost too big: the dinner consisted of salad, bread, a couscous-based starter and a gourmet chicken chasseur main by chef Daniel Vézina, followed by a blueberry cheesecake for dessert. All served with the cutest mini salt and pepper shakers. I normally dread the plane food as much as the flight itself, but I really, really enjoyed the Club Class meal.
Aside from the almost endless food and drink, Club Class passengers also get a very generous baggage allowance of up to 64kg and priority everything: check-in, baggage reclaim, airport queue and boarding. You'll also get a dedicated cabin crew member, a dedicated wash room for Club Class passengers and a comfort kit you'll actually want to keep, including a super cosy blanket, mini toiletries and an eye mask.
My only real complaint would be the lack of air conditioning vent, which may well have been there but I couldn't find it during the flight. If you end up in one of the second row window seats, the wider seats and armrests make it a little tricky to get out if the people in front recline their chairs fully - so choose the front row or a second row aisle seat to avoid the awkward climb.
Club Class vs Option Plus
If you book a flight with Air Transat, you'll notice at least a few prompts to upgrade to Option Plus. It's still economy class - but better. For £42 each way, you can enjoy a few extra perks such as free seat selection (usually £19) and a little more comfort in your standard economy seat. You'll also get a free alcoholic drink, an extra piece of checked baggage weighing up to 23kg and all the priority services included in Club Class.
Option Plus will also get you a free comfort kit with a blanket, pillow and eye mask, although it's not quite as good as the one handed out in Club Class.
The verdict: should you fly Club Class or Option Plus?
“Budget” and “long-haul flights across the transatlantic” aren’t phrases that any traveller wants to hear – especially in the same sentence. But this unusual combination has given birth to something pretty cool when it comes to Air Transat's Club Class: an affordable way to fly in comfort.
So my answer would be YES! The seats, the food and the personalised service make it very much worth it in my opinion. Option Plus is a great way to make an economy flight a little more comfortable - especially when flying out of Gatwick, because you can use the priority line at security - but if you're going to splash a little more, it's much more worth it to upgrade to Club. You may even find it's cheaper than flying economy with a national carrier.
From what I can tell, these seats get snapped up fast (and it's not really hard to see why!) so it's best to upgrade from the start, rather than chancing it at the last minute. Plus, it's a small price to pay if it means you'll actually look forward to that 9-hour flight!This post is not sponsored but I was kindly upgraded for free. Air Transat also provided all of the images for this post as I wasn't able to take any of my own.