For the past two years, WestJet has been flying from London Gatwick to a number of Canadian cities.
It is fair to say it did not get off to the best of starts, with significant reliability issues with its fleet of Boeing 767 aircraft.
However, from next year, WestJet will radically improve its competitive position in London. At least on one route.
WestJet confirmed today, Wednesday 10 October 2018, that from Monday 29 April 2019 its daily flight from London Gatwick to Calgary will be operated with its new fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
By any measure, this will be a substantial upgrade. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will feature WestJet’s first international business class cabin. The cabin features fully flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, all with direct aisle access. WestJet also promises on-demand dining and a turndown service in business class. This will make WestJet extremely competitive against Air Canada and BA.
The aircraft also has a premium economy cabin with 2-3-2 seating and a self-service bar area and an economy cabin with 3-3-3 seating and in-flight entertainment. Full details of WestJet’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner are available on a dedicated microsite.
Aer Lingus continues its strong growth of transatlantic routes from Dublin with the launch of two new routes next summer.
The airline will fly from Dublin to Minneapolis – St Paul from Monday 8 July 2019 and Montreal from Thursday 8 August 2019.
Flights will operate daily. Minneapolis – St Paul will be operated with a Boeing 757 aircraft. Montreal will be operated with a brand new Airbus A321 neo Long Range aircraft, in respect of which Aer Lingus is yet to unveil interior images.
Whilst both routes are already served by direct flights from London, Aer Lingus passengers flying to Minneapolis – St Paul will benefit from US Custms & Immigration pre-clearance in Dublin.
There are ample connections to all flights from London City, Gatwick and Heathrow. If there’s one complaint we could make about timetabling it is that Aer Lingus’ flight arrives in Montreal close to BA’s own daily flight. If Aer Lingus had scheduled its flight earlier in the day, then Aer Lingus and BA would be offering a choice of departure times for passengers on a route where they have a lot of competition in Europe from Air Canada and Air France. Continue reading “Aer Lingus launches Dublin – Minneapolis & Montreal”
It’s a relatively quiet period in August, so it’s time to take a diversion from our usual flight path with some hotel reviews.
The city of Montréal has always had an independent spirit. This is non more so than with its hotels. Whilst all the major chains are represented in the city, none, bar the W Montréal, really stir any interest. There are, however, lots of interesting independent hotels. One of the most recent is Hôtel William Gray which opened in 2016.
Hôtel William Gray
The hotel is located at 421 Rue Saint Vincent in Old Montréal, which is convenient for all the major tourist spots.
It is within walking distance, though perhaps not with heavy luggage, from Champ-de-Mars metro station. Valet parking is available at the hotel.
The hotel comprises two historical buildings, Maison Edward-William-Gray and Maison du Cabinet-de-Côme-Séraphin-Cherrier and a new 9 storey building, which houses most of the rooms, built around an exterior courtyard.
The hotel features two external terraces (a very popular feature in a city that does not take its relatively short summer for granted), a spa, a fitness room and expansive event facilities.
Judging by the crowds at weekends, the hotel bars are clearly popular with locals but, importantly, don’t interfere with the guests’ experience.
The Living Room
One of the stand-out features of this hotel is its ground floor public lounge area, The Living Room.
Hotels have long tried to make their public lobbies into a design statement. This may not be the grandest or most capacious space you have seen in a hotel. But it is great example of just doing something really, really, well. There’s a wide variety of seating and high quality furniture you’d be happy to have in your own home.
It’s a short overnight flight from Montreal, typically leaving at around 21:30 with a flight time of around 6.5 hours.
By comparison to the rest of the airport, particularly the queues at check-in for Air Transat and Royal Air Maroc, the BA check-in desks are a haven of calm.
Regardless of what cabin you are travelling in you should find check-in by the local BA team relatively quick.
Turning to security screening, there is an expansive security screening area. There is a dedicated priority security line. However, you would be forgiven for not noticing if you didn’t know it was there. As you head from check-in security you need to walk right to the very far end of the entrance to security.
Salon Banque Nationale Lounge
BA has long used a third party lounge facility at Montréal.
With just one flight a day, and very little else by way of Oneworld alliance presence, this is not surprising. If you’ve flown BA from this airport before March 2017 you may have used what was known as the TD First Class lounge which faced into the airport. This has now closed and BA now uses a new Salon Banque Nationale / National Bank lounge at Gate 53.
Note that the pictures of this lounge on the airport website are dated. The purple chairs were not in evidence and the vast majority of seats are grey armchairs.
If you don’t have access to this lounge by virtue of cabin or frequent flyer status, the lounge can also be booked via Swissport. Again, note that the pictures on this site are of the old lounge which has closed.
I was fully prepared to write damning review of this lounge facility. Not only that, I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to get into the lounge in the first place!
On two occasions last year there were long queues to get into the lounge. Many BA passengers were turned away due to overcrowding. This is not what any passenger needs before a long-haul flight.
However, based on signage at the entrance, measures have been taken to reduce overcrowding. There was little difficulty finding a seat. However, the lounge may be much busier when Qatar Airways are flying to Doha (on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) or when Turkish Airlines are flying to Istanbul (on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday).
If you visited this lounge in its opening months you may have been handed a voucher at check-in because it didn’t have an alcohol licence. However, there is now a staffed bar offering beer, wines and cocktails. There is a dedicated family area of the lounge where, presumably due to licensing restrictions, you can only consume alcohol with a meal.
There is also a buffet offering hot dishes such as chicken and rice which, to be honest, did not look particularly appetising. There are also cold salads, fruit, breads, and snacks such as pretzels. Sadly, there are no showers.
The lounge does benefit from floor to ceiling views of the airport apron. It is much brighter, but the old lounge was preferable for having a much wider range of seating and generally a much calmer atmosphere.
Who can resist the French Canadian charms of Montreal?
Its heady cocktail of European joie de vivre and North America minus the bad bits of its next door neighbour all has instant appeal.
So here’s our review of a flight in BA Club World to Montreal. This was also an opportunity for a third take of BA’s new Club World Service after Philadelphia and New York JFK.
Our second review was different from the first review. And this review is different again! Whether this is by accident or design is unknown.
First, a quick primer on the Montreal route for BA:
BA Club World to Montreal
This route is ordinarily operated once a day with a three class Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
However, as BA has been grappling with engine issues on its Boeing 787 fleet this route has been regularly substituted with a four class Boeing 787-9 aircraft, as it was on this flight.
The first indication was about a week before departure as an e-mail was received from BA advising of a seat assignment change. Sadly, the First cabin was closed and not available for Club World passengers.
The Club World cabin is largely the same on both Boeing 787-8 and Boeing 787-9 aircraft with two “demi” cabins separated by the galley in a 2-3-2 configuration. On the Boeing 787-8 it is three plus two rows. On the Boeing 787-9 it is two plus four rows. Generally, the further forward in the aircraft you are, the better.
The 2-3-2 configuration, also found on the upper deck of the Airbus A380, is unique in that there is a single rear-facing middle seat which is both wider than other seats and very private. Having experienced it on a different flight, I did not like being not able to see out of the windows on take off and landing.
In general, Club World on this route is busy but rarely full/oversold, given the relative lack of business links between the UK and Quebec. If you are Silver or Gold Executive Club cardholder you have a good chance of being upgraded from World Traveller Plus as this cabin is often oversold. Fixed price one-way upgrades from World Traveller Plus are often offered in the Manage My Booking tool and the BA smartphone app at around £400+.
This particular seat, 7A, benefits from both being by the window and having direct access to the aisle.
WestJet is to launch a new summer seasonal route from London Gatwick to Halifax, Nova Scotia from Monday 30 April 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018. Flights will be operated using a single aisle Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft.
Flights will be operated using the single aisle Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft which, as pictured above, has a distinctive set of split winglets.
The aircraft has a single cabin with 168 seats. This includes three rows of WestJet’s premium economy cabin “Plus” in a 2-2 configuration (the middle seat is kept free). WestJet also promises 11 rows of extra-leg room seats with a pitch of 34 inches in a 3-3 configuration. Continue reading “WestJet launches London Gatwick – Halifax”
British Airways has today announced it is to launch a new summer seasonal route from London Gatwick to Toronto and reinstate its London Gatwick – Las Vegas route next summer.
BA will fly to Las Vegas three times a week from Tuesday 27 March 2018 on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday until Friday 26 October 2018. BA will fly to Toronto three times a week from Tuesday 1 May 2018, also on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday until Friday 26 October 2018.
Both Las Vegas and Toronto are served by BA at London Heathrow up to twice daily. BA has previously flown from Gatwick to Las Vegas. However, the service was suspended last year.
Toronto is BA’s first route from London Gatwick to Canada. It is something of a surprise to see BA launch the Toronto from Gatwick, as it is not one of the stronger Heathrow routes due to a lack of presence by the Oneworld alliance in Canada.
However, there can be absolutely no doubt this is a move to take on the growth of low lost long-haul at Gatwick. Las Vegas is served by Norwegian. Toronto is also served by both WestJet and Air Canada Rouge.
Over the past couple of years there has been significant growth in routes between London and Canada, notably with the launch of flights by Canadian airline WestJet this summer from London Gatwick to a number of cities in Canada.
Although WestJet’s entry into the long-haul market was far from smooth with significant technical problems with its fleet of 2nd hand aircraft, it is pressing ahead with its long-haul operation at London Gatwick.