I have been mulling about this blog post since I returned from London.  I have mulled over writing this for so long because from my understanding of the Law of Attraction, what we focus on expands.  I do not want to focus on or add more negative energy to an already unpleasant experience.  Yet, I want others to avoid similar problems and disappointments that I experienced on this trip win.  So…

I have decided to boycott Air Transat.

Universal Music and Smart Set selected Air Transat to provide the air and hotel portion of their Meet Duffy in London Contest.  Air Transat is a low cost travel provider.  Their hotels are one or two star and their flights are all coach.  I was prepared for slightly substandard service from the onset because we stayed in a similar hotel for two nights in 2004 and all charter flights to London seem to come and go from Gatwick (vs Heathrow).

What happened during my trip that was so bad I decided to boycott Air Transat?

The flight to London was OK.  The seats are as small and as close as they possibly can be.  So even someone as short as I am (5’3″) feels squished.  We got two “meals”.  A tiny pasta dinner and a breakfast muffin.

(TRAVEL TIP: Bring some of your own snacks and drinks on all flights.)

We arrived at The President Hotel and the room was how I remembered it.  Just OK.  Tiny room.  Hard bed with stiff sheets.  Stains in various places: carpet, comforter, chairs, etc.  Two very thin towels.  Not a face cloth in sight.  1-ply toilet paper.  (Originally, I didn’t plan to spend much time in the hotel room anyway, so I really didn’t care it was “just OK”.)  You also receive a skeleton style room key on a very long bar.  You are asked to hand it in to the front desk every time you go out.

After we dropped off our luggage in our room, Stephanie and I decided to head out for a bite to eat and go shopping.  Upon our return, we walked up to the front desk, gave our room number and were promptly handed our key.  They did not ask us who we were or for any ID.  At that moment, we felt there was no security at the hotel.  We did not turn in our key for the balance of the trip.

Also, I think under normal circumstances the inadequate bed, towels, etc. wouldn’t have bothered me, but the sicker I got, the worse everything felt.  As each night passed, the longing for my own bed grew stronger.

What pushed me over the edge was the treatment I got from the Air Transat counter staff in the Gatwick as we were leaving London.

One traveller’s trick is, if you feel your checked baggage is going to be overweight, you load up your carry-on.  That is exactly what I did.  I have flown all over the world, and I have never had my carry-on luggage weighed.  Air Transat made me weigh my laptop bag.  I was told there was a 5kg limit.  My bag was 13kg.  I asked why my laptop bag had to be weighed.  I was told it was corporate policy.  I pointed out it that it was not because if it was Air Transat would have weighed my laptop bag coming into Britain.  They said I was wrong and I was just lucky.

I had to check my laptop bag.  (I had to take my laptop out and carry it in a grocery bag!)  I then had to pay £11 per kilogram to get my luggage home.  That translates to £143 or $286 Canadian!  To me it was a cash grab.  Airlines are losing business at an enormous rate.  Since they can’t charge more for tickets, fuel prices are climbing, the economy is plummeting, they needed to find another way to make back lost funds.

I was angry.  I became very angry once we passed through security.  Walking into the waiting area at Gatwick is like walking into a huge shopping mall.  So, Air Transat made me check my bag, pay them almost $300 to get my luggage home citing a 5kg limit to carry-on luggage, then once past security I can shop to my heart’s content and walk onto the plane with 50kg worth of goods.  WOW!  Unbelievable!

At that moment, I:
1) Vowed to never fly Air Transat again, even if I won it.
2)  Planned to let Universal Music and Smart Set know they may never wish to partner with a firm whose poor service and policies would reflect directly on them tarnishing their good names and reputations.
3) Decided to blog about my trip, good and bad, so that others may learn from my experience.
4) Will read every set of travel contest rules, even more carefully, to see if Air Transat is the travel provider and if so, I will not enter.
5) Turn down any trip I win where initially Air Transat is not mentioned in the rules as the travel provider and explain the reason to the contest sponsor.
6) Write every Vice President of Marketing of every company that partners with Air Transat for a sweepstakes in 2009 and warm them about potential problems.  (I later decided against this step as I do not want to hold on to my anger, or focus any further on the situation than immediately required.)

Universal Music and Smart Set worked so hard to make this trip amazing and create good will (and PR) with me (and their customers).  I feel Air Transat ruined all of it for everyone.

CAVEAT VICTOR, or Winner Beware!