A Sleepless Flight Later – Montreal-Nantes with Air Transat

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Self portrait in Nantes

“Is he your son?

“Depends… what did he do?”

Neither offended nor amused, the PAF border police officer darted a glance at me and stamped my passport in a deliberately slow gesture that spoke of years of training in inefficiency in the French administrative system.

I would never crack a joke in front of a US or Canadian border officer but it felt natural to do as a French, as if I had to prove I was once one of them. I always find it funny to queue in the “non-EU passports” line and get a “Nantes — Atlantique” stamp, considering I was born here.

French citizens were fighting around the baggage carousel to get as close as they can to suitcases that weren’t theirs, while foreigners were patiently waiting by the one and only bench (one which, naturally, someone had stacked bags). No one seems particularly stressed out or rushed. Nantes isn’t a main hub like Paris CDG, there are no connecting flights to take. Besides, we had landed earlier than planned.

The three of us just stood there, yawning.

It had been a tiring flight.

The Greyhound bus dropped us off at Montréal—Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. We checked in, went through security, then spent a couple of hours in the “Air Transat wing” at the far end of the departure hall. Most restaurants and shops were closed and overexcited kids were throwing way-past-bedtime tantrums or being taken to the bathroom for a final pee break before the flight.

The first boarding call was for “families travelling with young children,” i.e. pretty much half of the passengers. It was easy to tell first-time travellers with their bulky car seats, Ziploc bags full of kid-friendly activities, carry-on luggage with brand-new tags overflowing with diapers, pajamas, snacks and toys. The rest of us know that there are only two ways to deal with kids on board—let them watch movies or cross fingers for them to fall asleep right away.

We had the three middle seats. Behind us was a family with two young kids and in front were three French ladies who spent the entire flight sighing and complaining.

As soon as we sat down, we noticed it was very cold in the cabin. I thought it was just me—I’m always cold—but Feng was shivering and other passengers complained as well. On most airlines, you get a blanket and a pillow but Air Transat makes you pay for such luxury. When flight attendants first walked up the aisle selling them, no one was ready to fork out $9 for what other airlines provide for free. Ten minutes later, when it became clear the air con would stay on, flight attendants walked down the aisle and these comfort kits became a must buy. I gave in as well and bought the fucking blanket. Good thing we had brought our own earbuds—you gotta buy these too.

I remembered from last year that hot meals are no longer provided for free. Instead, Air Transat advertised “chef-inspired meals” for $25. I didn’t see anyone buying them—we all waited for the free ham-and-cheese sandwich (for breakfast, you get a 0.5“-thick slice of pound cake… at least if you look awake when flight attendants walk by with the food).

I don’t have high expectations when it comes to airline food—I’m fine with nothing or the usual bag of pretzels on domestic flights—but you do get hungry at one point on a transatlantic flight. Bringing your own snacks is complicated (security is tight) and airport food is expensive.

Overall, Air Transat didn’t impress me this time. The aircraft was old, seats were squeezed together and service was non-existent—even getting some water was difficult.

Mark slept for a couple of hours but Feng and I didn’t have a chance to. Flight time was only 5.45 hours with only two hours of “quiet time” in the dark, without flight attendant distributing sandwiches or selling duty-free products.

And then, there was the crying kids. As parents, we’ve all been there—kids cry, it happens. However, the family behind us just kept on repeating in a sing-song voice “shhht… don’t cry…” to their two young children. I’m sorry, but at one point, you have to find the root of the problem. Change a diaper, feed the baby, give him a pacifier… I don’t know, but don’t let them cry for two fucking hours!

We landed in a cacophony of bawling and just like that, we found ourselves on the other side of the Atlantic.

Time to get this French holiday started.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. welcome homeee…can’t wait to hear/read the story…beside family, what do you miss most from your hometown? in my case..is the foood!

    • I do enjoy French food when I’m here 🙂 I miss… being able to walk everywhere and the fact that there are people in the street, i.e. it’s more lively than in Canada.

  2. Bon retour à la maison, j’ai pris Air transat récemment. Ils nous ont bien offert des repas chauds. Et une collation. Ça dépend de l’heure d’embarquement. Le vol Paris-Montréal était extrêmement long, 7.5h. Ma fille de 2 ans et demi a fini par nous taper et nous pincer. lol

    • Tiens, c’est drôle ça. Je n’ai pas souvenir qu’on ait eu un repas chaud l’année dernière sur le vol du retour, mais pareil, c’était plus long, près de 7 h.

  3. Repas chaud également pour nous (sandwich chaud en fait ;)) et ma belle mère en s également eu un en venant. Nous on fait partie de ces familles qui prennent des tas de jouets mais il faut dire que nos filles ne sont pas très intéressées pour le moment par les écrans (ça viendra !!!). Par contre je trouve ça nul les deux heures seulement avec la lumière éteinte. En plus vous vous êtes partis tard! Nous le vol était à 17h30 et ils n’ont éteint qu’à 21h30. Tempête était gênée par la lumière, elle n’en pouvait plus !

    • Techniquement, je crois que je sandwich était chaud. M’enfin, pas top top, quoi…

      J’étais un peu ironique sur les “nouveaux parents”. Je ne suis pas contre les jeux, si ça marche, c’est top. On a chacun notre méthode en fait. Mais y’a “jeu” et “jeu”, les petites pièces qui tombent et tout, ça peut être galère dans l’avion.

    • I agree, less than six hours is nothing. I remember going from France to China, it was a long 12-hour flight with strange stopovers. Where did you stop for Malaysia?

      Are you back in Nantes?

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