Flying to the archipelago of the Azores landed me square in the sights of Azores Airlines (a new brand flying under SATA). Their logo includes a whale fin and planes are adorned with a full-sized whale sticker. For good reason as the Azores is the largest whale sanctuary in the world. Booking this flight deal on Expedia, I had never really heard of SATA before this trip. I’ll break down my experiences, flight costs, and let you know what I thought of this particular airline.
First off, the check-in was strange. The mobile app allowed for check-in, but when plugging in the ticket number and last name, I was taken to the website, and the process failed with a technical error. I saw this a could times while looking at the same fields on the site. So, I decided to try that again. After putting the details in, boom, I was able to check-in online. I had no checked bags, so I expected it to be a reasonable process. Once the check-in finished, I was directed to go to a counter to print a boarding pass. What? That’s stupid. I’m checking in online to avoid waiting in line and I had to wait in line anyway.
Well, as I’m waiting in line to simply get a boarding pass, I noticed a special line next to SATA Plus that was labelled “Web Check In”. It was, sadly, too late for me to take advantage of that, and the lady there had started taking people from the mainline. Very poorly laid out a system for online check-in. It would have been more useful if I could have simply printed the pass or had it emailed to me. For my return flight, I just went up to the counter early and asked for my boarding pass. Easy. At the counter, the process was simple and the woman asked to weigh my carry-on. I was over by .2 kilos (8.2), and she didn’t give me grief for it. In addition, I was carrying my Peak Design messenger bag (as a camera bag) and that wasn’t even looked at in either airport.
At Pearson, we were smushed in with a bunch of Canadian WestJet flights. Given the large size of our plane, I decided to clear from the gate area and let other passengers get through there. Then, things started to get rather strange. Our gate was moved to the “C” area and delayed for two hours. The lady at the gate would actually get on the loudspeaker and call out the Toronto Airport people for forcing their plane to languish without a gate for close to six hours. She would say “Just so you know, this is not our fault, this is the fault of GTAA”.
The plane in both directions was an Airbus A330, and as no-frills as it gets. There was an onboard entertainment system but it did nothing but turn on. There were no power outlets and no Wi-Fi on board. It was also clear this was an older plane (in a new airline) as the washroom sink door kept swinging open. 1 No matter, the plane did its job and I arrived through the turbulence at my destination four hours late.
The ride back from Ponta Delgada was uneventful and, given a seat closer to the front (6K), I was close to washrooms and one of the first to get off the plane. The same plane (CS-TRY) was used on the way back, so no frills or entertainment system. We were, however, on time and even six minutes early. Recent information for CS-TRY (courtesy of FlightRadar) shows they’ve not been very good with on-time performance.
Total Flight Price (return): $516.20 CAD
Round-Trip Distance: 9040 km
Price per kilometre: $0.06
Cost to choose seat: $0.00 (aisle location leaving, front location returning)
Baggage Fees: $0.00
All told, Azores Airlines did a good job of providing a basic service, if not terribly efficient. For the money paid, they offer good value and get you there without nickel and diming you. 2 The smaller things will no doubt be improved over time as the airline flies more often. Given that the Azores is so close, such a wonderful, lush island and our money go so far – I really think I’ll be going back again very soon.