Once upon a time, the rhythms of the travel industry mirrored the rhythm of the seasons, albeit a few months ahead. Tour operators could be counted on to issue winter sun brochures in September and summer Europe programs starting in the late winter/early Spring.
It was Regent Holidays, as I recall, that began moving the fall launches ahead into (shock!) early August and it wasn’t too long after that that winter programs were being soft-launched before the snow had even melted on the previous season.
Similarly, Europe spring launches edged forward, creeping into the previous fall.
Of course, the industry collectively wanted to wean Canadians off their last-minute booking habits, off- or shoulder-season travel became more desirable to price-conscious consumers, the Internet craved content and was capable of supporting it, and, well, its was always good to get out ahead of the competition.
All of which is to say that nowadays it’s simply good business to get one’s product into the market early, and that’s precisely what Transat has done, calling together the trade earlier this week in Toronto to detail its 2018 Europe program.
Held at the unique (and fantastic) Cirillo’s Culinary Academy on Dundas Street in the city’s west end, event guests were invited to join teams to actually cook up the meal for the luncheon (who knew that I was such a natural at sprinkling onions on pizza?), but also to find out what the tour operator is cooking up next year.
And while Transat execs Denise Heffron, Nicole Bursey and Dan Prior did offer up token sun news (“I want to assure you, Cuba is open and 150 per cent open for your business”) it was the continent (and Israel) that was clearly in the spotlight.
On that score, Transat commercial director Bursey characterized 2018 as a steady-as-she-goes year for Europe. “It’s not really about new destinations, it’s about strengthening positions where we’re already strong,” she said, noting that thanks to the introduction of Airbus A330 aircraft to the fleet, Air Transat will offer more capacity, including direct flights, to destinations like France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Israel.
Montreal highlights include:
• 13 flights/week to Paris
• 4 flights/week to Toulouse
• 3 flights/week to Bordeaux
• 3 flights/week to Nantes
• 3 flights/week to Tel Aviv
• 5 flights/week to Madrid & Malaga
• 5 flights/week to Lisbon
From Toronto:
• 5 times/week to Dublin
The carrier’s feeder flights program from Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary to Toronto, and Vancouver and Quebec City to Toronto will also be increased.
In all, the airline will serve 28 destinations from Canadian gateways, supplemented by 81 package holidays options, ranging from guided excursions to air and hotel only, plus Your Way Tours, which includes transportation and accommodation, but leaves travellers free to explore the destination independently.
Both Mediterranean and European river cruises are also available.
In other Transat news:
• The airline has revamped its Eco Fares to offer standard seat selection in the Eco Extra and Eco Max categories, while Eco Max also boasts new benefits, such as an additional piece of checked baggage and priority airport services. In addition, change or cancellation fees have also been reduced for some fares. 
• Option Plus passengers now receive more benefits in Economy Class, including seat selection, priority check-in at a dedicated counter, additional checked baggage allowance, priority boarding and baggage handling, as well as special on-board perks.
• Consumers can now contribute to Transat’s charitable Small Change, Big Hearts program when booking through their travel agent. Donations of one, two or five dollars will be multiplied by the number of people in the booking file, including children. For more information, go to: www.airtransat.com/enCA/Travel-information/Inflight-services/On-board-coin-charity .

transat cooking event

Transat’s VIP trade lunch in Toronto to launch Europe 2018 was tasty and fun.

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