I hate flying. I just do. Hurtling along at 600mph while encased in a steel tube has absolutely no appeal. So when Travel Mail suggested an assignment that would involve five flights in just four days my heart sank.
I was also due to travel with Air Canada, an airline I’d never flown with before. Fear of the aviation unknown made me almost wimp out, but the offer of a visit to Fogo Island, one of the four corners of the Flat Earth, along with Hydra, Papua New Guinea and the Bermuda Triangle, proved just too much of a pull.
And for the first time, ever, my flying experience has been an enjoyable part of the journey. OK, the build up and take off were still gruelling but the Air Canada team had it covered. The luxury of the lounge and then the business class pods onboard made for the perfect antidote to tearful tensions and sweaty palms.
Air Canada departs to Montreal from Terminal 2 at London Heathrow. It’s an age since I’ve flown from that terminal so wasn’t really prepared for the schlep from security to the Air Canada lounge. Be prepared for a good 15 minute walk and find it challengingly tucked away – next to Dixons.
However, once inside and after a warm welcome from the reception team, who had been forewarned of my flying fear, I was guided to a quieter corner of the rather swish lounge that offers comfortable seating for plane-watchers along with terminals for business travellers and a restaurant for those who would rather be ‘nil by mouth’ once onboard.
I indulged in some alcohol along with self-soothing and breathing techniques.
When it was time to board, I was escorted from the lounge and another good walk straight into the aircraft where Capt Comeau and First Officer Garceau welcomed me into the cockpit of their Dreamliner. They were charming and even made laugh.
Many carriers are bringing the Dreamliner on stream as air quality onboard means less chance of jet lag, I’m told.
As the pilots said goodbye and prepared for take-off the Air Canada cabin services director gently guided me to a rather swish business class pod. Cocooned from other passengers, I discovered the seat and in-flight entertainment controls are completely intuitive. I was particularly enthralled by the controls for the window ‘blinds’. The press of a button saw my cocoon go from sunlight to a gentle blue glow. Nice.
But the coup de grace for me (the in flight greetings and announcements are in English and rather seductively French too) was the food. I dined on prawns, steak and chocolate cake, accompanied by chilled champagne and a sensational Sauvignon Blanc before reclining to a fully-flat bed. And some sleep.
Arriving in Montreal and with two more flights before my final destination, I felt remarkably relaxed and refreshed.
My fear of flying may have become just that little bit easier.