It’s not often you get to fly on the inaugural flight of a brand new airline. So you can imagine my excitement when I got to do just that on Dec. 18. Not only would I be flying on OWG’s (Off We Go) first flight ever, but I would also be on the very first flight back to Santa Clara from Canada since Cuba closed its borders in March.
The new Montreal-based airline, a division of Nolinor Aviation, has partnered with tour operator Hola Sun (Caribe Sol in Quebec) to exclusively operate flights to Cuba. The inaugural flew from YUL to YYZ, and on to SNU. Hugo Rocha, Sales Director at Hola Sun, tells me the tour operator plans to expand the destinations offered in Cuba throughout the season.
The aircraft (a Boeing 737-400 with 158 seats) is sleek, colourful and stunning. The livery is navy blue and red with “Caribe Sol – Le Specialiste de Cuba” and “OWG” emblazoned on the side in white. I also love OWG’s logo.
Here are some additional features I noticed:
Free bag: Passengers get one free checked bag – a huge plus in my books!
Entertainment system: For $10, passengers can purchase access to the in-flight wi-fi entertainment system, where a selection of movies and TV shows can be watched from a mobile device. Unfortunately, seats don’t have a USB port or AC outlet, so if you plan on hitting play, make sure you’re equipped to deal with a potentially dead battery!
Food: The on-board menu is pretty standard, but crowd-pleasing. Options include a turkey sandwich, a four cheese pizza, a cheese tray, mac and cheese, as well as two Cuba-inspired items, a Croque Hola and a Cubano Sandwich.
Cabin interior: The interior of the cabin has been completely gutted and updated: cabin sidewalls were refurbished, the galley re-laminated and new carpeting installed. The cabin lighting has been enhanced with “LED MoodLites” that glow a faint blue throughout the flight. Altogether, it makes for a crisp cabin with a pleasant ambiance.
There are 18 “extra legroom” seats onboard the aircraft, which offer a seat pitch of 96 cm, as opposed to 73 cm to 76 cm for the standard seats.
Here’s another first: I was the very first tourist to cross the threshold of the Playa Cayo Santa Maria resort since it closed nine months ago! My assignment was to observe the health and safety protocols throughout the travel journey and how the destination has adapted to COVID-19. In my next post, I’ll share what’s different about a Cuba vacation, what’s the same and why it’s still awesome.