Flight of the BUNACers
As you’ll be aware from reading my previous posts, my boyfriend and I travelled to Vancouver on a BUNAC group flight. This means that we booked our seat with BUNAC rather than directly with Air Canada (BUNAC always use Air Canada flights) who sorted out the paperwork for us and met us at Heathrow to give us our documents and make sure we checked in OK. At the other end a SWAP (BUNAC’s North American counterpart) rep met us at Vancouver airport, loaded us all onto a bus and took us to our hostel (one night’s accommodation was included in the package). We also received a t-shirt and a phone card, and we’re able to change our return date for approximately £35 (essential if you want to stay for a year as you can only book a return date 11 months from when you book your flight).
The best thing about the group flight is that it’s a great way to meet other people who are travelling to the same place as you on the same visa, with similar work/travel plans. There were 38 of us on our group flight, and meeting for a drink in the airport bar helped calm the nerves (and not just because of the alcohol) – we soon realised that we were all as terrified as each other. We’d already set up a Facebook group for everyone on the flight, and stalkerish pointing and shouting ‘I recognise you!’ definitely broke the ice. As you know I’d already sorted a place to live, but it proved a great way of getting to know potential housemates and the majority of the others on the flight are now living with each other.
The downside of the flight was that BUNAC hadn’t pre-booked our seats like we expected, instead these were allocated for us when we checked in. Everyone else on the flight had booked their seats online so there were only seats in the middle block left for us – fine if you managed to get an aisle seat, not fine if you were in the middle (like me). The flight was long (10 hours) and tortuous (I was dying from a cold), as was the queue for immigration, but it was great to be whisked off to the door of our hostel once we made it through.
Price wise the group flight worked out well for me, I paid £620 for a return flight to Vancouver and coming back from Toronto, including accommodation, transfers and support as mentioned above. Those that didn’t manage to secure a place with BUNAC but booked on the same Air Canada flight paid the same price for just the flight – you do the math. Flights were available from as low as £300 return via Canadian Affair for those that didn’t mind travelling on budget airlines, but if you like your seat back TVs and free alcohol the extra cost is worth it.
Even the added luxuries that accompanied a premium airline couldn’t disguise the fact that it’s a long flight, and one that I’m incredibly glad is over. During my darkest days of homesickness and uncertainty I will always be comforted with the knowledge that staying away from home for an extra few months means putting off another 10 hours in the air…something I’m more than willing to do.