Captain Michel Pepin in official Holiday Magic flight headgear
a very dear little girl
It’s always a treat to see a celebrity on your flight. And when that celebrity is Santa Claus – yes, the Santa Claus - it just doesn’t get any better than that. Not for you, not for any of the many Children’s Wish families who yesterday joined Transat’s annual Santa flight to the North Pole. Let’s say it was a very special treat all round.
This is the 12th year that Transat has partnered with Shell and the GTAA, who comped fuel and waived landing fees – and TS’s own staff, who also generously donate their own time, with both cockpit and cabin crew taking vacation days to work the flight, which is operated on a wide-bodied A310 accommodating 250 pax.
Children’s Wish is a Canadian charity devoted to fulfilling dreams of kids with life-threatening illnesses or conditions. They fulfill about a thousand dreams a year, each costing an average of $10,000. But the Santa flight, which TS also operates in YVR and YUL, is, as Children’s Wish’s Sandi Hancox told me, “The most amazing day of the year for Children’s Wish. You can see that some of the kids are very, very sick but today they’re not going to the hospital. Today they’re getting on a plane and they’re going to meet Santa.”
What also makes the day special is that it’s not just for the Children’s Wish kids, it’s for their entire family. So Moms and Dads and siblings are also invited.
The excitement started in the departure lounge with much fun from snacks to silly elves and a brass band, and the buzz built as we boarded the aircraft. Once settled in our seats, Captain Michel Pepin informed us that the weather forecast was minus a thousand degrees at the North Pole, where we were headed in search of Santa. Then… Takeoff! We’ve all heard passengers applaud on landing, but this group gave a hearty round of applause as the big bird soared into the air.
Then, magically, Captain Pepin spotted Santa on his sleigh and invited him into the cockpit to visit the children. Bearing an astonishing resemblance to TS Catering Manager Fernando Moreira, Santa slowly worked his way through the cabin, distributing gifts and speaking to every child. Meanwhile other special guests from Rapunzel to Snow White entertained the delighted passengers.
It was a tired but very happy group that landed 2½ hours later, having flown as far north as North Bay, oops, I mean the North Pole. As Chris Kotsopoulos, CEO of Children’s Wish Canada told me, it really is an incredible day. Yup, he’s got that right!