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What’s It Like to Fly SATA Azores Airlines? Our Review

Azores Airlines does not issue electronic boarding passes, so counter check-in is required. Trouble is, since the airline operates only a few flights per day, it only gets counter space a few hours before takeoff at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

I learned that the hard way when I arrived in Toronto 4.5 hours before my flight (the only option I could find, flying from NYC day-of). I spent 20 frustrating minutes (are you seeing a pattern here?) searching the terminal for a check-in desk before I learned from a security person that no Azores Airlines staffers were onsite yet.

He advised me to watch the flight info board, telling me the number of the check-in counter would appear there when it opened. So I found a spot on the floor near an info display (there were almost no seats in this part of the terminal—grrrr!) and waited another 2 hours. Here’s the floor-level view I had of the Toronto airport terminal while I waited for my flight. I considered the potato chips my consolation prize since this flavor is only available in Canada.

Finally, I decided to take a stroll and discovered that the Azores Airline’s check-in counter had opened half an hour before—but nobody had bothered to update the information board.

Once in line, I learned that the approved size of a carry-on was roughly the length and width of a cafeteria tray. Consequently, I would have to check my standard-issue, normal-sized wheel-aboard bag. At least I got to enjoy the Canadian potato chips. 

Other than the unreasonable carry-on restrictions, check-in was swift and easy. Curiously, there were no size checks for bags at the Punta Delgada airport on the way back. Even though the plane was the same size, I was allowed to board with my carry-on for the return flight, no questions asked. Riddle me that. 

Security was speedy in Toronto, and the Azores gate was located near several restaurant and shopping options, so points for that. And the boarding process was among the easiest and most logical I’ve experienced: Priority members got on the plane first, and then the rest of the passengers boarded from the back of the aircraft to the front, which kept the line zipping along. 

Alas, Azores Airlines seems to be pretty loosey-goosey about its rules and rituals, changing from one airport to the next (as I first saw with the carry-on requirements).

In contrast to Toronto, the boarding process was chaos in the Azores. After allowing families and priority passengers to board, gate agents announced that “all passengers” could now board. More than a hundred people then crowded around the area where passports and tickets were checked, resulting in a tense, disorganized scene.