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As Europe's leading "no frills" airline it is kind of hard to escape the presence of Easyjet. Everything associated with them is decorated in lurid orange colouring and wherever you look these days they seem to be advertising cheap fares. I think the air fare revolution of recent years is a fantastic phenomenon as far as Joe Public is concerned. Now you can fly around the UK or Europe for fares that in some cases can't even be beaten by some of the coach travel operators, let alone the rail companies.
I use Easyjet most frequently for domestic flights but have also used them to fly to and from various destinations in Europe. As a frequent business traveller, Easyjet makes my life much easier. I can fly from Glasgow to Bristol in an hour or so at cut price fares with a journey time of something like 80% less than the train or car could ever hope to achieve before you even factor in the inevitable delays. According to the web site, Easyjet currently offers over 190 different routes, taking in 58 different European cities. In England, Wales and Scotland, you can fly with Easyjet from Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol and London (Gatwick, Luton or Stansted.) The company also maintains a strong presence in Ireland, with flights from Belfast, Knock, Shannon and Cork. For me, this is absolutely ideal because I spend my life flitting between Newcastle, Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The only real disappointment for me is that the company doesn't service Manchester airport - that would just be too perfect to be true.
It goes without saying that with Easyjet, simplicity is part of the key to the company's success and this is evident in the web site - the primary source for booking tickets. By reverting to an online booking system, the company reduces their costs and overheads, passing on the savings to their passengers. For me, it's what e-Commerce should all be about and Easyjet has certainly fully embraced the concept. Log in to www.easyjet.co.uk and you'll see what I mean.
Booking a seat is very simple indeed and can be accessed straight from the home page of the web site. Simply select your departure and arrival airports, the date(s) on which you wish to travel and the number of passengers and the web site will do the rest. Once you have selected the airport from which you are flying out, the menu automatically adjusts itself so that you can only select destinations that are serviced by that menu. Obviously, the only slight issue with this is that it means you can only book direct flights, so if you are making a journey that involves changing you need to book both legs separately. With your flight criteria, the web site will then offer you a selection of fares based on different travel times. The key to getting the best deals is being flexible in when you wish to travel. So if, for for example, you want to fly out on the 20th of the month, the web site may show you a flight on the 19th that is considerably cheaper. Indeed, it can sometimes to be much cheaper to fly the night before and stay in a hotel than flying the next day.
The prices presented on the options screen relate only to the fare itself, and do not include taxes (between £10 and £30 more) and fees for paying with a credit card (something like £1.50 if I recall correctly). The first thing you will notice is how cheap the fares are. For example, I just selected a single fare from Bristol to Amsterdam next May and was presented with a price of £17.99. Imagine how that compares to taking the train, ferry etc or the cost of the fuel if you drove. Factor in how long it would take you to get there and you can quickly see why this is such a fantastic opportunity. Clearly, the best fares are available the earlier you book, but even at the last minute, fares can be very reasonable. I have just booked a return fare from Newcastle to Bristol next Monday for £59.98 all in. The rail fare alone would normally be £79 and would take five hours each way.
Once you've selected your flight(s) and proceeded to payment you are then emailed a reference number for each booking. The company doesn't issue paper tickets or send anything out via the post (another means of reducing the costs). All you do on the day of travel is check in at the airport, present your reference number (it's easiest just to print the email confirmation) and some photographic id and you're away. I like this approach a lot. I hate being issued with physical tickets of any description - I always lose them! A few colleagues have come unstuck with the photographic id though. Previously, if you presented the credit card with which you made the booking, you were OK, but now they are strict about having proper id such as a passport or driving licence (domestic passengers only - international travellers obviously need the passport.)
The only slight disadvantage to bookings this way is if you need to make any amendments. This can be done online as per the original booking but there is a charge (£10) for each change made and when you consider how this compares to the original fare cost, this can quickly increase the cost of your trip. Dates and times are transferable but not passenger names, so if you can't travel you won't be able to pass the ticket to a friend. This is a real issue for me, as my business travel plans frequently change at short notice. More often than not, the ticket goes unused - which seems a dreadful waste to me.
The aircraft are comfortable enough. On most of the flights I've taken, you tend to sit where you want (I often wonder how they would identify people if there was an accident) and I have rarely been on domestic flights that are more than half full. European flights are very different - packed out with holiday makers they tend to be much noisier, much more hectic and rather more like a bus! I always find that I have adequate (but not plentiful) leg room and that the seats are certainly comfortable enough for the distance. The flight staff do what flight staff do, but any refreshments need to be paid for separately when the girls and boys come round with their trolley partway through the flight. Again, this doesn't really bother me. Other companies will suggest that their prices are inflated by the in flight meals provided - a bit of a joke when you see the standard of the food. I'd prefer to keep costs down and make my own arrangements for food - although I must say, they do offer some nice sandwiches! There is a free inflight magazine - essentially an advertising tool with a few articles about Easyjet destinations - and this contains a listing of duty free items that you can buy from the crew. I normally find the crew fairly helpful and friendly although certainly not up to the standard of other premium airlines. Clearly, the no frills approach works its way down to the staff as well.
In terms of reliability, I would say that Easyjet's record is only average. Of the last ten flights made, I would say that only four ran on time and that two of the six that were late were over an hour late. Colleagues and friends have certainly experienced similar problems and meetings can often be missed partly or in full. This is more of an issue for business travellers than holiday makers but equally irritating for both. The excuses also verge towards the Virgin Rail end of the problem spectrum - my last flight from Newcastle was delayed because (worryingly) one of the windscreen wipers had flown off in flight!
I suppose in the end, it comes down to anything else, in that you have to take the rough with the smooth. You can't argue with the economy and convenience of flying with Easyjet and reliability issues aside, things generally run pretty smoothly. To make things even more attractive, the company regularly runs special offers with other companies or in newspapers for ultra-cheap fares - London to Amsterdam for £1 each way was one such offer spotted in a national newspaper.
I haven't been out of the country for a couple of years now. I will bear Easy Jet in mind though for the next time I fly x
Quakerman 12.01.2005 13:00
Actually you can change booking names (and changes can be made online if you are registered on their site), and they are now introducing Airbus 319s, but otherwise good and informative reviews.
Delicate_Orchid 30.12.2004 21:50
Easyjet are sure great when you book far in advance - and get a good deal. I just found that the one time I took it, the airports were in the middle of nowhere and it cost me a fortune to actually get to my final destination. Not much savings in the end. Desiree x