Advantages Cheap, a lot of short haul destinations covered
Disadvantages Not always the best deal, hidden charges
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Easyjet is one of the more established budget airlines. The offer a no-frills (no ticket, no allocated seat, no free food, drinks or goodies) flight with all the same safety regulations that the regular carriers provide. For years my budget flights had pretty much been exclusively Ryanair, no doubt helped by my proximity to Stansted airport. For a recent trip to Budapest, Ryanair could not help, so we looked on the Easyjet website.BOOKING ONLINE
The website is very easy to use and simply laid out, and apart from the orange branding on everything is quite inoffensive in design. To book a flight or check prices you just choose your departure and arrival destinations and select your preferred date from either the drop down menu or the calendar. One little bugbear about the calendar is that the return calendar does not default to your departure month but to the current month. For example if you are in the month of September and searching for flights in December it will bring up the return calendar from the current date (i.e September) and you have to scroll through the months to get to the month you wish to fly back. As you are unlikely to fly back three months before you leave this is a little niggle that could make an efficient website better.After you have added in the number of people flying and clicked the Show Flights button, you come to the page with the flight info. As well as all the available flight times and prices for the outward and return date you selected it also shows the prices and times for flights a day either side, so if you are flexible you could find a better deal by going a day earlier or later, or coming back on a different date. I like this touch as often there is a degree of flexibility when you are travelling independently and saves putting in all the different combinations manually, if you only do two searches you have covered a six day window which should be more than enough.
After you have chosen your flight you go through to a confirmation page which summarises your flight costs and taxes (I really wish they would include these in the listed price on the previous page, but there you go. Ryanair do the same thing, so it was not wholly unexpected). There is also the option to buy their travel insurance from Mondial. From the perspective of a long weekend break this seems to have a quite competitive price with reasonable cover, but it is always worth comparing such deals on the web, as it is so easy to do these days. There is also the option to book car hire with them, again I would check the web for other deals as I am not sure how competitive this is. They charge £4.95 for paying by credit card minimum (or 1.95% of the total, whichever is greater). Debit cards (except Visa Electron) incur a £1 fixed charge. Easyjet flights are non-refundable (although their website says this may be done on a discretionary basis in the event of bereavement) and there is a £17.95 fee to change a booking.Baggage restrictions change at the rate of knots these days and this is worth clarifying yourself before you travel, although I did find Easyjet e-mailed me regarding an update on toiletries which was helpful. Currently one 20kg bag is allowed in the hold for free (Ryanair back in early summer 2005 were charging people £2.50 per bag per flight if booked in advance i.e £5.00 extra for a return flight to put your bags in the hold, although this may have changed in the light of subsequent restrictions). Additional bags are £5.00 each per flight with Easy Jet, £10.00 per bag per flight if paid for at the airport. There are also extra charges for carrying skis but I believe that is fairly standard. There is no charge or weight limit (within reason - you must be able to lift it and put it in the overheard cabinets) for hand baggage as long as the dimensions don't exceed 55x40x20cm.
I paid £133 including taxes for a return flight to Budapest out of London Gatwick over the 2006/7 New Year period and booking in September 2006, which I think is quite expensive when you see some deals advertised.
MY CHECK IN EXPERIENCE
We had all received e-mails from Easyjet advising us to arrive early as our period of travel was such a busy one for the airports, and this was certainly the case at Gatwick. We actually arrived before our check-in officially opened, but as some of the desks were generic ones for about six Easyjet flights we just joined one of the three queues, sadly the slowest, which took about 25 minutes. The check-in desk attendant was brisk and semi-efficient, although without a smile. All the usual security questions were asked but I was surprised he didn't remind us about the new policies regarding liquids, as this appeared to cause confusion amongst people in the security queues (although this is not Easyjet's problem or responsibility, if all airlines did this it would have made things easier) Our plane was 30 minutes late, this actually made little difference as it took us an hour and forty minutes to get through security (even though we had understood the restrictions), I doubt any plane left on time that day. Coming home, check-in was much swifter, although we may have just timed it well and the Easyjet staff in Ferihegy (Budapest) airport were much more smiley and friendly than their Gatwick colleagues.Easyjet are a ticket-less airline so you just need your passport (or photo ID if taking a domestic flight) and your booking reference. You get a boarding card as normal, but no allocated seat.
BOARDINGSince I made my booking they introduced Speedy Boarding, where you pay between £2.50 and £7.50 for priority boarding. For my flights to Budapest it would be £7.50, and EasyJet e-mailed me details, but I decided to take my chances. Personally I think it is another excuse to try and make a bit extra out of its passengers. At Gatwick, my friend who is pregnant got Priority Boarding and boarded first through the tunnel. On our return, it just meant she was first on the bus, not first on the plane. If you check in early you get assigned a batch (assuming you do not have Speedy or Priority Boarding - A, B, C or D, so those who check in first can board first (although this may mean you board the bus first, not the plane), I think the staff just do this so it is not all a bundle at the gate. I did see them turning away a woman on our return journey, who was a D when they had only called A.
THE FLIGHT ITSELFThe flight was fine, take off was bumpy, but otherwise smooth and uneventful. This was my first time flying Easyjet and I thought that the orange and grey uniforms didn't look particularly smart, compared to other airlines, and that the male attendant's uniform of grey trousers and an orange and grey shirt worn outside looked distinctly unprofessional. The crew were efficient with announcements in English and Hungarian and came round regularly with the refreshments trolley.
As with all budget flight you have to pay for food and drinks on board, my friend bought a cup of tea, chicken sandwich/wrap and a Mars bar for £6.10, (as a comparison, my sarnie, crisps and juice in Marks & Spencer's in the Terminal cost me £2.45). They also sell alcoholic drinks. The Mars bar (a double but not full sized pack) alone cost £1 as did a mini tub of Pringles. One of my friends ordered the seasonal Turkey & Trimmings sandwiches. He complained to the stewardess that there was only a thin sliver of turkey in it. Her reply was "Well, I didn't make it". She did, however, give him another one free, although it had no more filling in it.They also sell duty free drinks and perfumes to take away and gifts such as toys and jewellery which seem to be quite competitively priced.
Unlike Ryanair, Easyjet do have that mesh basket on the back of the seat in front for you to store books and drinks. I like this, as Ryanair appear to have gone a cut back to far, as I seem to spend half the flight trying to hold my bottle of water between my feet. Easyjet also give you a 180 page magazine with some reasonable entertainment, travel and business articles in it. There is also info on their services and purchases. You can take it away with you if you are so inclined, and it kept me amused for 20 minutes or so. I was also quite impressed with the leg room, although I am quite petite; I think most average sized people should be able to sit comfortably for the duration of a short flight.GENERAL POINTS TO CONSIDER
One thing I would advise before booking with any budget/no-frills airline is that you check for hidden charges and take into account the 'hassle factor' to see if you really are getting the best deal - points to consider: Getting to/from the airport at your destination. Sometimes budget airlines use out of town airports rather than the more central ones (admittedly more Ryanair than Easyjet, but still a point to consider). Think about how you will get to your hotel/onward destination and factor in any additional train, bus or taxi costs. This can also apply to your departure airport in the UK, as they are not always convenient to get to. I know Ryanair sometimes work with a local bus company in Italy for which you pay approx €9-10 return
It is always worth checking with the destination country's national carrier and other 'regular' airlines to make sure they are not offering a better deal or at least one competitive enough to eliminate the hassle factor of using budget airlines. Never assume that budget airlines offer the best deal, for European city breaks I have sometimes found British Airways to offer a surprisingly good deal.I hope you have had a pleasant reading experience (it was a long one - sorry), thank you for reading Essexgirl and we hope that you will read us again in the future. We wish you a safe onward journey around Ciao.
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