Not so easyJet

We recently flew to the UK and back with easyJet, the first time we’ve done so with this airline. I would have to say that the overall experience was not as bad as expected. Horror stories about the Etiuda terminal at Warsaw proved to be unfounded. We were just lucky perhaps but we sailed through the check-in process without the expected long queue outside in the cold. Rumours of no food or drink were also put down as urban myths as the mini “Coffee Heaven” (once past security) was doing a fine job. The whole arrangement there is rather strange though, so I can see how this might all turn into something rant-worthy. Best idea would be to build another terminal for proper flights, use the existing terminal for the cheap airlines & Etiuda for private jets………oh, hang on, that’s what they did already and finished building it about two centuries ago………so can anyone tell me why the new terminal is STILL not being used for departures???

I digress. Our departure was precisely on time and this was easy to monitor because the plane parked up right outside the door allowing us to avoid the bus trip and just walk on board. “We are an on-time airline” is not something Wizz air can claim to be, though. I’d heard many bad stories about this airline’s delays and that morning proved them right with a two+ hour delay to a Wizz flight to Liverpool! Looks like they either need to deal with their delay issues or change the name, either that or go out of business. If they are stuck with the idea of an onomatopoeic name then perhaps “Phut” or “Splat” might portray a more accurate impression?

I digress again. Space (leg room) on the easyJet was not fantastic but was certainly good enough and better even than some of my more recent LOT flights (another airline that needs to be very careful where it’s heading). The flight was good, the service on board was….what was expected and we ended up at Luton thirty minutes ahead of schedule. Ground staff at Luton completely pissed away this advantage by taking thirty minutes to find some steps! “They were not expecting us” was the excuse given. “I’m sorry, but we’ve been heading your way for the last 2.5 hours so how can our early arrival come as any surprise? What did you think, we were going to take the passengers for an airtour of the British Isles to while away the spare time?” is what I’d have said, but then I wasn’t the captain.

The flight back was pretty much the same experience with the exception of arriving about thirty minutes late (Luton end problem) and having to catch a bus from the plane to the terminal despite us having parked right next to the doors. Could have saved 15 minutes if we’d have been allowed to walk all of 30 metres!

This all sounds far too nice doesn’t it?! You’re right, I’ve been saving up the BIG ONE for the end, easyJet’s “Free Seating Policy”. I’ve spent quite a while scanning the internet to find reasons why they have this damned silly policy but all I can find is this from their web site:

Free seating To take the hassle out of boarding we operate a free seating policy, allowing you to choose where you sit. This speeds up the boarding process immensely as people don’t have to waste time searching for their allocated seat number.

Hang on, does that say to take the hassle “out”? Shurley shome mishtake! The second reason, “speeding up the boarding process” I can understand and have, in fact, commented on the problem myself before in here. However, if a free seating policy is the only alternative, give me people who cannot find their seat any day of the week!

Here are the issues I have with this seating policy:

  1. They make big of the fact that it treats everyone equally, gives everyone a chance to get the seats they want, it is fair. This would be true if they were not selling (for money) “Speedy Boarding” upgrades. Those who can work a computer and have money to spare can jump the queue. No, not fair then, it does discriminate and in an even worse way than having allocated seats.
  2. It ignores families or groups who are travelling together. My family had to pray that we might find three seats together when we got on the plane. With a wife who is not all that thrilled with flying and a four year old, I don’t think this is a good idea AT ALL! I suppose the argument is that we should pay for speedy boarding? Two points; speedy boarding is not available at Warsaw and WHY SHOULD WE!!
  3. Far (oh so very, very far) from taking out the hassle, this policy actually adds significant hassle to the journey. This is especially true in countries like Poland where nobody is about to be screwed over by the Joe/Jane next to them in the queue! In Poland (and I’m sure just about every other country) “free seating” means simply “rugby scrum”. I honestly have not seen such behaviour since the days when I used to be fighting to catch the number 183 bus to school. Back in those days we used to shout “bundle!!” as we kicked, scratched and elbowed our way onto the bus at the expense of the more polite members of society. This “free seating” experience was no different, and I really do mean that. The pressure, real or imagined, to get yourself and your family the “best seats in the house” just ruins the whole experience. You have to be first to check-in (which means get in the queue before check-in opens, i.e. more than 2 hours before the flight). We got to Luton (not for this reason I hasten to add) just before check-in opened and were at the check-in desk exactly as they opened. We still ended up in the “B” class boarding queue. If you’re lucky (stupid) enough to get in the “A” queue, you have to be the first through passports, the first through security, the first in the “A” queue for boarding, the first to bagsy a great place on the bus, the first off the bus, the first up the steps and then, maybe, you’ll get your golden seating arrangement. Who gives a toss about any other human beings, eh? Just fight your way on, sit your sorry arse down and then give the finger to those less fortunate. Pathetic!
  4. Clearly, easyJet don’t give a shit how stressful it might be for their passengers, they just want to stick to this illusion that no seat allocation means faster boarding. Perhaps they have studies that prove this to be true but I really can’t say that this policy resulted in a significantly faster time from bus-leaving to doors closed on the flights we were on. Around 50% of the passengers got seated more quickly, that’s true, but the rest took longer than normal as they all shuffled around the plane trying to find somewhere to sit. Take us, for example. Boarding was such a scrum that when we entered the rear of the plane (boarded front and back) we sat in the first available spaces, two on one side of the aisle and one on the other (because all “A” queue elite had taken every window seat) in fear that further down there would be no seats at all. Some time passed while I tried in vain to find somewhere to put our bags and coats and worked out who was going to sit with who. Eventually, and it has to be said prompted by my not inconsiderable huffing and puffing about being herded like cattle, the hostess from the front came up and explained that there were a few rows of three seats at her end. More time wasted while our family extracted ourselves, and bags/coats, and moved down the plane.

My conclusions are that easyJet’s “Free Seating Policy”;

  1. Is a big pile of old smelly pants.
  2. Does not benefit the airline and most definitely not the passengers.
  3. Gives advantage only to rich people (at selected airports) and bullies.
  4. Is possibly a bad enough experience for me to pay double the price and get an allocated seat next time we fly.

Discuss.

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5 thoughts on “Not so easyJet

  1. Welcome to the world of the cash strapped economy flier, Scatts!

    I’ve been watching E/J going from a first class idea to a money grabbing shower for around 10 years. That is why I turned my back on them last month and went to Spain by train.

    OK, I’m “time rich”, being retired. BUT I had first class treatment both ways at very little cost, could stretch out in a proper bed with real sheets, and really get the feeling of actually seeing the country I’m travelling through. ( Except of course when I was sound asleep!)

  2. Eddie,

    I think you’ve got it about right, assuming the traveller has the time available. Funnily enough, there was a discussion about train versus economy jet on “Excess Baggage” BBC Radio 4, yesterday. Conclusion was that train is better but cannot compete with the prices or the time saved.

    Did you get discounts because of your advanced years? :) They did say though, on the programme, that you can get good train prices though if you book well in advance.

    Other folks can read Eddie’s account “To Spain by train” here – http://cafedillo.org.uk/forums/index.php?topic=505.0

  3. I too recently ‘enjoyed’ a trip back to Blighty courtesy of EasyJet. In fact I posted about it a few days ago.

    I’ve always had mixed feelings about the ‘Free Seating’ idea. A couple of years ago I did the EasyJet Luton to Krakow route once every couple of months and got pretty good at it. I like the idea that turning up on time or early gives you an advantage, and almost always got in the A queue. On the other hand this has been steadily eroded by the proliferation of speedy boarding options.

    Flying from Krakow makes a mockery of the whole system anyway. They carefully and insistently go through the whole ‘priority boarders, speedy boarders, group A, group B’ thing, and then you get down the steps and find you’re all on the same bus to the aircraft anyway!

    By the way, Whizz does assign seats, perhaps that’s why it was 2 hours late.

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