This one may surprise a few people. I know two of my assistants at work were stunned when I told them what I was planning. It’s frightening how well they know me. But yes, there you have it: I’m flying EasyJet. It’s been a few years since I last flew them and recently I had found myself contemplating taking another flight with them, simply to see how the intervening years had treated EasyJet. And then suddenly, out of the blue the opportunity arose.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Gatwick Express Train
Departs from: Victoria Station
Frequency: Every 15 minutes
Journey time: 30 minutes on the nonstop trains
Fare: GBP19.90 for a single
I take the Victoria Line tube from Oxford Circus to Victoria Stations, which is the second stop after Green Park. At Victoria the Gatwick Express is clearly signposted and there are dedicated ticket machines and counters on the platforms, so there’s no need to queue with all the other travellers.
The journey on the Gatwick Express is a pleasant one. As it makes its way south, the train passes through the suburbs of London, until eventually the urban sprawl that makes up London gives way to rolling hills with juicy greens fields.
Location: North Terminal
Facilities: Web App, web check-in, check-in counters
Counters: There is a dedicated check-in area for Easyjet at the south end of the North Terminal
Easyjet operates out of both the South Terminal and North Terminal. Flights operating with a flight number starting with 5 depart from the South Terminal, while flights starting with an 8 depart from the North Terminal.
I shall be departing from the North Terminal today. To access the facility, there is an automated train that leaves from a station adjacent to the railway station for the main line trains to and from London. The journey takes about two minutes. Once you’re inside the terminal, head one floor up for check-in and departures.
There is none. Actually, I’m only starting to realise just now how incredibly boring and inconvenient travelling is when you haven’t got a lounge to use – no free wifi, uncomfortable seats and no peace and quiet. I wouldn’t mind just sitting in a corner at the gate reading my Kindle, but alas in Gatwick the departure gates are only announced about 20 minutes before departure.
Other than that, it’s really quite amazing really, airside the North Terminal looks and feels more like a shopping mall than an airport- quite a contrast to Sofia airport, which looks abandoned.
Priority Boarding: Speedy boarding for passengers with advanced seat reservations
Our flight is departing from gate 111, which is in the satellite terminal. Access to the satellite is via a bridge over the taxiway, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the airfield – this is pretty cool me thinks. Sorry about the bad quality of the pictures from the bridge. The sun was working against me this morning, and so were the dirty windows…
Gatwick uses closed gates, but at least you don’t have to go through security again to enter the holding pen. Boarding starts with a call for passengers with children, passengers in need of assistance and passengers who’ve booked speedy boarding. There’s a bit of a hold up in the airbridge because the crew isn’t quite ready yet. Apparently there was some last minute change and the aircraft now flying to Basel should originally have been going to Geneva instead.
Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: 1F, later moved to 1D
Audio and Video: NIL
I’m sitting on the first row, on the right side of the aircraft, opposite the galley. Of course you have much more legroom on the left side, seeing as there is no bulkhead or cabin divider. Then again, if you’re sitting on 1A, the container with the evacuation slide can get in your way. The flight appears to be nearly full this morning. From what I can tell, the only seats left empty are in the first two rows. There is one person by the window on each side of row two and we’re two persons on the right side of row one. The left three seats are empty. The cabin is in excellent condition.
There are three cabin crew on the flight this morning. All of them are French, from what I gather. They’re not incredibly friendly I’d say, but they are very professional in the way they go about their duties. The safety on board demonstration is taken very seriously and the crew are conscientious in the way they conduct the pre-departure check.
Catering on Easyjet is buy on board or bring your own. I have a blueberry muffin and a cappuccino for GBP3.60, which isn’t bad I think. Easyjet has quite a selection of food and drinks, including some hot items like a croque monsieur.
We land in Basel on time. And of course it’s raining, which is hardly surprising given my track record. It’s quite cool too. Our aircraft parks on the Schengen side of the terminal, so we are bussed the short distance to the other side, where the arrivals entrance for non-Schengen flights is located.
GETTING INTO TOWN
As I exit the building, a line 50 bus is already waiting and will be leaving in five minutes. Perfect!
It’s been quite a while since my last Easyjet experience. So how did they compare on this trip compared to back then? In the sum of all things, I think Easyjet has made a few minor adjustments to its model but with maximum impact. The fact that they assign seats now for everybody, and little perks like speedy boarding and advanced seat reservations make the experience with Easyjet a lot more pleasant than it used to be, at least for me. I hope nobody at Easyjet who reads this will hold it against me, because I mean it as a compliment, but all in all I think that they’ve become just like all the other airlines in Economy Class in Europe these days, no better and no worse.