WizzAir, Economy Class – Airbus A 321: Basel to Tirana

Introduction

It’s a lazy, late summer’s evening here in Switzerland. The temperature is warm and balmy, and there are little insects dancing in the last rays of light as the sun slowly dips below the horizon. Just after 20h I leave my flat and make my way across the square to catch the 20h15 bus to the airport.

The bus is fairly empty. Considering this is the airport bus, it’s a bit surprising that I’m the only traveller making his way to the airport. Facing me is an elderly lady. Despite the warm weather, she sits there in a woolly hat and a thick coat, absently staring into space, drawing symbols on the wind with her bony index finger. I wonder if she even knows what she’s doing. I follow the lines of her hand and the outstreched finger, but I am unable to decipher the cryptic symbols she is painting in the air.

Check-in

The departures concourse is quiet when I arrive there at 20h30. There are only two more departures this evening. The WizzAir flight to Tirana at 21h45 and a SunExpress flight to Izmir shortly after. There are two counters open for each flight.

I’ve already checked in online using the WizzAir app. Two weeks before my flight, WizzAir starts with the reminders and regular updates about the Covid restrictions in place for Albania. As of 05 September 2021, entry into the country is only with a valid Covid certificate.

Boarding

The situation airside is not much better. There are hardly any passengers and most shops look as though they closed a long time ago.

Boarding is an interesting concept with WizzAir. I have a ticket that gives me ‘priority’ privileges for boarding, which means that I can jump the queue – only to end up having to wait the longest until all the passengers have entered the holding pen. The aircraft hasn’t even arrived yet when I get there!

I think what strikes me the most about this flight is the number of babies and infants. Loud, yelling and screaming babies and infants. There are more minors than adults on the flight. As a result, the air around the holding area is rife with the horrific stench of baby poo and the noise of cranky toddlers. You can’t really blame them, either. This is not a time for little kids to be travelling.

Boarding takes for ever and literally leaves me quite speechless. I’m mean, how can all these people manage to create such complete and utter chaos out of nothing? The aircraft is a mess. Some people sitting at the front of the bus obviously thought it would be a great idea to use the rear stairs. Only to have to battle their way forward to row 3, where they’re actually seated. One woman with a baby thinks the emergency exit looks like a nice place for her baby to sleep on the floor, while grandad mistakes the aircraft’s cabin for a cocktail party and idly chats with whoever happens to catch his eye, completely oblivious to the queue building up behind him. Meanwhile, the guy who just got on the plane is yelling at him from the front, telling him to move to f*@!k on…

The Crew

There are five cabin crew members on this flight, and they do a good job of managing the crowds. They’re very no-nonsense, but I suspect that’s probably the only thing that will work in this case. One of the crew is this petite, young brunnette. But she’s fierce. Even the old patriarchs look intimidated by her!

The Cabin

The cabin is rather dirty and obviously hasn’t been cleaned for a few days, I’d say, judging by the grime and crushed potato chips littered across the floor. I can literally feel their crunch under my feet as I make my way to my seat at the emergency exit on row 12.

WizzAir has a very high density configuration on the A 321. Seat pitch is tight, so if you’re more than 6ft. tall, I would really recommend you pay the extra fee for the emergency exit. It’ll save you a boatload of health bills for the chiropractor to realign your vertabrae.

Catering

Catering on WizzAir is buy on board. The prices are reasonable. I order a bottle of still water and a KitKat, which sets me back four Euros. Payment is possible in Albanian Lek, Euros or by credit card.

Arrival

The flight passes quickly enough. It helps that I have a whole row of three to myself to spread out. We land ten minutes ahead of schedule at 23h35. The transfer to the terminal is by bus. Luckily, immigration is empty when we get there. Even so, the process takes quite a while, as obviously not everbody got the memo about the new requirement of having to present a Covid certificate.

Conclusion

This is a fairly short post. As usual with the low cost carriers, there isn’t really all that much to say about the experience. Mainly, because the experience has been stripped of anything that might make it memorable. The ride was comfortable and convenient, because I could fly directly from Basel. Other than that, flying with WizzAir feels a lot like getting on a bus. And not much else. What ever happened to the romance of flying and travel…?

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