I flew EasyJet’s longest flight and I would do it again
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If you’ve flown low-cost airlines around Europe, chances are you’ve come across EasyJet. With more than 300 aircraft, it’s one of the area’s largest low-cost carriers, and the airline flies to more than 100 destinations from London Gatwick Airport (LGW) alone.
I’ve long been an EasyJet fan. Over the six years I’ve lived in the United Kingdom, I’ve flown EasyJet at least a dozen times and had a consistently good experience. You know exactly what you’re going to get each time, and the airline offers a solid product for an affordable price.
Recently, as the company has fiddled with its cabin baggage policies, my enthusiasm for them has waned. If the company wants to take the leap from low-cost to ultra-low-cost that’s fine, but at least be honest about it.
To test if I was still loyal to one of my favorite low-cost airlines, I decided to take it to the extreme. I booked a flight on EasyJet’s longest route by distance: Manchester Airport (MAN) in England to Hurghada International Airport (HRG) in Egypt. At 2,578 miles, this route is comparable to one of the shortest transatlantic routes — an Air Canada flight from Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ) — which comes at 2,857 miles.
My flight was scheduled to last five hours and 30 minutes. With a 15-minute delay and early boarding, I was in my seat for a bit more than six hours.
This long flight on a short-haul-configured aircraft gave me plenty of time to ponder the EasyJet experience.
Here are six lessons I learned from EasyJet’s longest flight.
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EasyJet’s fare bundles are frustratingly restrictive
Given I was flying out of Manchester Airport’s dreaded Terminal 1, which has received plenty of negative press recently, I wanted to avoid checking a bag. Therefore, I planned to take a full-size cabin bag on board with me. Ideally, to get some good cabin photos, I also wanted priority boarding.
I purchased a Standard Plus bundle fare for $229 (189 euros) one-way that included:
- A full-size cabin bag.
- Speedy Boarding.
- An Up Front seat.
I thought this was a smart deal until I went to select my Up Front seat and discovered the only seat available in the section was a middle seat in the fourth row. There were plenty of spare aisle and window seats at the back of the aircraft. I could switch to these seats at no cost (as I had already paid for a more expensive seat), but switching to this seat after booking automatically removed my full-size cabin bag and Speedy Boarding. If I wanted to keep the perks I already paid for, I had to keep my middle seat.
Technically I could have bought a seat-only fare, and then added a full-size cabin bag. However, this would load a whopping $43.34 (35 euros) onto the price. I could have then paid to reserve a window or aisle seat toward the back of the plane, but there was no way to add Speedy Boarding to this.
I wish EasyJet’s fare bundles were more logical. It would be great if a passenger with an Up Front seat fare could switch to an inferior “cheaper” seat without losing the other elements of their paid bundle — like Speedy Boarding and a full-size cabin bag.
The seats are actually comfortable, but I wish they reclined
As I boarded, I shuddered when I saw how thin the seats were. There is very little padding, as they are designed for the typical (much shorter) EasyJet flights. My previous EasyJet flight from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) to London Luton Airport (LTN) was a mere 221 miles compared to this more than 2,500-mile flight.
However, the seats were surprisingly comfortable. The 29 inches of advertised legroom felt much roomier (even though I’m 6 feet tall), and neither my back nor my rear was sore when I finally disembarked in Egypt.
I sure do wish the seats reclined, though — having a nap on the flight was not easy with a seat that doesn’t move at all.
The food and drinks are decent, and they sell a ton
I liked how the menu was presented on this flight. It reminded me of a modern cafe, and I was pleased to see the actual product largely matched the pictures.
The meal deal was tempting, but after receiving a disappointingly small pastrami deli roll on a previous flight, I decided to treat myself to a hot ham and cheese toasted sandwich and a packet of pretzels instead. I paired this with one of my favorite cocktails, an Aperol Spritz, which is now served in a bottle (what a time to be alive!).
At $13 (10.50 euros), this was a pretty good deal.
The toasted sandwich was served piping hot, not to mention it was decadent and delicious. Here’s a top tip: Lean right over your tray table to eat, and don’t let any molten cheese accidentally drip down onto your face mask. Even if you really love cheese, breathing in the scent of dried cheese is unpleasant for the rest of the flight.
I have never seen as much food and drink sold on a flight as I have on this one. I sat in Row 4 and watched the sales closely. (Hey, there wasn’t much else to do without inflight entertainment, and I was hungry.) The man sitting in front of me bought eight drinks at once (six white wines and two Heineken beers). Plus, the crew member had to return to the front galley several times to add more hot items to the ovens before he even reached my row. Items were selling like hotcakes.
Normally, the crew would run the trolley down the cabin once, then perhaps do a second run later if the flight was long enough.
However, the food and drinks on this flight were so popular that as soon as the crew reached the middle of the cabin (where a second trolley and set of crew members had started service from), they started taking more orders and working their way to the front. They were out of most items by the time they reached the front again, and they announced a 45-minute pause on ordering. This would give them time to restock the trolleys and take a short break before starting all over again.
A crew member told me they regularly sell out on this route because the plane simply isn’t big enough to stock enough food and drinks to meet the demand. She explained this as she restocked a cart, moving hundreds of bottles of booze from one trolley to another.
EasyJet crew members do receive a small commission for each item they sell, so it’s financially beneficial for them to shift as much product as possible.
There’s very little to do during the flight
After the relative excitement of consuming my meal deal, I settled in to relax on EasyJet’s longest flight.
But … there’s not much to do.
- There’s no Wi-Fi.
- There’s no inflight magazine.
- There are no seatback entertainment screens.
- There are no in-seat charging points.
- The tray table is comically small, so it’s virtually impossible to work on a laptop.
So how did my fellow passengers pass the six hours?
Some drank their body weight in alcohol while others played cards. Some argued with the crew about mask-wearing, and some read books.
Personally, I ate my meal, read a little, listened to music, did some offline work on my cramped lap, took a nap and then read a little more. The flight went by faster than I expected.
If you’re planning on taking this flight, make sure you charge your devices and multiple forms of entertainment to keep you occupied — it really is a long flight if you can’t entertain yourself.
The cabin crew was fantastic
The four crew members worked tirelessly throughout the flight and never stopped smiling. Masks were required due to local laws in Egypt, and some passengers took issue with this, as they had not worn masks in the U.K. for weeks. Time and time again, the crew was forced to politely but firmly remind passengers to put on their masks.
One serial offender claimed she lost her mask after she boarded the flight. The cabin manager immediately whipped out a box of masks and said, “I have 150 masks here so even if you lose your mask every five minutes I’ll always have another one here for you.”
I had expected the crew to spend the night in Hurghada given our marathon flight time and our almost 10 p.m. arrival time. Plus, they had spent the last six hours dealing with mask compliance and slinging literally hundreds of drinks.
However, a crew member revealed with a smile that they had to turn around and operate the same plane straight back to Manchester that evening.
That’s a 14-hour shift.
I don’t know how they do it, but they were fantastic from start to finish.
I would take this flight again
As we began our descent into Egypt, I grinned as the pilot apologized for the lack of comfort on the flight. He explained to passengers over the PA system that “these planes aren’t really designed or configured for flights of this length, but I hope you still managed to enjoy it.”
It was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and I would take EasyJet’s longest flight again if I ever returned to Hurghada. It offers a solid low-cost product that has been consistently good, just like all of my other EasyJet flights.
My grumbles about the flexibility of checked baggage policies, fare bundles and the lack of seat recline are small in the grand scheme of things. Still, fixing those elements would make EasyJet one of the world’s best low-cost airlines.
Featured photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy.
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