All aboard the staycation express: What is was like on EasyJet’s inaugural flight from Gatwick to Newquay
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After a year of travel bans, grounded flights and widespread disruption to the aviation industry, the past 15 months have seen me spend a lot less time on the road. In fact, ahead of this trip, I’d only taken two flights since the pandemic began — and both were relatively uneventful hops from London to Edinburgh.
So, when EasyJet announced a new nonstop route between London Gatwick (LGW) and Cornwall’s Newquay Airport (NQY), I thought it was a good chance to try something a little different. And while it didn’t sound quite as sexy as an inaugural international flight, I was excited to see what this domestic route had to offer with a summer of staycations ahead of us.
I wanted to experience EasyJet’s top product, so I paid £77.99 for a one-way Flexi ticket. This fare covered two cabin bags, an upfront seat, speedy boarding, fast track security and a 23kg hold bag.
If I wasn’t bothered about the extras, I could have bought a standard ticket on the same route for just £28.99 one-way, though this fare only includes a single carry-on bag that must fit under the seat.
Keep in mind that the cost of the flight will vary based on the time of the week you’re looking to travel, as well as how full the flight is. There’s a chance that you could score a seat on this staycation express for significantly less.
I arrived at Gatwick Airport‘s North Terminal around 3 p.m. and was surprised by just how deserted it was. I didn’t expect the place to be bustling with passengers and activity, but given that we’re now in June and the weather is spectacular, I’d anticipated a few more sun-seekers looking for a quick coastal getaway.
Since I was only planning to stay in Cornwall for a couple of nights, I didn’t have hold luggage with me. But the lack of passengers around the terminal made it obvious that this process would have been extremely smooth had I needed to check a bag. There were multiple lanes open and check-in agents outnumbered customers by about 5:1.
The lack of passenger traffic also meant that fast-track security wasn’t even in operation, but I still managed to breeze through in a matter of minutes. With this in mind, I would certainly consider opting for EasyJet’s Standard Plus ticket over the Flexi option, as if your airport experience is anything like mine, you’re unlikely to get good value for money with the most expensive fare right now.
The rest of the terminal was predictably quiet, with a number of retail stores and restaurants shut entirely. Even Wetherspoons, usually buzzing with excitable holiday goers, was all but empty.
My ticket didn’t come with any kind of lounge access, but I thought I’d try my luck at purchasing access to Gatwick’s Club Aspire Lounge, which is a member of the Priority Pass network. Unfortunately, this, like the rest of the North Terminal’s lounges, was also shut.
So far, my experience hadn’t hinted at any kind of fanfare around the inaugural flight, and sadly, that trend continued at the boarding gate.
I anticipated there might at least have been an announcement that this was EasyJet’s first journey between Gatwick and Newquay, but the most I heard was a very brief conversation between the boarding agents that went something like, “I think this is the first time they’re flying this route.”
Passengers were divided into a “speedy boarding” line and an “all other customers” line, although it appeared that more than 50% of those travelling had opted for the priority option anyway. So in reality, this made little difference.
We boarded the aircraft about 10 minutes ahead of schedule and I made my way to seat 1A.
My seat up front was as you’d expect on an EasyJet aircraft. It was made of fairly thin material with plastic armrests, and there was minimal space between passengers. This, however, was of no real concern, given the flight time of just 40 minutes.
The all-economy cabin was arranged in a 3-3 configuration, and by the time everyone had boarded, it was only at about 40% capacity. I was thankful to have an empty seat next to me, as it made the experience feel that little bit more premium.
The best feature about my 1A seat was the ample leg space in front of me, which made the journey even more comfortable. I stand at 5-foot, 11-inches and have size-12 feet, so it was a real joy being able to stretch all the way out without any worry of feeling cramped.
Food and service
Low-cost carriers usually don’t have the best reputation for cutting edge service, but I’ve always found EasyJet flight attendants to be friendly, courteous and helpful, especially compared with its main competitor Ryanair. This flight was no different. I was welcomed on board with a smile and quickly got to chatting with the crew about the inaugural flight, and whether there might be some kind of celebration at the other end.
There was no hot food available on this quick hop down to Cornwall, but the crew did manage to roll out a full snack and drinks service, and I thought the speed at which they operated was impressive on such a short flight.
I opted for a snack box, chocolate bar and Diet Coke — all of which were included as part of my Flexi ticket. It wasn’t exactly a first-class caviar and Champagne experience, but I appreciated the option for a quick refreshment for such a short flight. Especially considering the cost of the meal was included in the fare, it was a reliable option, knowing that many of the eateries in Gatwick’s North Terminal were closed.
The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful, but it felt fantastic to take in those irreplaceable window views after so long stuck at home.
The Cornish coast looked glorious as we approached Newquay’s short runway. Despite the cabin crew’s optimism, there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary as we touched down in Cornwall.
This was a largely unspectacular flight, but the convenience of it can’t be overstated for those looking to holiday in Cornwall this summer.
For comparison, a train from London Paddington to Newquay costs around £70 and takes five hours. A one-way flight on EasyJet’s cheapest ticket cuts the time and cost in half, plus you get to soak up those window views that we’ve all missed so much.
If you’re desperate for some beach action and just want to experience flying again, then this is a cost-effective way to do exactly that.
Featured photo by Liam Spencer/The Points Guy.
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