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, one of Europe’s largest. With more than 300 aircraft, they fly to more than 100 destinations from London Gatwick (LGW) alone.
I’ve long been an easyJet fan. I’ve flown them at least a dozen times over the six years I’ve lived in the United Kingdom and had a consistently good experience. You know exactly what you are going to get each and every time, and they offer a solid product for an affordable price.
Recently, as they’ve fiddled with their cabin baggage policies my enthusiasm for them has waned. If they want to take the leap from low-cost to ultra-low-cost that is fine, but at least be honest about it.
To test if I was still loyal to what was once one of my favourite low-cost airlines, I decided to take it to the extreme and fly their longest route by distance, from Manchester (MAN) to Hurghada (HRG) in Egypt. At 2,578 miles, it’s not much shorter than one of the shortest transatlantic routes, London (LHR) to Halifax (YHZ) on Air Canada which comes at 2,857 miles.
It’s a flight of 5.30 hours scheduled length, and with a 15-minute delay and early boarding, I was in my seat for over 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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1. EasyJet’s fare bundles are frustratingly restrictive
Given I was flying out of Manchester Airport’s dreaded Terminal 1 which has received so much negative press recently, I wanted to avoid checking in a bag. Therefore I wanted to take a full-sized cabin bag onboard with me. Ideally, to get some good cabin shots, I also wanted priority boarding.
I purchased a Standard Plus bundle fare for £185 oneway that included:
- A full-sized cabin bag;
- Speedy Boarding; and
- An Upfront Seat.
I thought this was a smart deal until I went to select my Upfront Seat and discovered the only seat available in the section was a middle seat in row 4. 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-sized cabin bag and Speedy Boarding. If I wanted to keep the perks that I had already paid for, I was forced to keep my middle seat.
Technically I could have bought a seat-only fare, and then added a full-sized cabin bag but this would load a whopping £35 onto the price. I could have then paid to allocate a window or aisle seat towards 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. If a passenger has already paid for a more expensive Upfront Seat it would be great if they could select an inferior ‘cheaper’ seat if they wished, without losing the other elements of their paid bundle like Speedy Boarding and a full-sized cabin bag.
2. The seats are actually comfortable, but I wish they reclined
As I boarded, ready for my middle seat I shuddered when I saw how thin the seats were. There is very little padding as they are designed for an average easyJet flight which tend to be much shorter than this 2,500+ mile marathon. My previous easyJet flight from Amsterdam (AMS) to London Luton (LTN) was a mere 221 miles, in comparison.
But, the seats were surprisingly comfortable. The 29″ of advertised legroom felt much roomier (I’m 6″0) 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.
2. 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 having ordered the pastrami deli roll on a previous flight and finding it disappointingly small, I decided to treat myself to a hot ham and cheese toasted sandwich, a packet of pretzels and one of my favourite cocktails, now in a bottle (what a time to be alive!), an Aperol Spritz.
At £10.50, this was a pretty good deal.
The toasted sandwich was served piping hot and 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 was in row four and was watching the sales closely as, hey, there wasn’t much else to do without in-flight entertainment (IFE) (more on this later…) and I was hungry. The man sitting in front of me bought eight drinks at once (six white wines, and two Heineken beers) and the crew member had to return to the front galley several times before he even got to my row to add more hot items to the ovens — items were selling like hotcakes.
Normally the crew would run the trolley down the cabin and then perhaps do a second run later in the flight if the flight was long enough.
However, the food and drink on the flight were so popular that as soon as the crew reached the middle of the cabin (where a second trolley and set of crew had started service from), they started taking more orders working their way back up to the front. They were out of most items by the time they reached the front again and made an announcement to the cabin to stop ordering for 45 minutes. This would give them time to restock the trolleys and have a short break before starting all over again.
The crew told me towards the end of the flight they regularly sell out on this leg because the plane simply isn’t big enough to stock sufficient food and drinks for the demand. She told me this as she was restocking a cart, moving hundreds of bottles of booze from one trolley to another.
EasyJet crew do receive a small commission for each item they sell, so its financially beneficial for them to shift as much product as possible.
4. 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 wifi
- 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, others played cards, some argued with the crew about mask-wearing, and some read books.
Myself, I ate my meal, read a little, listened to some music, did some offline work on my cramped lap, had a nap, and then read a little more. That was about all there was to do and 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.
5. Cabin crew were fantastic
The four crew members on the flight 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, having not worn masks in the United Kingdom for weeks. The crew were forced to constantly politely, but firmly remind passengers to put on their masks.
One serial offender claims she lost her mask after she boarded the flight, and the Cabin Manager immediately whipped out a box of masks, gave her one 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, almost 10:00 p.m. arrival time, and having spent six hours dealing with mask compliance and slinging that much food and literally hundreds of drinks.
But no, a crew member revealed with a smile to me during the flight that they have 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.
6. I would take this flight again
As we began our descent into Egypt I grinned as the pilot apologised for the lack of comfort on the flight. He explained to passengers over the tannoy 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. They offer 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 — but fixing this would make easyJet one of the world’s best low-cost airlines.
Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy
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