Trips to London are a regular chore for many expats living in Moscow and this is not just limited to the Brits amongst us as many use London for visa runs, business meetings and of course, shopping.
In the past London flights have been covered by BA, Aeroflot and BMI. However as BMI became part of BA, the number of flights, convenience and price suffered in the aftermath of the takeover.
It was with great interest that we all heard of the arrival of easyJet into Moscow and Moscow expat Life decided to put an easyJet flight to the test.
easyJet is now the second largest airline in the UK and one of the pioneers of the âlow/no frills conceptâ so quite a change to the flights and service that we have been used to on our regular jaunts to London.
Bookings are on line via a simple booking process. For additional charges you pay for your luggage and can book your seats. The easyJet flights are not specifically targeting the business traveller with early morning arrivals rather, most convenient afternoon departures/arrivals to both London Gatwick and to Manchester.
Correctly outfitted with my printed boarding passes I made my way to Domodedovo. The easyJet check-in desks offer 3 categories: General Check-in, Bag Drop and Speedy Booking. However, as often tends to happen in Russia no respect was shown for the correct lines. In fact my beautifully printed boarding pass was not requested due to the necessity of a typical DME boarding pass. This does however indicate your seat number.
The incoming flight landed and there was hardly any pause between seeing the arriving passengers and then being called to board. The turn around time is very short.
You soon notice that you are boarding a no-frills airline and expect crumbs on the floor and tattered magazines.
Service is friendly and professional and the seat pitch (the space between the front of your seat and the one in front) is actually acceptable. However do note that none of the seats recline, so donât expect to be able to sleep that well!
The food service is on a payment basis only. I donât have a problem with this but the cultural differences now became very apparent. Most of the passengers on my flight were Russians and there were many puzzled expressions as passengers were confused with the variety of typical British snacks and drinks. Roubles are also not accepted (only Sterling, Euros or Credit Cards) sending many passengers diving through their carry-ons to find the required notes and coins.
In general everything went quite smoothly despite the cultural and language differences.
So a lot has changed if your use these flight. No lounges, no business class and no free drinks & food. However at a price of Euro.264 (including seat reservation and 1 piece of luggage) it was a major difference from the BA offer at that time of around Euro.425. For those of you dying for English style crisps you can get your first fix on the aircraft!
I was not travelling on business and for my requirements the times were extremely civilised. Outbound flights were 14:30 to 15:40 and return 14:10 to 21:00.
Arriving in Gatwick was a pleasant change as I always find LGW to be an easier and more relaxed airport to larger Heathrow. However be prepared for a long walk as easjJet gates are located across the âbridgeâ from the main terminal. However a good walk after a flight is not bad.
On my arrival, Immigration was not busy either for British/European passports or for âotherâ passports. At least nobody arriving in the UK is called âalienâ!
My baggage came through quickly and I was soon in the arrivals hall ready to collect my rental car.
The return flight 4 days later was also amazingly easy. With easyJet now located in the North Terminal they have a massive dedicated check-in area. I have memories of queuing for an hour in the old South terminal but with many desks open I was checked-in in minutes. Even security control seems easier in Gatwick and the shopping/catering facilities are on par with Heathrow. A good walk out to the gate and this time easy-booking(additional charge) and the rest of us were separated. However all were on the flight without stress.
Again the culture difference was still apparent, however as most of the guests had now spent time now in theÂ UK learning our idiosyncrasies, the language barrier was not as evident.
My only gripe was not being able to recline the seat, even a little would have helped. I believe that a blow-up pillow would be sufficient for the next flight! It is annoying however that the pre-recoded announcement prior to landing asks you to âplace your seats in the upright positionâ when you canât move them at all!
My conclusions. For UK flights I am not a loyal passenger. I will fly with anyone based on the criteria of the most convenient times and price. easyJet fulfilled both these points. I booked 26 days in advance. I believe that you can book much cheaper however this was, in my opinion and excellent price for a good flight.