easyJet really is easy. And CHEAP too!
I just got back from a few days visiting family in Geneva, Switzerland and flew easyJet for the first time. I was a little uneasy not knowing “how to do it” but learned quickly enough.
My reservations were booked a month in advance online – of course. The total price, after taxes, etcetera, was nearly 64 Euros. Oh, that’s ROUND TRIP travel total! Incredible, isn’t it! easyJet charges extra for everything over the base price. They allow one carry-on bag. More bags cost 6 Euros extra per bag, I believe. They charge extra for checked luggage too. They charge for drinks, snacks, and goods on the plane as well. There’s no movie but they do provide their in-flight magazine which I found entertaining.
I arrived at Madrid Barajas Airport about an hour early for my 9am flight. There was a lonnnnnng line inside for some check-in counter but it wasn’t for easyJet – NOT that it mattered to me because I was traveling super-light. Having ONLY my one carry-on bag and having already printed out my boarding pass a couple days earlier, I was able to go STRAIGHT to the security checkpoint. To my wonderful surprise there was only about 4 people in line. Woo Hoo! They stamped my passport and I walked through easily having only to take off my belt and not my shoes this time.
I have an hour to kill so I go to the duty free shop in Madrid Barajas to get some Spanish gifts for family members. I buy tins of Chupa Chups suckers/lollipops for the kids, polverones and Spanish dark chocolates for the adults. I’d hoped to buy some Spanish nuts (that is, Nuts from SPAIN – not “Spanish Nuts” as we have them in the United States) but all I could find were nuts bagged and marketed by EAGLE NUTS – an American brand, so I passed on those. The Chupa Chups were founded in Barcelona but now are an Italian-owned company.
So with my gifts bought and in their Duty Free bag, I head to the mens restroom. Hmmmm.. It’s closed for cleaning with the yellow cleaning-crew cart parked in its entrance. Hmph. Fine. I’ll go to the other one. So I walk to the other mens restroom at the other end of the terminal – and &^%!* it’s closed for cleaning TOO?!?!!?!? SonsOfB******!! You’d think they’d clean one restroom at a time, right? Or at least clean ONE SEX restroom and then the other. Okay. I walk BACK to the first restroom and they’re finished. Finally. And what is it about Madrid Barajas restrooms? They’re always so hot! What is this, a Turkish Bathhouse? I CERTAINLY HOPE NOT!! I’m ONLY HERE TO DO ONE THING – and it’s NOT THAT!
Boarding for the easyJet airplane begins shortly, about 25 minutes before takeoff. Since I’d printed out my boarding pass beforehand I have the paper in my hand. They call for those who’ve paid about 4 Euros for advanced boarding and about 6 people went through. Now they call “GROUP A” – which is me. I hand my sheet to the attendant and she gives me an actual boarding pass tear-off. There are no assigned seats on easyJet planes so I choose an aisle seat (my preferred seat) just past the wings on the righthand side. After stuffing my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment I take a seat. Hmmm.. This is pretty nice! I watch the remaining passengers, including those who were in “GROUP B” (presumably those whom did not print out their boarding pass?? or is it a random designation? No idea), boarding the plane. At the end the plane is about 1/3 full, all passengers sitting in their window or aisle seats and nearly no one in the middle seats. It’s a 3-by-3 configuration on this easyJet airbus airplane.
I look around me as we taxi for takeoff and get our instructions from the flight crew. Passengers on this plane are mixed. There are Spaniards, Swiss (or maybe French – speaking French), and some English too. In about 15 minutes we take off. Smooth. I have no one sitting next to me in my 3-seat configuration so I crane my still-slightly-sore-neck out the window, trying to see Madrid as we takeoff.
Since this is my first time on easyJet I wonder about the details of the flight and the service. Once we level off and the captain turns off the seatbelt light and people make their dash to the restrooms (clean and “normal”, by the way), the flight attendants bring the coffee-and-snacks cart down the aisle. I watch carefully to see how its done. To no surprise, I watch them ask one, then another, then another passenger if they’d like coffee. Most say no but some say no. Then they pour the coffee and hand it to the passenger. It’s at this point that the flight attendant says, “That’ll be 2 Euros,” and the expression on the face of the passenger is often the same, “What? I have to pay for this?” Yup. You pay for everything on easyJet flights. THAT’S how they keep their prices low. It’s a No-Frills airline. I passed on the coffee since it’s only a 1 hour and 45 minute flight to Geneva Airport.
The flight is easy, typical, and fast. I read the magazine and carefully look over the flight destinations from Madrid. Wow! They go to Paris, Majorca, Ibiza, Edinburgh, and the Canary Islands! They DON’T flight, however, directly to Barcelona.
WHAT INCREDIBLE VIEWS of Switzerland as we were flying over the country. The snow-capped mountains, the greenery, the scattered clusters of villages. It was mostly clear skies until got near the airport. Then the airplane turned left towards the clouds and towards a “V” in the mountains. I was a bit nervous as we flew through the thick clouds.
The landing at Geneva Airport is easy as is the check-through customs. I swear, I’ve never seen such blatant DISREGARD for my passport before! I’m walking towards the guy in the passport control booth, still about a 2-feet away, he glances at it from that 2-foot distance and simply waves me through. No computer check. No passport stamp. Nuttin’! It was the same going back through passport control when I return to Madrid via the Geneva Airport. EXACTLY the same. A quick glance from a distance and then the wave-through.
Visiting the family is always nice. We entertained ourselves with at-home meals, late night movies and French wine, playing with the kids, and catching up on what’s happened since the last visit. We went to a large grocery store and marveled at the kinds of foods they sell (and HOW they package it), went bowling with the kids (VERY popular there!), went to the local café for locally produced white and red wines, and took walks in the village where they live, about 20 minutes from the city of Geneva, Switzerland.
Something I noticed while there was that all the people in the service industry WERE SWISS!! How UNLIKE Spain. I was told that a law was passed years ago that required businesses to pay their service-industry employees a much higher salary and to OUTLAW TIPS! Wow! WHAT A GREAT IDEA! I’d vote for that! But for this reason, at least in part, everything in Switzerland is so much more expensive.
The return easyJet flight experience was equally as easy. Having my boarding pass in hand, got waved through the passport security checkpoint, and walked to the stand-alone easyJet terminal which had about 5-gates. One flight went to Madrid, another to Barcelona,
and the others were in-waiting. They had ONE restroom for each sex.
LOTS of Spaniards going to (or back to) Spain on this flight. I was, again, in Group A and the instructions at the gate were given in English and in French – BUT NOT IN SPANISH, so all the waiting Spaniards were a bit confused. I asked a few in a huge group queuing to board if they had tickets in “GRUPO A” and they said no and backed up a bit while I passed through. The flight back was a bit faster and I sat just a bit further back, the flight more full than before. Again, I took an aisle seat and to my luck no one sat in the window seat so I was able to switch seats as we neared Madrid to get a GREAT view of the landscape.
Then landing in Madrid Airport. Ahhh.. What a wonderful feeling that always is to me. The flight took just 1 hour and 27 minutes. Fast! We all grabbed our backs once the airplane came to a complete stop and the seatbelt sign was turned off. Then we wait. Upon getting off the airplane I started my watch’s stopwatch function as I wanted to see how long it would take to get home. Luckily, there was almost no line at passport control and waited about 3 minutes or less. Here, they carefully checked my passport and gave me the passport stamp. Since I had no luggage to pickup I walked directly out of the baggage claim area, through the “Nada de Declarar“/”Nothing to Declare” doors as the Guardia Civil guard eyeballed me and everyone. Now to the metro.
Here’s where the effort takes place. I’ve got my one roller bag suitcase and my coat tied around the handle. I walk and walk and walk towards the sign for the metro. Took me a good 20 minutes to get to the metro where I passed my metroBus ticket into the machine. Hmmm.. It didn’t work. Tried another machine. ERROR, it said. So I went to the metro window and told them it didn’t work. To that, that attendant told me I had to pay a supplement of 1 Euro (per person – just me) for the metro from the airport. Hmmm.. I thought that was ONLY for the new Terminal 4. Nope. I now remember. It’s now for all terminals. Hmph. I’ve done this so many times in the past few years without having to pay the supplement. Fine. I pull back and dig out my wallet from my rollerbag and get back in line to pay the supplement. She takes my 1 Euro coin and ticket, runs the ticket through her machine, and gives it back to me. Then it magically passes through the metro pass-through machine and I pull my bag through behind me.
I get onto the metro with few others but still have to stand with my bag in the middle of the metro car. At every stop more people board the metro train car. I change at the metro line’s end-line, Nuevos Ministerios, and get on the next line, line 10, with A LOT of other people. I change once more to take me to the OPERA station where I leave the metro station and then wait for my bus which takes me to my building. I lug my suitcase to the 4th floor (or 5th floor in USA terms) and check my watch. Ha! The whole airplane-to-home trip takes the same amount of time as the flight from Geneva to Madrid! 1 hour 27 minutes.
I’M HOME! And happy to be here. I turn on gas and the water too and go to wash my hands after so much public transportation (a habit of mine). Lo and behold THERE’S NO WATER!!! I ask the neighbors and no one has water! They’ve asked at the bar downstairs and no one in the area has water. I wash my hands with some bottled water from the refrigerator. That night, last night, I don’t wash up for bed and don’t brush my teeth because the water’s still off. So Welcome F’in Home to ME!
Next morning, this morning, the water’s back on and all’s normal – for now. It’s so great to be back in Madrid, Spain.