As travel editor of Hawaii Reporter I’m very lucky. Free travel? Not quite, but I get around. This summer I was in Europe doing research for a book. I took a couple of “local” (European-based) carriers, Level Airlines and EasyJet.
Time to review Level Airlines and EasyJet
Level, which took me from San Francisco to Barcelona seemed attractive. The San Francisco to Barcelona route was handy. Non stop to Europe and a reasonable price. So I decided to the book several months before the planned journey.
The first experience was ominous. I went to the website, filled out the form and clicked to purchase the first segment. It seemed too good to be true–$500. The website for some reason hung up. I refreshed it and lo and behold, the price went up $400.
Just like that.
How about an online chat, to discuss the price hike. Maybe, but not on US Time. It’s a European carrier. There was a phone number and in fits and starts, I did reach them. The guy was pleasant enough and informed me that “there were problems” with the website.
So I bought the ticket. Great, that part was out of the way. But not quite…
Need a seat? Gotta pay extra? (Isn’t that what the ticket is for? I guess not.) Need food? Extra. Want the possibility to change your ticket in the future? More extra. Need a seat with more seat room? More extra. Check Bags? Again, extra…
You get the idea. By the time I was through, the cost had doubled, and I hadn’t even purchased the return ticket…
But let’s continue with the “booking”…
Well of course, I did need a seat. I waited a day or two to actually choose the seat and Level, concerned about my well being, kept on sending emails to remind me. Fair enough.
So I purchased the seat and they kept on sending more emails, asking if I wanted to choose my seat.
Huh? Didn’t I just book my seat? Did I do something wrong? Why are they asking me to choose a seat again? Are they crying wolf, or are they trying to upsell me? (It was the latter).
So the reminder emails continued, this time asking if I wanted to change my seat?
Why would I do that? They suggested I get something “roomier”.
I stuck with what I had.
On the way back (yes I did buy a return ticket), I realized I needed to change it. They allowed me to do so but charged me another $500. Them’s the breaks.
Ready to return and on the tarmac at BCN. They greeted us with piped in Latin bubble gum music in the cabin like it was some Vegas hotel. It was loud and irritating. How about silence? Yeah, an old fart complaint but I didn’t want to hear the music. OK?
Flight service was reasonable. FA’s were friendly and decent. Very little water was offered over the 12-hour flight. They might improve on that. It’s important to hydrate. Right?
I did entertain myself with the movies but the sound emanating from my headset was distorted and fuzzy. No it wasn’t my headset. I used the same gear on the way back (on my HAL flight from SFO) and it worked perfectly.
That wasn’t the only thing busted. So was my tray which slumped, so using my laptop was bit challenging. At least the Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines worked fine. As one pilot friend once told me, it’s always good if you can walk away from your flight.
Will I use this carrier again?
I’ll have to think about it…
Then there was EasyJet, a UK airline that’s ubiquitous in Europe. I booked a flight from Milano to Porto but it was cancelled due to foul weather. Of course this was after we spent a few hours in the cabin on the tarmac.
As we deplaned the pilot assured us the airline would handle hotel accommodation.
Well that’s nice, I figured.
Guess what? There wasn’t going to be an accommodation that night.
It was midnight in Malpensa and there were no hotels, no agent and the train to Milano (it’s an hour ride) was finito for the evening. No place to sleep and no assistance. Spending the night at the airport was not something I want to repeat anytime soon.
An email said they would reimburse us for a hotel so long as it wasn’t too expensive. Never mind that there were no hotels nearby unless of course you grab a 400-Euro taxi to Milan and see what you can find at 2 am.
The carrier later inform me via email that they’d scheduled a flight for us the next day at 2 pm and the agent gave me a 20 Euro voucher for airport food. He didn’t know anything about the hotel they were going to provide for us. If we wanted some redress, we’d have to go on the website. I’m not holding my breath…
Rob Kay is the author of Lonely Planet guidebooks to Tahiti and Fiji. He’s also the creator of Fijiguide.com