Glasgow - London (Luton)
- just as good as a full-cost airline
- price and flexibility on "flexi" fares
- cramped legroom
- everything is orange
- "speedy boarding" also gives fast-track security
Domestic flying within the UK is a pretty basic affair. There's no domestic business class -- even on "full service" airlines like Star Alliance member BMI or oneworld airline British Airways (which you'll fly on if you're connecting from Qantas).
There are, however, numerous low-cost airlines, including the very, very orange easyJet, which was one of the first low-cost airlines in the UK.
The slight inconvenience of flying to "London" Luton rather than Heathrow wasn't worth the extra £150 that BA was asking on the route.
Plus, with Priority Pass lounge access I didn't need my frequent flyer card and a oneworld airline to get me into the BA lounge at Glasgow. So easyJet it was.
Check in was simple and fast -- and online. You can check in up to 60 days in advance of your flight, and it's a simple "name and reservation number" form on the airline's website.
Since I had luggage for the hold, I checked in online and headed for the bag drop area at Glasgow, which is halfway down the main terminal.
It was a little bit scrum-like but no worse than any of the other desks, including BA (the only "full service" airline flying from Glasgow to London).
Check in opens two hours before each flight, so don't get there too early -- there are no lounges before security, although there's a comfortable Starbucks.
Passengers who purchase the "speedy boarding" option get to jump the check in queue. Speedy boarding also gets you fast-track security, and you're in the first group of people to board the plane. So for business travellers, it's probably a good deal.
Through security, I had the option of the Servisair lounge -- but only since I'm a member of the Priority Pass lounge network. EasyJet doesn't offer lounge access to its passengers.
The announcement for boarding (and the final call) came at about 40 minutes to departure, at which point I hiked over to the easyJet basement departure gate area, which I quickly came to call the easyBunker.
easyJet has several gates (which are really doors that lead directly out onto the tarmac) at Glasgow, which are joined together by a very industrial large basement room that's painted bright orange. On the plus side, there are seats and a coffee stand.
At each gate, there are Speedy Boarding and "everyone else" queues, proving that you don't really gain anything by checking in early or getting to the airport in particularly good time. People started to queue up all of a sudden about 25 minutes before departure, and the queue was very strongly self-policed in a British fashion.
It's a bit of a hike to easyJet's domestic gates, so make sure you leave yourself 5-7 minutes to get there.
EasyJet has an all-Airbus fleet, and on the plane it's actually not as orange as you might have imagined. The seats themselves are a dull grey, with orange accents on the headrests.
A plane arrived and started disgorging incoming passengers twelve minutes before my London flight was due to leave, so it was clear that there would be a delay, but there weren't any announcements.
With the inbound delay, we ended up leaving about 20 minutes behind schedule, but pulled up to the parking stand at "London" Luton airport on time. It took about 10 minutes from parking to standing at baggage claim waiting for my luggage, which popped out about five minutes later.
Seat pitch (the space between your seat back and the one in front) was very much short-haul economy, around 30 inches. Fortunately, easyJet's seats don't recline, so nobody will be jamming their seats into your knees.
The Speedy Boarding group boarded speedily, though, and then everyone else hoofed it out onto the tarmac. EasyJet boards with two airstairs, one at the front and one at the back of the plane.
If you're in the "everyone else" queue your best bet is to head to the back stairs: fewer people go there, and you're likely to snag a seat with a spare next to you. If your heart is set on an exit row seat at the front or at the overwing exits, head for the front and sprint.
I managed to snag an entire row about ten forward from the back of the plane, which was comfortable enough.
Interestingly, this Airbus A320 had a conventional seat-back net pocket with the safety card, inflight magazine and shopping/buy-on-board food brochure rather than the more modern sort with the literature up at eye level. If you're tall, pull this stuff out from the seat pocket and sit on it rather than having it taking up valuable knee room.
There are pages and pages of buy-on-board food and drink options, with toasted sandwiches the most substantial option.
Prices are similar to the airport, but not obscene: a packet of nuts will set you back £2, but sandwiches are a more reasonable £4.
The most expensive thing on the menu is a 375ml bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne for £16. (Don't bother -- it's pretty bad champers.)
That's in contrast to domestic flights on BA or BMI, which might give you a sandwich and a cup of tea, but don't offer as wide a range of food.
Entertainment & Service
With a flight only an hour long on a low-cost airline, the entertainment is limited to what you've brought with you and the in-flight magazine. The crew will also sell you newspapers and various other magazines if you get terribly bored.
The crew were chirpy and attentive without being sell-sell-sell pushy (which is an irritation on some low-cost airlines).
The crew passed through once with the food and drinks, once to pick up rubbish, and once to offer things from the extensive range of buy-on-board gifts. And by that point, the plane was starting to descend for landing.
EasyJet's domestic service is remarkably competitive -- and, if you pick a flexi fare or the Speedy Boarding package, just as good a deal as the "full service" airlines on an hour-long flight to Scotland. (If you're hungry, easyJet is arguably more convenient.)
The downside to its service for the business traveller is the lack of lounge options and frequent flyer miles, and the fact that late night or early morning flights from Luton or Gatwick airports are a pain if you're using public transport.
While its seats aren't comfortable for a journey over an hour or two, I'd certainly consider easyJet again for a UK domestic flight.