This is my first attempt at writing a trip report, but I felt that my first experience with Wizz Air (and my first flight in years from Luton) would be worth it.
Although I've flown hundreds of times over the years, I only have very limited experience of flying LCC's (in the early days of Ryanair plus a couple of recent flights on Norwegian), so it was with a slight feeling of trepidation that I booked myself and two mates onto Wizz Air's service from Luton to Budapest for our long weekend in the Hungarian capital.
With the party consisting of two South Londoners and an Essex girl, "London" Luton airport is hardly handy for any of the three of us, but we decided that the cheap fare we got (£73 including taxes) made the schlep by train up to Bedfordshire worth putting up with. Personally I hadn't flown from Luton since 1983 from where I flew with Monarch to Ibiza, so was also curious to see how things had changed up there in 21 years. I had some idea from watching 'Airline' that the place had grown and sensed that it was now more in the Gatwick or Stansted league, although I was sadly disappointed! Our booking information informed us that check-in opened 2 hours 40 mins prior to departure, however we arrived 2 hours in advance and there was no sign of a check-in desk serving our flight. Eventually we found out which desks Wizz Air would be using and went and stood dutifully infront of them. After what seemed like an eternity, 4 agents arrived and took their places to check in not only our flight WZZ204 to Budapest, but another Wizz Air departure to one of their Polish destinations.
Check-in over, we proceded to the departure lounge for a bit of shopping, a bite to eat and a couple of beers. Again, this side of Luton airport was a bit of a disappointment, but maybe I've just been spoilt having made the majority of my UK flights from Heathrow and Gatwick. Eventually we were called to the gate having been informed of a 30 minute delay in our departure time, only to find that the majority of passengers seemed to have been queueing at the gate for some time, putting us right near the back of the queue for this free-seating flight! We resigned ourselves to not being able to sit together, and made our way out onto the windy, drizzly tarmac to the aircraft.
I have to say that our A320 (HA-LPE) looked great sitting out there in the late September rain in its pink and purple colourscheme and I was surprised to see that both front and rear exits were in use. We made for the rear staircase in the hope that we could get three seats together nearer the back of the plane, and luckily enough we did. We settled ourselves in to a row on the left hand side and buckled our seatbelts for departure, having grabbed the window seat for myself. However, shortly after, a cabin announcement was made stating that we were all to undo our seatbelts as the aircraft was in the process of being refuelled, followed shortly by a sweep of the cabin to make sure that we had complied with their instruction. I have to say that in all the hundreds of flights I've made over the years, I have never had this happen to me before! I can only assume that it's to make for a quicker exit should anything have gone wrong with the refuelling process - can anyone shed any more light on this?
Refuelling over, we pushed back from the stand approximately 50 minutes after the published departure time of 20:15 and headed for the runway. At this point, the F/A's, who I have to say look like something out of the original Star Trek series in their black trousers and dark pink or purple long-sleeved t-shirts, started the safety announcement in Hungarian, Polish and English - and what a sight it was! I have never seen a set of F/A's in such perfect synchronisation. And when they pointed out the emergency exit signs, they looked like they were about to start a fencing match...it was really quite impressive!
Takeoff was behind an easyJet 737 and into a blustery and wet night, which meant for a few minutes of bumpy air on initial climb-out, but it soon settled down as we climbed higher into the night sky. The First Officer announced that we were expecting a generally smooth flight on the 2 hour trip down to Budapest, however this changed briefly at the precise moment that I squeezed past my travelling companions to make use of the rear toilets. I'll spare you the gorey details, but the sudden patch of choppy air made using the lavatory an interesting experience and caused the Captain to switch the seatbelt signs back on!
The seat pitch on Wizz Air's A320's is tight to say the least, so whilst not the most comfortable aircraft I've ever flown on, it was very clean and new-looking, and looked very stylish with its purplish-brown leather seats. The outbound flight was also pretty full, so scope for stretching out in available rows was quickly taken up after takeoff, so I had to resign myself to spending two hours with my knees pressed against the seat infront and hoping the occupant chose not to recline!
After we reached 10,000ft, the Star Trek crew passed round the menu of items that could be bought on board and started the inflight service. None of us could believe our eyes when we cast them over the list of drinks, snacks and magazines - this is the first airline I've ever flown that offers copies of Playboy for sale inflight!! I don't know if it's a Hungarian cultural thing, but somehow I can't imagine BA offering soft porn to its customers!
The F/A's were generally very friendly, quite happily honouring requests to take photos of passengers enjoying the Wizz Air experience, and taking the time to chat. However they could do with a few maths lessons when it comes to totting up what you owe them for your purchases (and no, we didn't buy any copies of Playboy!). In the end they gave up and just gave us the receipt for us to add up ourselves. And they're not exactly the fastest at serving either.
We started our descent about 20 minutes out of Budapest, and what a descent it was! Basically, we pointed the nose down and didn't straighten up until what seemed like moments before touchdown - I've rarely known such a rapid and uninterupted descent! And I have to say that it was the first time in years that I've been on a flight where the passengers applauded on touchdown...even one of my mates joined in until a sharp jab in the ribs with my elbow put a stop to that!
Budapest's Ferihegy Airport is a great little airport and so much nicer than the wet Luton Airport we'd left behind 2 hours previously. We only waited a few minutes before our baggage appeared on the carousel and we were off for 3 days of exploring a fantastic city.
Three days later we were back at the airport to do the whole thing in reverse. I have to say that I was surprised to only see Terminals 2A and 2B...does anyone know if there's a Terminal 1 lurking somewhere there out of sight?
The whole BUD airport experience was so much nicer than at Luton. The check-in desk was opened at the published time, and we were checked in within moments at an empty desk. The only hiccup was a last-minute gate change, so rather than using one of the airbridges, we were using gate 16, which meant that we had to be bussed to the waiting A320 (HA-LPC this time). This time I made sure I was positioned by the exit of the bus so that I could be up the stairs of the aircraft in time to grab us one of the exit rows! The extra legroom of that row made all the difference to the return flight.
We pushed back pretty much on time, but had to hold short of the runway to allow departing traffic to clear. Eventually we took off 10 minutes late for what we had been informed would again be a 2 hour flight back to Luton. We had also been told to expect a smooth flight but with "noticeable turbulance" on the approach into Luton. Two hours after take-off though we were still showing no sign of being on the ground! We did eventually land after 2.5 hours having indeed experienced a pretty bumpy approach due to strong winds that evening battering most of the south east of England, but with no obvious sign or even explanation for our flight time having been extended by half an hour. I certainly wasn't aware (from my window seat) of having been in a holding pattern. This time, fortunately, there was no applause on landing!
After waiting for half an hour (yes, half an hour!!) for our baggage to be off-loaded, we were able to start the 3 hour hike back to South London.
I can't say as I'm in any rush to fly from Luton again, but if you can put up with the tight legroom on Wizz Air, they're a nice airline to fly with.
I shall be having my first easyJet experience in a couple of weeks as I'm doing a trip to AMS, but fortunately from my local airport, LGW. I'm curious to see what it's like!