I first flew budget in this then new airline called easyJet in 1998 from London to Geneva. There were no internet bookings in those days and I booked through (what was then a new concept), a call centre.
Getting to Luton
It was the first and only time using Luton, and the budget story started with getting to this far away airport of London. I don’t remember now how exactly I got there, but it did involve many legs. London always meant the huge Heathrow, so seeing this small airport far away (then) from anywhere reminded me of the similar (though even smaller) airports I flew to growing up in India.
Budget Tickets as low as $20 – How is it Done?
Onboard the very clean A320 with its bright orange logo was an inflight magazine that answered this question. 18 years on, the concepts are the same. No ticketing office or travel agents, only call center’s. No tickets issued (remember in those days one always got an IATA format paper ticket). Using airports like Luton with lower landing fees. No seat number assigned so passengers would board early. Check in luggage at an extra cost. Already cut off maybe $200 from a regular ticket?
Saving another $100 while onboard
There was off course no inflight entertainment. And then the magazine went on to ask, who pays for all the food we threw away from a regular meal? We, the passengers, do. So easyJet provided tasty wholesome food at a very reasonable price onboard. I also noticed the cabin crew did a lot of cleaning up towards the end of the flight, to save time during the quick turnaround in Geneva for the return leg.
Meeting Sir Stelios
I didn’t know who he was before I boarded, but I saw in the magazine that the airline was run by some called Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, a chubby looking Greek gentleman. Later on during the flight, I saw someone walking down the aisle. It Sir Stelio himself saying Hi to passengers! I went upto him and told him what a great concept easyJet was. He was pleased. I later wrote to him asking for a job, but didn’t hear back. So here I am, blogging about it.
I have flown on several budget airlines since then, such as Tigerair, SCOOT, Air Asia and Indigo, especially now that I am doing my own thing. I laughingly told a friend recently that I have moved from flying business class on Singapore Airlines and being feted as a Solitaire passenger, to flying in the last row in economy in a budget airline!