Update, 26 November 2013: Our little family of five flew easyJet to Edinburgh, Scotland earlier this month… and luckily that trip lasted more than just a few hours. I’m happy to report we had another positive experience with this European low-cost carrier. I’ve updated my original post from October 2012 with changes we experienced during the November 2013 Edinburgh trip. All new notes are in italics.
Almost three weeks ago, the babe known as Big Foot and I took a little trip to London. And I do mean a little trip. To the Queen’s land and back in just one day!
While the purpose of the trip is outside the scope of this post, my thoughts and opinions on flying easyJet with an infant are not. Read on for a rundown of my experience flying one of Europe’s most famous budget airlines, easyJet.
I’ve heard many opinions about low cost carriers, mostly negative. As such, I was a little nervous to fly with them. However, I discovered that if you take easyJet for what it is – a dirt cheap alternative to big names like Lufthansa – and play by their (strict) rules, you just might be pleasantly surprised.
Shopping for EasyJet Flights
Using easyJet’s website seemed rather hassle-free. I was impressed with the ability to search with flexibility ranging from a few days to a few weeks. The price shown is the price you pay… plus extras of course, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
With any budget carrier, one should expect that the worst flights (think 5am or 1030pm departure) are the cheapest. EasyJet was no different. In this case, I didn’t mind since I needed as many hours on the ground in London as I could possibly get. But I would not have wanted to arrive with three kids at 5am for a 7am departure.
Update: Our outbound flight to Edinburgh left at a reasonable time (around 11:00am), but the return flight departed at 7am. Leaving so early wasn’t as bad as I had imagined because we only had carry on luggage, and the Edinburgh airport is relatively small.
In the US, infants traveling on a parent’s lap fly free. Such is not the case on international flights. I had to pay a fee of about 26 euros each way for Big Foot. Considering that adult fares on easyJet can start at around 20 euros, that’s a hefty chunk of change. Better to buy baby a seat if the fares are cheap enough (in my case, they were not).
Update: Do you pay the infant fee or simply buy the baby an adult ticket? If the adult ticket prices are about the same price as the infant fee, I would buy the seat. This entitles the infant to one piece of carry-on (hand) luggage as well as their own seat. Keep in mind that easyJet stipulates children under the age of two in their own seat should be fastened in an aircraft approved car seat.
Checking In Online
After entering passport details on easyJet’s website, I could print my boarding pass even though my departure was still several weeks away. The print-at-home option actually isn’t an option; it’s required. EasyJet passengers must check in online prior to arriving at the airport.
Since easyJet makes a lot of their profit from fees, services, and products, I was encouraged to peruse these items during the check-in process.
Speaking of fees, be prepared to pay out the nose for checked luggage. I was warned in advance that easyJet is always very strict concerning their hand baggage policy. If the gate agent even suspects your bag is too big, you must test it right then and there. If the suitcase/backpack/whatever does not easily fit in the space provided, you will be charged an exorbitant fee on the spot to check it. Should you require checked luggage when flying with easyJet, I highly recommend paying the fee at the time of booking as it is absolutely the cheapest option. More on allowances and requirements for hold luggage here.
Bringing Baby Gear
Good news for parents traveling with infants, though! I was allowed two baby gear items free of charge (see a list here). For me this meant a stroller and a collapsible bassinet. Car seats are also included in the free allowance, but it’s important to note that diaper bags are not! If the baby does not have his/her own ticket, he/she is not entitled to any carry on luggage.
Update: According to their website, easyJet allows two free pieces of gear for each traveling baby or “young child” (oh so vague!). That means that whether you purchase a seat for your under-two or not, you can still bring a stroller, car seat, backpack carrier, etc.
The Boarding Process
Another fee that easyJet heavily promotes is Speedy Boarding. Passengers coughing up extra dough get to skip to the front of the madhouse that Brits refer to as queuing. The rest of the poor souls line up on a first come, first served basis. However! Families with small children 5 and under are allowed to board directly after the Speedy Boarding passengers. I wagered that few budget travelers would pay for this service and as such I’d have an easy time selecting a favorable seat for me and the bub. Luckily, I was spot on.
Update: Now that easyJet allocates seats on every flight (see below), Speedy Boarding has become obsolete. Instead, easyJet Plus! cardholders, passengers with a Flexi booking, and travelers who have purchased extra legroom or up front seats will board first. Families with small children under the age of five still board before the remaining passengers. More on the boarding process here.
If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, you’ll be familiar with easyJet’s open seating. You can sit anywhere in the plane with the exception that you must meet the standard safety criteria if seated in an exit row.
Update: EasyJet no longer herds passengers via the open seating cattle call. All seats are assigned at check-in. If you are traveling with children, be sure to indicate this on your booking (Miss for girls and Mstr for boys). Both to and from Edinburgh, we were seated together in the middle of the aircraft. If you’d like to select exactly where you’ll sit on the aircraft, there’s (surprise, surprise) a fee for that.
EasyJet’s Attitude Toward Families with Children
On both the outbound and return journeys, the flight attendants greeted me with a smile and an infant safety seat belt. They didn’t seem the least bit annoyed that I brought a baby on board. In fact, I was very impressed with offers to warm up any bottles or food if need be as well as announcements of where to find the changing table in the lavatory and how to use the baby seat belt.
Update: I’m pleased to report that we were again treated with kindness by all easyJet flight attendants.
In-Flight Refreshments & Entertainment
As for food and drink, either bring your own or enough money to pay for any refreshments you might want or need including water. Prices are steep, but apparently not as bad as what Ryanair customers experience. I carried my own breakfast and dinner, so I can’t comment on the quality of the items available.
Update: Though I could not find it anywhere on easyJet.com, it seems that passengers are allowed one small “shopping” bag (presumably from purchasing items at the airport’s duty-free shops or take-away restaurants). We brought one such bag on flights both to and from Edinburgh with no problems whatsoever. We used this to hold our in-flight meal and snacks.
In addition to edible offerings, flight attendants also sold duty-free items, souvenirs, and even train tickets for the Gatwick Express. As mentioned earlier, it’s obvious that extras are a large part of the airline’s profit structure.
It’s also good to know that easyJet offers absolutely no free in-flight entertainment. Flight attendants sell toys and activity boxes, but parents will notice the absence of video screens and AVOD devices. To state the obvious, flying with easyJet is a BYOE (bring your own entertainment) kind of party.
My One Complaint
If I had anything negative to say about my experience flying easyJet with an infant, it would be the extreme inconvenience of not receiving gate-checked items immediately upon leaving the aircraft.
Generally, if I take a stroller with me through security and all the way up to the boarding gate, I also receive it at the gate after the flight. Not so with easyJet. ALL checked items, regardless of if they are checked in at the desk or at the gate, end up at baggage claim. This is a total pain if you have a heavy, sleeping child you’d like to transfer to a stroller ASAP for the long walk to customs and the luggage carousels.
Update: It’s still the case that all gate-checked items end up at baggage claim. Yes, it’s annoying but not enough to make us swear off flying easyJet forever. Just plan accordingly as the walk from the airplane to customs and then finally to the luggage carousel can be verrrrry long.
Despite the one flaw, I still maintain I was delightfully surprised by my adventure on easyJet with a baby on board. I will definitely consider using them again should my future travel plans happen to line up with the airline’s (somewhat restrictive) schedule. Thanks, easyJet for a great flight!
Have questions about my experience with easyJet I didn’t cover in this post? Ask them below in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer! Also, if you’ve flown easyJet with children, I’d love to hear about your experience, too!Photo credit