Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Printed my own boarding pass and headed for the airport with hand luggage only. Passing security and passport control was a breeze (with the bio-metric machines), so I had plenty of time for shopping at the James Richardson duty free shop. Or so I thought. Hubby asked me to buy two bottles and since I don't know know much about alcohol, I had to get instructions on the phone. By the time I was done, I was left with just enough time to sip a cup of coffee at the Dan lounge where I bumped into a colleague. Haven't looked at the display to double-check my flight details, after all it's all the boarding pass, right? In theory. Filled my empty bottle (has to be empty to pass security) and headed to the gate at the boarding time just to find it empty and deserted. Didn't understand what's going on, but soon enough the loudspeaker invited the passengers for Budapest to another gate. Gate deserted. A man runs after me with my mobile phone in his hand - it fell off my bag while I was rushing to the gate. A second loudspeaker announcement guides me to the third and actual gate to my flight. With some help, I manage to find a spot for my luggage in the overhead compartment, but the passengers boarding after me were less lucky and their luggage was taken away. My neighbor in the window seat: a woman with a white poodle peeking out of a bag. It has pink ribbons in its ears. No problem with legroom, the seat is reclinable, but "features" a hole instead of lower back support. Time is crawling. The flight attendants serve mineral water. Twice. My other neighbor eats dinner he brought on board. I feel hungry. Had no time to eat at the lounge. After landing and passport control, the bench mate from a previous post and her husband greet me and drive me to their country home on a Danube bend island. Here begins the good part of my short vacation, which deserves a blogpost of its own.
On the day of departure, we arrive early to the airport to meet my niece there. She arrives, we talk, then I check in (I have to, even though I have my self-printed boarding pass). They measure my bag, the size is good, but they ask me to pack my purse in the bag, otherwise it counts as an additional piece of luggage that needs to be paid for (70 Euro). My niece waits for me to pass security as I was concerned they will make me throw away my perfume. They don't. The gate number is not yet displayed. The shopping area is nice, but I have no patience looking around, trying to meet a friend who works for EL AL there. He is busy, but promises to come and meet me soon. WiFi is free but weak and only covers the shopping area. I fill my empty bottle with warm (!) water and head for the gate, which turns out to be the exit to a remote building, a concrete warehouse with no seating. They measure my luggage again and ask me to really pack my purse in the bag. I do so. A minute later nobody cares how many pieces of luggage I carry, but I don't know that yet. We are standing in line. I spot my friend who came looking for me. We talk briefly through the high fence. I feel like a caged animal in a zoo. The queue starts moving. We exit the warehouse and walk to the plane. The seats are not reserved. I find a seat between a guy playing football on his tablet and an old person with a bad breath. The seats are so horrible, they could easily win the first prize in the "most uncomfortable chair" contest. No water is served, but my water cooled down in the mean time and I brought sandwiches too! The flight back is shorter, two hours and fifty minutes compared to three and half hours the other way. The guy on my right constantly plays his football game. Finally, the lights of Tel Aviv! We land and I pass formalities in seconds. I am so pleased I forget to collect the bottles from the duty free. This is one of those "only in Israel" patents, that you buy duty free items before take-off, but instead of taking them with you, you collect them at arrival. When hubby asks me for the bottles I realize my mistake, but there is no way back. I try everything possible, in vain. Have to sort it out with customer support the next day. The best option is to ask someone to collect the items on my behalf after sorting out some paperwork.
So, my insights based on the above two low-cost flights are as follows:
1. Use a low-cost option only for flights no longer than four hours, or if you fly frequently and can't afford something better.
2. UP is definitely better than Wizzair and the prices are very similar.
3. Luggage requirements are strict, pay in advance for any extras.
4. Bring food and drink on board.
5. Lower your expectations.