I had an awful experience with Easyjet’s sister company. Moreover, I don’t think the lowcost model followed by no-frills airlines works very well for ground transportation.
I booked a trip from London to Luton airport on the Easybus website, in part because I love the lowcost model (in the past five years, I have only flown lowcost; hey, I even blog about lowcost flying! ) and in part because I was afraid of railway disruptions due to the severe floods that beset the British Isles this winter. So, my husband, one-and-a-half-year-old, and I happily made our way—after a wonderful one-week sojourn in Shakespeare and Harry Potter’s homeland—to the S bus stop two blocks from the Baker Street Underground Station. We were supposed to be picked up by an Easybus coach at 5:50pm from there.
When at 5:50 a tiny little orange van showed up, it wasn’t the size of the vehicle that surprised me the most (they only seat 20 passengers and there definitely isn’t enough space for that many bags), nor was I so taken aback that this was actually the bus scheduled to depart at 5:35 (tardiness is part of the lowcost game because vehicles do a few return trips each day). What I found most offputting is that the 5:35 driver had no idea how far behind his 5:50 counterpart was, nor whether the bus’d be showing up anytime soon. Granted, this was rush hour, which in London is roughly equivalent to hell breaking loose, and delays were not only possible; they were inevitable. When asked if there’s any way we could check on how long the wait might be, the driver shrugged his shoulders and said he couldn’t help us.
Although it was mid-March, we were having an unusually warm spell, so waiting outside was not an issue. Even for a toddler. However, by around 6:40pm, the feeble March sun had almost set and we were sick with impatience (our plane was scheduled to depart at 8:35pm), if not with the cold just yet, although it was beginning to show that we were in one of Europe’s windiest corners.
Just then another van pulled up at the stop, and a surly-looking Eastern European face looked out at the congregation of passengers. “Are you the 5:50 bus?” I asked over the other heads, standing on tiptoe. No, he snapped in a thick accent, he was the 8:05 (18:05?), but even if he had been the 5:50 bus, he wouldn’t take me and my family because we had a stroller (aka, “pram” or “pushchair” in the UK) with us. (I had, in fact, in a hurry and anticipation shouldered the stroller and my son, wishing to waste no time in boarding the bus.) I explained that this shouldn’t be a problem because our stroller was foldable (and neatly so, at that!), but he was adamant—rudely so—that company rules stated that no pushchairs whatsoever were allowed. When I challenged this, quoting the company’s website (where it says that they don’t carry non-folding pushchairs; there is no mention of them not accepting folding strollers), he shouted at me that I should show him where it says so on the website. I offered to do just that on my husband’s smartphone, but he retorted that even though there were spaces available, he wouldn’t take us, period.
My husband tried a different tack, supplicating rather than demanding, but that didn’t work either. The driver took six other people and left us and a whole bunch of other passengers stranded and anxious by this busy London road.
In the next half hour, various fellow passengers boarded buses belonging to other companies; out of pity for them maybe, some coach drivers didn’t even charge them the full fare. Unfortunately, I had diligently spent all my pounds, thinking that, this way, I won’t have to change them back at home. (Sometimes, having things neat and organized isn’t the best thing, folks!)
At last, another petite orange coach pulled up. This time, I didn’t dare hope this would be “our” bus, but it was. Actually, we don’t know whether it was, but he picked up the remaining handful of dejected-looking faces and sped away.
We were at the mercy of London’s northbound traffic.
Somehow, miraculously, 45 minutes later (the trip normally takes an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes) we pulled up in front of Luton Airport and legged it to the gate, which closed five minutes later. We were all a little shaken–and our baby literally so–by the whole experience. The episode made two things clear to me: First, I would never again travel with Easybus. Second, although I have used lowcost land transportation for over a decade (Thank you, Fung Wah Bus!), I don’t think lowcost coaches are a good way to get to and from airports; they won’t save you money if you’ll have to pay again to make alternative arrangements in case your coach doesn’t show up (not to mention how much more expensive they’ll be if you end up having to buy another plane ticket and a hotel room to boot), and they certainly won’t save you any anxiety.