It’s about 1am in the draughty terminal at Luton Airport. They call it London Luton even though it’s over an hour away via a dirty train journey, of which the best thing that can be said of it is that it at least circumnavigates Luton, which truly is Hell on Earth.
But Luton Airport might be purgatory. Several hundred miserable individuals like me, huddled round plastic seats, eking out the dregs of their Costa coffee, here because their cheap flight leaves at 6am (which means check-in is 4am), piling on the layers of clothes so they can transfer mundane items from their carry-on luggage to get it down that 0.2 kilos below the 10kg limit, waiting grim-faced for the invariable announcements about delays or cancellations or, still more likely, the absence of announcements about delays and cancellations because the pimply-faced Ryanair customer service operatives cannot be bothered to make one. Several hundred individuals living, quite accurately, little better than animals for the next few hours until they reach their airport destination the other end – which, also, will be nowhere near the town or city it’s named after.
I really hope you have no idea what I’m talking about. But I fear you do. Yes, the wait for that Ryanair flight, the horror of which is almost enough to put you off making a journey in the first place. Almost, but not quite. Still we do it to ourselves. I do it to myself. Have been for the last few months, experiencing some of the many ways of travelling by plane between England and Bratislava.
I guess we do it because we always think it will be alright. We’ll get an early night (we reassure ourselves) so we don’t have to worry about that ridiculously early departure time, that the lack of leg room, or the at times brutally rude stewardesses who you wouldn’t trust with helping you across the road much less guiding you across half of Europe, won’t get us down, that the chirpy automated voice with the irksome Irish lilt informing us about scratch cards can be blocked out. So this is why me and the other miserable individuals are here, at this forsaken hour, in Luton Airport.
Bratislava, in fact, is connected by air to London Luton and Stansted, Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool. For a Slovakia-bound Englishman/woman there are plenty of flight options, and all with Ryanair. Slovakia, in fact, has over sixty per cent of its in/out commercial flights controlled by, yep, Ryanair.
I’m not going to get started about big corporations’ stranglehold on the Slovak economy, and how these corporations for almost undoubtedly dubious reasons are welcomed to take that stranglehold by senior Slovak ministers. Not in this post. But on a purely Ryanair-focused note, they are one of the multinationals that can be said to “own” Slovakia. They are, in effect, the national airline. There are multiple reasons why this is worrying. Again, this post isn’t the time to delve into many of them. But such dominance is certainly EXTREMELY worrying for Slovakia’s image as a tourist destination (and what with this blog and all Slovakian tourism is of concern to me) that so many visitors have, as their first impression of Slovakia, that atrocious Ryanair experience which I am, as I write, undergoing for the umpteenth time. For most of us, there just isn’t any other feasible option.
The Alternatives to Ryanair
Wizz Air from Luton to Brno, followed by two-hour bus to Bratislava.
Well who wants to rock up at a destination only to find their destination is actually a further two hour bus ride away? Not me. Plus, flight times are limited (Fridays, Sundays and Mondays only). Prices can be as low as £40 but are more often over £100.
Easyjet from London Gatwick to Vienna, then one hour bus/train ride to Bratislava.
It’s still a more inconvenient option but it’s a viable alternative, mainly because, whilst Easyjet are very far from the ideal airline, they’re not Ryanair. And the cabin baggage allowance is those precious few centimetres more width-ways and length-ways. Flights are regular (once daily), but you’ll need to book ahead to get a good rate. Even a week prior to flying, flights are £100 plus, and often over £150. Where as Ryanair, those unscrupulous devils, do at least have what could be termed a “cheap” flight as little as a few days in advance.
OK, my feet are cold and I have to pay £5 for wifi so can’t even post this post yet (and therefore not until Bratislava, meaning, readers, you’re reading this in real time minus about eleven hours, sorry for the lack of authenticity and corresponding feeling of gloom this causes). I can’t even rant to the world: talk about suppression. I’ll go get another Costa Coffee.
If you’re over-nighting at the airport for your flight to Bratislava, make it Stansted. More people sleep there (the seats in the far corner by zone J). There’s also more diversions for those of you too cold to sleep. And they have the whisky shop there that gives out generous free drams if you pretend you’re interested in buying some…
Which post to read now? Skip merrily on to my foolproof Mastering Public Transport in Bratislava post (assuming you arrive, despite this post, at the airport).