How I recreated BA Club Europe on easyJet for £107 one-way!

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I was in Gatwick’s North Terminal last Thursday reviewing the new Club Aspire lounge – that report will follow soon once we’ve edited the accompanying video.

Rather than go through the hassle of getting a Gatwick North airside pass, I decided to tie in my visit with a planned trip to Paris.  This meant that I would need to fly easyJet for the first time in about 18 months as it is the dominant airline in the North Terminal.

I thought I would see if it was possible to recreate the British Airways Club Europe experience on easyJet and how much it would cost if I did.  No particular reason why, but it seemed a good idea at the time.

In the end, it came out at £92 for the one way trip, although that would have increased to £107 if I didn’t have lounge access via Priority Pass.  The base fare for the flight could have been a little cheaper had I booked further out than 16 days in advance.

This is how I did it.

easyJet

The cost broke down as:

£5 for use of the Priority Security lane at Gatwick

£63 base fare

£17 additional payment for a Row 1 seat, which includes Speedy Boarding, two cabin bags and a dedicated bag drop desk

£15 notional cost for the Club Aspire lounge, although I got in for nothing using my Priority Pass from my American Express Platinum card

£7 for a meal deal snack, comprising a bacon baguette, coffee and a Kit-Kat (prosecco would have added an extra £7 but it was 8am ….)

This replicates, almost perfectly, the British Airways Club Europe package with the following exceptions:

DOWNSIDE – easyJet sells the middle seat; easyJet won’t pay for air bridges so getting on and off the aircraft is a pain; no wardrobes; no checked baggage allowance

UPSIDE – far wider food selection on easyJet; seat selection is included in the prices I quoted; Row 1 is not restricted (as long as you pay up) as it is on BA

Let’s look at how each part of the package performed in practice:

Priority security

Here is a very handy tip.  Premium Security – bookable here – costs £5 per person at Gatwick North.  However, for the same price of £5 you can pre-book your slot in the No 1 Lounge at Gatwick North via this link and this comes with premium security for free.

If you have a Priority Pass or other lounge access card, it is pointless booking Premium Security on its own.  Reserve your No 1 Lounge visit for the same £5 price and forget any concerns about the lounge being full.

If you don’t want or need to pre-book your lounge visit, you can get £1 off Premium Security most of the time by registering for MyGatwick and searching through your tailored offers.

The lounge

We’ll talk about the Club Aspire lounge later in the week, but it was OK.  The No 1 Lounge on the floor above is better but busier.

Club Aspire clearly isn’t the same scale as the British Airways lounges in Gatwick South which we reviewed here, which are arguably better than those at Heathrow.  The No 1 Lounge comes close though.

Subject to capacity I could also have used my Priority Pass at My Lounge, reviewed here.

Speedy Boarding

On British Airways I would have boarded in Group 1.

easyJet gave me Speedy Boarding.  There was a dedicated Speedy Boarding line and it was well policed.

On landing I was first off the plane but the use of buses to get us into the terminal in Paris meant that I ended up about 20th in the passport queue.

Seating

I was in 1C.  On British Airways I target 1C or 1D.

The difference here is that 1B was filled, so there was the usual jostling over the armrest.  Because easyJet charge a chunky premium to sit on the front row, you probably won’t get this on a non-peak flight.  As it happened, my flight was TOTALLY full and easyJet was asking for volunteers to take €500 plus a free taxi to get the 4pm flight from Luton (8 hours later!).

They found two takers.  I did check to see if I could get a last minute Avios redemption on BA around noon but there was nothing bookable and I wasn’t prepared to lose eight hours of a short trip.

Food and drink

The upside of easyJet is that you get a far wider variety of food and drink than you would get on British Airways.

If you go for the £7 meal deal, you can choose from the following main course options:  hot bacon baguette, hot toasted ham and cheese, hot margherita mini calzone, Southern Fried Chicken sub roll, feta and rocket sandwich, mezze snack box or a tapas snack box.  You also get a non-alcoholic drink and a chocolate / crisps / olives snack

I have to say that the bacon baguette was pretty good.  It is only a shame that the crew don’t remove it from the plastic wrapper for you.

It would have cost £7 to add a 200ml BA-sized bottle of prosecco.  Champagne is also available but only in large 375ml bottles (£16).

Conclusion

What have we learned from this important state-of-the-nation experiment?  Not much, obviously.  If there is a lesson, it is that the low cost carrier experience does not need to be low quality if you, erm, spend more money so that it isn’t so low cost any longer ….

In the end I spent a notional £107, and £92 of real money.  British Airways Club Europe flights seem to start at £141 one-way (Heathrow to Paris) and – given the empty middle seat, Avios, tier points and the fact that Heathrow T5 is simply a more pleasant place than Gatwick South – I would probably choose the BA route if £107 vs £141 was the option on the table.

Coming home, of course, I took Eurostar which beats the plane any day …..

PS.  By coincidence, 24 hours before I flew to Paris, Anika was in Gatwick South.  She was trying to get a Club Europe-style experience on Vueling, by paying a 300% premium for Vueling Excellence.  It all went wrong as you will find out soon …..

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Comments

  1. marcw says:

    I fail to see the value around this (experiment?). Anyway, you should compare objectively. You´re comparing Easyjets flight cost, bought 16 days in advance, with the cheapest CE BA fare? Surely, in that case, you should be able to find cheap £30 fare to Paris from LGW if booked well in advance.
    I’m sure many readers would agree that there’s really no value in flying CE in short haul (let’s say up to 3h) – unless you are desperate for some TP or you need the luggage allowance. As TRH says, exit row is what you should aim for when travelling short haul.

    • We always fly CE. Cannot put the kids into an exit row seat and, as a family of 4, 4-across works.

      Some women also refuse exit row seats (and bulkheads) as they are not willing to put expensive handbags into the overhead lockers.

      • Rebecca says:

        I wouldn’t sit in an exit row/bulkhead for this reason. I’ve had a scarf mysteriously go missing from an overhead locker on a flight. My handbag isn’t going in there. It wasn’t even an expensive scarf but it was very nice, and had great sentimental value.

    • True, but the base fare was only £63 and I doubt a peak 8am weekday flight would get massively cheaper.

      • marcw says:

        11th september, 8 am, £36,22

        However, using Avios to travel CE is “just” fine – it’s not “expensive” (you get some value back with Lounge entrance and fast-track, which most of the times compensate for the extra Avios needed). However, would you still fly CE if, for instance, instead 9k Avios to Paris, you would need 30k, like Miles&More asks you to par for a FRA-Paris?

        And you clearly don’t fly always CE. Like this post, or remember that Niki flight you took with your family 🙂

        • No Business Class on NIKI either 🙂 I would not pay 30k – plus £120 of taxes – via M&M though, I think we can safely say that. Bizarre system when for 50k in Business I can fly LHR FRA Dubai (on Singapore miles).

        • marcw says:

          Agree, those values do not make sense at all!

        • Those M&M redemptions are up there with using virgin miles on Delta on USA domestic flights. JFK-Buffalo 12,500 points plus $5.60 is the same as JFK-LAX

  2. Will Squires says:

    20ml bottles?! Do you mean centilitre or are BA giving out drinks by the tablespoon now?

  3. Steve M says:

    Flew on EZY from LTN last weekend HBO, first time on EZY for about 15 years. After enjoying a reasonable time in the Aspire Lounge on PP from 1000-1200 joined the queue for our delayed flight and found ourselves near the end. Was quite perturbed to be threatened with my very small but un-lockable bag being taken off me and put in the hold as the “flight is full.” I politely but firmly refused but the agent was quite insistent. The guy next to me fortunately volunteered his much larger bag and the agent moved on. Is this” last 20 hand bags go in the hold” standard EZY policy? The bag fitted under the seat so the overfull locker argument didn’t wash. This incident took the shine of an otherwise OK experience.

    • That would make sense to be fair. Saves the current begging and grovelling policy.

    • Peter K says:

      It is standard EZY policy to only let so many through who can put bags in the lockers, the rest go in the hold.

      • Steve M says:

        Well the ploy to get us to the gate quicker worked, we were no 1&2 in the queue coming back. By the time the gate agent could say “you’re not Speedy Boarders”, her colleague had scanned the boarding passes and we were through! Flight was half empty though so it wasn’t an issue.

  4. Andrew says:

    “It is only a shame that the crew don’t remove it from the plastic wrapper for you.”

    Depends if they’ve washed their hands first…

    When travelling, I’ve always got a supply of medical grade clinell alcohol wipes in my bag.

  5. You also get the Premium Gatwick security for free if you select an easyjet up front seat. The boarding card will show SB* which allows you to use it.

    • Stevie G says:

      Just about every time I have used EasyJet speedy boarding it meant speedy boarding of a bus to drive you to the plane and then definitely not speedy boarding of the plane when the bus gets to the plane. I stopped using speedy boarding.

      • You sometimes get a separate bus if you are lucky….

        • Genghis says:

          Or a cordoned off area of the same bus where the doors (sometimes but not always) open before the others.

  6. BlueThroughCrimp says:

    EasyJet did use an air bridge at Gatwick back in February, during the Beast from the East . Took about 15 minutes to get it connected and missed the fast train back to Clapham Jn.

    I’ve never had too many issues flying easyJet, quite like sitting right at the back, as they do board at front and rear doors.

  7. Steven Hannah says:

    I fly Easyjet from LGW 2/3 times a month – ‘partly infra U.K. – I have easyjet plus (£200 a year per person), NatWest premier banking (£28 a month for a joint a account – comes with free priority pass for two people) and easyjet flight club (free for frequent easyjet users).

    For this I get: tickets significantly cheaper than BA, lounge access at ok lounges in Gatwick North, priority security, priority boarding, two bags on the plane, sitting in front or second row, ability to bring forward return flight if there is space for free, ability to change any flight without penalty (just pay the relevant difference in fare)

    If getting to LHR is inconvenient, which it is for me, this is a pretty good deal I think (and worth not collecting the small number of tier points and avios you get on infra U.K. flights)

    They have started using the airbridge at Gatwick as the norm I think – haven’t been on a bus at Gatwick either for a while now

    • If easyjet plus included one hold bag or sports equipment for the price then I’d be all over it.
      This is currently the only reason I’m flying BA short haul as they don’t charge for sports equipment – a £74 saving return over easyjet.

  8. Sam-Aaron says:

    Hi, sorry for off-topic (and possibly stupid) question.

    Me and my wife are flying BA economy from Heathrow to Bangkok, at the end of the month. We have loungeclub passes from the Preferred Rewards Gold card so will head into the Aspire Lounge. Is there anything else we should be doing/reserving or bearing in mind before we go (such as fast track security etc)?

    • No. Prebooking No 1 Lounge doesn’t get you fast track security at T3 so that doesn’t work – Heathrow isn’t usually that bad anyway.

      • Sam-Aaron says:

        Thanks.

        I should have said, we’re flying from T5 (not sure if that changes anything). Should we be prebooking our lounge access – or is that not possible with the LoungeClub cards?

    • the_real_a says:

      Aspire lounge operates a wait list if you ask them. They take your name and tell you to come back in say 20 minutes. Ive never had to wait very long to get in.

  9. You also forgot to mention 2x 32g checked baggage allowance per person with BA in Club Europe where as there is no mention regarding the fee charged by EZY for an equivalent baggage allowance. Also there’s the avios a BA ticket earns me which I don’t get on EZY. My primary CE routes these days are Alicante/Murcia where with a little advanced planning (plus the occasional last minute deal showing itself) I can bag long weekends away for just over £200 return.

    I suspect you realise that your exercise was always going to be received as at best subjective and dependant on whether people intend use the bundled benefits associated with Club Europe compared to the unbundled benefits of EasyJet. I guess it will always remain that way.

  10. My primary concern is legroom. The bits and pieces extra you get in CE do not mean much to me, even more so when you have status. Anyway it is generally speaking much easier to get your extra legroom on EZ.

  11. IslandDweller says:

    Leo. BA legroom is dreadful on short-haul. It’s no penalty to choose easyjet if you are tall, I find them marginally less cramped than the latest BA seats.

    • Yes that was my point – as in “it is generally speaking much easier to get your extra legroom on EZ.”

  12. Cheshire Pete says:

    Rob, you haven’t factored in you didn’t earn 40 tier points or circa 1250 to 1750 avios depending on status/class. At a modest 0.5p/avios that alone is worth circa £7.50 🙂

    • Cheshire Pete says:

      Oh and x3 times avios booking using BA Amex is £105×3 = 315 avios. Actually if EasyJet tAke Amex you’d have got x1.5 = 157!

      • Cheshire Pete says:

        Oh and if you’d asked them for a cup of hot water and a cloth to make a hot towel then guess you’d have to buy a tea & and not use the tea bag. What’s that £2.50? And you still ain’t sourced your hand towel yet! 😉

    • I do mention it in passing at the bottom, but this was more of a service-led review.

  13. stevehh says:

    The tier points! You forgot to include the tier points….

  14. Mark E says:

    Can anyone remind me if there are any lounge benefits using BA Club Europe out of London City Airport please?

  15. This would be good to try at MAN as BA CE opportunities from there are very limited; you would definitely need to pre-book the lounge though!

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