Monday, September 28, 2015

Comparison of European Airlines-7 in 1

Over past 2 months, I have flown around a lot in Europe, mostly on short weekend trips from Copenhagen. In this process I had the opportunity to try several airlines. I flew 7 different Airlines , through 9 airports (within Europe only) totaling 15 take offs and landings. Below is a quick comparison of those airlines, for quick reference of those who might be planning short trips within Europe.
Small plane but 4 Engines- Brussels airlines RJ100

Check in Opens
What’s included in cheapest ticket
How good is hub airport?
How cheap is the ticket?
How easy is the website to use?
In-flight magazine
KLM Royal Dutch
24 hours
snacks, juice, water if asked, free seat selection,
Very good (Amsterdam)
On the higher side
Brussels Airways
Previous day
water in cup if asked,. Free seat selection
Good. (Brussels) Gates are announced very late, just 20 min before boarding begins
Acceptable level
Very Good
24 hours before
Free in-flight WiFi, Free seat selection (Airport only)
Easy, boarding pass can be downloaded PDF only, cant be emailed
Very Good
2-3 days before
Seat selection random, unless paid extra
NA- they use several small airports as hubs. Didn’t fly through their main airport
No options to email boarding pass, can print or download
Almost after booking, weeks in advance
in-flight magazine is free to take home
Couldn’t print boarding pass at airport kiosk
Very good
Air France
light snacks, water
Good (CDG)
LOT Polish Airlines
One free chocolate and water
Very good (Warsaw, Poland)

All information as experienced during my flights. Rules and service levels may vary over time. My experience is to be used as reference only and not to reach a conclusion that an airline is good or bad. Individual needs, expectations and experiences may vary. Below is an express review:

Ryanair: Ryanair had the cheapest ticket, but they also use cheapest terminals- had to sit on floor and wait in Copenhagen gate F1. Detailed review of Ryanair in this post.

KLM: KLM is world’s oldest airline still in operation- a separate detailed post is available here

Norwegian : Norwegian is the only airline that offered free wifi onboard, turned on after take off and turned off before landing. Unfortunately nothing else is free onboard. Norwegian have youngest fleet of aircrafts in Europe and the aircrafts are generally very new and modern. Their aircraft was the best in Europe I flew so far. They also have a practice of putting pictures of local heroes on the tail of their aircrafts- so each plane has different person's face on its tail. Seat selection during check-in is random but using kiosks at airport you can select a different seat free of cost, if available.
If you take 24 flights with Norwegian within 6 months, you will get one long distance ticket free (US/Thailand etc). Not sure to what extent it is free.

EasyJet: Easyjet also uses cheap terminals like Ryanair- so expect lots of walking. They don't give even water free on board (need to buy for 2.5 Euro) but surprisingly their in-flight magazine is free to take home. The voice of captain giving details of the flight and that of crew was very difficult to understand as their English was heavily influenced by other European languages. Noticed that even KLM inflight magazine is free to take home.

LOT Polish: Only with this airline I got turbo prob bombardier and Embraer aircrafts- no middle seats and very small overhead cabin space.  A small chocolate and water are free onboard, rest for sale. Other flights I flew were either Airbus 319/320 or Boeing 737.

Brussels Airlines: While returning it was all women crew in the cockpit. Also in Brussels they announced gate only 10-15 minutes before boarding. So it was difficult to figure out where to go after clearing security.

SAS: Wanted to try this airline but either their fare was undercut by competition when I was checking for cheap options or their timing was a bit inconvenient. So couldn't try them yet, though they have almost same no of flights as Norwegian. Similarly Norwegian was cheaper than Finnair to Helsinki and Easyjet was cheaper than Swiss Air to Geneva, so I couldn't try Finnair, Air Baltic, Swiss, SAS and other major airlines in the region. And how can I forget Lufthansa? Next time may be.

Air France: I have written about their Delhi-Paris premium economy experience here. But the Paris-Copenhagen leg was bare minimum- almost at par with other low cost carriers. Nothing specific to mention about it.

Almost all airlines had mobile apps. But I was lazy to download and test all of them. Since I had just about one trip or so, downloading so many apps for one time use wasn’t convenient. Just used the web versions. Now a days everyone has an app and want us to download it. For once in a blue moon usage it is very annoying to download and maintain so many apps.

Unlike India European airports are a different experience. No document check at the airport gate- you can walk all the way till security. Check in and baggage drop is automated in most cases, so manned counters are very few. Most people use mobile apps/online boarding pass throughout without needing a piece of paper. Security in Amsterdam and Bergen were a bit more stricter than rest of the cities. (like most airports you don't have to take camera out of the bag- in these airports cameras were scanned once more). Amsterdam metal detector beeped because of metal frame in my spectacle. Had to remove it and pass through detector again. Nowhere else I was asked to remove spectacle. Security wait time is usually 5-10 minutes, not more. Because of schengen, no one asks for visa, sometimes even identity is not checked. Only a few times airline staff asked for my photo ID. (Ryanair is an exception-both ID and visa is checked- may be because most of their flights fly onward to Non-Schengen areas like London)

Almost all airlines claim they will close the gate 15-30 minutes before departure. (that would mean boarding should began much earlier) But all of them only began boarding 15-30 minutes before departure time.

In terms of Airports, Amsterdam and Paris were large and well equipped. Copenhagen and Warsaw were next best. Kaunas was the simplest airport. Other airports were normal. Almost all airports have city connection via train/bus or both. Usually free wifi is available in all airports- time bound in few airports. Helsinki airport had USB chargers also. Geneva (Switzerland in general) follows a slightly different power socket, so your Europe or India adapters won't work in Switzerland)
  • ‘-‘ in above table indicates I couldn’t check on this particular aspect for the airline.


Arun said...

Nice article.

Arun Prasadh said...

Nice informative article. No comparison of hosts? ;)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Arun 2: Nothing specific about them, so didn't mention.

@Arun 1: Thanks

rupam sarma said...

Nice post

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rupam Sarma