Andrew Burke

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EasyJet: Discount Class Conflict
Posted on: 2010-08-17

The next destination on our trip was Edinburgh, Scotland. We spent several hours in at the clearly-Soviet-underneath-the-facelift Schönefeld airport, mostly enjoying the excellent coffee at the Mövenpik, and packing and repacking our bags. I also tried my first (and possibly last) ever Currywurst. We eventually got called to our gate.

That's when the class loathing started.

We flew on EasyJet. EasyJet is one of the new generation of low-cost no frills European airlines. As such, it sometimes feels more like taking the bus than flying in an airplane. For one thing, all the seats are the same - there's no business or first class. There is also no reserved seating on EasyJet flights: you just pick the seat you want (or whatever's left) when you get on board.

We're both a bit picky about seats on airplanes - we enjoy flying a whole lot more if I can get a window seat and my partner can get an aisle seat. We were very worried that we'd somehow end up getting on the plane late and both get stuck in separate middle seats. EasyJet has a value-add solution to this problem: for an extra 9 Euros, you can have "Speedy Boarding", which ensures that you are among the first people on the plane.

How do they ensure that you're the first ones on? You get to sit in a different part of the gate waiting area, roped off from the rest of the passengers.

Several years ago, when I did a lot more flying in North America, I got upgraded to business class a few times. One of the things I remember the most about travelling business class was getting dirty looks from regular passengers who had to get on after me and pass me in my larger more comfortable seat. It's like a reverse gauntlet of class warfare: the hoi polloi all walk by you and glare at you - they can't tell (and don't care) if your upgrade was free or if you're the kind of moneybags who likes to throw thousands of extra dollars around for a few hours of extra pampering.

But at least this slice of "Titanic"-style class conflict is fairly quick - each person only spends a few seconds passing through the posh cabin, and the whole plane usually boards within fifteen minutes or so. With EasyJet, you can be in the special 'VIP' lineup at the gate for at least half an hour, if not more - and you're usually sitting in one spot, right across from the same non-Speedy Boarding passengers for all that time.

It doesn't seem to matter that the only difference between you and the other people is less than the price of a sandwich at the overpriced airport restaurants - you've still spent your way into special treatment, and used your wealth to avoid the discomfort and anxiety that they're currently going through.

I eventually learned to just ignore the looks from these people, pretending like they didn't exist - just like some Big Shot ignoring the Little People.

That's a great lesson in class loathing for only €9.25. This kind of thing could easily cost hundreds or thousands of times more at a fancy bar or a country club. EasyJet really does give you value for your money.

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