Wizzair for my airline friends

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Oct 17, 2008

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ryanair got me here today to my final stop here 30 minutes north of Lübeck from Nyköping in a way only they can.  Yesterday I flew from Katowice, Poland to Nyköping and got to sample the Wizzair experience and I can say that it is a slight, and I do mean slight, step above Ryanair.  When I booked this $25 flight last month the Wizzair website indicated that I was buying a ticket from Krakow to Stockholm Skavsta Airport (Nyköping) and Skavsta was no problem since I needed to be there for my cheap Ryanair flight onto Lübeck.  How lucky was that that I had found a cheap right from Krakow no less, and they even told me I could take a wizz in Europe.  Yes, it was going to be a very special flight.

A few weeks later I was looking at the city code for the airport and noticed it was not the same one normally used for Krakow.  After about ten minutes of searching I found out that I was actually booked from Katowice which is a two hour drive from Krakow.  Luckily this airline with such an unfortunate name provides bus service so I bought a seat for that online but was not happy that I had to add two hours of road travel to the flight and another 11 Euros.  With a shuttle reservation in hand at least I wouldn't have to scramble to find my way to Katowice now.  Had I not looked really close at my booking I would have shown up at the Krakow airport yesterday and looked for an airline that doesn't even exist there.

With my now vast knowledge of Polish (I am up to 5 words) I showed up at the Krakow bus/train station for this Wizzair shuttle and had no idea where to pick it up.  I was ready to finally take my wizz in Europe and upper level stops 4-8 was about all I had to go on when I arrived there.  Gee, now that narrows it down in a place with no English speaking people or signs.  I showed my piece of paper to the information desk lady and I got an answer all right but it was a hand gesture and something like "dizhneyesha brizh zhonyisha."  I just smiled and shook my head at her and decided to keep on trying.  At least I could tell by her gestures that she was halfway familiar with Wizzair or she may have just been getting rid of me.

Her hand gestures pointed me right back out the door I came from and two wandering British women with suitcases asked me in broken Polish where the Wizzair bus was.  They marveled at how well I spoke English with such a nice American accent and I just didn't have the heart to disappoint them by telling them I was in fact the real deal.  After some debate with the Brtis if we were in the right place or not, a tiny 12 seat shuttle bus finally showed up for about 20 of us who were waiting.  As soon as the tiny purple van stopped every seat was taken in one giant push.  I was left standing out on the platform wondering what the hell just happened in those ten seconds and resigned myself to thinking that Katowice just wasn't meant to be.  Luckily it turned out that everyone with a reservation like me was going and it took the driver 15 minutes to evict those that didn't have one.

It was a bumpy two hour drive over traffic choked bad Polish roads (maybe to them they are good) and I got to Katowice right as check in opened for my flight.   Both check in and boarding are completely in the Ryanair style of impatient pushing and shoving crowds, so Ryanair had at least conditioned me for that.  I am actually really good now at cutting in line and shoving my way up to the front while at the same time strategically blocking others from doing the same to me.  Thanks Ryanair!! 

Another nice difference is that my wallet isn't threatened with possible fees and I don't have to worry about my carryon somehow gaining weight on the Ryanair scales.  A really nice thing is that Wizzair doesn't charge the Ryanair rip off for the 20 second use of the check in counter or for checking in one bag.  My line moved very fast and the loud crowd growing at the Ryanair counter made me glad I was on another airline for once.  It's so nice to take a Wizz and not have it cost a lot of Euros.

About 170 of us for my flight and over 100 for a Lufthansa flight were crammed into a waiting area the size of a Taco Bell.  I am not kidding it was that small.  The plane was parked maybe 100 feet away from the gate but rather than have us walk, we all loaded onto a cramped bus with no room to stand or balance our bags for the 100 foot drive out to the plane.  After standing in this bus for 15 minutes it finally lurched up two lengths and let us off.  That made no sense whatsoever to me but to the Poles on board it seemed perfectly normal and logical.  The Lufthansa flight next door was much further away and they actually walked.  Maybe Wizzair wants to keep everyone squished up prior to boarding so the cramped plane seems spacious by comparison.   Who knows.

My first impression of the A320 was how purple the inside was but moreso how clean it was.  The plane actually had a new plane smell to it, too.  Each seat even had a seat back pocket with a magazine, barf bag, menu and safety card, and after 4 flights on Ryanair so far I had forgotten planes normally are like that.  Compared to Ryanair this was all starting to feel like first class treatment. 

The one big difference besides a lack of crazy fees that makes Wizzair a slightly better experience is that the seats have a little cushion and they even have a recline button.  Ryanair's seats by comparison are nonpadded and the seatback is at a 90 degree angle to the seatbottom so you can imagine what magic that works on your back.  The Ryanair version of an airline seat forces everyone to sit at a strange angle with no back support whatsoever.  And another thing, at least Wizzair also spared us from nonstop advertising over the PA prior to departure and I wasn't bombarded enroute either with announcements selling scratch off cards and bus transfer tickets.

Given a choice I will gladly take a Wizz through Europe over Ryanair.
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