Friday Flyday: An unexpected visit to London’s Southend Airport


I had a moment of weakness, a panic of sorts. I had yet to fly the outbound half of a trip from London to Faro, Portugal and I already knew that I needed to change the return. It was a booking made via an OTA and I had concerns about being able to reach the customer service line and get the change made in time, to say nothing of uncertainty about the change fees and if there would be available inventory for the return half of the trip. And so I spent a little extra cash, about $100, to buy a new ticket back to London’s Southend Airport from Faro on easyJet. Not bad for a one-day advance purchase fare, but far from my original intentions that weekend. Of course, when I did finally fly the outbound I was able to get through to Expedia and change my return segment (though not without some drama), snagging the last seat in BA’s Club Europe from Faro to Gatwick that day.

And so, as I went to bed that night, I was sitting on two tickets and had to decide which I would use. One was business class, where I would earn useful points; arriving in Gatwick was closer to my final destination that day . The other was second to last row and definitely no points, but Southend didn’t seem to be all that inconvenient, with rail options into town at roughly the same times and fares as the other London airports. Ever the contrarian (and also in search of a different experience) I chose the unlikely option: easyJet to Southend.

The airport check-in experience was decidedly economy class. There were half a dozen or so flights all leaving around the same time and the typical holiday traveler crowds. More bags than not and larger groups traveling together made for a bit of crazy at the airport, but after about 30 minutes I was inside the departure hall and exploring the duty free shop. Not because I really needed anything, but they were offering a 10% bonus for converting spare change to use in the store. That mostly speaks to the margins of duty free shops, but I had a few coins and bringing a bottle of vodka into town isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Convert coins at the Faro, Portugal duty free shop for a 10% bonus
Convert coins at the Faro, Portugal duty free shop for a 10% bonus

Boarding was LCC, with plenty of time to line up and wait and then line up again, including a span spent outside in the sun. But we also got to use the rear stairs, one of my guilty AvGeek pleasures.

At the gate in Faro, Portugal, before walking out on to the apron to board the plane.
At the gate in Faro, Portugal, before walking out on to the apron to board the plane.
Not the most elegant boarding experience, but I love walking up the stairs to a plane.
Not the most elegant boarding experience, but I love walking up the stairs to a plane.

I ended up with a row to myself so from a seat comfort perspective pretty much the same as the Club Europe option would have been, though obviously that wasn’t guaranteed when I bought the ticket.

easyjet-legroom

And my in-flight dining, while a paid deal on easyJet ($8.50 for the combo meal shown below), was surprisingly tasty. And they even managed to not run out of the bacon toastie sandwiches for passengers in the back of the plane.

This is what $8.50 buys for brunch on an easyJet flight from Faro to London's Southend Airport
This is what $8.50 buys for brunch on an easyJet flight from Faro to London’s Southend Airport

The flight overall was truly uneventful, as most flights tend to be. But the final approach into Southend, past Dover and then across the mouth of the Thames before turning to land on runway 23 was spectacular. Just top notch stuff.

Stunning views crossing the coastline on final approach into London's Southend Airport
Stunning views crossing the coastline on final approach into London’s Southend Airport

The arrival experience was miles better than what I’d had the prior day at Gatwick. And the in-flight experience was really just fine. Yes, I gave up some points for not flying on British Airways, and I guess a free drink or two on board. But I’d be hard pressed to say the experience on easyJet was materially different than I would have expected on BA, especially having just done that the opposite direction on the prior evening.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

8 Comments

  1. People are gonna say that sandwich is gross, but you can’t beach British style bacon on a baguette with butter.

  2. How gullible. 34 cents is all it took for you to get to buy some overpriced vodka that for sure would have been cheaper at a London bottle shop!

    1. Roughly zero time in London this trip and didn’t see a package store/bottle shop in Farnborough while I was there. Chase tells me I spent $12 on that bottle, including the bonus from the euro coins. Maybe slightly cheaper in London but not by much for that bottle. I’m pretty smart about vodka prices in various parts of the world; comes with drinking a lot of it. 😉

  3. Oops, my bad. Designation changed in November due to magnetic variation. You learn something every day. Sorry!

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