EasyJet is about to give its customers a bit more freedom: The low-cost carrier has announced a new booking program allowing travelers to connect with other low-fare airlines. The initial project is based at London's Gatwick Airport, and is focused on connecting EasyJet European flights with long-haul ones, like Norwegian and WestJet routes across the Atlantic, and Loganair flights to Scotland. EasyJet plans to expand the program quickly to some of its larger hubs around Europe, and to add new partnered airlines, including some based in Asia. But the program already has its limits.
Pros of EasyJet's Low-Fare Connections
Starting immediately, the new program allows you to check schedules and book tickets on a Worldwide by EasyJet website for low-fare flights that connect over Gatwick. The minimum connection time is two and a half hours, which should provide a reasonable amount of schedule slack. Airlines will presumably coordinate schedules, at least to some degree—but that's about the extent of the necessary changes on the buying side.
You'll still be purchasing separate tickets on two different airlines, without the benefit of any through fares—but you'll get a little bit extra protection than you would have before. The main operational difference is that, at Gatwick, if your incoming flight is delayed and you miss the connecting flight, you'll be put on the next available flight without any ticket change or no-show penalties. Before now, those multi-airline trips weren't protected for rebooking by either operator.
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A second element of added convenience is that when you arrive at Gatwick, you can claim your checked bag and immediately re-check it at a special facility directly in the arrivals area. There's no need to schlep a bag back to the departures area to re-check it.
Cons of EasyJet's Low-Fare Connections
This system is still a lot less "seamless" than a connection on legacy lines. With those carriers, you have the advantage of through fares, and you can check baggage through to your destination without having to claim it at the connecting airport. Also, at most European hub airports, you can remain airside through your connection process, without the need for additional security screening.
Another problem: You'll have to pay the onerous British "air passenger duty" on any connecting flight out of Gatwick. That typically amounts to about $17 (or £13) on a connecting flight to most European countries, and about $100 on transatlantic flights (or £75). And those fees cover only the lowest class of service. If you fly in a premium option, they double. Conventional through-ticket connecting flights at U.K. airports on legacy lines are not subject to those fees, and the $117 in extra round-trip fees can make a substantial difference when you compare transatlantic fare options.
Are EasyJet's Low-Fare Connections Worth It?
The current EasyJet implementation leaves a lot to be desired: The requirements to leave security and re-enter at Gatwick, along with the extra taxes, will surely amount to a deal-breaker for many travelers. But those and other obstacles can be overcome, and you can expect more low-fare connections, rather than fewer in the future.
The take-away is that the new EasyJet program falls very short of what you can expect on legacy lines with a single booking: It has plenty of "seams." But, it's still an improvement for EasyJet booking.
Would you use it as an option on your next transatlantic flight? Comment below.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.
Read the original story: EasyJet Partners with Airlines for Low-Fare Connections: A Baby Step by Ed Perkins, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.