Wizz Air Review - Based on London-Bratislava Flight
Up until last month, I had never flown Wizz Air, but just as I was researching affordable last-minute weekend breaks, they were offering return London-Bratislava flights for £70, so I was tempted. After all, on a short-haul break, given how little time you actually spend on board a plane, it mostly makes perfect sense to save on the flight fare and splurge a bit more on the hotel. My Wizz Air review will tell you all you need to know about flying with this airline, from purchase to check in to boarding and, finally, the in-flight experience. So if you are considering flying with Wizz Air, read on to see if it's the right choice for you.
WIzz Air Booking Process:
The first thing you notice when looking at the ticket prices is that there are three available price categories, Basic, Wizz Go and Wizz Plus. The Basic price category only gives you hand luggage (55 x 40 x 23cm, 10 kg max, one item only; not guaranteed to be in the cabin) and online check in from 2 days before departure. The other two price categories include an additional small cabin bag, hold luggage, seat selection, priority boarding and other perks - jumping forward a bit to the airport experience I can tell you that the vast majority of the travellers on my flight purchased the Basic ticket, just like I did.
In typical low-coster fashion, the purchase process is all about the never-ending upsell, and it starts from the very first page. Underneath the prices for the three main categories you will also see a different (lower) price for Wizz Discount Club members. Unlike the typical airmile gathering scheme, Wizz Discount Club is a paid-for annual subscription, where for €29.99 (£29.99) per year you get a minimum of €10 (£7.50) discount on flight fares and €5 (£4) discount on luggage for you and a companion plus special offers. The first thing I noticed was the super cheeky currency conversion between GBP and EUR at work here! If you're not a member yet, you'll have a chance to join during the booking process. If you're planning to fly with Wizz Air a lot, it might be worth considering, but for my one-off flight it certainly didn't feel worth it.
Other upsells I chose to ignore were the options to lock the fare for 48hrs before purchasing (£5), adding a hold bag (£26.50 one way for a 20kg bag), Wizz Priority (to board first, to get an additional small cabin bag and also to guarantee that my hand luggage would be allowed in the cabin and not deposited in the hold when boarding - it costs £9 one way, but there was no option to only use it one way at this stage, so it's £18 for a return flight), an option to upgrade to the next fare class Wizz Go (this will probably be differently priced, but I got £80 as an example).
Having declined all the extra options, at this stage I was forced to create an account - yes, you have to have one if you want to buy a ticket and no, you can't check out as a guest. Once you are logged in, you are offered the next upsell of seat selection (£6 one way for a standard seat or £12 for an emergency exit seat (or, as they are known in the low-coster world these days, an extra legroom seat). If you are particular about where you sit, I would recommend choosing your seats at this stage, because, as I discovered later, if you don't like the seats allocated automatically at check in, the seat selection price goes up to £8 for a standard seat and £16 for extra legroom...
Screenshot of seat selection stage in the booking process from the Wizz Air website
Once you have selected (or not selected) your seats, you once again go through the upsell loop, with offers of Wizz Priority (this time you can only select it for one leg should you so wish), Wizz Flex (£18, to be able to make changes to your booking), airport check in (£9 each way), car hire, airport transfer (which for Bratislava was not actually offering to take you to Bratislava, but to Vienna), flight information on your mobile (£1), on-time guarantee (£9 one way, which will give you €100 in credit if the flight is delayed by over 1 hour), and travel insurance.
And only after going through all of those options can you actually pay for your flight. Struggled to make it through the five paragraphs above? Good luck making it through the Wizz Air booking process - it's one of the longest if not the longest one I've had to face so far!
In typical low-cost airline fashion, airport check in with Wizz Air costs extra, so online check in it was, which I am absolutely ok with. In fact, I prefer checking in early! 48 hours before the flight I logged in to my account and could not for the life of me see a button than allowed me to do the whole check in in one go. So with the booking consisting of 2 people on a return flight, I had to complete the check in process 4 times in total, including typing in the document details from scratch each time.
This convoluted way of doing check in also ensures that if you have more than one person on your booking, you will not be sitting together unless you are prepared to pay for seat selection. I strongly object to this way of trying to extract more money, and the flight was only about two hours long, so sitting separately it was. I mean I get that if the plane is full and you check in late that you'd get seated separately, but when I was doing the check in pretty much most of the plane was available and yet Wizz Air still purposefully placed people from the same booking separately to try and extract more money.
If you are like me and refuse to pay extra, then best case scenario is you will get an empty seat next to you and worst case is you will be stuck in the middle seat of a full row both ways and the person in the seat next to you will get extremely tactile due to suffering from severe fear of flying... I kid you not, both happened during my trip, but I'll keep some mystery and leave you guessing whether the lucky person in the middle seat was me or my husband.
View if you're lucky enough to be allocated the window seat:
Luton: When the gate was called, we went over to be directed down the stairs to stand in a queue to get into the little waiting area, which took ages. I normally just sit and wait for the queue to go through before joining, but since the queuing area was downstairs and the seats were upstairs, there was no way to see what was happening, so we had to remain in the queue. At this stage they also repeatedly made sure everyone in the standard queue only had one item of luggage - if you have a small handbag as well as a suitcase, you will have to pack it into the suitcase or pay £60 if it doesn't fit. You are allowed a bag from duty free shopping though! Luckily, once we got through to the waiting area, we bagged two seats from the very limited seating supply available and could relax, but the majority of people had to stand.
Priority boarding passengers had a separate queue, which was short and went through faster; however, there was no seating at all in their part of the waiting area, so having priority boarding actually looked like a disadvantage to me rather than a benefit worth paying extra for. You can see the priority boarding queue at the front here:
Bratislava: Bratislava airport was a lot more relaxed than Luton, with few flights departing simultaneously and, as a result, very few people around. The staff at the gate here were also a lot more relaxed and didn't make people pack their small handbags into the main bags. You also had to go into the little fenced off waiting area before boarding could officially commence, but the area had a lot more seats available compared to Luton, so I found the experience significantly more enjoyable. Here's the boarding in Bratislava:
Please remember that unless you pay extra, your cabin baggage is not guaranteed in the cabin - in both London Luton and Bratislava airports, during the boarding process, they were telling people to take out the necessities and give the suitcase away to be put into the hold, so it's something you need to be prepared for.
Plane and In-Flight Experience:
Wizz Air runs a young fleet of Airbus A320 and A321 planes (the Bratislava flight was on an A320), so inside it's modern and all good, apart from the complete absense of legroom, but then if you're not 5'11'' tall, you might not be as bothered. The service from staff was absolutely fine, they were polite and friendly and, apart from a mild case of turbulence, the flight was uneventful in both directions.
A picture speaks a thousand words, so here's the legroom I had:
So what's the verdict on my Wizz Air experience? Well, the price was certainly appealing, I travel light and don't have a problem with only getting one bag in cabin baggage allowance, and, as I said before, I actually prefer checking in online in advance to having to queue up at the airport. However, the never-ending upsell when booking, the convoluted check in, and having to sit next to random people on the flight really put me off. It's not a 'never again' case and, for the London-Bratislava route, it's not like there's much choice anyway - it's Wizz Air or Ryanair - so if I go to Bratislava again, there's a very good chance it's going to be with Wizz Air. However, on the more competitive routes, I would definitely prefer to seek out a good deal with a flag carrier like British Airways, Lufthansa or KLM.
One final tip: If you're planning to book with Wizz Air and are considering adding hold bags and/or paying for Wizz Priority and/or seat selection, what I would also highly recommend is to run a calculation of what the total is going to be if you get the Basic fare and buy extras vs. just going for the more expensive Wizz Go fare straight away - I have a feeling that might work out cheaper.
Also, if you are heading to Bratislava, do check out my Bratislava itinerary for a long weekend, with tips on things to see, food to try and practical info like taxies and cycle rent.