Here’s a post dedicated to an unfortunate encounter at the departure of my trip to Budapest last month with Wizz Air, a Hungarian low cost carrier (LCC) that serves mainly to most parts of Europe. I have flown with other budget airlines on several occasions such as Ryan Air, Easy Jet, and Air Asia but Wizz Air takes the term “budget” to the next level in my opinion. My ultimate mistake in booking Wizz Air was that I assumed it operates like a standard budget airlines. I was wrong. If you are going to fly with Wizz Air, know what you pay for and read through terms and conditions carefully especially with the carriage allowances.
What screwed me up — The Fare Rules. As on the booking page, it says as the above.
I have to admit that this slipped past me a little. I didn’t take much notice of the baggage measurements because it states one “cabin baggage” can be taken onboard for free. My first thought was that this is similar to other LCCs carriage terms and didn’t think much of what small cabin bags would be apart from a small pulley. Naturally, I omitted the remaining part of the sentences and went ahead to book a return ticket for £82 without any check-in baggages.
Off I went to Luton Airport with a small pulley cabin bag plus a mini rucksack. While queueing up at the check-in desks, I was asked to fit my bags into a block of steel to measure the sizes. They had two blocks: a small cabin size and a large cabin size. My small pulley bag (it’s smaller than the standard ones) only managed to fit just right into the large block, while my other small rucksack fits into the small block. Wizz Air airport staffs then informed that I hadn’t paid to carry a cabin bag onboard for my ticket and for that, they will have to charge me an additional £42 per pulley bag on this first flight leg to carry onboard, and another £42 per bag on the return trip (or £12 if done online), AND the rucksack will have to fit into the pulley bag as each passenger is allowed only one bag onboard, however small it may be. I refused and argued on how misleading the terms “free cabin bag” is. For the size they allow the small cabin bags onboard, it should’ve been called a handbag or rucksack, just like other LCCs do, not a cabin bag.
Screwed up right? £84 just to bring a smaller than usual cabin bag onto the plane? It’s not even a check-in baggage fee. All other LCCs permit each passenger one free cabin bag and a handbag or rucksack onboard, and by cabin bag they are the standard sized ones and not categorised into Small and Large as done by Wizz Air. I was furious.
Time was ticking and check-in desk was closing. My partner and I each had one pulley bag and a rucksack. If we had to pay to bring both pulleys onboard, that’ll cost us more than a new return ticket! Paying a fee this much for a supposedly budget trip? No way. I pleaded with the staffs so they would allow us through without the silly charges on this one occasion and also considering our plane was taking off very shortly. All they had to do was attach a paper tag onto our baggages to show that it has passed the protocols, it wouldn’t make any difference beyond this point. Nope, no mercy was given. No assistance in any way, not even when I asked them to inform the staffs at the boarding gate to wait for us as we were going to run to them. All I have repeatedly heard was, “Sorry, there is nothing we can do.” At one point, I asked if they would watch my bags on the floor, opened with items sprawled all over (including passports and purse) so I could chuck water from my bottle away into the bin only few metres away with clear sight and no one else around. A request at this small scale was met with a cold-hearted rejection.
With only 10 minutes before the check-in desks close, I had to open up all four bags and toss whatever is needed into only one pulley and one rucksack. Mind you, this was a winter trip. My partner ran across the departure hall with the other two bags frantically searching for a locker storage service, which he thankfully found one that charges £18 for the entire duration we needed to store.
By storing two bags at the airport and bringing the other two onboard, the total costs we incurred was £72 rather than over £100 to bring all four bags onboard, plus we’d also have to figure out how to fit it all into just two bags just to show we’re carrying only one bag each. Pathetic you say?
We managed to pull-through this hurdle as we ran all the way to the boarding gates and made it just as the doors were closing. I thought a good rest was finally coming by as I boarded the plane. Not quite. To my utter shock and dismay, the front pocket of my seat was broken, partially falling off and obstructing my legs [photo tweeted above]. Did I just pay £84 + £72 charges for this? Yes I did. The thought of requesting to change seats in a full flight was one I wouldn’t be able to deal with after the baggage ordeal. I accepted it as it was and flew uncomfortably.
Moral of the story? You get what you pay for. We all have an idea what traveling budget may be but not entirely until poop happens. After the additional charges, stress, chances of missing the flight, having a broken seat and lasting 4 days with just one small bag of clothes between the two of us in this winter trip, I would certainly change my mind about flying with Wizz Air ever again. I have myself to blame for part of it for lacking the attention to extreme detail and misconception of a ‘free cabin bag’. Lesson learned.