I spent a lot of time travelling in January. I had started teaching in Dublin again and was living in Slovenia. Transport between the two is not easy. So I found myself trying different routes, partly to see what can be done on a budget and partly because I had the time to experiment.
I was flying Wizz, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Adria and for the return home to Northern Ireland, EasyJet.
Wizz and Ryanair via Luton
This is a Hungarian airline which serves airports mostly in central and eastern Europe. It has – depending on the time of the year – several flights a week from Ljubljana to “London” Luton. The other budget service to UK is EasyJet to Sansted – and sometimes to Luton. Adria also flys to the UK. It looks and acts like a budget airline – but it is full price – see later in this article.
My preference is EasyJet because I have used it for so long but the connections – this being winter – just did not work for me. So I was grateful there was a flight I could use from Ljubljana rather than having to find an exit from Austria, Italy or Croatia with the concomitant travel by bus or rail.
Priority Booking and seating. I made a mistake on the first flight. Priority boarding and seating – for which you pay additional charges – is not about leaving. They are about arriving. You pay for a seat at the front of the plane so you can get off quickly, get ahead of the passport control and connect – in my case – in as short a time as possible. As I had 1 hour fifty minutes between advertised arrival time and Ryanair’s departure time, any delay could have been critical.
So I bought an additional ticket for a later flight. If you do that, check in both flights (crazy as it might seem) or you will be find for not printing your boarding pass for the flight you don’t use. Crazy! €40 or€45.
I do not understand the economics of transportation. The flight from Luton the Dublin was €14.99. The bus from Dublin Airport to city centre is €6. It was only €14.99 to buy and additional ticket to Dublin as insurance to getting there before deadline.
As it turned out on the two occasions when I used that route, I made the connections even though there was a delay of nearly an hour the second week. The first week I was about to use the executive lounge in Luton. The second week was too tight. Both weeks I bought Priority access through the airport security.
This is one of the downsides of modern budget air travel. You cannot connect easily. I’m not carrying more than a small bag, but in Luton – and other places I need to leave Arrivals, leave the airport building and back in through Arrivals and security.
Luton Priority was £3.00 booked online (£5.00 at the airport) The queues were short, but no queue a=in the priority area.
Here’s a tip – before you get to security, put anything metal in a coat pocket – my watch held me up the first week. And unless they specifically tell you NOT to remove your shoes, offer them.
About Wizz. This is a perfectly friendly, efficient service. It is inexpensive and good value for money.
About Ryanair. I have been avoiding Ryanair for decades because of its reputation for bad customer service and punctuality. In September 2015 I had no choice taking an early Sunday flight from Glasgow to Stansted but use Ryanair. It was cheap, very efficient (leaving dead on line and arriveing early) clean, bright and while not having anything that hinted at luxury, was still comfortable and was a perfectly enjoyable. These flights from Luton to Dublin have only enhanced my opinion. I no longer have a Ryanair Phobia.
Boarding – Ryanair in particular is an enormous pain in the ass, legs, feet and back. The priority people join a separate queue as and when it suits them. They are checked through first. They go to form a top of a new queue and all passengers wait until (it seems) everyone is checked in. Then the queue moves to the aircraft.
This is not unique, of course. In Ljubljana, all the passengers are checked in before the top of the queue begins to board. If for health reasons you have difficulty standing for a period of time, get Special Assistance.
This was a great route for me leaving Ljubljana about 11:00 and arriving Dublin about 5 hours later.
Dublin to Ljubljna via Amsterdam on RyanAir and Adria
The only air route I could take leaving Dublin connecting somewhere and arriving at Ljubljana was via Amsterdam – there were other options taking 24+ hours – through Istanbul for example. The major disadvantages of this were 1- less than two hours between arrival and departure. A late departure from Dublin could cause problems and Schiphol is a big airport and getting from Arrival to Departure might be a lengthy exercise particularly if there was a big queue at Passports. The flight arrival at Ljubljana was after the last bus had left which meant an expensive taxi ride or the good will of a friend to pick me up
The trip was smooth – even time to have a bite to eat and a few glasses of not very good wine in the business lounge. And my friend picked me up.
Adria is not a budget airline – although it acts like one – and the 90-minute trip to Ljubljana was the most expensive – almost €200. It left an hour late, and drinks and snacks were not included in the price. Unsurprisingly the flight was not full and there was plenty of room. As I said earlier I don’t understand the economics of air travel. I wonder sometimes if some airlines do.
Dublin to Munich and overnight train to Ljubljana – then bus to Bled
The flight distance from Amsterdam to Ljubljana is 988.73Km (614.39 miles). From Dublin to Munich is further 1374.91km (854.36 miles). Both Aer Lingus and Adria are their country’s flag carrier. Yet the Munich flight was less than half the AMS – LJU cost.
The Dublin business lounge is nothing to crow about – in both terminals. If you don’t already have a card to get you in free, then I suggest you don’t bother. The Aer Lingus flight was excellent – best of them all. The early arrival in Munich meant a longer wait for the train. The airport to main station in the city centre was 40 minutes. This was the depth of winter. On any other evening the 3 hours could have been killed by walking about, bars, restaurants, and so on. In a major January freeze, I stayed in the station. Big, bright, cold with lots and lots of places to eat from on the run snacks to a proper restaurant. And not wildly expensive. I genuinely liked Munich station. I passed through it very late one night to catch the same train I am on tonight.
It takes from (exactly) 23.20 pm to (exactly) 06:00 am to get to Ljubljana. The train crosses into Austria and stops at Salzburg where it uncouples and the rear end goes off to Hungary. The section I’m in (seating for six, but I am the only passenger in this carriage) stops in a town very close to Bled – but too early for public transport to take me home. So on the Ljubljana (just in time to miss my bus) breakfast and the 07:00 bus home while the train heads for Zagreb and (I believe) Belgrade. No temptation to stay on it this time – but maybe in the future …