Surviving Budget Travel From Portugal

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Budget air travel is a necessary evil for expats like us who have to make frequent trips between old “home” and new “home.” After a while you get these things down to a fine art. My wife and I are the polar opposite of those who hold up security queues due to bottles of water, and board planes with irritatingly large “carry on” cases.

In fact, we are the ones at Faro airport shaking our heads in the direction of those people, perhaps doing less than we should to disguise our contempt!

Anyone who has travelled on Easyjet will know that it brings out the worst in people. (We won’t even talk about what happens to people travelling Ryan Air!)

Those, like us, who opt for the “Speedy Boarding” option, will know the Speedy Boarding queue is the VERY best place to spot the kind of selfish behavior I speak of. My wife and I always try to give off an air of cool nonchalance as we reach this special queue, as if we really don’t care where we end up sitting. However, I am going to let you into a secret: it’s all a well-rehearsed act.

Portugal - Where are the Best Easyjet Seats?!
Portugal - Where are the Best Easyjet Seats?!

In truth we have EVERYTHING planned with well-rehearsed military precision, and we are actually just as bothered about where we sit as everyone else. We just find it rather undignified to be one of those people saying “Speedy Boarding” as loudly as possible as they rubberneck everyone else’s boarding cards to check they are in the correct queue. Come on people, you’ve paid around 16€ to get on the plane first – you ain’t flying first class.

We are reaching the Christmas season. So as a special gift to my blog readers, I’m going to share our secrets. Here is the Speedy Boarding Blueprint to Success, especially useful for couples flying between the UK and Portugal!!

1. Obviously, you’re going to need to book Speedy Boarding for this guide to apply to you. Save time by doing it when you book online, rather than at the airport.

2. Swallow the cost and book as much hold luggage as you need. That way you can get on the plane like a pro with just the stuff you require for the flight. As well as making things less stressful for you, this stops you looking like a selfish prick when you bang your big carry-on case into everybody’s knees.

3. As you have booked Speedy Boarding you can use the dedicated check-in queue at the airport. Check in online too and print your boarding pass at home, then you can join the Speedy Boarding OR Bag Drop queue, depending on which is shorter.

The Easyjet "Fast Lane"
The Easyjet "Fast Lane"

4. If your check-in assistant seems nice, it can sometimes be worth asking which gate the flight is likely to leave from – often they know this long before it appears on the board. If you know the secret, you can get to the front of that special queue before the masses know which gate to go to, ensuring you one of the best seats.

5. Even if you can’t find this information out, if you know your airport and route well, you can often hazard a decent guess as to the gate–they seem to be the same a lot of the time. I can guess gates at Gatwick and Faro now to a reasonable degree of accuracy. Am I going to mention the specifics? Of course not, I’m not sharing my biggest secrets!

If you can’t find out the gate in advance, you’re gonna have to be watching those screens when the time comes. When it does… not pass Dixons, do not collect a panini, and head straight for the gate. If you miss the gate announcement by two minutes, there will be 15 people in the Speedy Boarding queue in front of you. I PROMISE.

6. Once you’re at the gate, shit gets serious. Now is the time to ascertain whether you are boarding the plane via air-bridge or coach. If it is the latter, well, sadly, bets are largely off.

Having to board a coach mixes up the queue and it is no longer first in the queue, first on the plane. The only strategy is to end up nearest the doors, so you are first off the coach and onto the steps BUT… don’t know which side’s doors will open. The truly shameless actually ask the driver – seriously, I have seen it happen – but I have a tiny bit too much dignity for that. Remember, what we are aiming for here is cool nonchalance.

If you have an air-bridge at your gate, then it’s all down to your queue position. First 6 people, and you are pretty much guaranteed the front row, my personal preference. First 18, and even if the front row has gone there are 12 exit row seats near the middle. Run, rabbit, run!

Have a Good Flight to Portugal!
Have a Good Flight to Portugal!

7.  Be the model of politeness with all the cabin crew when you board. If you get on the plane as part of the very first group, they will know you are no amateur, and you will catch them in a good mood before 150 people run over their feet with the wheels of their big cases and zap their customer service skills. It’s nice to be nice in any case.

This politeness may pay dividends. On more than one occasion we have had cabin crew standing protectively by our seat row, seemingly trying to maximize our chances of the third seat in our row staying empty to give us more space.

8. If you don’t end up with a friendly crew-member helping maximize your space and comfort, there is another option. Now, it’s perhaps a little unorthodox, and I’m not prepared to admit whether I have used this tactic but….OK, here it is:

Watch the aisle like a hawk. Take note of anyone who appears to be eyeing the spare seat in your row. As they approach, produce the most contagious sounding, unpleasant cough you can muster. There’s a good chance they will walk on by. Keep this up until boarding is complete, and you can then luxuriate into your third seat.

I hope these tips prove useful, tongue-in-cheek though they are. Try not to use them too much though between Gatwick and Faro…I wouldn’t want anyone giving us too much competition for those front row seats!

Have a good flight.

PS. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am typing this on a plane. This message goes out to the person in his 20s sitting in front of me: Young man, turning round every two minutes to shout to your friend three rows back is really bloody irritating for others. Parents tell toddlers off for that. Please stop it.

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  1. Very good Ben. I will take up the coughing tip. I have always been able to make myself sneeze copiously – no big secret – just stick a hair up your nose 🙂 so might try that. It helps if you like sneezing.

    We always get speedy boarding, but we never have hold luggage AND irrespective of whether we are coming over for a weekend or two weeks, our hand luggage is always smaller than everyone elses. On our last trip back about twenty passengers had to put their hand luggage into the hold as there was no space left. I cannot believe the size of some peoples hand luggage. It is almost as big as the suitcase I used to take when we used to go to Thailand for month! rant over

    We usually go for row two or three, which lets us get out really quickly, get through customs with no queues and in to our hire care within 15 minutes. Hurray.

    Luckily we go from Stansted (until easyjet move to Southend next year – grrghh) and there are no buses involved.

    Looking forward to coming out at New Year and going along the 125 to avoid the tolls in our hire car. That is going to be fun and games for people – cant belive they havent got it all sorted out – well, actually I can. have a good weekend.

  2. DId you hear it’s all definitely happening as of Dec 8th?

  3. They must be far stingier in Lisbon. the last time I flew speedy boarding I was very embarrassed to be the only one! If they use the coach, I think it’s a bit off to have speedy boarding at all – it’s every man, woman and child for themselves – hardly speedy!

  4. Yes, I have been keeping an avid eye on all the forums about it! Some people do seem to pick up the wrong end of the stick and beat around the bush with it dont they. 🙂

    We dont mind paying the tolls at all, but the likelihood of our economy carhire peeps being on the ball, is very slim, and then the ongoing fines will be a real pain. If only there were toll booths . . . ho hum


  5. Brilliant post! I laughed out loud – and I think I have spotted you in the distance at Faro airport!???!
    Don’t forget the need for a biometric passport too – I got so fed up of Dave and his new passport breezing through and waving like a mad thing at me from the other side of the screen as I slowly crawled my way to the front of passport control … so I bought my own!
    have to admit to a fondness for Flybe – for so many reasons – not least the ‘here’s your seat’ when you check in online – love the fact people STILL push their way onto the bus – even tho they already have a seat and the plane won’t go without them! 😉

  6. love it.

    As a 20 a day Benson’s smoker, mustering a cough is easy. However when we come and visit you in Sept (finally), we’ll have a 9 month old james. I’ll simply show him a bottle. Then hide it so be bursts into tears. then when boarding had finished, give it to him.

    Bingo. Row to ourselves..

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