Airline: Wizz Air
Flight #: W6 4302
Date: Thursday 16th June 2022
With a new passport in hand and an itching to explore somewhere new, I booked a trip to a destination that is somewhat cursed for me, Sofia. With trips to the Bulgarian capital booked, and unfortunately cancelled, on three previous occasions, I was hoping for a more successful attempt this time round. Arriving at Luton just after 0530, I had made it further than previous trips and just had to navigate my way through the airport at rush hour.
Whilst actually getting to the airport meant an improvement on previous attempts, I did arrive at Luton with a notification advising my flight was delayed by half an hour, although no reason was given. However, considering the high-profile swathes of cancellations by EasyJet and BA due to crew shortages, I was glad that I only had a delay and not another cancelled trip on my hands.
With almost 40 flights scheduled to depart Luton between 0600 and 0810 (the time of my flight), the airport was at its busiest and the security queues were almost spilling into check-in. Deciding to splash out, I spent a whole £5 to use the fast-track security, which had me through into the departure lounge in about five minutes. Compare to the 30+ minutes I’d have had to wait, the fiver was definitely worth it.
Successfully passing through the duty-free slalom, I found that my go-to lounge, the Aspire Lounge, was closed to those, like me, who hadn’t pre-booked. As such, with a desire for coffee and breakfast, I headed for one of the airport’s many restaurants, The Smithfield, which unfortunately seemed to be the go-to location for stag and hen parties flying out of Luton. Having bought a breakfast, coffee and an orange juice, my total came to pretty much the £24 I’d have paid to enter the lounge, so I definitely think the extra few pounds are worth it for the more relaxed atmosphere.
According to the airport screens, our delay had been brought down to just 20 minutes, and with the gate announced I headed over to the pier in time to see our aircraft arrive from the Bulgarian capital. HA-LXR, a five-year old Airbus A320-200, was our ride out to Sofia and as we watched the inbound passengers disembark, boarding for our flight began at our original departure time of 0810.
Whilst boarding was completed reasonably quickly and a 0830 or even 0840 departure was achievable, once we were all onboard, we just sat there, and sat there and sat there… Finally, an hour after our original departure time and without any communication from the crew, we pushed back to join the queue of aircraft waiting to leave Luton. Whilst I understand there are valid reasons for delays and once an initial delay has occurred, knock-on delays do happen, no communication from the crew to passengers regarding this is just not on.
Finally, almost 90 minutes after our scheduled departure time, we were airborne at 0937 and soon making a left turn to take us out over East Anglia. With clear but hazy skies, I was able to see the Lea Valley reservoirs, Isle of Dogs and O2 arena from the right-hand side of the aircraft. With the usual views of large-scale wind farms and trans-continental shipping, our time over the North Sea was short and we crossed the Dutch coast over the Port of Rotterdam.
Passing over The Netherlands’ administrative and royal capital of The Hague, the cabin crew began the onboard service and, having had issues using my Monzo card on previous flights, I was prepared with another card ready to try out some of the onboard menu. One option that had caught my eye was a Pretzel filled with Cheese and Salami which made up a €9.50 meal deal with a snack and a drink. Opting for a KitKat and a water, I also decided to try an Apricot & Raspberry RedBull Summer Edition (I had been up since 0400). In total this cost me just over £11, which I didn’t think was too bad for airline prices.
Whilst we had been enjoying clear but hazy skies, this was not to last and as we crossed over Germany there began to be patchy cloud cover blocking the view of the world below. Thankfully, as we left German airspace and crossed over Austria and Hungary, the cloud cover began to clear again, allowing us to see the landscape below as we passed over the Balkan peninsula. Around the same time the cabin temperature warmed up significantly, which got me wondering whether this was a tactic by the cabin crew to get people to have a nap.
Just over two hours into the flight, and as we passed south-west of Belgrade, we began our decent from cruising altitude towards Sofia. With us following a storm that had just passed across western Bulgaria, our decent was a little bumpy with quite a heavy landing, however after a flight time of exactly 2 hours and 35 minutes we landed in Sofia at 1412 local time. As we touched down the cabin broke into a round of applause, something I still find odd, but seems to be commonplace in some parts of Europe.
As we taxied in from the runway to the apron adjacent to Sofia’s Terminal 1, I caught a glimpse of a large number of interesting and varied aircraft types on the north side of the airfield. Upon investigation it seems that the north side is home to a mix of aircraft maintenance companies, the Bulgarian Air Force and stored retired aircraft, providing an eccentric mix of aircraft. Unfortunately, the distance from the south side made photography of this area pretty impossible, but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.
As I waited outside Terminal 1 for the free shuttle bus across to Terminal 2 and the Metro, I had time to reflect on this relatively long low-cost flight. The crew onboard were professional and polite but didn’t necessarily come across as ‘friendly’, and whilst it was a nice flight with decent food and professional service, the delays and poor communication around them left a bit of a poor taste. However, for £15, I can’t complain too much!
Overall Rating 11/25 (read about my rating system here!)