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Stansted Airport - Boarding

For our return back from London, unfortunately options were severely limited – and for the first time in my long travelling career, Stansted Airport could not be avoided.

I’d never been before, nor have I ever heard anything even remotely positive; so I was intrigued to say the least to see just how rough an experience one airport (and subsequent Ryanair flight) could possibly be.

Getting there, incidentally, proved to be half – if not two thirds of – the battle. Although we booked the Stansted Express using their website about 30 minutes before we intended to travel, we arrived to miss one train (to a train dispatcher who actually seemed delighted we arrived as the doors were closing) and find that the subsequent trains were all delayed for an indeterminable amount of time.

And so we waited. And waited. Time got close – but we were also not very keen on spending close to £100 to get to what is supposedly the King of Low Cost Airports by taxi or an Uber.

As you can see below, we were not entirely alone in waiting – the train slipped from 18:50, to sometime after 7pm, to 19:18, then half, before finally, as we came close to our threshold, a train presented itself and an insane rush like nothing you have ever seen began.

Stansted Express

If you ever want to know how people would behave in a mass evacuation situation, first of all it’s not pretty, and second of all, this experience is very representative if you wanted to try it for yourself. Folks falling over prams, luggage being weaponised, people nearly falling down the gap between the train and the platform. Truly, something is very wrong with the UK rail system if this is in some way considered acceptable.

Suffice to say, things were off to a rocky start and I wasn’t swayed by Stansted’s apparent cheapness considering how close we came to having to get a taxi.

The train journey eventually commenced and was reasonably uneventful with the exception of, firstly, the sheer pile-up of drunks on the train both shouting at each other and nearly passing out. How do folks like this actually get on flights? I’ve had my fair share of pre-flight beverages, but I’ve never attempted to board a plane when I couldn’t stay awake and smelled like a flooded brewery.

Secondly, how is the ‘Stansted Express’ in any way an express? We stopped multiple times – including a stop somewhere along the line that wasn’t even scheduled, but we were seemingly told to stop there anyway.

Time got tight and we ended up electing to purchase the rather expensive Stansted Airport fast-track service.

Finally winding up to a drafty, packed Stansted Airport, we quickly navigated our way to a desperate security entryway scene. Passengers queueing up by the dozen, and hordes begging to be allowed into the fast-track entry (in fairness, this shouldn’t be a problem – though as we did, you can always purchase fast-track on the spot).

We were funneled down to a single security station – for the whole fast-track queue – at the far end of the terminal, where the bag arrangement colleague was mostly pre-occupied shouting at her colleague on the far side of the metal detector. On the whole, things worked efficiently though; considering the pretty scary looking queue back at the main security area.

Stansted Airport - Interior

On the other side of security, Stansted, based on the short amount of time we had to truly appreciate its architectural beauty or lack thereof, seems absolutely hell-bent on monetizing every single square foot of space right throughout the terminal, with the exception of the ageing, decrepit tunnel walkway out to our gate for Shannon.

Despite having airbridges, we were routed downstairs and out across the cold apron. In fairness, I actually didn’t mind that so much given that it provided the mental re-assurance we were leaving.

In our household, Ryanair flights require a series of – probably needless – steps. I won’t ever pay for or book a Ryanair flight, but Vannesha is free to go ahead and book and pay for it if she wants, and I’ll take it, assuming of course that a thorough research has shown there is literally no other options. And so there we were – on a Ryanair flight.

Ryanair to Shannon

And you know what? On the whole, the flight – like the other Ryanair flights I’ve actually made it to – went fine, and I of course adhered to my golden rule to give them not one extra cent by way of food and/or drink. Before long, we were touching down back in Shannon again for the world’s fastest gate-to-car park journey.

But would I do it again? Honestly, probably not. Stansted Airport is actually not very easy and questionably ‘cheap’ to get to, it’s not efficient by any means, it needs radical aesthetic improvement beyond just adding shops, and so more than anything, that’s what would probably put me off.

Reformed backpacker & former ultra-cheap traveller, Andy now atones for his past by overspending on premium travel experiences and failing at making the most of the miles & points game. Former expat now returned to Ireland, he is a product manager by day, and travel aficionado by evening and weekend.

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