After a lovely week of exploring and partying in Madrid and Barcelona, my trip with my brother across Europe continued. Using a 100,000-mile Delta Business Class award (thanks to being able to book phantom award space on KLM via a long sell) ticket, we were able to stop over in Spain and continue to Prague on CSA Czech Airlines. Thankfully, Delta Award rules allow 1 stopover in route and open jaw routing. So, in this case, we took full advantage of this by flying from LAX-AMS-MAD, MAD-PRG, and then on the way home, I will fly FRA-FCO-LAX on Alitalia in business! Thus allowing me to fly three airlines I had never flown before: KLM, CSA, & Alitalia.
CSA codeshares and coordinates routes with Iberia, therefore in Madrid CSA flies from the immense and modern Terminal 3, whereas the rest of the SkyTeam operates out of the older terminals 1 & 2. Check in was handled by Iberia agents who provide ground operations for the once daily CSA flight. When Joshua and I arrived 1 hour and 10 minutes before our flight there was only one person in the cue for economy class and no one waiting in the Business class line. The Iberia (CSA) agent checked me in, but when she went to check my brother in, she informed me that his ticket was exchanged and he would not be flying until the next day! She was very friendly and even invited me behind the counter to look at her computer. Not knowing computer reservation systems, I honestly had no clue what I was looking at. She then advised us to go to the CSA ticket purchasing counter where an agent could help us.
Josh and I rushed to the ticketing counter and while we waited in the line that already had three people in it, I called Delta via Skype (800 numbers are FREE on Skype) to see if they could help. After all, Delta was the issuer of the ticket. Within seconds I had the Platinum medallion desk on the phone and explained to him the predicament that we were in. He pulled up Joshua’s reservation number and confirmed that he was on the CSA flight for today, departing now in just 55 minutes. We rushed back to the check-in counter and the same agent helped us again. The Delta agent stayed on the phone, willing to help if needed. Thankfully, this time when she pulled up Joshua’s flight, she said everything was fine, and continued to check us in. Close call diverted!
We were then off to security and since we were business class passengers we followed the sign to the priority screening check point. We presented out boarding passes and IDs and were quickly turned away. The agent working the scanners only spoke broken English. In a combined effort by her broken English and my brother and I’s broken Spanish, we were able to make out that ONLY Qatar, Iberia, American Air, and LAN passengers were allowed to use the priority boarding line. So we were sent packing to be screened with the rest of the masses. Thankfully, the lines were short and we were through security (shoes still on) in less than 3 minutes.
At this point, our flight was supposed to start boarding in 15 minutes, but knowing that airplanes rarely board on time in Europe (at least from my experience) I decided that Josh and I would check out the Iberia lounge. Not knowing if we would have access. After the security screening debacle, we thought we’d push our luck and try it. Not only were we granted access, but the ladies at the front desk were extremely friendly and warm! You can see my review on the lounge here.
After a quick stop at the lounge, Josh and I headed to the plane when the monitor switched from “go to gate” to “boarding”. By the time we had arrived the plane was almost done boarding. There was no priority boarding lane, but again, the line was short and Josh and I were in no hurry to get on board. The gate agents were full of smiles, similar to all Iberia employees at this point.
Our CSA Airbus A320
While boarding the plane we were greeted by two CSA female flight attendants. Both were middle age, but absolutely gorgeous and glowed with warm smiles that were extremely welcoming. Josh and I made our way to our seats, (standard economy seats with the middle one not sold) stored our items and waited for push back and take off. To my surprise, after the plane was done boarding, the flight attendants brought us a welcome drink, offering us champagne or water. I was absolutely shocked and delighted because never before on an intra-Europe flight had I ever been offered a preflight drink. After a few minutes later she returned with newspapers in Spanish, English, and Czech. Both Josh and I opted for the English paper. Curious about the preflight service, I later inquired with the flight attendant if this was standard or something new since the investment by Korean Airlines. Her response was “In my 25 years of doing this job, we always offer welcomes drinks and then reading material on all our flights.”
Joshua sipped his champagne with glee and he was really enjoying the perks of flying business class, while I thought to myself, “+1 CSA!” Our departure time passed and we did not push back from the gate, despite the cartoon safety video being shown. After about 5 minutes, the Flight Attendants came through the business class cabin to inform us that were waiting for air traffic control and also offered more drinks. They made three passes through the cabin in less than 20 minutes, refilling drinks and making small talk with passengers. The flight attendants were honestly some of the friendliest I’ve encountered in years!
We took off 30 minutes late, but were soon on our way to Prague. The rest of the flight was nothing special, just a normal flight with not much to mention. We were provided hot towel service before our meal and then provided snack plate which included meats and cheeses along with warm bread. The flight attendants were very punctual and the minute my wine glass was empty, they appeared with another individualized bottle of wine . After my snack, I fell asleep and woke up minutes before landing in Prague.
Overall, I must say I was very impressed with CSA. They have had turbulent past and financial difficulties which put them on the verge of collapsing and joining the list of other defunct airlines from this decade before the recent investment by Korean Air. The airline provided great customer service and a nice business class experience for a short haul flight. I would highly consider flying CSA again, and based on this experience I hope to one day check out their A330 service from Prague to Seoul!
Reading material offered to all guests entering cabin & Business Class Cabin Only Magazines
TV monitor showing route & inflight information along with Business Class reading material
Example of Business Class Seat.