Fresh off our outstanding road trip to Transylvania and a couple of days wandering around Bucharest, it was, sad to say, just about time to head home. We were scheduled to head back to Dallas in AA Business Class the next day, but first, we had to get to Paris. After sampling Air France Economy Class to Prague, and then airberlin Economy Class to Bucharest, I’d be trying yet another brand new airline, Czech Airlines, to get back to Paris. This would require a connection in Prague, with our flight scheduled to depart Bucharest at 3:20 P.M. Needing to check out of our hotel at noon, and not wanting to take a chance with Bucharest’s chaotic traffic, I booked at shuttle to come pick us up at noon. Our shuttle from Taxi Bucharest arrived at noon right on the dot, and we were on our way.
Note: for a look at the airline’s Business Class experience, please see Rocky’s review of his Czech Airlines Business Class flight from Madrid to Prague.
Czech Airines (OK) Flight 803
- Friday, October 30, 2015
- Depart: Bucharest – Henri Coandă/Otopeni International Airport (OTP), 15:19, 1m early
- Arrive: Vaclav Havel Airport Prague (PRG) Terminal 1, 16:09, 6m early
- Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Seats: 20A, 20B
- Equipment: Airbus A319
As luck would have it, traffic wasn’t particularly hectic, and we made it to the airport in about 40 minutes. As an aside, Taxi Bucharest offers a pretty good shuttle service to the airport. You can book online, the driver was on-time and friendly, at a cost only 82 lei (~$20), for two. On the one hand, this was bad news, as we arrived 40 minutes before check-in. On the other hand, that gave my wife and I enough time to get something to eat first. Anyway, we wandered over to the check-in area about 1:25, and there was already quite a line that had formed. It took nearly half an hour to get through, though security and immigration were easy and painless.
With a good bit of time before boarding, I took a few photos of the terminal area. The international terminal at Otopeni Airport is clean and quite modern, with a good number of shops, but a shortage of restaurants.
Unfortunately, there is no Priority Pass lounge at OTP, so we were SOL in that regard. If you are a SkyTeam elite or Business Class customer, TAROM does operate a lounge. There is also a MasterCard lounge, but it appears to be open only to cardholders with cards issued in Romania.
Boarding began about 30 minutes prior to departure, which proceeded in groups from back to front after SkyTeam elites. We encountered a rather humorous snafu as we settled into what we thought were our seats. The seat markings are somewhat unclear, and we ended up mistaking Row 21 for Row 20. The entire row ahead of us was occupied when we arrived, so we thought nothing of it. So imagine my surprise when another passenger arrived with an FA insisting that I was in his seat. It was only then that we figured out that two people assigned seats 21B and 21C helped themselves to our seats, 20A and 20B. The mix-up was cleared up quickly, and we were on our way a few minutes later. In the interim, I took a few photos of the interior and our seats.
The cabin is in a standard 3-3 configuration with 31″ of seat pitch. Business Class, as is typical for European airlines, is simply one or two rows (depending on aircraft) of coach seats with the middle blocked off, and an upgraded meal service. Frankly, I have never found a comfortable seat on an A319 – the ones operated by American and Virgin America are quite rough on the thighs after about 90 minutes – though these were alright. Legroom was a little tight, but the flight was short enough that it really wasn’t a problem. The blue/gray upholstery was in good condition, and features CSA’s psychedelic triangle tail logo throughout.
We began our short taxi, and soon enough, caught a glimpse of what I enjoy so much about transiting through European airports – the exotic airplane porn, in this case, Romanian low-cost carrier Blue Air.
Inflight service began about 20 minutes after take-off, and it took roughly 15 minutes for the cart to make it all the way to the back. We had eaten before leaving Bucharest, but I found it interesting that service on this flight would consist only of drinks, no snacks – not even a bag of pretzels. Given that Air France provides a light sandwich on intra-European flights of roughly the same length, I was expecting something similar here, which various internet boards also suggest to expect. Maybe it had to do with the flight time, which was smack dab between lunch and dinner. In addition, as is typical for short intra-Europe flights, no in-flight entertainment is offered, though oddly, a pair of overhead TV screens is located at the front of the cabin
On the bright side, we were able to enjoy some nice scenery for the first half of the flight, until the low overcast returned. First was a good view of the northern suburbs of Bucharest transitioning to farmland.
That was followed by a clear view of the Carpathian Mountains and the valleys of Transylvania just beyond the mountains. On the one hand, the haze made it difficult to get a good photo, but on the other hand, it made for something of a mysterious, haunting scene – quite appropriate for the day before Halloween.
The overcast returned as we crossed into Hungary, providing a great view of some mountains poking up through the sea of low clouds.
And finally, on final approach to Prague, the Czech countryside in full fall color on the outskirts of the city.
As we taxied to the gate, I spotted a truly rare airframe – an Iran Air Airbus A310. That’s right, an A310. We may well see an Iran Air airplane in the U.S. in the next few years, but it won’t be this classic bird.
After pulling up to our gate a few minutes early, we faced a truly strange disembarking procedure. We entered the jetbridge, but were then immediately directed down back to ground level, where we were then bused to the terminal. I can safely say that was the first time I’ve ever taken a bus to the terminal without parking at a remote stand.
OK Flight 766
- Friday, October 30, 2015
- Depart: PRG Terminal 2, Gate C2, 17:32, 3m early
- Arrive: Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) Terminal 2D, 19:19, 6m early
- Duration: 1 hour 47 minutes
- Seats: 5E, 5F
- Equipment: Airbus A319
This was a relatively short (scheduled 1 hour, 20 minutes) non-Schengen to Schengen connection. Prior experiences at Heathrow and Paris made me nervous about the process. Prague makes it easy, though. There is a little bit of a walk between the terminals, a little less than 10 minutes, but passport control and security check were a breeze, with plenty of officers to handle the few passengers passing through. We still had well over an hour before our connection, giving us a little bit of lounge time. I’ll have a review of the Menzies Aviation Lounge in next week’s post.
After the lounge, on the way to the gate, I saw an interesting restaurant just before the escalators leading down to the C concourse:
Thanks, but I think I’ll pass on the Czech-Mex, and stick with goulash and kolaches.
Boarding was once again by jetbridge, and this plane was identical to the bird that brought us from Bucharest. The only difference is, we lucked out with the random seat assignment, scoring two seats near the front. This time, boarding was not done by group number; after SkyTeam elites and Business Class passengers, it was pretty much a free-for-all, though the process was actually fairly orderly.
Czech Airways also reserves the first few rows of overhead bins for Business Class passengers. These are marked as such on the outside.
The only problem with this setup is that there are only two rows of Business Class seats, but the restriction applies all the way back to Row 5. Therefore, if you have a seat in the first couple of rows of coach, you’ll have to head back a couple of rows to store your roll-a-board. In general, though, I do kind of like the idea of priority overhead space for Business Class. How the airline enforces this in practice, I don’t know.
The length of this flight was practically identical to the first leg, and the in-flight service was also the same. A beverage service was offered about 20 minutes after take-off, and once again, no snacks were offered. The FA serving our section was quite friendly, though. Interestingly, she reminded me a little of a former co-worker of Czech heritage.
It was completely dark by the time we started taxiing, so I was unable to take any photos. Just as well, since the low overcast would have foiled any attempted photography, anyway. After landing in Paris, we parked at a remote stand just a short distance away from the terminal, short enough that we were allowed to walk across the ramp area to the terminal building. My favorite kind of remote stand. The brief walk outside also gave me the chance to take a photo of our plane.
If you are connecting on another SkyTeam airline in Terminal 2D, you can walk right to your gate, as the door you enter leads directly to the departures area. Since we were terminating in Paris for the night, we headed to baggage claim to collect our bags. I expected a long wait, but our bags made it to the belt in about 10 minutes.
I’d rate both of these flights as good. We received on-time, friendly service and a reasonably comfortable seat (no saddle sore, a first for an A319 flight). Prague airport is also a breeze for connections if you’re headed elsewhere. It is basic transportation, though, with no IFE or power ports. But given the price I paid – less than $150 per person – I really have no complaints.
As mentioned, next week, I’ll have a review of PRG Terminal 2’s other business lounge, the Menzies Aviation lounge.
This post is part of my trip report series about our trip to the Czech Republic and Romania in October. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.