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Air France, CSA Czech Air, and Alitalia to Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest

Mon Jun 11, 2018 6:10 pm

Background
Every 2 years my family goes on a trip to Europe. This year we decided on Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest, mainly so that my dad could give a talk at the Czech Technical University so that he could size it up as a potential site for a sabbatical. Seeing as this is my first trip report, feedback is appreciated.

Booking
Originally we tried booking the following sequence on Expedia: BOS-CDG-PRG on 5/29/2018 with AF and OK, returning BUD-FCO-BOS on 6/8/18 with AZ. This route was chosen so that I could try out three new airlines and also experience a 787. Unfortunately, 12 hours later we got an email from them saying that they couldn't ticket our route, and were cancelling our booking. Additionally, fares had risen in the 12 hours that elapsed between when we first booked. This caused us to then go and book the same itinerary directly through Air France, with the dates being moved one day earlier (leaving on 5/29/18), and the final flight being coded as a KLM flight.

AF 333

At the airport
After being dropped off by the Preflight parking shuttle bus, my family proceeded to check in at BOS terminal E. After a very short wait, we dropped off our baggage at the check in desk and received our boarding passes. After a brief wait in the TSA precheck line, we were through security. After a failed attempt at using the LH lounge (my dad's credit card would only give him and one guest access so we didn't go in), I then proceeded to walk around the terminal. While I don't have any pictures of it, the newly added international gates at the E terminal look beautiful. Below I have attached 5 of my best plane spotting photos.

Image My AF 789 for the ride from BOS-CDG

Image MT A332

Image TK A333 and AF 789

Image IB A346 and AF 789

Image TP A332. Unfortunately the way the secure corridor is laid out in Boston makes it difficult to get a good photo.

Air France boards by zone, with my family being in zone 5, after waiting in a long, slow moving line, my family was welcomed aboard the 787.

Onboard

The first thing that I noticed about the seat was how cramped it was. While the seat width was reasonable, and the seat itself was comfortable, the leg room was so tight that my legs were hitting the seat in front of me, and I am only 5 feet 6 inches.
Image

The amenity kit on the seat included a pillow, blanket, eye mask, and headphones. Later on in the flight I would find out that when the head phones were set up with 1 pin, you could only hear the audio out of one ear, so I ended up just using my ear buds. After an on time push back, we then proceeded to have a long taxi, where I got in a lot of spotting. Again, I have attached a few of the best pictures below.

Image VS A346, DY B787, and in the distance BA A388

Image Multiple B6 aircraft and a private jet.

Image If you zoom in you can clearly see an S4 aircraft

Image Landing FY aircraft from KEF

After a powerful takeoff at 19:44, we were off for Paris. Once we were above 10,000 feet, I browsed the entertainment system, which had a massive selection of movies and tv shows. In keeping with my long term tradition of choosing a kids movie on an Eastbound Atlantic crossing I settled on Cars 3. Soon after takeoff, hardcopy menus were distributed- something that I had never seen in any of my other trans Atlantic trips before (on UA, LX, BA, DL, LH, LY, and IB).
Image A hard copy menu

Soon after the menus were distributed, the flight attendants began distributing dinner and beverages. For a main I selected the chicken with a pepper and sherry sauce and cilantro rice.

Image The tray. Not visible is a pat of butter and a wedge of spreadable cheese.

Image The entree

The curry-orzo salad tasted great: the orzo was properly cooked, the vegetables on it were reasonable, and it had a nice curry flavor and very little heat. While the chicken dish did not have much of a pepper taste, it did have a nice, rich, creamy sherry sauce taste. The rice also did a perfect job of soaking up all the left over sauce. The roll was served warm, and was great with the spreadable cheese. The fruit compote was just a thing of Motts apple sauce, and I wasn't a big fan of the desert (more because I don't like coffee than because it was not good). Overall, this was a very nice meal for economy.

Soon after I finished, the flight attendants came through to collect the trays. They had finished with this process when I still had about 25 minutes left in my movie, marking one of the fastest meal services that I have experienced yet. After my tray was collected I took a melatonin and attempted to get some rest. Right as I was about to fall asleep, I was awoken by an announcement that they were calling for a doctor for a sick passenger. As an EMT-Basic (ambulance technician), I waited for a couple minutes to make sure that the flight attendants had found a doctor (they actually found 2), and then proceeded to try to fall asleep again. Unfortunately, I found this to be difficult and drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours.

I woke up with about 1.5 hours left in the flight, and proceeded to finish up Cars 3 and then looking for something short, I selected an episode of Sydney Harbour Patrol. During this time period the flight attendants distributed a breakfast which consisted of a blue berry muffin, a yogurt, and a container of orange juice. I wasn't really hungry so I didn't sample it. This meal was finished with a very good French caramel, which was a very nice way to finish off the flight.

Image breakfast
After this, we proceeded to begin our descent into CDG and the flight attendants came through to prepare the cabin for landing. After a firm landing, we were down at CDG. After a long taxi we rolled into a bus gate at CDG.

Throughout the flight the flight attendants did a good job of taking care of the passengers. They were present to greet and say good bye to the passengers. They were polite, and put themselves into the service.

Overall Weighted Score
Image
Overall score 3.7/5
Note: due to the fact that the medical emergency and my being an EMT are outside of the airline's control, I have weighted the sleep quality score to be higher than it actually was.

Connecting at CDG
After disembarking from the AF 789, we were guided by ground crew to the waiting bus. Once the bus was crammed full of people, we were then bused off to terminal 2F to begin our connections process. Below I have attached a photo from this bus ride.

Image AF, DL, and PU aircraft.

Once inside the terminal we followed the flight connections sign and waited in a roughly 10 minute line to go through security. While waiting in this line, we were delayed by one of the people in front of us standing and arguing with the security screener instead of just going through. Once through we then hopped onto the bus to terminal D. Below I have attached a few images from this ride.

Image AF being serviced by Servair

Image GF

Image EY A388

After disembarking the bus we followed the signs to passport control for flight connections. Once there we were greeted by a totally empty line with only 2 officers at the desks. One was talking with one of the passengers, and the other had nobody she was working with. We approached her desk and were told somewhat rudely that she was going on her break and to wait in line. She then left her desk. Eventually, the other immigration agent left to escort the other passenger somewhere, leaving us just standing there, waiting. Eventually the officer on break returned, and after waiting for her to get set up, she stamped us into the schengen area without even talking to us. We then proceeded to follow the connections signs straight into the baggage claim area, out through customs, and then into the arrivals area. Having already used up a large amount of our 1:45 connection time, we the proceeded to run for the security check point where we had to wait in another long, slow line. Once were at the security machines, the lady who was manning the machine proceeded to repack my liquids bag. She moved all the liquids from one bag to another one- talk about inefficiency!. Afterwards I ran ahead to the gate, to try to make sure it did not close before my parents could get there. Once there I was able to get a picture of our plane before we then got into the back of the line and boarded our flight to Prague. (if someone knows of a better way to do this connection please post below).

Image My ride for the short hop from CDG-PRG. My apologies for the low quality of the photo- it was a very tight connection.

OK 759

Onboard
We were one of the last people to board, so I quickly plunked down into my window seat.

Image The seat.
The seat was actually quite comfortable, and it had more leg room than my previous Air France flight (but not much more). The headrest was also a very nice touch for a flight of this length.

Shortly after I sat down, we began our push back and taxi. During this period the funny Czech air safety video played in Czech with English subtitles. During the taxi I also got in some spotting.

Image OS A321

Image KM A320

Image E4

Image SK A320neo

After a long taxi, we took off and were off to Prague. During the flight the flight attendants came around with buy on board and that was about it. For entertainment I looked out the window and listened to music on my phone. After a short flight, we then proceeded to have a soft landing in Prague. Upon landing in Prague we proceeded to find out that our baggage did not make the connection in CDG with us. Luckily, the airline was able to return it to us the day after.

Overall Weighted Score
Image
Overall score 3.7/5
 
ConnectAir
Topic Author
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2014 2:20 pm

Re: Air France, CSA Czech Air, and Alitalia to Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest

Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:03 pm

AZ 479 BUD-FCO

At the Airport
After 10 days traveling around Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest it was time to head home to Boston. Due to lighter than expected traffic, we arrived at the airport before check in opened. After a 20 minute wait, check in opened and the line began to move. After a wait, we reached the desk and were checked in for our flight to FCO and then BOS. We then proceeded to security which was using automated gates to control access to the ques. Once at the security checkpoint I proceeded to experience the most thorough European security screening that I have ever had: taking shoes off, random full body scanners, and random bag swabs (which I was subject to). Once through my mother hit the duty free to try to burn our leftover forints, while I went and plane spotted.

Image FID at BUD

Image BZ B733

Image 6H A320

Image BE E195

Image RV B763

Image My AZ A320 for the ride to FCO.

Boarding was called on an awful speaker that was so quiet no one could understand what they were saying. Once we were in the right line, we then proceeded to quickly board the flight.

Onboard

Once onboard I made my way to the window seat that I had selected. The seat itself was comfortable (and leather), and the leg room was sufficient for the length of the flight (it was actually more generous than the leg room that I had encountered on my flight to CDG).

Image The seat.

After boarding was completed, the aircraft pushed back as the smartly dressed flight attendants gave a manual safety briefing. During the taxi I accomplished a fair bit of plane spotting too.

Image SN A320

Image KL B738 and multiple LCC in the background

And at 12:03 PM we were off to FCO. After leveling off, the flight attendants proceeded to come around and do a beverage and snack service. For a beverage I chose a water, and for snack I was given a package of these really good Italian sesame crackers. During the flight I listened to music and looked out the window. The flight attendants did a fine job of running the service, and were very polite.

Image The crackers

Image The Croatian coast

After a short flight we proceeded to begin our descent into FCO.

Image The Italian coast.

After a soft landing we proceeded to taxi for a while to arrive right on time into a gate at the E concourse of FCO.

Overall Weighted Score
Image
Overall score: 4/5

Connecting at FCO
After disembarking from the aircraft through the jet bridge, we proceeded to follow a maze of stairs to be led to a bus, that then took us to the main part of terminal 3. While I did some plane spotting on the bus, I did not get any good photos from this. Once at terminal 3, we quickly determined that we had to go back to the E gates (talk about inefficiency!). We then proceeded to follow the signs to exit passport control. Unfortunately by the time we got there the electronic gates for US citizens were closed, so we had to wait in line for manual passport control. The agent who stamped us out of the Schengen area was listening to music with 2 apple earbuds in the entire time we were being processed. After getting "processed" by him, we proceeded to the train that would take us to our gate. Once there, boarding was already occurring and we proceeded to board the plane 40 minutes before departure, and were welcomed aboard by the flight attendant.

AZ 614 FCO-BOS
Once onboard I made my way to my window seat in row 28. The seat was comfortable for the whole flight, and the leather headrest did a nice job. The seat also came with a much better amount of leg room than my previous flight on AF- I could actually sit down with some room in between my legs and the seat in front of me. The seat also had a pillow and blanket with it. While I wasn't the biggest fan of the pillow, it still did the job.

Image The seat.

When I sat down I immediately saw this beauty on the entertainment screen, which made me nervous about whether or not it would work during the flight:

Image

While the entertainment system rebooted itself, I went and did some plane spotting.

Image 9U

Image LH A321

During this time the entertainment system rebooted. We then proceeded to get the Alitalia safety video, push back and begin taxiing.

Image AZ B77E

Image And at 15:20 we were off for BOS.

Shortly after takeoff I explored the entertainment system. While the selection of movies and TV shows was not as broad as my recent AF flight, it still had plenty of options to keep oneself occupied on a long flight. To start off, I decided to explore the global cinema selection and chose Fala Serio, Mae a Brazilian film about raising a teenager. During this time the flight attendants came around offering free ear buds. Seeing as mine were working just fine with the system, I decided not to use one. After a short wait, the flight attendants came through and did a beverage/snack service. I got a water, and the flight attendants handed out the same good sesame crackers as on my previous flight. Right before lunch began I finished up my first movie and I began to watch the Disaster Artist. The options were either beef strips or lasagne, and I chose the beef.

Image The tray

Image The beef strips entree

Image The cold salad

Being an Italian airline, I expected the food to be good, and I was wrong. While the beef in the beef strips entree was tender, it was also bland, with the gravy adding no additional flavor to it. The potatoes were also quite bland. The turkey and potato salad was also very bland, and the roll while warmed was not accompanied by any butter or cheese (something that I have never seen before). The citrus cake that was served for desert though was quite good. Somewhere over the UK the flight attendants came through and collected the trays.

For the remainder of the flight I proceeded to finish up the Disaster Artist and then watch the Simpsons Movie, Argo, and 3 episodes of Family Guy. During the cruise I did not see the flight attendants moving about the cabin. But they did have a beverage station set up in the back galley that passengers could walk up to and use. About 1.5 hours out of Boston the flight attendants came through and distributed the US declaration cards. Soon after they came through with a snack service that consisted of beverages and some sort of hot pocket/mini calzone which I passed on because I was not hungry.

Image The hot pocket

Soon we began the descent into BOS and the flight attendants came through the cabin to prepare it for arrival.

Image On final into BOS

The landing itself was soft but it appeared as if we touched down on the right side before the left, leading to a very bouncy landing. During the landing the pilot applied a lot of braking but no reverser.

Image HU B789 taking off for China

Image QK

After a short taxi, we arrived into the gate in Boston 25 minutes early. Because I utilized mobile passport, my family was through US CBP in record time. After reclaiming our bags, we proceeded to exit the baggage claim area and arrive right on time for the shuttle to our car.

Overall Weighted Score
During all the services the flight attendants provided a warm, polite service. I would have liked to see is them more during the flight (such as coming through to offer water every 30 minutes, but otherwise they did a good job).

Image
4.05/5

Summary

AF: The soft product and entertainment system was very good-excellent, but the hard product/leg room is dragging them down.
OK: For a low cost airline they did a good job
AZ: Despite not being a major European airline, I found that they had a hard product that could easily compete with the likes of AF, BA, or LH, and an entertainment system that while not industry leading still kept me occupied for the full flight. But, their food service needs to improve.

The spreadsheet that I have linked to below contains all my scores of airlines- from when I first started keeping records to the present.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vQLdC5gvtw6ytfXiF76l6VxfYiTl_m9BGirmbT6C6wOR8v2Anr7P_IO-ddFDw6SVOqoNj12cLxW13N-/pubhtml

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