(this report was written on my phone while on the road, so grammar and spelling may falter at times)
For the last couple of years I've travelled twice a year to USA in order to keep my Skyteam gold card alive with CSA Czech Airlines. However, after a baby and bank loan came in to the picture I found myself without money to keep up my flying this year. As luck would have it Lufthansa had a status match promotion as my CSA gold card was about to run out. So I matched my CSA gold card to a Lufthansa one. Now as that one is about to run out CSA started a status match promotion. Could it be as easy as OK matching the card LH matched from OK? Would a back-to-back status match work?
I wrote CSA and enquired if I was eligible and got a positive reply so started planning a trip. It had to be as cheap as possible and not over a weekend as I was to use overtime to get time off for it. This basically ruled out any return ticket with CSA as that would require an Saturday night stay. Instead I managed to find a possibility via Dusseldorf. CSA has good one-way fares ex all their German destinations and I could get to Germany at a very low cost thanks to a great travel agent discount on Air Berlin. They had a suitable flight so I could leave after work on a Wednesday, sleep at the airport and then take the CSA morning connection back to Finland. It was difficult to coordinate with all parties and flights to find an available day though. When I finally had set a date it was only two days to departure and the Dusseldorf-flight was booked full. Instead I opted for the same plan but via Berlin instead, which would require half a day off more as that flight left Helsinki already at 13.10. Since I would have such a long day in Berlin I also decided to book a hotel instead of sleeping on a bench. Total cost for the flights + hotel came to €250. I was excited to fly CSA but had read here that their business class was not like it used to be a few years ago, read on to see the verdict...
AB8309 25AUG 3 HELTXL 1310 1410 -B737
I worked my half day and then took the bus to the airport, on the way waiting 25 minutes in line to speak to my mobile phone company (Saunalahti) that I recently switched to, to make sure roaming would work once I got to Germany. The first call got disconnected so I had to wait another 25 minutes to speak to a representative, who told me everything looked just fine. At the airport there was a very long line for the Turkish Airlines check-in but none for Air Berlin, funny considering Air Berlin is the low cost carrier. I guess most AB-passengers had done internet check-in just like I. Security check was quick but since a couple of months you must show your boarding card to get through, this was actually never necessary in Helsinki before!
Boarding started early but I waited to board until last on this almost full flight, in order to see if I could switch to an emergency exit seat. My plan worked very well and upon boarding I got a whole emergency row for myself. Announces from the cockpit were too soft to hear while the purser's announcements were so loud you had to cover your ears. How come this happens so often on airplanes? I've always liked Air Berlin: from a passenger perspective they provide good service at a low cost and from a travel agent perspective their fares are very well constructed and combinable. Service was the usual sandwich with soft drinks. As I was seated in the middle of the plane I had to wait until last though before the attendants reached me so there was no time to nap after the meal.
The flight went by quickly and we had soon landed in Berlin. Having lived in Austria twice it is always nice to come to a German-spreading country again. I had booked a room with a great discount at an Art'Otel. It was just fine but I didn't like having Andy Warhol starting at me in bed... Of course my sim-card did NOT work in Germany and waiting on hold to speak to customer service from the hotel phone would be far too expensive. However Skype on my laptop could work. Unfortunately my laptop must have received a bump or something during the trip because it refused to start
. Although it powers on nothing shows on the screen, let's hope I can extract the data on the hard drive still. Thanks to my phone I managed to go to the phone operator's discussion forum and pose my question there. A representative had soon answered and with a changed setting by them at least the sim was working.
OK 571 26AUG 4 TXLHEL 0905 1005 - ATR 72
Don't like strangers staring at me..
Sauerkraut, Knödel & Bratwurest - things hard to find in Finland
The next morning I took the bus to the airport and was surprised to find that CSA flies from what can best be described as an appendix terminal; terminal D. I was informed the flight would be full and I was put on the waiting list for business class. Free system-wide upgrades for elites really is a great benefit of their OK Plus program. In the terminal there was no lounge, not that I had been able to get in with my silver card anyway. The gate agent arrived only minutes before she began boarding. I approached her to see if I could get a window seat and saw that she was processing op-ups: none of the upgraded boarding passes had elite status or even a frequent flyer number written on them! She ignored my question and instead exchanged my boarding pass for a new one in business and proceeded to board me as the first passenger on the bus. I would have preferred to wait until last so I would be first off the bus, oh well it is not the end of the world.
The plane was indeed full in economy. Business saw me, a guy in paid c and the two upgrades who - in CSA's defence - did look very business like. It is funny how two flight attendants with 70 passengers manage to serve business class a meal tray, bread and drinks plus giving economy passengers a sandwich on a 45-minute flight when you can hear announcements like "due to the short duration of this flight there will be no service" on much longer flights taking place across the pond. The meal was 4 different cheeses, ham, yoghurt, bread and a cookie - more than expected for a flight of this length.
OK480 26AUG 4 PRGHEL 1250 1600 -737
A good business class breakfast
During may layover I went to the transfer desk to be put on the waiting list for business class upgrade and there saw a family of 6 who had missed their connection to Paris being put on a flight 10 hours later! Why weren't they rerouted on a connecting flight instead? Well, at least they got accommodation at an airport hotel for the waiting time. It has been a while since I last flew CSA but I remembered that the generic lounge sometimes had better selections than the CSA one. Thus I had a good time waiting in the Diners lounge (Menzies) where I sat at a workstation investigating if my insurance would cover my broken laptop.
Half an hour before departure I proceeded to my gate at the far end of the terminal. The last times I've flown on this flight we've always been bussed to the jet, luckily this was not the case any more. Once on board business passengers' coats were taken and a pre-drink offered. Newspapers were handed out but unfortunately there seemed to be no more english periodicals like before (Economist, Times, etc used to be available). The doors were closed on time and then there was an announcement from the cockpit that I didn't hear probably explaining why we would push back 15 minutes late.
Just like last time we received a drink before dinner, but menus were no longer handed out (menus on a flight of this length were always a bit over the top in my opinion). Nor was there any meal choice anymore, I was however saddened to see that the quality of the meal received had also deteriorated. My meal consisted of fried cheese
(!!) with ratatouille, cut vegetables (not salad), bread and a dessert that was hardly nothing but cream. The CSA desserts used to consist of a piece of cake covered in much too much cream but now they reduced it to whipped cream only with some garments on it. The stewardesses were nice still and gladly gave me a second meal when I asked for it, as well as plenty of refills on the drinks.
I had expected more in business class
All in all the trip was ok, the broken laptop keep shadowing it. Air Berlin is a good carrier, as is CSA still. However you could easily tell that CSA had done a lot of cost cutting in both cabins so it is not what it used to be (isn't that what all of us on this forum are saying about all carriers
). Now only thing left is to see if the double status match also works!
Please do leave a comment if you read this far, it will put a smile on my face!
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