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Canada to Czechia - June/July 2020 - AC & LH J

Canada to Czechia - June/July 2020 - AC & LH J

Old Jul 14, 20, 5:32 am
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Location: Calgary, Canada
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Canada to Czechia - June/July 2020 - AC & LH J

Here's a trip report that I shared with friends and family. The outbound journey was the last weekend of June, and I just returned home on Sunday. I'll do a post for the outbound journey, one for some photos around Prague, then a third for the return.

4 short months ago, this would have been the same old trip as usual. The same type of trip that millions of people around the world were taking every single day. How so much has changed since then. First, this trip was delayed and changed many times, initially due to the pandemic itself and need to stay home, but later because of the massive reductions in flights. We were originally booked to come at the end of April but cancelled that since it was during the height of the pandemic both at home and in Europe. In late March we changed the trip to the end of June, but then had to rebook multiple times due to many flight cancellations. A simple Calgary-London-Prague became Calgary-Montreal-Zurich-Prague then Calgary-Toronto-Zurich-Prague, then finally Calgary-Toronto-Frankfurt-Prague. Here’s our journey in photos and a few words.

Calgary Airport Departures Curbside – deserted

Calgary Airport Air Canada check-in area – deserted except for a few staff

The departure board shows all of the flights for the next 24 hours and it’s barely more than half full

Finally we’re up in the air. There was uncertainty at a few points along the way – the first hurdle of which was to get our boarding passes in Calgary. The massive amount of travel/entry restrictions around the world makes it not at all straightforward to travel to most places right now.

We were totally exhausted after a busy week at home.

Here’s what you get onboard instead of an amenity kit – a Clean Care kit containing a small water bottle, gloves, hand sanitizer, a mask, and alcohol wipes. These were provided to all passengers pre-departure.

Passengers in business class were offered a pre-packaged cold dinner box containing a chicken club wrap, quinoa salad, packaged almonds and a kit kat. And more alcohol wipes. There was no choice in food. I think on this flight (Calgary-Toronto) passengers in Economy got nothing.

By using Aeroplan points gained through credit cards and purchasing a top-up amount during a recent promotion, it was actually significantly cheaper to fly in business class rather than pay cash for an economy ticket plus all of the extra baggage fees. As you can see, the cabin is not very full. There were 87 people on this flight which was operated by a Boeing 787-9 with 298 seats.

Instead of port and something sweet for dessert, we get another bottle of water and more antiseptic wipes.

Arriving at Toronto Pearson Airport we find the terminal with few people and all shops and food outlets closed.

There are no more flights leaving this evening or late night.

We just had to take a photo with the penguin statue, of course

Toronto Pearson baggage pickup area – deserted

I am so thankful that we didn’t have to pick up our baggage for the overnight layover. We had 4 x 70 pound bags, a moving box, and a bike.

On Sunday afternoon we headed back to the airport. The check in area is of course, deserted. All of the active check-in desks were compressed into a single aisle.

The high speed moving sidewalk only has 1 sweetie to transport.

The Tilted Spheres are devoid of people.

There were literally thousands of seats to choose from in the hammerhead area of Terminal 1. The closest people to us were over a hundred metres away.

A completely empty area of the international concourse.

There are only 3 international flights this afternoon/evening. The Zurich and Frankfurt flight gates were positioned at opposite ends of the hammerhead giving people lots of room to spread out.

We already knew what to expect, but the gate agent announced over the intercom that the food service in all cabins was limited to prepackaged boxes with no choice in food and only water to drink. They encouraged people to buy takeout food at one of the few outlets that was open. They also made a point of mentioning that the duty free shop was open and sold alcohol but that it was unlawful to consume your own alcohol on board.

Even though the service is minimal, it’s always nice to sit in the front of the bus and have a comfortable seating area for a long flight. There are 147 people on this 400 seater Boeing 777-300ER.

We’ve pushed back. Only parked planes in view. Not much movement other than the ramp agent handling our flight.

Allow me to introduce “Gentleman”. He’s going to be my travelling buddy for the next year.

Here we have the Air Canada international business class dinner offering. I didn’t care for the potatoes but everything else was decent. It would have been really nice had wine been available. The cabin crew on both of our flights seemed to feel really bad they couldn’t offer anything else than water to drink. Clearly Air Canada (amongst several other airlines) have decided to toss a cost savings measure under the guise of safety. There’s almost no difference in handing out bottles of water than canned soda pop or airplane bottles of wine/spirits.

Sunset over the North Atlantic.

Breakfast offering. I’d be pi$$ed if I had paid the asking price for these flights.

Approaching Frankfurt Airport.

Passport Control area – deserted. No waiting time. I didn't notice until we got home, but they didn't stamp either my passport or my daughter's passport (both Canadian).

Hard to believe it’s Monday morning peak time in one of the global financial and travel hubs.

There are a lot more flights here than in North America.

It’s still pretty empty though. Usually this corridor would be full of people.

Thankfully the lounge is open and we can get some coffee and a little breakfast before our next flight. It was about 60% full. Other than the staff, only about 10% of people were wearing masks. They were mandatory in the rest of the airport; perhaps the lounge qualifies as a restaurant?

The food offer was more basic than one would usually expect but they had some nice pretzels. Sadly there was no mustard but this one with cream cheese, cucumber and radish was pretty good with an espresso.

We’re on our last, short hop over to Prague. Frankurt Airport is literally a parking lot for Lufthansa’s fleet of the world’s biggest planes Here we’ve got a Boeing 747-8 that’s not flown for over 3 months. Across the field there were many A380s and 747s parked all nicely in a row with nowhere to go.

Here’s the Boeing 777-300ER that brought us over from Toronto. Usually there would be dozens of aircraft coming and going from all over the world at this time of day, but the only other non-European aircraft I saw were 2 United planes.

Lufthansa is one of the airlines still providing a proper offering of food and beverage. It’s not the same as usual (no open bar service on the trolley, etc) but this is pretty good for a 50 minute flight. Had a nice fresh cup of coffee, too. Thankfully my return trip to Canada is on Lufthansa.

We’re approaching Prague Airport.

The Czech countryside just north of Prague.

We are the only aircraft arriving in Prague at this time of the morning.

All of the shops are closed.

This area of the Schengen terminal is dead. We had to go through an intra-Schengen passport control here in Prague which has been reinstated in many countries during the pandemic.

Coronavirus testing is mandatory for passengers on arrival in Czechia if you are coming from outside the EU, or from one of the orange / red countries within the EU. This station was just set up a couple of days ago at the airport. You could also do the test at the local hygiene station (health ministry), but we chose to do it here to get the last unpleasant part of our travel over and done with. It cost the equivalent of 100 Canadian dollars per person.

We’ve got our test results back late in the evening same day – all clear!!

The empty airports with everything shuttered and aircraft parked is really sad to see and quite surreal. It’s also still quite difficult to travel across borders. If we weren’t prepared, we could have had real problems completing this journey. We went to the airport 4 hours early in Calgary as that’s where we would be verified for the entire journey and have our boarding passes issued. Initially the check in agent thought that we would have a problem transiting Germany since only my wife holds an EU passport, but then I pointed out that transit restrictions were not applicable to family members of citizens of EU member states, and after a quick call from him to the Air Canada travel office to authorize our check-in, we were on our way. We encountered some others who weren’t so lucky – at the gate in Toronto, boarding the flight to Frankfurt, there was a couple in the other lane who got the nasty beep and pulled aside when their boarding passes were scanned. I’m not sure of all the details, but from what I overheard, they were heading to Italy and had permanent residence there, but weren’t EU citizens. That created a problem for them to transit Germany. As we passed our document checks, the gate agent was making phone calls to the travel office and asking the couple to pull out all of their documentation. I guess it didn’t end well. Just before scheduled departure time the captain came on the intercom and stated that our departure would be delayed by about 15 minutes as bags were being offload for a couple of people who wouldn’t be joining us on the flight after all.

Another comment – we felt very safe the entire time we spent in the aircraft and airports. Mask wearing is mandatory in most places, cleaning staff are visibly sanitizing common areas of airports, and there is hand sanitizer everywhere.

Last edited by YYCCL3; Jul 14, 20 at 5:46 am
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Old Jul 14, 20, 6:00 am
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Hi - thanks for the trip report to CZ.
I am of Czech origin and hold both Canadian and Czech (EU) passports. Normally, at this time, I would be in Prague for a summer vacation. This year I decided not to go since I was not ready to be quarantined for two weeks upon return to Canada.
As BA Silver, I usually fly YUL-(JFK sometimes)-LHR-PRG. Presently, there are no BA flights between YUL and LHR.
AC/LH seems to be running regularly, and it would be a good option.
I am curious to read about your inbound flights.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 7:29 am
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This is a very special and unique time to be in Europe in summer. Always the busiest season for tourism with packed attractions, restaurants, lines everywhere and sky high prices, this quiet summer of 2020 will be one for the books. We spent a beautiful summer Saturday seeing some of the classic sights of Prague with no lines, no crowds, no one speaking English, Russian, or Chinese heard anywhere (!!), and much lower prices for food and drink than usual. It’s lively here, but was so much more relaxing and enjoyable than navigating the hordes. No sign of any polar bears, giant bubble wands, or overpriced Old Prague Ham.

The Prague main railway station is usually full of tourists with kids and lots of luggage in tow. Not today.

We need to get some errands done in the shopping centre adjacent to Náměstí Republiky. Here we see the Powder Tower and Municipal House.

An older tram going through Republic Square.

An empty street leading to the Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square). You can hardly believe that it’s right around the corner.

Prices are coming down, too. That’s 38 Kč for a pint of beer – about $2 Canadian – directly adjacent to the Old Town Square. In recent years it was 3 times the price.

We’re in the Square and it is really unbelievable that it’s a Saturday on a long weekend in July.

We have some delicious pizza at a place we’ve been a few times before.

There’s literally no one here. The impressive cathedral is Church of Our Lady before Týn.

It’s the top of the hour and there are lots of people watching the Orloj (600 year old clock) do its thing. It’s a little busy.

This is how it usually looks at the top of the hour. I took the previous photo from a place that was basically in the center of this one looking the other way (towards this cameraperson).

This narrow street leading to Charles Bridge is a place that you can’t usually see the street surface at all during daytime hours.

Lots of discounts at restaurants and bars. Mostly 20-30% off posted prices, or some had adjust menus entirely. I saw as much as a 50% discount off food at a cafe inside the Castle. Places that had no discount offered were devoid of customers.

Classic view of Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) from Charles Bridge.

A marionettist on the bridge plays some fun songs that kids passing by very much enjoyed.

Big change from the wall to wall people you’d usually see. It’s noon now. Next, we’ll climb up the tower at the end of the bridge.

A nice view of where we just came from.

Up we go to the Prague Castle on an empty staircase.

St. Vitus Cathedral

We’re back at the Old Town Square. We’ll go inside Tyn Church next.

We respected their request to not take interior photos, so here’s a stock photo showing what it looks like.

We wander over to see if there are any good tables for a drink before heading home. We got a table directly in front of the Orloj with no crowds just by showing up !!

We pass through Na příkopě, one of the most expensive shopping streets in Europe. Empty.

This is the Metro concourse of the Praha hlavní nádraží. Again, deserted.

What a treat it was to be able to experience one of the busiest tourist cities of Europe in a relaxing manner. Usually after a day like this you’d be totally exhausted and frazzled from navigating crowds. Wouldn’t it be nice to see what Venice, Rome, Paris, etc are like these days…
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Old Jul 14, 20, 7:45 am
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After our lovely Saturday evening in Prague, I started my journey home Sunday morning – but not too early! The three of us had a quick breakfast at the airport, which wasn’t cheap, but surprisingly good.

The bus dropped us off at a deserted Prague Airport arrivals area.

Hardly anyone in the departures area, either. Just like the special intra-Schengen entry passport control we experienced on arrival, there was also an intra-Schengen exit passport control just before security. The officer in Prague, as well as the regular exit-Schengen passport control officer in Frankfurt later, were both puzzled as to why my passport wasn’t stamped on entry 2 weeks earlier and I was questioned a bit about the circumstances.

My plane has just arrived from Frankfurt. Only a few gates are occupied by aircraft.

They’ve applied these cute decals to the fuselage just beside the door. I like it.

Surprisingly, Lufthansa is able to figure out a safe way to provide food – decent food at that – to passengers, even on this short 1 hour flight! Instead of a cart with food and drink, you place your order with the flight attendant and they retrieve everything from the galley. I asked if I could have a beer or wine on this flight – I didn’t actually want one as it was only 1030 AM – and the flight attendant said of course you can. I showed her what we were offered for food and drink on the long haul Air Canada business class flight on the way over and she was appalled and flabbergasted.

Each passenger was handed a SARS-CoV-2 information form on behalf of the German government.

It’s a nice morning over Germany!

The Schengen concourse in Frankfurt area is a little busier than it was a couple of weeks ago but still generally empty.

The tunnel to Concourse B (International non-USA flights) is practically deserted.

A beautiful Boeing 747-8

Not many shops open.

MLL closed.

The Lufthansa Senator Lounge is open, still with basic food and drink (but the beer taps were in service today)!

I just love eating pretzels in Europe 😀

The lounge has a great view of the apron and taxiways for planespotting.

Here’s my ride to Vancouver this afternoon. An Airbus A330-300 with 255 seats. There are 110 passengers on board today. It’s a bit more than I expected given that Lufthansa just resumed service to Vancouver last week. All passengers had their temperature taken at the gate.

We have an entire row to ourselves.

Aircraft parked over by the cargo area.

Under construction Frankfurt Airport Terminal 3 is a parking lot for widebody Lufthansa aircraft 😦

As mentioned earlier, Lufthansa is a huge winner in food / beverage service onboard right now compared to Air Canada.

I didn’t think it would be prudent to wander around the aircraft to take photos, but I did pop in to the business class mini-cabin which was totally empty.

I always love a window seat for westbound flights over the Arctic.

After 4 glasses of wine, I have the first of two espressos!

Look! Another proper meal before landing! The cabin crew on this flight was so enthusiastic and grateful to be flying passengers again. Many of them had been on furlough for a month or more and had recently returned to working. They were so thankful and appreciative to be providing service.

Gentleman was thirsty on this flight.

Just about to land in Vancouver. We traversed BC from Grande Prairie in a SSW direction. Unfortunately it was mostly cloudy over the mountain ranges.

Here’s the secure area above the international concourse leading you to CBSA passport control. I was the first person off our plane and thankfully so, as I could also see a flight from China pulling in to a gate nearby. All travellers arriving in Canada have to provide contact information on arrival so that officials can follow up for various reasons, the big three being to ensure that you are in an appropriate isolation spot, to ensure you’re not sick, and to assist in contact tracing. There’s an app that was produced to eliminate the use of paper forms. I diligently filled it out onboard and was awaiting the final step, which was to enter a code which would be visible in the airport on arrival. We were told shortly after this photo that the app wasn’t working and everyone would need to fill out paper forms at some make shift folding tables in the hallway near the escalators. Your Canadian tax dollars at work.

I quickly filled out the form and came around the corner to an utterly deserted CBSA hall. There’s usually hundreds of people in here. I was the only non-staff person in here at this time. CBSA was quick and painless since I wasn’t really bringing much back and I was coming from relatively safe countries. Apart from the usual questions, I was asked to confirm that I had a suitable place to isolate where I could avoid contact with other people, and if I had made arrangements for groceries and medications to be delivered. I was given a leaflet which detailed isolation guidelines and what to do if you develop symptoms, etc.

Unfortunately due to lack of flights, the connection service was closed and I had to haul my checked bag all the way to the opposite end of the terminal and re-check it. It was, of course, basically empty. My temperature was taken at the security screening area after I dropped off my bag.

After killing some time wandering around, it’s time to get on board the last flight of the day. It was packed. I didn’t ask, but I would say the flight was 90% full if not more.

Remember what I’d received earlier in the day from Lufthansa, even on the short flight? As a reminder, here is the Air Canada offering. Hasn’t changed since we left. Bag of sanitary goods and a bottle of water.

Back in Calgary, and hey, look, another thundershower with hail. Wouldn’t be Stampede week without it!

And that’s that. Now in isolation for 2 weeks. I have lots of friends offering to help out getting me the things that I need and I’m already fully stocked with groceries. It will be boring but just fine. I hope that the next time I’m travelling that the situation will be improved and the experience closer to normal! As long as things don't deteriorate, my next intercontinental flight will be on LX. Fingers crossed!
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Old Jul 14, 20, 7:47 am
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Originally Posted by Vaclav View Post
Hi - thanks for the trip report to CZ.
I am of Czech origin and hold both Canadian and Czech (EU) passports. Normally, at this time, I would be in Prague for a summer vacation. This year I decided not to go since I was not ready to be quarantined for two weeks upon return to Canada.
As BA Silver, I usually fly YUL-(JFK sometimes)-LHR-PRG. Presently, there are no BA flights between YUL and LHR.
AC/LH seems to be running regularly, and it would be a good option.
I am curious to read about your inbound flights.
You might want to reconsider not going - now that you've seen some of my pics of Prague. It's unbelievable how enjoyable it is these days! I wish I could stay for whole summer there!!

I usually take BA too (we're BA gold) but BA has cancelled YYC this year. I doubt it will come back for a long time.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 8:28 am
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Originally Posted by YYCCL3 View Post
You might want to reconsider not going - now that you've seen some of my pics of Prague. It's unbelievable how enjoyable it is these days! I wish I could stay for whole summer there!!

I usually take BA too (we're BA gold) but BA has cancelled YYC this year. I doubt it will come back for a long time.
Your pictures from Prague are lovely. And yes, I am familiar with every single site. I am told by my friends there how beautiful and empty the city is now. And no hordes of uninformed tourists shopping for souvenirs that are not even Czech.

The deterrent is a fortnight isolation in Canada. I can easily work from home, live by myself , need no medication so far and can get all the groceries necessary. Yet not being able to go out is stopping me in the tracks.

New the Czech side made the entry even easier. Let's hope that Canada will start to reciprocate by the end of summer.

Thanks again for the report.​​​​​​
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Old Jul 14, 20, 9:35 am
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That's a great report. Prague reminds of when I went in 1994 just before it totally exploded tourism-wise. I would have liked to get over to Germany this summer but the travel medical insurance issue and 2 week self isolation on return to Canada has me just staying home until those issues are resolved. Normally I'd take AC J over LH because of the better seat but with fairly empty cabins and LH having closer to normal in cabin service I think they might be the #1 option right now
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Old Jul 14, 20, 10:26 am
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A really great report and I love the pix of your daughter standing in this strangely vacant spaces.

And, of course, it's amazing that LH can still offer a decent selection of food and liquor on their long haul flights while AC claims that they can't. While I'm not usually a fan of LH or FRA, you've got me thinking about possible better options for my next TATL flight.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 10:32 am
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These photos of empty terminals are surreal. I had the experience in the YYZ T1 parking garage: why am I in this gigantic place alone?
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Old Jul 14, 20, 12:59 pm
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Nice trip report. Go Flames! Can't believe Jarome Iginla is headed to the hall of fame. I feel old.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 1:42 pm
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Gotta say I felt like I just went on the trip with you lol. It's refreshing to see a different format compared to all these well known bloggers. Thank you for sharing.

Side note, IMO really shows how far behind N/A carriers are with their soft products even before the pandemic.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 1:59 pm
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Great trip report.

Thank you for all the photos and descriptions.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 5:56 pm
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Great TR from my home town It is so weird in PRG with almost no tourists.
Hopefully I will be able to fly with LH over to LIS next week after this months of craziness.
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Old Jul 15, 20, 3:13 pm
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Thanks so much for taking the time to give us this TR!
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Old Jul 16, 20, 2:28 am
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Originally Posted by YYCCL3 View Post

There are a lot more flights here than in North America.
Many flights on the screen actually says "Zug", which means train in German (or in this case, high speed ICE train), and departs from the FRA airport station.
It's quite common in Europe for high speed rail to attach a flight codeshare number as well.
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