We booked through a Croatian travel agent in Queens at the last minute and got an incredible fare of $587 RT.
27 Dec 2002
VS 46 JFK-LHR
A340-300 G-VELD "African Queen"
Photo © Chris Sheldon
We got to JFK with more than 3 hours to spare and checked in for VS 46. Although they couldn't check us in for Croatia Airlines, our bags were checked all the way to Split (SPU). Had a beer or two, went through security, which was welcomingly tight and proceeded to the gate. Boarding began and I was soon aboard my first A340. The VS colors are unusual to ugly, to say the least and the seat pitch, as we know, is pretty bad in the back. But we were on our way so it didn't matter too much. Take off from 31L was on time so we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the entertainment system. Dinner was some kind of turkey that I didn't really care for that much.
As we approached LHR we were put into a holding pattern, did two loops around and landed on 27L.
28 Dec 2002
OU 491 LHR-ZAG
A319 9A-CTL "Pula"
Photo © Florian Eggenschwiler
After navigating the maze from one terminal to the other we checked in at a "generic counter" for Croatia Airlines service to Zagreb. We were assigned seats 5AB, which are in the coach but business class section of the A319, which was a nice bonus. Proceeded to the appropriate gate and boarded promptly.
The inside of the A319 was nice and fresh, very clean. Announcements and the safety video were made in Croatian and English. We were served a cold platter of thick cold turkey slices with cold beans and some other stuff, none of which was to my liking. Flight time was a little over 2 hours. We landed at Zagreb and went through customs, which was nothing.
Zagreb airport definitely has an "old world, eastern Europe feel." It's very drab. Went to our connecting "gate" as there are no jet ways and you take a bus out to every flight. Our scheduled aircraft was supposed to be OU's only BAe-146 on lease from flightline UK but instead we got right back on the same plane we took from LHR complete with the same crew.
28 Dec 2002
A319 9A-CTL "Pula"
Photo © Christoph Fiedler
Flight time was a quick 45 mins and we touched down at the even sparser SPU. Small Croatian chocolates were handed out on this flight.
So we go to the baggage carousel, that looked like it was from 1957, and guess what? My friend's bag was there but mine wasn't. So I filled out a form and they said they'd track it down for me. To make a long story short, I got my bag 6 days later after 20 phone calls to VS and OU. Turns out the bag's bar code tag fell off in LHR. Kudos to OU for trying so hard, tracking it down and hand delivering it to me. NO KUDOS AT ALL to VS for not calling the phone number on the luggage tag!!!! That would have been a really simple thing to do, idiots..... When I finally got my bag it had traveled on LH via FRA, according to the tags. I've never been on LH or to Germany, but my bag has!
Croatia is a wonderful country full of great people, I had an amazing time.
part two coming....