This mini trip report aims to review a current Czech Airlines' short haul business class. I bought this flight ticket as I knew I would need to visit Tbilisi as well as to burn my OK Plus miles before abandoning this FFP. Leaving OK Plus is a result of recent changes to the program which caused all my miles would expire on October 1st. The total price for the one-way ticket was 35 thousand miles plus around $60 in fees. The airport tax in TBS is zero as I was told by the operator during my reservation process.
As Czech Airlines have been in red numbers for what looks like ever (and the numbers don't look that bad just because they have been selling anything that could be sold), they do many adjustments to their network (to reduce loss, not to make a profit). As a part of it they first cancelled service to Tbilisi just to announce a few weeks later they would fly there but only twice a week and through Baku. And luckily for me, they kept it like that still in August so I would have an interesting deviation. Still, I can't imagine the Tbilisi service was losing money. I admit it's just my assumption though and I don't have any official numbers or statistics. Every time me or my wife flew to Tbilisi with Czech Airlines, the cheapest tickets were close to $500 a/i. And this was mostly winter time while the main season is summer. And all those flights were at least 80 % full including business class.
OK942, A319, OK-NEO
Photo © Vladimir Pouche - LKPR Spotters
Still jet-lagged after arriving from Australia one day eariler. I went to the non-Schengen terminal of Prague airport one and a half hour before the evening departure.
I was expecting a brisk check-in. Instead, the agent staring at his screen and after a minute turned to her colleague asking something. Turned out several seats in the business class were blocked and they had to make a phone call somewhere to unblock them to be able to print out the boarding pass. Why would they block the seats? Did they not know how many business class passengers they had that night? The answer would come after boarding.
I headed through a Fast Track line at immigration to the air side of the terminal. After that I headed upstairs to the MasterCard lounge for a short while. I didn't take any photo but you can see some in my previous report. There was not much happening on the tarmac in front of the lounge so I left even before the boarding was announced.
After a security inspection it didn't take more than 10 minutes and the boarding began.
After getting on board I found the classic business class configuration. Blankets and pillows were provided on each seat. These seats are a nothing extra but of course they are more comfortable than Lufthansa's narrow body chairs of torture. I found on my seat there was one flight attendant's hand luggage which she promptly took away. Later on we talked for a while and she explained to me that now when flying Tbilisi through Baku they have to send extra two flight attendants and an extra pilot. And usually, they block the whole last business class row in the system for them. That's also why it took longer to print a boarding pass for me. All seats in the more forward rows were already taken. Yet again I started wondering why would Czech Airlines reduce Tbilisi for the main season. On the way back to Prague all the flights were incredibly full and I was struggling to get two seats with Turkish (I had to flash my status card).
The legroom was adequate for a short flight.
A trick how to make a wider seat using a standard seat. No problem with that, it does the job.
I never really took any photo of the CSA's amenity kit as it looks rather dull. But I decided to document it for once
It's all there. No fancy brands but who cares.
During push back.
We took of like a charm and headed towards the overcast sky.
After penetrating the rather thin mass of condensed droplets and frozen crystals, the views improved and the Moon welcomed us to the show. I guess by now you can tell I do love clouds.
The service started with salted fried almonds and beverages.
CSA have a cool watermark on the table cloth.
There was no menu and no meal selection. However the chicken boneless thigh with mashed peas and egg-spinach cake was really good. Fruit appetizer was a brilliant and the honey tart wasn't too shabby either.
A detail on the cutlery.
After flying over all Georgia we entered Azerbaijan air space and started our gradual descent. It didn't take long and we landed at Baku airport from the North. We taxied to a stand (there are no jetways in the current terminal) and those flying to Baku—about two thirds—deplaned. After that (and re-fueling) we pushed back.
Next to this old terminal there is a construction ongoing of the new one. There were no strong lights though so it was not possible to take photos.
We took off and made a right turn around Baku. At about 2000 m altitude the plane shook a few times while climbing through a few clouds. The rest of the flight was completely calm. Only beverages were served on this hop.
We were not granted landing from our direction so we had to circle Tbilisi from the South. This was the first time I used airstairs here and I utilized the fact to take a photo while getting on the bus. During the first attempt the TAV agent told me I was not allowed to take photos so I had to wait until he turns again. Btw. there was probably a special minibus for business class passengers but it's just my assumption as it was not marked. Though one of the passengers who was in the front cabin went there. Anyway I took a bus with everyone else.
The immigration was fast as usually. At baggage claim there were no glimpses of our flight number on the screens so it was a good thing they only have two belts. Eventually the luggage came out.
This was definitely a nice flight. Personally I'm glad to fly via Baku, although I'm not sure how economical it is for the airline. I would take CSA any time but the uncertainty of the routes being still in service when you want to go is not the most convincing.