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newbief1yer
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Posts: 623
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:35 pm

Christmas and New Years at Croatia - 2018

Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:05 pm

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Video Reports

Croatia Airlines - OU664 - Zagreb to Dubrovnik - A319-100 (9A-CTL)

London to Dubrovnik (the long way), via Paris and Zagreb - AF1681, OU471 & OU664

British Airways BA849 - Club Europe - Zagreb to London - A321-200 (G-EUXD)


Hello A'netters. Happy new year! Hope you are well.

Background

It was time to plan our Christmas and new year's plan. My initial thought was to do a similar road trip across France and Switzerland, like last year, but I got vetoed against by the missus. After a bit a deliberation, we zeroed in on the beautiful and off the beaten track destination of Croatia! The plan was to head to Dubrovnik and then make our way over to Zagreb.

Getting to Dubrovnik seemed a bit convoluted. After a bit of research I chose the KLM option to Zagreb, via Amsterdam followed by a short hop on Croatia Airlines. I had an option of using my Delta SkyMile points on the KLM sector, but the flight timing was a bit too aggressive (6:30 AM start followed by a 7 hour transit in Amsterdam) It was a holiday! So decided to pay the extra £200 premium for the ticket but with much better timings and options. (15K points + £45 in taxes, via the Delta option). This would still mean that the entire first day of our trip would go in reaching Dubrovnik!

15 minutes later, we were all booked in!

I used the KLM website to make the booking to Zagreb and the Croatia Airlines website to make the booking for the connecting flight to Dubrovnik. KLM as before was easy to use and seamless. Similarly the Croatia Airlines website was easy to navigate although it did not feel as slick as the KLM portal. Looking forward to the trip.

Once in Zagreb, the plan was to reach Dubrovnik as early as possible, but given our previous itinerary would mean that we would not reach Zagreb until 5 PM, I chose the last available flight, on Croatian Airlines, just to cater for any unforeseen delays. But actually upon checking, this was actually the only other option available. There are 4 daily flights, with one in the morning, 2 of them around 2-3:00 PM and the last on at 21:00.

For our return we used an existing upgrade voucher to get a Club Europe seat. A good way to start the new year! Booking was done via the Avios website and it was easy enough to get it done using the upgrade voucher.

This route is flown by a mix of A319, A320 and A321. For the day we had booked this flight, we were scheduled to fly on an A319 but this later got changed to an A321. If only we would get one of the ex-BMI aircrafts, that would be special! Fingers crossed.!

Post booking, I got a WhatsApp and FB Messenger reminder along with the ticket details for my KLM flight. I had opted for it just to test how it works and I can confirm that it works well! I really liked the initiative from KLM. Gone are the days of the boring email confirmation!

KLM Issues, Again!

Later in July I got an email, WhatsApp and FB messenger message saying that our flight had been rescheduled! Looking at the new flight we were put on, it was for the next day! Once again, KLM issues! But then again, the KLM agent was very helpful and this time put us on a flight to Paris, on Air France, followed by a flight to Zagreb on Croatia Airlines!

And just when you thought it was resolved, the following day when I received the ticket, I noticed that the flights had been changed but my pre-paid baggage had not been included. Upon speaking to the KLM agent, she confirmed that it would not be possible due it being two separate carriers! Back to square one. So we had to amend the flight such that it is either one of KLM or Air France (or HOP). So we once again got rebooked to a different flight and hopefully this would be the last of it. But then when I got the ticket confirmation, the following day, it was back on the Croatian Airlines! This time including the check in baggage! Ah! I have no idea what is happening! Fingers crossed that it all works out in the end.

Day Before flight

Day before the flight, online check in via the KLM website worked perfectly well. OCI is available form 30 hours before a KLM flight. Few mandatory details were needed, and 5 minutes later it was done. Point to note was, I was able to amend seats for my Air France flight to Paris but not able to choose/amend seats for the Croatia Airlines section from Paris to Zagreb. However, not a deal breaker. Boarding passes were available to be printed or sent to WhatsApp and fb Messenger. I chose the WhatsApp option and it worked perfectly well!

For the Croatia Airlines, onward from Zagreb, Day before the flight Online Check in was easy and quick. OCI is available form 36 hours before the flight. Seat selection was minimal and it looked as if the aircraft had changed from an A320 to an A319.

Thanks for GCMap for the routing for this routing
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Air France & Croatian Airlines - AF1681 & AF5074 [old : KLM - KL1024 & KL1943]
Route: LHR - CDG - ZAG [LHR - AMS - ZAG]
Flight Reg:F-GTAU; Delivered to Air France on Feb 2009
Flight Reg:9A-CTG; Delivered to Croatian Airlines on Jan 1998; named Zadar
Aircraft Type: Airbus 321-200 & Airbus 319-100
Seat: 24B & 11F
Flight time: 09:00 - 11:25 (09:33 - 11:22) & 12:30 - 14:20 (12:54 - 14:18) [11:15 - 13:30 & 15:30 - 17:20 ]
Actual flight time: 49 min & 1 Hr 24 Min
Distance: 216 & 672 Miles
Load: 100 % load on both flight
22 December 2018
Booking details: Booked on KLM website for a total of £285 for 2 tickets including 1 check in baggage each.
My Log book: 1st Flight on Air France and 1st on Croatia Airlines / 10th flight on Airbus 321-200 & 9th Flight on Airbus 319-100/ 184th & 185th Total overall flight


Day of the flight, drive to the airport was a quick 40 minutes. Extremely good given that it takes an average of an hour to usually reach Heathrow.

Heathrow Terminal 4 on a Saturday morning
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Self-check in at Heathrow T4
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A full flight to Paris today. A lot of passengers connecting onwards to Africa
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Baggage tag dispensers
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Heading to security
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Quite a busy time at Heathrow. Baggage drop took around 15 minutes followed by another 15 minutes for security.

Flight arrived in to Heathrow on time. Boarding commenced at 8:35 and boarded by 8:50. It was a full flight for today and quite a lot of passengers were being held for excessive hand luggage.

Keeping up with the festive theme - At Airside T4
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Our ride to Paris
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Time to board
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Boarding sun rise shot
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Air France A321 Business class seating
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On-board I was asked not to shoot any videos, by the flight attendant, due to "privacy and safety reasons" I can understand about privacy but not sure about safety concerns here. A stark contrast to my recently concluded experience with SAS. Probably both situations at either end of the spectrum.

Aircraft looked clean but nothing outstanding. The aircraft was full and the overhead compartment was quickly filling up. Hence the strict hand luggage restriction. There were quite a few connecting passengers to African destinations and it's quite well known about the baggage that people carry to these destinations. And this flight was no different. I saw a lot of passengers being redirected to the oversized baggage counter to drop their bags.

Pushback at 9 15 am. Flight time of 45 minutes announced.

Hmm.. not the best view from our row (24), albeit we have 2 individual seats to ourselves
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Acceptable leg space
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Reading material on board
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A Qatar A380 queuing in front of us to take off. There was also an Etihad A380 after the Qatar A380
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As soon as we reached cruising altitude, snack service commenced. The flight attendants on this flight were quite stressed with the short time and a larger number of passengers to service.

Only 4 FA on this flight. Isn't there a legal requirement of a minimum of 1 Fa for every 50 passengers? If so, on this 212 passenger A321, don't we need 5 of them at a minimum?

Cabin view after take off
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Snack served on board - A Croissant and water/Tea/Coffee
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A quick croissant and water service later it was already time to land and the crew was admit rushing back to their stations.

We landed on time but there was bit of a delay before the entire flight could disembark.

Transit in Paris

Transit experience in Paris CDG was fairly seamless, which was quite unusual as I was expecting the contrary

We passed through security at terminal 2E and then had a coach ride to terminal 2D.

15 minutes later we were at our terminal and at our gates by 12:10, where boarding had already commenced. Good timing.

At Terminal 2E in Paris CDG
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A good short hop so far, by Air France.
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Exiting the aircraft
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Hmm.. where do we go now?
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This Way -> Transfer to Terminal 2D; 40 minutes to go.
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Security check
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Coach transfers to all other terminals
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15 minutes bus ride to terminal 2D (35 minutes left for our next flight)
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Good photo Op during this bus ride
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Jet Airways B77W
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Air Madagascar A343
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At Terminal 2D; 20 minutes to go
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At our gates, D69, Just in time to board
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Boarded by 12:20.

First impressions were quite good. Aircraft was clean and it was a warm welcome on-board.

Another full flight, this time, to Zagreb.

Our row - 11; onboard Croatia Airlines A319-100
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Comfortable seating onboard the A319
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Reading material on board
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We pushed back almost on time and was airborne in 10 minutes.

Snack service started as we approached cruising altitude. A snack box was provided with local snacks and delicacies. A very acceptable snack box for a short haul flight. The presentation box was very good.

Taxiing out of Paris CDG
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Where are we again? any Clues?
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After take-off from CDG
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Very well presented snack box on this short hop to Zagreb
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Cabin view
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En-route to Zagreb
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Rest of the flight was uneventful and we landed ahead of time.

We were parked at a remote stand and were bussed to the new terminal.

We were at the baggage hall in 15 minutes after landing.

Approaching Zagreb
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At ZAG; Parked at the old terminal
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Bussed to the new terminal
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The new terminal at ZAG
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This is where we realised that our bags hadn't come with us. :(

Waited until the last bags from our flight was out and nada. Uh oh. Not the best start to the holidays.

Speaking to the service desk, he seemed to be quite well versed with the drill and was confident it's somewhere in the vast labyrinth of Paris CDG.

Great we have another flight to catch to Dubrovnik so chances of getting reunited with our bags tonight was close to nil.

Baggage hall at Zagreb
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Kept waiting for our bags...
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It has not been boarded onto the flight from Paris :(
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Arrivals at ZAG
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We had to get essentials so uber'ed it to the nearest shopping mall, 20 minutes away. Arena centre. It Ticked all the boxes and were able to get essentials for the night and most importantly the wife's contact lenses for the next day. Had to also buy a small suitcase as we had liquids bought from the city free expecting to check it in before the flight to Dubrovnik.

Tweeted my issue and KLM responded with an apologetic message along with claim forms and next steps. Hopefully we get reunited with the bags soon.

Time to go shopping before our next flight
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At Arena Centre for some essentials
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Twitter response from KLM
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Croatia Airlines - OU664
Route: ZAG - DBV
Flight Reg:9A-CTL; Delivered to Croatia Airlines on June 2000; named Pula; The aircraft which bought the Croatian national team back home from their successful football world cup
Aircraft Type: Airbus 319-100
Seat: 23F
Flight time: 21:10 - 22:05 (21:32 - 22:13)
Actual flight time: 41 min
Distance: 245Miles
Load: 100 % load
22 December 2018
Booking details: Booked on Croatia Airlines website for a total of ~£102 (885 Kuna) for 2 tickets including 1 check in baggage each.
My Log book: 2nd Flight on Croatia Airlines/ 10th flight on Airbus 319-100/ 186th Total overall flight



Once back at the airport, there was hardly anyone there. Dropped out bags in 2 minutes. During checking in I tried to change seats but it looked like a full flight, third one for the day.

Following that, security took 2 minutes and we were airside by 7 pm.

We then realised that there are no shops, restaurants or duty free open for the domestic part of the terminal building.

Back at the airport, for the last flight of the day. Phew!
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Departures hall
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Self-check in Kiosks
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Heading to departures
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Yikes! nobody here, and everything is shut!
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So we walked back through security to land side for some snacks and drinks.

Out again. For some snacks and a well-deserved beer
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Spent an hour there before I went back to the lost and found desk to get to know the whereabouts of our missing bags.

It was then when they confirmed that they had located the bags and would be arriving into Zagreb on the same flight the next day, and subsequently on this night flight to Dubrovnik. Unfortunately it would be too late for them to drop it off. I offered to come to the airport to pick it up and he said that would be possible. Let's see what happens tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Back at the boarding gate
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Boarding commenced close to 2100. Once again aircraft presentation was above average. Nothing special yet acceptable. They Had the screens on playing a welcome video.

On board the third and final flight for the day
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Neighbours at ZAG
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Reading material on board
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Pushback was delayed by 10 minutes due to connecting passengers. I reckon connecting passengers from Amsterdam were a bit delayed. Flight time of 40 minutes announced which meant we would still be on time.

Once airborne, the FA spring into action. There was only water served on this sector and before we knew it, it was time to land at Dubrovnik.

35 minutes later, at Dubrovnik
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Bussed to the terminal
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Arrivals at DBV
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This time, we did receive our check in luggage. Collected our hire car and away we went.

Baggage hall
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Arrival hall at DBV
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Exiting the airport
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The next day we got a call to confirm that our baggage had reached Zagreb and would be on OU664 later that night to Dubrovnik.

Went to the airport later at night and finally been reunited by our bags. Phew.

Received our bags the next day
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After 10 days amazing days in Croatia, it was time to head back home.

Few Sights around Croatia

Dubrovnik Old Town
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Cats of Kotor, Montenegro
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Kravice National Park, Bosnia
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Split Harbour
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Krka National Park
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Festivities at Zadar Old town
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Plitvice National Park
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Zagreb Cathedral
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Our trusted companion for the trip -> A Peugeot 208 (Diesel); 1330 KM, 21 KM/L
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For the return flight, Checked in the previous day and it was as simple process, as usual. I realised that it would be one of the non-ex-BMI aircrafts as the seating were a normal 2x2 with the middle seat blocked off. It seemed to be a full flight in the forward cabin as we did not get any choices for seat selection and we got 5D and F. Seat layout was 5 rows of 4 seats each, 20 Club Europe seats on this flight.


British Airways - BA849
Route: ZAG - LHR
Flight Reg:G-EUXD; Delivered to BA on Oct 2004
Aircraft Type: Airbus 321-200 (Old: Airbus 319-100)
Seat: 5F
Flight time: 12:35 - 14:15 (12:32 - 13:44)
Actual flight time: 2 Hr 12 min
Distance: 852Miles
Load: 100% load
01 Jan 2019
Booking details: Upgrade Voucher used -> 15K points + £49.60 in taxes for 2 tickets for 1-way Club Europe.
My Log book: 33rd Flight on BA / 11th flight on Airbus 321-200/ 187th Total overall flight


Drive to the airport was quick 15 minutes from our hotel and the roads were empty with hardly any cars on the streets.

Dropped the car off at the car rental and headed towards baggage drop.
Separate queues for club Europe but to my luck, the people in front of us Had some issues with their onward connection and baggage tagging which meant the economy lines were moving quicker. Anyways, baggage dropped in 15 minutes.

Car Returns at ZAG
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Back at familiar grounds
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BA Check in desks
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There were separate queues for premier passengers at the security, but given the time and the number of people at the airport, it all culminated to one single line.

It was quick and was airside in 10 minutes after the baggage drop.

Fake fast track line
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Passport control
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Duty free at ZAG
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Lounge at Zagreb

It's a common lounge here at Zagreb and it was utilitarian at best.
It was quite large and given that there was only the BA flight at this time was relatively empty. Decent choices of warm and cold food, drinks and hot beverages. They also had a charging area which was handy. Although they only had one toilet which Would be quite cumbersome if there were a bit more passengers in the lounge. Had few of the warm croissants and washed my pallet with a local merlot which went down well.

Heading to the lounge
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Lounge
Seating area
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Food and drinks on offer
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Phone charging area
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Massage chairs
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Quiet seating area, left of the entrance
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Lounge food before boarding
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Full load today and hand luggage were being asked to be checked in at the gates.


Boarding commenced by 11:45 and I was the first on board.

Lots of charging area all over the terminal building
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G-EUXD just arriving at our gates
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Sneak peak
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First impressions

A typical BA aircraft. Well-presented and just right. Not a big fan of club Europe seating though, but the middle seat being blocked is definitely a bonus.

Club Europe cabin
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Last row of Club Europe - Row 5
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Before the flight
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Cramped for a business class cabin
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Like the middle seat table, though
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Neighbours at ZAG
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Boarding complete at 12:15. Hot towels handed after boarding was complete.
Pushback at 12:20. Airborne by 12:30. Flight time of 2 hr and 11 minutes announced which meant an early arrival into London Heathrow terminal 5. Clear skies predicted with good views en-route (And Boy, we were not disappointed!).

Taxiing
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Bye Bye Croatia
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Reading material on board
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Great views over the Austrian Alps, en-route to London
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Absolutely gorgeous views out of the window; the entire route. Was fabulous!
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Club Europe Cabin view
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Within 30 minutes food and beverage round commenced. Had a GnT with cold cuts of meat for lunch. The other option was a salad option.

Service on this flight was exceptional. Attentive and always walking around seeing if we needed anything. Wife commented on the full cup of coffee being served on nice tea ware.

Round 1!
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The food was very good on this flight
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Had time for a third round, just before landing
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Looks like once again the soft product on BA is the differentiating factor. The hard product doesn't wow me. Just decent and does the job.

Rest of the flight, from a soft product perspective, was excellent. Had a few more GnT's and he cabin crew were always ready to help out.

We landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Over the city of London
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Above Hounslow
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At home turf
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Neighbours at Heathrow
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At T5
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Once landed, passport check was super quick and we were at the baggage area in 5 minutes after being parked at our gates.


Bags took a while to arrive. And the priority tag , looks like, had no bearing. As I could see other bags arrive much earlier than ours.

Passport check took the whole of 30 seconds!
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Wil we. Wont we? At the Baggage hall
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Verdict

KLM/Air France/ Croatia Airlines
Since the original booking was done via KLM, I have to take that into consideration too. From that perspective, it was well done by KLM in letting me know well in advance and sorting out a decent alternative.

For these two flights, it all went as per plan, except the delayed baggage. The timing, the transit experience and onboard experience was all very good and would be glad to do it again. Hopefully our claim is responded to in a swift manner.

I did like the fact that, even for a short hop within Europe, both Air France and Croatia Airlines do make an effort to serve us some form of food and drinks on board.

British Airways

Once again a solid service from BA. On time and great onboard service. Their hard product is very average and probably just about OK for European carriers. We had a great time onboard and looking forward to future Club Europe services.

Thanks for taking the time to read my report. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Comments and feedback welcome.

Stay tuned for more. The next one should be a good one, as we are heading to Myanmar for the Chinese New year, with a few domestic flights within the country :)

Until next time, happy and safe flying!

Adios!
 
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newbief1yer
Topic Author
Posts: 623
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:35 pm

Re: Christmas and New Years at Croatia - 2018

Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:05 pm

Previous Trip Reports

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User avatar
RyanairGuru
Posts: 7828
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006 3:59 am

Re: Christmas and New Years at Croatia - 2018

Sat Jan 19, 2019 8:36 pm

Thank you for a very detailed trip report.

What was the temperature like in Croatia in December? And was it busy with tourists? Dubrovnik is rammed in summer but I'd never considered it as a winter destination.
Worked Hard, Flew Right
 
jrfspa320
Posts: 505
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:18 am

Re: Christmas and New Years at Croatia - 2018

Sun Jan 20, 2019 2:23 am

Nice report, always enjoy the holiday pictures too!!
 
User avatar
newbief1yer
Topic Author
Posts: 623
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:35 pm

Re: Christmas and New Years at Croatia - 2018

Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:27 am

Thanks RyanairGuru and jrfspa320 for the comments.

We had the same impression of Croatia in December before we arrived there, as we had expected to be more of a Summer destination. That being said, it was perfect for us. Most, if not all attractions were open that time of the year (Except Plitvice upper lakes) and there was hardly any tourists around. Places like Krka NP, it was almost like a private NP just for the 2 of us! unbelievable! Weather wise, it was a balmy 18 degrees in Dubrovnik (Bright, sunny, crisp and the right amount of tourists) where as as we made our way up north, in Zagreb, it was closer to 0. So overall, I can highly recommend doing Croatia during the winters. Yes, you will not be able to swim in the waters of KRKA NP, for example, but other than that I think the pros outweigh the cons. Also, bear in mind, some of the tours do not run during winters and some of them have limited timings; few of the Game Of Thrones tours only run during the summer period. We both are not in GOT (not watched a single episode!) nor are we into swimming. We prefer photography and hence this was perfect for us. Hope this answers your query.

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