Welcome to my first trip report of 2012! I had been considering a short break in Prague, Rome or Geneva/Zurich for some time (as those were my top European cities still on my to-visit list), and eventually settled on Prague due to good reward availability on BA
and some attractive hotel prices.
I originally booked Euro Traveller Reward Flight Saver flights in a vain attempt to be frugal, but decided a few days before departure to change them to Club Europe as the flights looked busy, and I really didn’t relish three-abreast seating, even for a two hour flight. A quick call to the BA
Gold line, and our flights were changed to CE
for double the Avios and £14 more in cash.
Welcome to the first Genius12 trip report of 2012!
Getting to Heathrow on the day of departure was the usual tube and HEx affair, and we arrived around 2.5 hours before our flight at T3
. Check-in was quick in the secluded BA
/QF First area in Zone G, although the agent couldn’t initially find our flight on her list, and apologised for the confusion as she normally worked in T5
(not a good excuse in my opinion). We were checking in one bag, but the agent seemed rather flustered by her earlier error, and didn’t ask any of the usual security questions (although the bag was priority tagged).
There was a small queue at Fast Track security, and a slight delay as my travelling companion’s boarding pass didn’t want to be accepted. The agent decided not to fuss, and just waved us both through. Walking to the lounge once airside, I glanced at our boarding passes and noticed we were both in the same seat – and then noticed that they were in fact both for the same person, which explained the hold up at security! That check-in agent really had been distracted…
I explained the situation at the entrance to BA
’s Galleries First lounge, and the agents were rather laid back by the whole thing, saying it was nothing to worry about and confirming that I was on the flight. I used my mobile BP
on my iPhone from then on…
Entrance to Galleries First, seen from the Champagne Bar within in the lounge
We headed straight to the First dining area at the end of the lounge, as we wanted to eat there before it became a ‘restricted area’ for First passengers only after 5pm. I opted for the BA
burger (without the cheese), whilst my companion went for the chicken curry (one of the ‘buffet’ items that is actually served from the kitchen in T3
due to lower demand for a buffet when compared to T5
). Strangely, the curry arrived almost straight away, and with no sign of the burger, it had to be sent back with a polite request for it to be served at the same time as the burger! The staff were very apologetic about it, but rather odd to get such a basic service standard wrong.
First dining area in Galleries First, T3
Galleries First menu
A quick peruse of the buffet area after dinner revealed a good selection of salad items, together with some delicious looking muffins and scones. We retired to the seating area adjacent to the Gold Bar at the opposite end of the lounge, and ordered a couple of the desserts from the menu – the lemon tart and the chocolate pot, both of which were divine and, as with the main courses, of good quality.
We left the lounge around 15 minutes before gate closing time, and headed to 24B, one of the usual bussing gates used for BA
shorthaul flights at T3
. Thankfully the bus was not packed to the gills, and after a quick tour around the underbelly of T3
, we arrived at one of the ex-T1 stands to board our A320 (G-EUUV
cabin was back to Row 6, but with a fairly light complement of passengers. Prague is a Mixed Fleet route, and this was my third flight with MF
cabin crew. Once again, it was demonstrated that there really is only a marginable difference in service, and that there can be good and bad crews across all BA
‘fleets’. For this flight, the CSM served CE
, and the other three cabin crew all served ET
due to the light CE
load and practically full ET
load. Our CSM was professional (but a little ‘up-tight’), and (after one ET
passenger had used the CE
washroom), prevented any more passengers from coming through CE
Club Europe cabin on this A320
I do like this, even if I never use it
Mr 1A, exhibiting his bad manners
The service on this Band 3A flight consisted of hot towels (but no nuts), followed by a choice of two hot dinner options (chicken or fish) with warm bread, accompanied by dessert and a cheese plate. A bar service was offered before and during the meal, with tea and coffee offered afterwards, together with regular checks for top ups for the rest of the flight.
I opted for the chicken (which was described by its full ‘menu’ name by the CSM), whilst my companion opted for the fish – both were of good quality and were well presented by CE
standards. The small dessert was rather delicious, but the cheese and biscuits were sadly not very good.
[/i]Post-dinner drinks (I’d been at the Bailey’s, evidently)[/i]
On arrival into PRG
, we were unfortunately bussed to the terminal, which did take rather a while. However, once inside, our one checked bag was amongst the first off.
New style BA/oneworld priority tag
We chose to stay at the Hilton Prague Old Town due to my HH
Gold status providing a complimentary upgrade to the Executive Lounge, and due to the favourable Trip Advisor reviews the property has. I received a personal welcome email about a week before arrival from the concierge, which offered a hotel transfer for around £30, which I decided to accept. Our driver welcomed us in the arrivals hall at the airport, before escorting us to a smart black Mercedes for the half hour transfer to the hotel.
The hotel is well located in the heart of the Old Town, in walking distance of most of central Prague – in fact, we didn’t use any transport during our two full days in the city, although we did manage to see most of the centre, including the Old Town, Mala Strana (Little Quarter), Castle/Hradcany area, Josefov (Jewish area) and the New Town (not actually new, just newer than the rest!). The hotel has a stylish 1930s-inspired interior in the downstairs public areas, with modern twists here and there lending a nice feel to the place.
First floor landing
Check-in was very efficient at the main reception, with no queue, and we were advised of the location of our Executive Room on the 8th floor, and of the lounge just down the corridor on the same floor. I was also given a complimentary wifi voucher for the duration of our stay, which was usable throughout the hotel (including rooms), something that I find very useful when only travelling with an iPad. Unfortunately the connection speed was little more than 1mbps, which was rather frustrating at times.
Our room was tastefully decorated in a corporate style with two large single beds, good size desk, comfy armchair and ample storage. The bathroom was of a reasonable size, smartly refurbished, and with an adequate shower. The mirror was not anti-mist, however, and the soft pillows let the otherwise comfy beds down.
Executive Room (the next morning)
Executive Room desk
The Executive Lounge at the hotel was fairly small, but was never busy when we were there. It would’ve been a calm space had it not been for an intensely annoying lady who insisted on Skypeing her children in the lounge. I’ll give you one guess as to her nationality… Breakfast was reasonable, although hot options could have been expanded beyond the bacon, eggs and sausages that were available. Afternoon tea consisted of some cake and biscuit items, with drinks available throughout the day. Staff in the lounge were helpful, but could have been a tad more professional.
Lounge bar area
We enjoyed Prague, especially from an architectural point of view, although found it to be less cultured than Vienna. If you enjoy shopping, Budapest is probably a better bet out of the triangle of Habsburg cities. Be warned – Prague pick-pocketers really are as ubiquitous as the guide books warn. We found the best tactic was not to carry a bag if at all possible, and if you think you are about to be targeted (which can be quite obvious at times if you are alert), to turn around and walk straight at the would-be pick-pocketer. That seemed to scare them off on the whole. Here are a selection of images I took around the city:
View from our room at the Hilton
Old Town, looking towards Powder Gate
On Charles Bridge, looking towards the Castle
In the Little Quarter, by the John Lennon Wall
Castle area, looking into Prague Valley
New Town riverfront
Old Town Square at night
We ate in the hotel restaurant (Zinc) one night, which was on the quiet side in terms of ambience, but with good service. The menu was quite extensive, and the curry I opted for was well flavoured, but with meat that was quite fatty. I commented on this to our waiter, who seemed fairly uninterested.
On our final night in Prague, we ate at ‘Kogo’, an Italian restaurant a few blocks from the hotel up a quiet side street. I was attracted by the good reviews in the guide book, and indeed the food didn’t disappoint, but the service was somewhat hilarious, as our waiter was under the influence of either drink/drugs or just hadn’t slept a wink the night before. He forgot we had ordered a starter entirely, forgot to offer us desserts, and practically threw plates and glasses around as if carrying them for one second longer would cause him terrible pain. He was rather good natured about it, however, and did include a small discount in the bill for the lack of starter.
It was a fairly early start for us on Monday morning due to an 08:40 flight, but with a quick check-out (with a thank-you for my loyalty) and the hotel transfer, the day was off to a stress-free start.
Check-in at PRG
T1 was equally hassle-free, with no queue for the single Club Europe desk. Our single checked bag was tagged again with a priority tag, directions to the lounge were given, and our BPs had Fast Track stickers applied to them, which were largely pointless due to the lack of any queues at passport control.
The lounge that BA
use at PRG
is a generic Menzies-operated affair, and is really just a glorified version of the terminal, but without the people watching opportunities. The lounge is fairly compact, with a separate seating area that appeared to be for Emirates passengers only when their flight departed (judging by the sign pushed to one side), but at this time the lounge was all but empty. Food choices were croissants or croissants, and as a hot breakfast awaited on board, I opted to pass away the time admiring the view of the airfield and browsing Business Traveller magazine rather than indulging in croissant overload. Wifi is offered, but it is the standard airport wifi, and I believe had a charge for use.
PRG Menzies lounge
PRG Menzies lounge
PRG Menzies lounge
PRG Menzies lounge, Emirates area
View from the lounge
View from the lounge
We left the lounge in good time to allow for security at the gate. Although there were Fast Track posters around, oddly there didn’t appear to be any separate lane, and so we joined the queue and were through in five or so minutes.
was thankfully by airbridge, and I was welcomed by name at the door and directed to my seat. This aircraft was one of BA
’s newer A320s, with non-convertible seating. I find these seats fairly uncomfortable when fully upright, but when reclined even just a little, they are perfectly acceptable (although probably not as comfortable as the older squishy convertible seats).
Non-converter seating on this A320
Our aircraft had to be de-iced just before takeoff as it had over-nighted in Prague. Sitting in Row 1, it was interesting to hear the CSM explaining the service standards to the clearly new cabin crew member sitting next to him. This CSM really was very good, and he could not have done more for the 6 passengers in CE
this morning. This included addressing me by name when serving breakfast, something that has never happened to me before in CE
. A ba.com/welldone has been completed.
Breakfast consisted of the European version of the standard BA
hot breakfast – bacon, sausage, scrambled egg and tomato, with warm pastry items and a tasty yogurt/crunch thing. I was most pleased to see a bread plate on the tray, something I have been campaigning for in CE
for some time! Overall, pretty good quality and vastly improved on what BA
was serving a year or so ago.
Band 3A breakfast ex-EU
The rest of the flight passed peacefully and we arrived onto the same ex-T1 stand from where we had departed a few days earlier. I overheard the ground manager talking with the CSM, asking for the 6 CE
passengers plus 15 ET
passengers on the first bus, which really defeats the point of having the priority CE
bus on arrival…
Miraculously our checked bag was the third off the belt, and soon we were back on the HEx to Paddington.
Overall, an enjoyably short trip to Prague, with a couple of good Mixed Fleet flights. Some argue that Club Europe is not worth it on these short hops, and I would certainly never pay outright for it, but it is worth it in my opinion if you can take advantage of a Pro-Active Upgrade (POU
) or through use of Avios.
Prague itself was an interesting city to visit, and I’m glad to have done so, but I would recommend both Vienna and Budapest over their sister city.
Thanks for reading, and as always I look forward to your comments and questions if you have any.
[Edited 2012-02-25 14:35:26]