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Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:29 pm

Introduction

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!

Outbound

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


BA burger


Chicken curry

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.


Lemon tart


Chocolate pot


Champagne Bar


Champagne Bar

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).

The CE 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.


Pre-dinner drinks

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.


Chicken meal


Fish meal


[/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

Prague

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.


Hotel exterior


Hotel exterior

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.


Zinc Bar


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


Executive Room


Executive Room (the next morning)


Executive Room desk


Room detail


Room detail


Minibar


Bathroom


Bathroom


Bathroom amenities

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.


Executive Lounge


Lounge bar area


Afternoon tea


Fruit selection


Coffee 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


Old Town


On Charles Bridge, looking towards the Castle


In the Little Quarter, by the John Lennon Wall


Castle area


Castle area


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.

Inbound

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.

Boarding G-EUYF 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.


Legroom shot

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 and CW 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.

Summary

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]
 
fiscal
Posts: 285
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:47 pm

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:36 pm

I remember the English breakfast with fond memories, and I still think BA make the best flavored hot breakfast in tghe skies...
 
lhr380
Posts: 2453
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:39 pm

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Sun Feb 26, 2012 12:16 am

Nice little report  

It does indeed seem the agent got a little flustered checking you in, some staff don't get to t3 much so it's a big change, but it did not cause her to miss the security questions. As of late last year BA check in staff do not need to ask them. very strange after so long saying it day in and day out, and even now and then (not that check in is my main role) I still find myself going into automatic and asking them when tagging a bag or something.

Loved the T3 lounge pictures   thanks
 
eastern747
Posts: 579
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 5:34 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:19 pm

ok! my curiosity is up. What nationality was the noisy women in the lounge? I pray it wasn't American...lolololololol
 
flymia
Posts: 7137
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2001 6:33 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:37 pm

Great report. I was in Prague two years ago to this day. I loved the city and the food, thankfully when I was there it was not very cold and the out door vendors in Old Town Sqaure and Charles Bridge were out and about. Enjoyed the city a lot and it was nice to get away from Euro prices. Hope to go back soon.
Nice report.
 
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readytotaxi
Posts: 8274
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2006 2:09 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:58 pm

Enjoyed that, I lived in Prauge for 3 months in 1997,problem then was Gipsy people Saturday nights robbing unaware tourists. Loved the photos,not to much has changed on the skyline.

Quoting fiscal (Reply 1):
and I still think BA make the best flavored hot breakfast in tghe skies...

They certainly do.
 
Checo77
Posts: 1263
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2004 11:39 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:29 am

Glad you enjoyed my hometown!!! Pickpockets are a big deal, but the situation is so so much better than it was let say 5 yrs ago. I would say why there are pickpockets in Prague, but this post would get deleted because of that.

On the other side, BA´s product looks great, would love to try it some day!

Sincerely,
Adam
 
Quokkas
Posts: 1327
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:51 pm

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:52 am

Enjoyable trip report with some good photos of BA’s Galleries First lounge and the hotel where you stayed.

The meals appear fresh and attractive but I am sad to learn that the cheese was disappointing (being a great lover of cheese   )

Prague is a great city, quite different to both Vienna and Budapest, yet a city which has a larger visible history. Vienna, as the capital of the former Habsburg Empire has a large number of museums, art galleries and concert halls but I am not sure that I would conclude that it is "more cultured". Prague hosts many international festivals and during my last visit it wasn't difficult to spend an enjoyable evening of music at Villa Amerika, which houses the Antonín Dvořák Museum.

Thanks for sharing
 
U2380
Posts: 246
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:11 pm

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:51 am

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
intensely annoying lady who insisted on Skypeing her children in the lounge. I’ll give you one guess as to her nationality…

I wonder which state she was from...  



[Edited 2012-02-28 03:54:42]
 
MSS658
Posts: 2453
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:16 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:49 pm

Hi

Nice trip report, thanks for sharing!
Seems like you had luck with the old J to PRG.. looks better IMO
Thanks for sharing the PRG pics as well, looks very nice!


Greetings
Marc
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:49 pm

Thanks to all for taking the time to read and comment!  
Quoting lhr380 (Reply 2):
As of late last year BA check in staff do not need to ask them.

Interesting, thanks for the info.

Quoting lhr380 (Reply 2):
What nationality was the noisy women in the lounge? I pray it wasn't American...lolololololol
Quoting u2380 (Reply 8):
I wonder which state she was from...

I'm afraid you are both right...

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 9):
Seems like you had luck with the old J to PRG.. looks better IMO

It's not really the 'old' shorthaul J product - the non-convertible seating A320s are meant to be used on domestic routes (one class economy), but seem to regularly end up on T3 European flights with a CE cabin.  
 
signol
Posts: 2652
Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:18 pm

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:38 am

Hi Genius12,

Nice report! I've booked a flight in CE with Avios too, this June, so it is good so see what kind of benefit there will be over ET   In particular, the outward meal choices look very good. How did the legroom compare to Y?

A friend used to live in Prague, so I've been there quite a few times. It always appeals, especially I find the areas away from the old town. We spent a lot of time in the Andel district, full of locals and few tourists, so prices cheaper. I've never had a problem with pickpockets, or any other crime, in any of my visits. I would recommend the TV tower, it is quite bizarre to see the giant baby statues crawling up it!

Thanks for writing!

signol
 
Checo77
Posts: 1263
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2004 11:39 am

RE: Avoiding The Pick-Pockets In PRG - BA Club Europe

Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:53 am

Quoting signol (Reply 11):
We spent a lot of time in the Andel district, full of locals and few tourists, so prices cheaper.

Thanks for staying there Signol, that is where I live in Prague, for me, its the best part of town (for living)  

Adam

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