After a fun morning walking around Paris, it was time for the short hop over to Prague, and the official start of our vacation. Getting to Prague required a little bit of fancy footwork, as our cheap business class tickets wouldn’t get us past Paris. I tried numerous combinations, but every combo not involving significant backtracking via LHR priced out at regular fare (not practical given the length of our trip). The cheapest option was to do an open-jaw itinerary in coach from Paris to Prague and then Bucharest to Paris via Prague on Czech Airlines, with this first leg a codeshare on Air France metal. The total fare for all three segments was roughly $265, with this first segment pricing out around $105 if purchased separately. I have flown Air France long-haul before but that was a long, long time ago – 15 years to be exact. Frankly, I remember nothing about that experience, so I was excited to try them again.
Air France (AF) Flight 1082
- Sunday, October 25, 2015
- Depart: Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) Terminal 2F, 13:33, 13m late
- Arrive: Vaclav Havel Airport Prague (PRG) Terminal 2, 15:12, 12m late
- Duration: 1 hour 39 minutes
- Seats: 32E, 32F
- Equipment: Airbus A321
A word to the wise to start off with – Terminal 2F is exclusively a SkyTeam outfit, with the only lounges on the premises two Air France lounges. There is NO Priority Pass lounge in Terminal 2F, with the closest one open to all passengers the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Terminal 2A. Not exactly practical, given the length of time needed to transit between terminals and the need to go through security. Effectively, you’re SOL unless you’re a SkyTeam elite or are flying business class.
We made it back to the airport by 11:15 after our junket into the city, and as I had checked in and printed our boarding passes before leaving the Admirals Club in Dallas, all we had to do was use the self-tagging machines and drop our bags at the bag drop. We got the tags with no problem, but the automated system to drop them off proved to be cranky and froze up on us. A kind agent came over to help, and processed our bags manually – but comically, the belt got jammed as the first bag started heading off into the abyss of the baggage system, and apparently nobody was there behind the door to unjam it. She assured us our bags would be taken care of; though nervous, we went on our way. Security and passport control were seamless, and even with the hiccup with the baggage system, we were at our gate about half an hour later. Of course, this meant more than an hour to sit around and do nothing, since we didn’t have lounge access. The lack of sleep the night before, combined with a vigorous couple of hours of walking earlier, really had me running on fumes, and it was a real fight to stay awake.
We had expected to board about 12:50, but this time came and went, and we didn’t begin boarding until about 1:15. No announcements were made about the delay, which was a bit irritating. Once boarding began, though, it proceeded quickly, and we settled into our seats near the back of the coach section. Economy class (Voyageur) is laid out in a typical 3-3 configuration, and the cabin was clean and well-maintained. In case you’re wondering business class (Premium Affaires) is the typical intra-Europe setup, featuring the same 3-3 configuration coach seats with the middle seat blocked off. The seats were a bit drab design-wise, with an almost 1980s upholstery design; at least they were in good shape.
Legroom, however, seemed very tight. My knees were bumping up against the back of the seat. SeatGuru lists the pitch at 32 inches, but it sure felt like less than that.
Despite boarding nearly 20 minutes late, we made up a fair amount of time during an efficient boarding process, and we pushed back just 13 minutes late. One of the things I love about flying in Europe are the exotic liveries that can be found on the tarmac. I think this easyJet 737 and Aeroflot A321 fit the “exotic” bill.
The taxi was relatively short, and we were soon on our way on our relatively short ~1 hour, 15 minute flight to Prague. As we ascended, we were briefly sandwiched between the low overcast deck and some higher cirrus clouds above, creating an interesting sensation/illusion of floating between the clouds.
Shortly after reaching 10,000 feet, the flight attendants took drink orders and a choice of snack. I forget what the other option was, but I chose the cheese sandwich to go along with a cup of hot tea.
It isn’t much, but it was pretty tasty. The baguette was fresh, and the cheese and butter were of decent quality. I don’t usually put cheese AND butter in the same sandwich, but the combo worked here. This really isn’t terrible for an hour and a half flight in coach, certainly on par if not better than the packaged cheese and crackers I received in American’s domestic First from DFW to Atlanta. Service in general on this flight was just fine for coach. The gate agent warmly welcomed us to board, and the flight attendants serving food and beverages completed their service with a smile. No attitudes to be seen anywhere with this crew.
On the downside, aside from the light meal, amenities were non-existent. None of Air France’s intra-Europe A318/A319/A320/A321 fleet offer WiFi or in-seat power, and on this flight at least, in-flight entertainment of any kind was nonexistent. It’s not a major issue on a flight this short, but given that even domestic US carriers increasingly provide WiFi and power ports, it’s a little disappointing that Air France offers nothing.
It remained cloudy the entire way to Prague, but we eventually dropped back below the cloud deck as we descended. That gave us a nice view of the Czech countryside and the fall foliage nearing its peak on the outskirts of the city.
And at last, we pulled up to our gate in the City of Magic. Czech Airlines was even nice enough to roll out the welcome mat for us at the next gate.
Prague Castle would have to wait for one more day, though.
Somewhat to my surprise given the issues with the baggage system at CDG, after a short wait at the baggage carousel, our two bags showed up just as promised. From there, though, we still had to make it into the city. There is no metro service to the airport, but there is an “Airport Express” city bus that runs from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to the main train station near the city center. Tickets cost 60 Czech crowns (roughly $2.50) each, and can be purchased from a booth in the arrivals area, and the ride to the Main Train Station takes 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. From what I could tell, the booth only accepted cash, and you will get the stink eye if you try to pay for one or two tickets with a 1,000 crown note (unfortunately all the ATM machines in the terminal would dispense). Beware of one thing, however – on INBOUND buses, there is an intermediate stop Masarykovo Train Station at the east edge of Old Town, where you can get off to catch Metro Line B. Make sure you know which of the two stations is closer to your final destination, and if you intend to get off at the Main station, don’t get off until the second stop. We accidentally got off at the first stop, which mean a rather long walk of about a mile with luggage in tow through Old Town and Mustek to get to our hotel. Of course, there are far, far worse things in the world than a long walk through Old Town Prague in the fall.
Anyway, overall, this was a decent enought flight for coach, though on-board amenities are definitely lacking for a full-service carrier. For the price I paid, though, I can’t really complain, and the service itself was quite decent.
Next up in this series – follow me on a virtual two-day tour of the wonderful city of Prague.
This post is part of my trip report series about our trip to the Czech Republic and Romania in October. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.