REVIEW: Czech Airlines Economy Class Frankfurt - Prague
Czech Airlines (OK) Flight 537 - Frankfurt am Main to Prague Vaclac Havel
Airbus A319, Economy Class, Economy Class, Seat 26E
Just about every winter for the past few years I've taken advantage (wait for it.....) of the reduced economy award ticket cost offered through the American Airlines AAdvantage (see what I did there?) program for winter travel to Europe and have used it as a jumping off point to go somewhere fun and interesting. Generally speaking I've found the best award space availability during the winter season is into Paris or Frankfurt, so I often find myself landing in either of those cities and connecting onward to a new place. This was exactly the case for this trip where I found myself arriving in Frankfurt and needing a cheap flight to somewhere fun and exciting.
Enter Czech Airlines (OK), which offered me a flight to Prague for $99 USD. I'd never visited the Czech Repubic (or Czechia as they're trying to rebrand themselves) and I was quite delighted with the opportunity to explore a new city and country.
I landed in Frankfurt and promptly met up with a travel buddy that was leaving Frankfurt that day. We grabbed a meal of flammkuchen (which has my vote as the German food product most likely to be confused with an STD) before heading back to the check-in area for our respective flights. Czech Airlines was relegated to one of the airports standard desk areas in what is a rather bleak and dismal check-in area in my very humble opinion. Check-in was processed by a contract agent on behalf of OK and she was perfectly pleasant. I was on a longer trip so was checking a bag and despite my relatively inexpensive fare I qualified for one free bag. Note that on OK's cheapest economy class fares, which they call LITE fares, you receive no baggage allowance and must pay an additional fee.
Despite having a few people in line ahead of me the process moved very quickly and in less than 5 minutes I had my luggage handed over and a boarding pass in hand.
Unfortunately German airport security seems to have me listed as a troublemaker in their database which meant rather brusque interactions with angry folks while trying to access the departure area of the terminal and a secondary screening of my backpack and portions of my body. Bright spot - the German officer searching my body was supermodel handsome. Sadly this meant that by the time I got through and to my gate the flight had already starting the boarding process. I didn't get to hear any announcements being made prior to the start but I would assume as a member of the SkyTeam alliance that they offered pre-boarding for those in business class and elite status members. I simply joined the queue blindly and was scanned onto the flight with no issue.
I walked through the boarding gate doors and immediately found a newspaper rack offering some slim pickings for the flight. Perhaps my fellow passengers that boarded before me really wanted to keep up to date on the world's news but I suspect it was simply put out with limited options to begin with. Despite being the middle of winter we were bussed to our plane out on the tarmac and walked up the stairs into the plane. Luckily it was a relatively warm winter night and with few passengers on the first bus it was easy to get up the stairs and into the plane without freezing.
First thing I see when I get on board is that the newspaper stand back at the boarding gate being empty didn't matter as OK had a big pile of newspapers stacked up and ready for passengers at the aircraft door of this Airbus A319.
Greeted at the door by a smiling flight attendant, I made my way through the business class cabin which featured the traditional "blocked middle but same as economy everything else" seats. The economy cabin featured pale blue cloth seats with a swirled pattern in the middle. I thought it was kind of cute how the color of the seatbelts alternated between grey and red.
I made my way down the aisle to the very last row where my assigned seat was located and sat down. I immediately thought that the cloth was soft and comforting and that the seat back padding was excellent. Not worn and frayed, it definitely felt relatively plush and new. The leg room at the seat was what I would describe as standard issue, perhaps slightly more generous than other airlines flying similar routes.
Interestingly the seat covers were sponsored by Budweiser, which is a marketing partnership ploy I've seen on low-cost carriers around the world but never on a full-service national carrier other than in the US. The advert did give a mildly funny pun that matched the airline and destination so I will give them points for that at least.
The number of people on the plane was pretty sparse by then but we still had a little bit of time before departure. I decided to risk offending someone and moved myself from my assigned aisle to the window seat since that's my preferred location on a plane. I always want a window, but I book aisles because on a crowded flight I ultimately value the ability to get up to use the restroom over the view. With time to spare, I started investigating the seat features on this OK A321.
The seats had those knobs on the side where you can hang your coat. Useful for when you have a whole row of seats to yourself as I currently did but as you can see completely idiotic for a flight that's full or even semi-full. It's funny to see the photo of this coat now since this was one of the very last days I ever wore it. Sadly it was lost in the debacle that was my trip to Israel, which was my next stop after Prague.
The plane also featured individual reading lights and air nozzles to help control the temperature on board.
It soon became clear that this flight was going to be pretty lightly booked and soon enough the doors were closed and I took a look around and realized I was the only passenger for several rows.
The safety video was played as we taxied to the runway and before long the engines were roaring as we began our one hour flight to Prague. it was a short flight time with no entertainment playing on the overhead screens, so I found myself rummaging through the seat back pocket to see what was laying around.
Duty free catalogs in case you need to buy any cigarettes or perfume on a one hour flight.
The in-flight magazine, "Review", had a feature on OK's only long haul destination - Seoul, South Korea. It might seem a bit random to have a flight to Seoul until you realize that until very recently OK's SkyTeam partner Korean Airlines owned a sizeable stake in the airline.
And of course the airplane safety instruction card and an odd advertising insert for Illy coffee makers, the second advertising placement on the flight after the Budweiser headrest covers.
I could see the flight attendants setting up their cart at the front of the plane to offer some type of snack service (even on such a short flight!) so I hopped up quickly to duck into the bathroom.
Nothing much to report - it's just your standard issue bathroom you'd find on any old plane.
I was the first passenger in there so it was immaculately clean.
I headed back to my seat and discovered someone from the more crowded forward rows had moved back near my seat, but I still had the entire (non-reclining) back row to myself. Good thing this was a short flight, otherwise I might be a bit unhappy with the non-reclining aspect of the row. I'm getting older and my back often needs to vary angles on longer flights or it starts to spasm.
With only an hour in the air the snack offering was pretty sparse - just a packet of crackers and my choice of a beverage, a Coke Light.
I was the last passenger served and by the time they handed me my items the captain was already making the announcement that we'd be landing soon. I gulped down my Coke Light and stashed the crackers into my backpack. Arrival in Prague was relatively easy as it was later at night with no need for immigration due to the Czech Republic being part of the Schengen area with Germany.
Overall it was a very average, run of the mill flight. Nothing fancy, nothing unique. At the end of the day it probably isn't worth a report but Czech Airlines isn't exactly the most traveled carrier in the world so I figured a little information highlighting what a flight on them was like might be helpful to someone out there. Would I recommend them? No. Would I avoid them? Also no. Ho hum.