The first ever Boeing 747-8I to visit Prague arrives on a hot summers day – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
The 1st of July not only marks the start of the summer school holidays in central Europe, it is also a big day on the local aviation calendar. Last year, Emirates debuted the Airbus A380 on the Dubai-Prague route to celebrate five years of service. This year was no exception, as Korean Air announced the launch of Boeing 747-8I services on the Seoul-Prague route from the 1st of July until the 30th of September.
While the Korean Air 747-400 is no stranger to Prague during the peak summer travel season, this was the first time the carrier announced the route would be operated by the Boeing 747-8I, the longest aircraft in commercial passenger service today. Korean Air had previously operated a one-off Airbus A380 service to Prague, and if this event was anything to go by, I was quite excited to be part of this historic moment. Not only was this the premier of the 747-8I in Korean Air colors in Prague, it was also the first-ever flight of the aircraft type to the town — there have not even been any cargo versions.
KLM 737-900 (PH-BXT) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, ready to take us to Prague, with a 737-700 (PH-BGW) taxiing behind
Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij is not exactly a household name in most of the world, but its initials “KLM” and sky blue branding and livery are easily recognizable. I had a quick visit to Amsterdam before moving on to Prague this past spring, so flying on the national carrier of The Netherlands out of its homebase was the most obvious choice.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, the European concept of business class (some better service, but the same seat as in economy, just with the middle seat blocked) is never worth it on personal trips, especially for a short flight blocked for 90 minutes gate-to-gate. Addtionally, flying KLM (being a member of SkyTeam) meant flying outside my alliance, so no priority anything nor lounge access.
What could possibly go wrong?!
A LOT Embraer E-175 landing at Prague – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Flying business class within Europe is not often an exciting nor noteworthy affair. That said, I was pleased to recently discover that it can still be a positive experience, with a lot more than meets the eye, and at a very affordable price.
I was fortunate enough to recently experience LOT Polish Airlines’ business class product from Warsaw to Prague. As part of its ongoing brand redevelopment, LOT, like many other carriers, has introduced an online bidding system for unsold business class seats, called plusgrade.
The only business class difference versus economy on intra-European flights – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
The system allows passengers to make a bid up to 72 hours before the flight’s departure, and there is a minimum amount that can be bid (in my case, it was approximately $80). At 48 hours prior to departure, I received an email that my bid was successful, and was issued a new ticket for business class — sweet.
AvGeeks in Action – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
The 1st of July, 2015, marked the fifth anniversary of Emirates services to Prague. To celebrate this achievement, Emirates substituted an Airbus A380 on the Dubai to Prague route, which is normally served by a Boeing 777-300ER. I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the event. The occasion was celebrated in true Emirates fashion, with a large PR event and cocktail reception, as well as an aircraft tour and an opportunity to photograph the arrival from the tarmac; an opportunity any AvGeek among us will gladly partake in.
This was the fourth visit so far of an Airbus A380 at Prague. The first was a Lufthansa A380, followed by Emirates (for a medical diversion) and Korean Air (check out that story here). Unlike the previous events, there was much marketing and social media hype about the Emirates A380 – I guess this can be attributed to the strength of the Emirates brand image within the Czech Republic. On the day of the event, for those not fortunate enough to have access to the media/VIP event, Emirates handed out free hats and various other promotional items to all who came to view this spectacular aircraft, no matter what side of the fence they were on. Well done, EK!
A ray of hope in the darkness of European flying, sitting on the ground at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
No matter where in the world, when you fly economy on a small turboprop, you likely are not going to have high expectations. This will just be some basic transportation to get from point A to point B. I was shocked when I recently flew an Air Serbia ATR-72-500 from Prague to Belgrade.
Often, flying in Europe can be an even-less-pleasant experience than flying in America. When I landed in Europe, after my not-so-stellar international experience, I said to myself, “I bet you Air Serbia can beat this.” And they did!