Air Canada: the long, long flight

img_0997When I was looking for tickets to get back to Boston I looked at the price and dates, and Air Canada turned out fit my criteria the best. I have never traveled with them before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I was certainly surprised. 

Pre-flight

One thing that surprised me was that I could not check-in online before the flight. I understand that it is probably because of increased security, and even though you usually can’t check into flights to America, it still surprised me. That’s because you couldn’t even choose your seat online. It was a little like stepping back about 10 years, before online check-in and seat selection was an option. At the airport everything was fine. Of course lines were longer at check-in, because everyone had to check-in at the counter, instead of just dropping off their luggage.

At the Prague airport I had my very first experience with the e-gate passport control. I heard horror stories about people getting stuck between the gates, the camera not recognizing their faces and all sorts of other great anecdotes. So, as I was nearing the e-gate, Alena told me she would stand right there and watch as I embarrass myself. So much faith in me… 😀 I managed, without getting stuck and on my first try!   

Flight

The flight itself was fine. It was a 9 hour long day flight, so boredom comes naturally with this. However, boredom hit earlier, faster and harder than usual, but I will talk about that later. There were a couple of turbulences, but nothing the airline can affect. Somehow, I became the translator and the short-flight-connection coordinator/expert, when Czechs all around me started asking me to either translate the safety briefing or customs forms.

The service was nice. Only one flight attendant made me feel like I was bothering her when I asked for the English version of the customs form instead of the French. Other than that, the flight attendants were very nice!

Foodimg_0993

Gluten-free food is always a bit of a problem. However, I actually had really good chicken on this flight, it wasn’t completely dry and tasteless! Shocking, I know! One thing I don’t understand is why I always get pretzels as a snack at the beginning of the flight. I wish I could get something else to nibble on. Oh well.

In-flight entertainment

Where do I begin. There were no screens. You could rent an iPad from the airline for $10 or download the app. However, if you are going to do something like this, there should be a sufficient amount of warning! Shoot us an email, saying something like “hey, there won’t be any in-flight entertainment, so bring a book or a magazine. Make sure you download the Air Canada app, so you can enjoy some in-flight entertainment. Thank you and goodbye.” But no, instead, halfway through boarding, they announce over the intercoms, hey so if you have internet on your phone or your tablet, download the app for in-flight entertainment. Except guess what, not everyone has internet in their phone, a lot of people are traveling internationally, so naturally they don’t want to pay the extra money on data. And if you are leaving the country, chances are you are out of data! So please, Air Canada, don’t assume, and warn your passengers that the flight isn’t flying in this century and that for the 9 hour flight you will only have your thoughts to distract you.

I wrote half of this article on the plane ride, when I was very bored and a little mad. I was quite happy with Air Canada, but I do wish that for the price of that ticket, I could have had free in-flight entertainment. That might just be me. It is a good airline and I did like this connection! Just make sure you bring things to do!


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Flying with Finnair

When I decided to go to Japan, the biggest concern was getting tickets for the correct dates, price and availability. Seeing as I was buying these tickets less than two days before my intended departure, availability was key and we chose Finnair. It’s also the shortest route from Prague to Osaka, with 2 hours or so from Prague to Helsinki and then 9 hours from Helsinki to Osaka with a brief 3 hour layover.

IMG_6949Pre-Flight

Pre-flight procedures here are pretty standard. You get a reminder e-mail 24 hours ahead of time and you can check in, nothing to remark on. Everything worked as it should have and I was on my way!

Flight

To be honest, it wasn’t one of my favorite flights, the seats are rather small and the place has a cramped feel to it. My return flight was significantly better, as I had two seats to myself and was able to be a little more comfortable. The best part was that the cabin temperature was pretty near perfect and I wasn’t freezing, as is sometimes the case.

Food

Food was decent, although on the way to Japan I didn’t eat much. On the way back, it was significantly better and we even got ice cream half way through the flight! You get a small bottle of water when you walk on the plane, so bonus points for that, even though it’s not enough for the long haul flight. On the short flight, you have a selection of food and drinks that you can purchase. On the other hand, service was great and always helpful.IMG_1193

TIP! Once you’re past security, bring a bottle of water for your long haul flight. I was pretty dehydrated on the way there so I did this when coming back and felt a lot better.

In-flight Entertainment

I was lucky because I travelled there and back in different months, so the movies and tv shows were slightly different. Overall, there’s a decent selection of movies and shows and I wasn’t bored, even though I hardly slept. One tip for you – you get free earphones, but I recommend that you bring your own, along with a converter to the two prong outlet for sound that airplanes have.

Overall, this was a very convenient way to get from A to B with the shortest possible travel time and best departure and arrival times. And for that alone, I would fly with them again. On the way there I was a little surprised, but on the way back I figured out what I need to do to make my flight more comfortable and it definitely was!

Air France/Delta Review

I’ve always had an up and down relationship with Air France. They have reasonable prices and their flight times usually work for me really well, but there are many issues with them otherwise. I just flew from Boston to Prague with Air France and the flight was operated by Delta. I always consider that the worst case scenario, because it usually means old planes, ok food, and ok in-flight entertainment. And, sadly enough,  they did not fail to meet my expectations this time either.

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Pre-Flight

The pre-flight procedures go pretty well with Air France. You get an email that reminds to you to check in, which is very useful. However, one thing that anyone who has an allergy has to keep in mind, is that you have to order a special meal before you check in (more than 30 hours ahead of time) but you can’t order a special meal when buying the tickets. So please keep that in mind, because they cannot help you! Other than that, check in and baggage drop off is straight-forward and quick. At the gate, the staff ran into a slight issue, because their announcement was not clear, so, many people lined up to talk to them at the desk. Since the staff had to deal with so many people, you could tell they were getting frustrated with all the customers.

 

Flight

IMG_8886The flight itself was ok. The airplane had pretty decent legroom, so at even when the person in front of me put their seat down, I still had room. One issue several people had, including me, was that the individual lights were not pointed at the correct seats. I saw three people get up and try to fix it. They all gave up rather quickly and sat back down in the darkness. So much for “the lights in the cabin will be dimmed during take off, but feel free to turn on your individual lights”.

The rest of the flight went pretty well, some turbulences, but nothing too bad. The flight attendants were really nice and helpful and for the first time on Air France, they were not completely shocked that I didn’t speak French, and even remembered I spoke English the next time they came around.

 

Food

Food was kind of sad. That usually happens with my gluten-free meal though. The best part of my meal was applesauce, although the applesauce was a great surprise addition to the meal! One thing that Air France really has going for it, is wine. They have really good wine, which I definitely enjoyed!

One more quick reminder! If you have an allergy, make sure you order the meal ahead of time! The woman next to me didn’t and then she was struggling to find something to eat, because of her fish allergy.

 

In-flight EntertainmentIMG_8883

In-flight entertainment was kind of sad. The screens were tiny, smaller than an iPad mini, if you want a visual reference. I may have been spoiled by Emirates and Swiss Air, but I also felt like Air France does not have a large selection of movies and TV shows. Even though they had some new movies, recent movies and even some old movies, in general the choices were not great. On top of that, the sound seemed to be a little messed up. The soundtrack is overpowering and loud, to the point where you can’t hear the dialogue, so even though I tried to watch a movie, half the time I did not understand what any of the characters said.

 

Overall Air France was pretty decent this time. I was just glad they did not lose my luggage this time, because out of the past four trips I took with them, they lost my stuff three times. Let us know what you think about Air France and if you had better experiences.


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Swiss Air: Thoughts and Experiences

IMG_7096I fly between Boston and Prague quite a lot and personally I love taking Swiss Air for this trip. Part of the reason is that I am a loyal customer, so I collect as many miles as I can, but really I am very happy with their service. On top of their great service and actually decent food, layovers in Zurich are very calm and I never have to stress about making my second flight. My most recent flight with Swiss Air was at the end of November, so here’s my experience:

 

 

Pre-flight

The pre-flight process with Swiss Air is very simple. You can check-in online 24 hours before your flight, or you can even select automatic check-in, when they will automatically send you your boarding pass about 25 hours before the flight. This makes things so nice and easy, because you don’t have to stress about having to log in online exactly 24 hours before the flight or you won’t get good seats! That’s the only bad thing about Swiss Air, you can’t select a seat before you do online check-in, all you can do is select what type of seat you prefer: aisle, window or middle (no one ever wants the middle!). Even so, Swiss Air likes to make everything simple for their customers.

 

Flight

During the actual flight the service is great! The flight attendants are very friendly and unlike with Air France, they are NOT surprised when you speak English to them. They are helpful and try to accommodate the passengers with whatever needs they may have. True, when a woman got out of her seat during a particularly strong turbulence, the attendant yelled at her through the PA system, but she kind of deserved it, otherwise they are super polite.

 

In-flight Entertainment

I love the in-flight entertainment Swiss Air has. Yes, sometimes the screens/technology is dated and the screens aren’t as pretty because some of the airplanes are older, but they have an amazing selection of movies and tv shows on each flight. Not only do they offer recently released movies, like Inside Out (I may or may not have watched that twice), but they also offer classics. Last week they offered all of the 007 movies and all of the Fast & Furious movies. They also had multiple episodes of the Big Bang Theory, Jane the Virgin and even episodes of The Flash and The Walking Dead. Needless to say, I was not bored on this flight :)

 

Food

Food is always a big question mark when it comes to eating on a plane. I have an added disadvantage of being a celiac, so I cannot have any gluten whatsoever. Luckily, airlines now offer special meals for celiacs, however, they usually suck. With Swiss Air it really depends on where you are flying from. Flying from the US to Europe, the food is ok. It’s better than what gluten-free plane food used to be, but it’s not best. Flying from Switzerland, however, is absolutely amazing. True, the warm meal still lacks in flavor sometimes, but I do get a warm gluten-free bun and lemon cake AND chocolate marble cake! I do love Swiss Air when they give me cake <3 As far as drinks go, the flight attendants make sure you get enough to drink throughout the flight and walk down the aisle frequently offering water.

FullSizeRender

Swiss Air is great! I definitely recommend them. I never had an issue with them or at the Zurich airport during transfers.They may not be the cheapest option out there, but I personally think it’s worth it!

 

Want to compare Swiss Air to another airline? Read our review of the Emirates Airline!

 


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Emirates – worth the hype?

For the past year or so, I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for Emirates. I’ve flown with quite a few airlines already, but I kept hearing how Emirates is off the charts wonderful. Finally last week, I got my chance to check it out and see how the airline compares to its competition. So what did I think?

My Emirates plane!

Pre-flight

To be honest, I can’t judge their booking process, as I haven’t gone through it myself. But from the point of receiving my tickets onward, I was happy with the pre-flight process. A day before each departure (from Prague and then from Dubai on my way back), I received a text message, reminding me of my upcoming departure. What was great about this text was that it included a link to online check-in, so I could complete that fairly quickly. At the airport, it was pretty standard – bag drop, quick coffee, security. The one thing I have to say is that on the way back, my check-in, passport and security checks were completed in a total of 15 minutes. That was a first for me, so I was fairly impressed and at a loss for what to do in two and a half hours I had until boarding.

Flight

On my way there, I sat in the very last row of the plane. I don’t really sleep on planes, so I’m not bothered by travelers or flight attendants frequently walking by my seat. I was flying in a Boeing, but I was immediately impressed with their in flight entertainment, which you can start watching as soon as you sit down. Boarding was a quick process and I even got lucky – the seat next to me was empty – probably the only empty seat on the plane. And on medium to long haul flights, this is something I always hope for. I held my breath and was so happy when they closed the cabin door and it was certain that I won’t be fighting for my spot on the armrest. The flight was almost entirely a smooth ride, with no major turbulence or other disruptions.

In-flight entertainment

Even before takeoff, we got hot towels to freshen up and headsets were already on our seats. As soon as the safety video was over, I started looking through my movie choices. The selection was impressive and included several movies that I have been planning to see. Which means that precisely at that point I decided that I’d use the six or so hours to catch up on movies and tv, rather than sleep. (I was grateful for the same selection on the way back, because even then I didn’t watch everything I wanted to).

The in flight entertainment was so great that I didn’t even feel the need to test the in flight WiFi or turn on my phone, which were also within the realm of possibility on these flights. 

Emirates food

Cabin service was amazing. When mealtime came, I was worried that, as often happens in the back of the plane, I wouldn’t be able to choose my meal. And guess what? They still had chicken when they reached the last row of the plane, which almost never happens. And it was not just edible, it was good. I also fell in love with their adorable mini snacks that were a part of the meal. But my favorite part? When they collected my tray ahead of time, so I didn’t have to wait for the cart to reach my row.

 

Emirates luggage tag.

Does it stack up?

Both of my flights, Prague to Dubai and the return journey a few days later, were great and comfortable experiences and we landed before I could get bored.

My conclusion: you have to try it. It’s still an airline, but if you’re traveling far and want to feel at least a little pampered even in economy class, do it.

More details on my adventure in Dubai are coming soon, so make sure to check in later!


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