Trip report: Smartwings PRG-RHO (Prague – Rhodes)

For reasons I’ll detail in a later post, we decided to cut our Prague trip short. Having fallen head over heels in love with Helsinki, we looked at going back there and flying to our next destination, Rhodes, from there. However, last-minute flights were frightfully expensive and award seats were only showing up on BA, which entailed hours waiting at Heathrow. It wasn’t meant to be. Smartwings doesn’t allow cancellations (as in, you won’t get anything but taxes back), but date changes are allowed. So, for about HK$1000 we booked our escape from the Czech Republic and started our Greek adventure early.

Czech-in (sorry, couldn’t resist) was a little confusing. Our flight wasn’t listed on the FIDS but there were 2 flights to Rhodes at separate check-in desks. When travelling on Smartwings with a Smartwings flight number, it’s also useful to know the Travel Service flight number of the same flight. I’m still confused about how the two companies are related to each other (& we booked through Czech Airlines, which adds another entity into the mix!), but it was the Travel Service flight number that was listed on the check-in desk monitor.

Check-in was supposed to start two hours before the flight, so 9.25 am. However, the one agent present saw fit to leisurely clean her glasses until 9.40, & was joined by colleagues manning other desks a little while later. When booking, we were unable add extra luggage (15kg is free) & weren’t able to add luggage when we changed our flights over the phone (oh yeah- because we’d booked through Czech Airlines, we had to call them and not Smartwings! Confusing much?), so had to go to the service desk to pay the €6 per kilo (ouch) before we could receive our boarding passes. Luckily, we didn’t need to rejoin the long check-in line to do this.

We spent the half hour or so before boarding in the Menzies lounge, which accepts Priority Pass. Nothing to write home about, but a relatively peaceful space.

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The flight turned out to not be very full, in spite of what the snaking check-in queue had suggested. This being our first and only LCC of the trip, we were struck by the tight seat pitch. Not ideal for tall passengers!

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The cabin during boarding
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Well, I knew my luggage would make it to RHO 😉

Before takeoff, the Purser made an  announcement about our flight details, etc. Takeoff was on time. It’s quite a scenic view around PRG:

Due to the lightish load we had our own intra-Europe business class style feel, with a free seat in our row. Moreover, the row in front was luckily unoccupied so we didn’t feel as cooped up since no one was reclining in front of us. The row behind us, which was the very last row, was also unoccupied. It felt rather calm and civilised until the ubiquitous devices started blaring- a symptom of no AVOD. Ugh. I understand travelling with children might be trying and a parent would want to distract their offspring, but for God’s sake use some headphones! I stopped reading my book and listened to some music (with headphones!) to drown it out.

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The cabin after takeoff

I noticed this sight on my AY flight to Prague (report to follow soon) – the straight line of blue and white. An unfamiliar sight flying in Asia.

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The buy-on-board (BOB) service started after the seat belt signs were switched off. I bought a cappuccino (packet style) for €2. They accept Czech Kroner or Euros, but they don’t accept Euro coins smaller than €1. Most passengers seemed to pass on the offerings,though some seemed to have brought their own sandwiches on board. Unlike many Asian LCCs they didn’t seem to care about upassengers eating outside food. I too brought my own food, since there was nothing available that I could eat.

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I felt a little bored halfway through the flight. There was no flight path display or any other indication of the remaining time.

Ho hum.

The flight deck greeting was done at 13.08 Czech time. Being bilingual, it started in Czech and felt very wordy! I understood why when Captain Thomas switched to English, as he gave a very detailed description of the runway information and our flight path. We were at 39000ft, and had flown over Vienna, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, and were currently in Greece, just 40km from Salonika, where we would soon be with family, so that made me very excited. Unfortunately we were seated on the right, but those on the left could see the beach resort area of Halkithiki.

What a great, detailed greeting from the captain!

The approach was just stunning. Take a look:

The Czech passengers applauded at something said in Czech, which going by the English announcement that followed, must have been that we’d arrived. You could assume there weren’t any Greeks on board except us because Greeks applaud on touchdown and not the announcement 😉

Gotta love disembarking on the tarmac!

All in all, it was a dull but pleasant flight because we had space. Had it been a full flight, it may have been more uncomfortable. We only flew with Smartwings/Travel Service/whoever they are because there was no other direct option, and flying any other carrier would have meant a long transit somewhere, and many other options were LCCs rather than full service carriers, which is unappealing. Would I fly them again? Well, don’t intend on returning to Prague, so I’m pretty sure this will be the first and only time. There really aren’t many trip reports of Smartwings online, so I hope this information helps other travellers!

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Last look at our seats

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It’s certainly not the fault of the airline, but the luggage reclaim experience was abysmal. It felt like we were back in China, so much pushing and shoving.

Bags came out in a trickle, with no system- they may have been from the Warsaw flight, other Travel Service flights Slovakia, or even ours. It was 45 minutes of waiting before my suitcase materialised, followed by my husband’s about 10 minutes later. What made it more confusing was that our flight number had disappeared from the screen, and wasn’t listed on any other carousels. There was no one to ask, either. Oh well, all was well in the end.

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