The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.
Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore
The purpose of this post is to tell you about the Croatia Airlines business class experience. But really, I do not care about the Croatia Airlines business class experience. Because for once in my life, this trip was about the destination, not the journey. And what was the destination? Well…
Since you are still reading this and haven’t clicked on to the next post (or are forced to linger because it’s not up yet), I will assume you want to know more about Croatia Airlines.
What do I know about Croatia Airlines? Very little. I know they’re the state-owned flag carrier of Croatia. I know that they share the same FFP as Lufthansa. I know that they operate an all narrow-body fleet of 13 planes. And I know that I am relying on them to get me to Frankfurt as fast as possible with zero drama.
My biggest concern in such situations is flight delays or cancellations, but I comforted myself with the fact that this was their home base and they could swap out aircraft pretty quickly if something went wrong (unlike another all narrow-body regional carrier…)
The plan is simple. I leave ZGB airport at 0905 on OU416. I arrive at FRA at 1040. I then lose track of the next few hours in a state of champagne-addled delirium before boarding a 1430 flight to that great party capital Riyadh.
To get to Frankfurt, I had to first navigate Zagreb Airport. I arrived at 0730. Zagreb Airport, with 2.5 million passengers a year, is the busiest airport in Croatia. That really isn’t saying much, because Changi moved 55.5 million in the same period. It’s a fairly cozy facility but was quite crowded for our morning departure.
The queue for economy was snaking out the back but fortunately priority check-in was being properly enforced.
I was surprised that a small airport like Zagreb had a special Star Alliance Gold track expedited security line. For the uninitiated, Star Alliance has these special queues that Gold members (or business/first class travelers on Star Alliance carriers) can use to get faster security screening. Time past security? 0800.
It appeared like there was only one lounge in the whole airport that was shared by all the carriers. And I really mean all. Star Alliance, One World, SkyTeam, Priority Pass, Lounge Key and various other programs I didn’t know existed. Did you know FlyDubai had a premium cabin product?
The lounge is split into two sections- the left is a smaller, less crowded room with fewer amenities, on the right is a larger (and more crowded) room with more food and seating.
Here’s the room on the left. There was surprisingly no one there given that we were taking off during the peak morning period.
The old trustworthy instant coffee machine was there.
As was the most high tech juice dispenser I had ever seen.
Hard liquor was available at breakfast, because Eastern Europe.
And the breakfast spread was some stale pastries and fruit.
Here’s the right hand side of the lounge. As you can see it is much larger and populated
They had a fountain drink dispenser
And more stale pastries
And a bigger refrigerated section with fruit and even more stale pastries. I’m starting to sense a trend here
On the plus side, they also had reading materials
I passed the time watching Croatian wheel of fortune. I got pretty good at it too.
At 0835 it was time to start boarding. Fun fact: The Zagreb airport doesn’t have any aerobridges. All boarding is at the tarmac level.
We were bused to the plane (all in one bus, no separate one for premium cabin travelers).
I boarded at 0845. On board the plane I noticed something interesting…
Apparently, at some point in time His Holiness had flown this very plane. This was a good omen. I would like to believe his version of this A319 was somewhat more nicely configured than mine though. Remember how I remarked on my Turkish short haul flight about how all we got was a little divider table between the seats in intra Europe business class? Guess I shouldn’t have complained because Croatia just blocks off the middle seat and calls it a day.
Reading that sign also made me realize that meant the plane I was on was more than 18 years old. Which was reassuring. But what better way to take your mind off possible metal fatigue and mechanical failure than a really nice glossy in-flight magazine!
It was my virgin Croatia Airlines experience and I really didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised though because the stewardesses were super cheerful. The whole service had a quaint sort of “we know we’re not a premium carrier but we’ll do a scaled back version of everything the premium carriers do” feel to it. For example, instead of hot towels, the stewardess came around with wet tissue packets on a tray and gave them out.
The captain came on the PA. It was now 0855 and the aircraft doors were closed. He gave the usual welcome aboard speech and we pushed back at 0900. There’s very little traffic at ZGB airport and we taxied and and were soon soaring over the Croatian countryside. Time check: still on schedule.
A meal was served on this short 2 hour flight. I had deliberately not eaten breakfast that morning in anticipation of the FCT food, and I certainly wasn’t going to let this derail me either.
So I sat in my narrow seat and twiddled my thumbs, the very picture of focus. I did not even visit the bathroom to get my usual poorly angled photo. This was game face time.
And that was that. We landed at FRA at 1018, 22 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. I saw a familiar face on the FRA tarmac, which was probably SQ25/26, full of lucky people who had managed to redeem award space on one of the hardest routes to come by…
The doors opened at 1030. Croatia Airlines had done its part. Now getting to the FCT was all up to me.
As an erudite and eloquent man once said, “chiong ah.”