This, of course, meant FRA, the early FRA and the breaking of a personal rule by having a short connect. So it was hand luggage only, using the small rolling case and the laptop bag for the simple reasons of being able to carry two pairs of shoes and have space for fags on the way back.
The Friday was a nearly perfect day for flying, so I switched from my usual aisle to a window for FRA-PRG. Having a nearly record run in a taxi meant I had plenty of time at BHX, so I quickly went through the painless security, bought some bits from Boots and WH Smug and then confident of being fed on the plane, I decided not to go to Pret for Brekkie but to go to the new revamped Servisair lounge for which I was triple qualified (Priority Pass, LH status, Business Class), it still took the 'tard on the desk about 3 minutes to decided if he could let me in or not. Whilst the revamped lounge is quite bright and airy, it still has the same miserable collection of shelf-stable cakes and packets of Quavers masquerading as food.
There was one of those Circusair "moments" over departure, the flight went from "5 mins to boarding", straight to "Departed" causing a small stampede over to the gate, where the staff looked confused and clueless. As usual, there were about 5 staff there, of which only one did the work. Anyway, with a light load, we were soon all boarded and up and away. Business Class was looked after by a charming (and rather woofy) purser, who quickly handed out the drinks and meals to the four of us in J.
Lufthansa has a new modular service concept of which Birmingham flights will be Band 2. The above was served for Breakfast, which looks about right for a Band 2 flight. The fruit salad was mainly apple with some kiwi and grapes, the "cold cuts" was a solitary slice of salami with a nice bit of Shropshire Blue and the croissant was naff. Seconds were offered on hot rolls and on coffees. They even generously gave me a sample of the Economy offering, which didn't seem very Band 2.
However, i had it as a snack in the afternoon and it was quite tasty and has to be better than the dreaded cheese sandwich, not sure about it as a breakfast concept, I can see the Pret hot baguette still being eaten.
Needless to say, it was a bus gate arrival, I had been hoping for a stand, but it meant a mad chase was on. After the usual faffing around, we went on the usual magical mystery tour of Frankfurt airport before ending up at the B bus gates. From then the sprint was on, I had about 35 minutes to get through security and onto the next flight. Would there be chance for a fag? would there be a chance for a diet coke in the A26 slum lounge?
Luckily, there were no queues at immigration and it was straight to transfer security where I used the Business Class queue, however, it was proceeding at a truly glacial pace, with the little Beamtin operating it, stopping the belt constantly to adjust contents so that Alles in Ordnung and then huffing, fussing and rewinding, so that the whole process took over 10 minutes from joining a queue of 3 people to starting to stomp down the Tunnel of Hate. The Economy queues were moving faster, but had I gone through there I'd have never made the flight.
I ended up, hot, sweaty and slightly dishevelled at the A23 Raucherhütte with about 7 minutes to go before boarding ended, I had half a cancer stick then made it onto the A321 with, I think, the new seating as not quite the last passenger. I eased myself past a Septic into the window seat and relaxed.
FRA-PRG is a short flight of about 40 minutes, most of which I cheerfully gazed out of the window at the view of Hesse, Franconia, the Sudetenland and the approach to Prague. We were severed the Band 1 snack box which bemused the Septics on board who have been brainwashed over the years by their lame excuses for airlines that the elderly cabin crew can't do any service on a flight of less than an hour.
There was a ham roulade with julienne vegetables, a small salad with pine nuts, a mini roll and some brie with currant chutney. The first was fine, but there was something odd lurking beneath it, the salad was lovely, the brie wasn't bad. All in all, pretty good for a 40 minute flight.
Getting off at Prague, it was straight out, straight onto a 100 bus, quick fag break and the B-line metro all the way to the hotel. Less than 45 minutes, 26Kr cost as opposed whatever the average Prague taxi driver feels like.
My room was ready at the Hilton and I was upgraded to an Executive Plus room, lovely big room with somewhat bathroom but a nice view (a bit noisy at night, but nothing too bad). I decided I just about had time for a real meal, so I nipped around the corner and had a plate of goulash (and a half litre)
The Goulash was very nice, especially with the added chilli and onion and the latkes were superb. I love Prague food, especially when eaten outside on a lovely afternoon.
Anyway, after a busy afternoon, it was just time for a wash and brush up before going out to eat for the evening. A lot of places were crowded and I ended up on somewhere on Hybernská having a decent if unusual pork schnitzel and some very good potato salad and a bottle of very strong dark beer. Afterwards, I went for posh drinkies in Buddha Bar, which was nice for the free prawn crackers, but a bit dark and pricey - nice range of spirits though. With such an early start, the tiredness was showing and it was back to the hotel for some kip.
The next day, sadly, wasn't so nice and sunny, in fact it was a bit grey and cloudy. After having a decent continental brekkie in the lounge (good coffee, good breads, poor sossidge), I met a friend and we went for lunch in the Potrefená Husa again on Hybernská, this is part of a Staropramen chain which looks to produce an upscale modern beerhall experience and succeeds very well. Good menu, nice decor and very good service standards. I was lured into the veal special, with mushroom sauce and gnocchi by the description from the server, washed down, of course, with Staropramen, my friend had an enormous plate of goulash.
Doesn't look a lot, but those gnocchi are very filling. A highly enjoyable meal after which, we went for a wander around the shops and then on a riverboat trip. After all this, I retired back to the hotel and went to the lounge for a cup of coffee and some snacks, as with last time, a nice little selection with the highlight being the rather good cheeseboard.
Having a project to work on, I stayed in that evening and ended up with a room service burger to fill the gap. The Hilton Burger is a variable feast, but the one at the Prague Old Town is truly excellent with good cheese, bacon, ripe tomato and very good chips.
Anyway, after a nice day and a half in Prague, it was time to get up early and make my way by bus and metro, I did try and check in online, but the Lufthansa website was throwing a wobbler, which isn't unusual. Arriving a little later than I had planned, I swiftly saw all the self-service check-ins out of order and the queue snaking for ages - so I went into the business class queue where boarding passes were swiftly issued on Austrian stock (which is sort of fitting for Prague). Using the fast track security was a joy and then it was off to duty free to obtain fags for me and goodies for the office. I then wandered up to the Crystal Lounge which is operated by Czech Airlines (and used by Lufthansa), it was a bit ummm, sparse.
The seating was as uncomfortable as it was colourful. However, a quick soft drink, a riffle through a French newspaper (Air Chance use the lounge as well) and a rest stop were all welcome as I carefully repacked the bags to full expansion mode. There was a selection of drinks - sadly no beer tap (just canned Gambrinus) and some food in a fridge as well as a selection of nuts, crisps and
FarmFoods broken biscuits.
Boarding the Airbus 321 was perfectly on time, although Business Class and Star Golds had to fight their way through people hanging around the gate. Boarding was very efficient for a flight with about 2 spare seats in Economy and 1 empty seat in Business. The crew on this flight were very efficient and had the lunch boxes out very quickly, they even managed to offer drinks 3 times on this short flight.
The introduction card for this - mentioned the dread words molecular gastronomy and the large number of Septics on the flight looked at it all very dubiously. I thought it was all rather splendid, there was a "sambal" prawn mounted on a herb jelly with couscous, a small piece of parma ham, some shaved and delicious cheese, a smidge of the dreaded Kräuterquark and a cherry tomato. There was also a mini chocolate muffin in creme anglaise. For 50 minutes, I thought this was excellent, although from the amount left by most pax, it wasn't a success in general.
On arriving in Frankfurt, it was swiftly through the Tunnel of Hate and immigration and into the Raucherhütte to top up levels. I then decided to head to the B4x Business Lounge rather than the B2x one, there's no real difference, but plenty of space to charge the iPhone and get some more work done. The food selection was, of course, abysmal - it's Mexican month, celebrated by Pickled Pepper salad and yes, a Mexican version of Kräuterquark. I had a piece of apple cake and a Coke Light or two.
I noticed that after a few months of the pleasure of a real gate with an airbridge for the BHX, it was back to the buses and the remote stand half way to Groß-Gerau, where I was surprised to see a BMI Airbus 319 on stand, then I remembered that some BHX's this summer will be Lufthansa flights operated by BMI (who are now owned by Lufthansa).
We were welcomed on board by the BMI crew who did the usual rounds of newspapers and asked for drinks and food orders. It seems that these flights are not using the LH catering at least at the start and we had a choice of hot meals.
I choose the pasta, which was cheese tortellini in a spicy tomato sauce. There was a small salad with cottage cheese and a lemon panacotta, I had a white wine with it, but it was fairly hideous. The BMI crew were great and I look forward to a few more flights with them over the next few months as they operate the LH.
We landed a bit early and seeing the Emirates 77W land behind us, I made a determined effort to get through immigration and out to the taxi as fast as possible and I made it.