CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal 1 at 1545 for my 1700 departure on flight OU4491 to Zagreb, after a long and arduous journey on the Piccadilly line from central London. Croatia Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, so I proceeded to the alliance’s dedicated Zone K – go to the far end of the terminal and turn right. I had checked in online earlier in the day and the website says you can select your seat and print out your boarding card in advance, but I was given neither of these options. I therefore had to print out my card at one of several self-service check-in kiosks – the zone was very quiet on this afternoon – and then go to Croatia Airlines’ bag-drop desk to drop off my luggage – there were only two people in front of me. I then went through the Star Alliance security area just off the check-in zone (laptops out, shoes off) which took five minutes. I was airside at 1600.
BOARDING Gate 23 opened at 1610 so I took the five-minute walk there – from security, go to the right-hand end of the departure lounge then turn left. The flight started boarding at 1640, with priority given to business class passengers, and was via an airbridge. I was in my seat quickly and we pushed back at 1650, although we didn’t take off until 1715, 15 minutes behind schedule.
THE SEAT This two-class A319 aircraft is configured 3-3, with five rows of business class – the middle seat is kept free, so the seats are AC-DF – and 22 rows of economy. The seat is the same in both classes, and a curtain separates the two. I was in the third row of economy in window seat 8F, which I found ideal on this short-haul flight as I didn’t need much aisle access. The seat was upholstered in blue fabric with grey plastic and leather armrests. There was a button in the armrest to recline your seat, but mine didn’t seem to do much. A good-sized table folded down from the seat in front, which wobbled a fair bit when I typed on a laptop. There was a magazine rack below, which was big enough for me to store my small handbag. The seat was comfortable and legroom was decent for economy class – admittedly my legs aren’t that long, but I could stretch them out well.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Row nine is the emergency exit row and has more legroom. Otherwise, opt for one of the other rows near the front of economy as this is where the meal service begins. Avoid the rows at the back as that is where the toilets and galley are located. And, as usual, avoid the middle seats.
THE FLIGHT About half an hour into the flight the meal service began, with plastic cutlery provided. It consisted of a shredded celery salad – I couldn’t place the vegetable and asked the cabin attendant what it was; she didn’t know the word in English but later came back and told me, which was indicative of the friendly and helpful service. The main course was sliced cold turkey in pastry with green beans, followed by apple pie. It was all tasty and probably the best economy meal I’ve had this year – I polished the lot off and washed it down with a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon (I wasn’t offered a top-up). The trays weren’t collected for a while afterwards but luckily there was no one in the seat next to me – the flight was about two-thirds full – so I stashed it on the neighbouring tray and got on with some work. As this was only a short flight, there was no in-flight entertainment.
ARRIVAL We landed at 2005 local time, ten minutes ahead of schedule, and were quickly off the aircraft. A bus took us to the terminal, where there were several immigration desks. I was through in minutes and made my way to my connecting flight to Dubrovnik.
VERDICT A comfortable short-haul flight with a decent seat and good food offering.
PRICE A midweek economy return from London to Dubrovnik connecting in Zagreb in November started from 1,978 kn (£251) online.