A very warm welcome to the very first Flight-Report on Bul Air, ladies and gentlemen! For those of you unfamiliar with them, Bul Air is Bulgaria Air's charter airline, and they operate wetleases for multiple airlines, including their parent. They operate a fleet of 9 737-300s. I was very much looking forward to flying with them, not because I was expecting any good service, but because I could fly a 737 Classic before they are all gone.
As a reminder, I took this trip as a part of my summer travels through Europe. This series consists of 8 flights with 6 airlines on 4 types of aircraft passing through 7 airports. All flights were in Economy Class. The full routing can be seen below.
The entire routing can be seen on the map below, courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper:
My flight was scheduled for 4:30 PM, and I had to be out of my Airbnb by 12, so I decided to take the long long way to the airport: the subway to a local bus. I walked to Staroměstská, the station closest to where I was staying and took the Line A to Nádraží Veleslavín.
When I got there, the bus to the airport was just pulling into the stop. Score!
About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to Terminal 1, the non-schengen terminal that Bulgaria Air uses.
The check-in for Bulgaria Air wasn't open yet, so I OLCI'd and made my way through passport control. Shortly afterwards, I was in a duty free maze.
Delta 767-400 to JFK.
I headed upstairs to where the two lounges are located.
First I decided to check out the Menzies Aviation Lounge.
Wonderful view of an empty tarmac.
The lounge itself is very small, and only consists of chairs like this. It's interesting to note that United uses this lounge, and I wouldn't want to be here at the same time as a 767-400-load of J passengers, not to mention other elites.
All that was on offer were these dopey finger sandwiches.
Rossiya 737-800 to St. Petersburg.
Belavia 737-500 to Minsk.
SWISS A320 from Zürich.
Turkish Airlines A321 from Istanbul-Havalimani
Speedbird A321 to Heathrow.
Air France/Joon A320 from Paris-de Gaulle.
Luxair Dash 8-Q400 to Luxembourg.
Lufthansa A320 to Frankfurt.
After being thoroughly underwhelmed by the Menzies Lounge (apart from the views), I headed across the hall to the much bigger Mastercard Lounge.
While bigger, the lounge was equally disappointing, as it was packed and also had lame food offerings. Luckily I managed to snag a window seat and do some more spotting.
The afternoon's departures.
UIA 737-800 from Kiev-Boryspil
Ural Airlines A320 from Krasnodar.
Pegasus A320neo from Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen.
Czech Airlines A330-200 from Seoul-Incheon.
Emirates A380 to Dubai.
Aegean A320 to Athens.
My mysterious aircraft arriving from Sofia.
I bid adieu to the lounge 15 minutes prior to boarding, as security is done at each gate at PRG.
Flight info at the gate.
Flying me back to Sofia would be LZ-BVU, a 1996-built 737-300 Classic, delivered to Southwest in September of that year. It had only entered service with Bul Air 28 days before my flight.
Boarding but not…
Our pilots working on their checklists.
A look at the albino fuselage.
I had no idea what type of cabin to expect on board, yet I was still kind of surprised to find a classic Southwest cabin! Never in a million years would I have expected to fly in Europe in a Southwest seat…
Just like on all my previous Bulgaria Air flights, a bottle of water was waiting for me at my seat.
Misaligned seat rows.
Boarding finished about 15 minutes later with every seat being taken. Once boarding was completed, the Italian captain made his welcome announcement and informed us that the flight time of 1:45. Shortly thereafter, we left the gate.
Starting up the engines.
Taxiing to Runway 24.
Lining up with the runway.
Left turn toward the southeast.
Cabin during the climbout.
A look back at where we took off.
Prague City Center.
Cúkrak TV Transmitter.
PSU without Bulgarian text.
Another left turn towards Ukrainian Airspace.
Once we passed 25,000 feet, the seatbelt sign was turned off and the flight attendants began the service. It's interesting to note that there were only 3 flight attendants on board (in my experience, 737s have a minimum of 4 flight attendants), and they were all wearing different uniforms: the purser was wearing a Bul Air uniform, whereas the other two were wearing uniforms with no logo, and they both looked so cheap that they could have been bought on Amazon for $20. Regardless of that, the service was quite decent, and the flight attendants smiled every time I interacted with them. To eat, we were all given a ham and cheese sandwich, though unlike on the outbound flight this one was cold and not as fresh.
The sandwich was served with a piece of chocolate, which I think is standard on Bulgaria Air flights.
Close up of the engine.
Making a right turn over Uzhhorod, Ukraine. For some reason, instead of flying directly over Austrian, Hungary, and Serbia to Bulgaria, we flew an eastern routing over Slovakia, Ukraine, and Romania, but you can see that at the end of the report.
Another POV of the cabin.
Baia Mare, Romania.
Maramures Airport (BAY/LRBM).
Avram Iancu Cluj Airport (CLJ/LRCL).
RoAF 71st Air Base (LRCT)
Craiova Airport (CRA/LRCV)
Commencing our descent over Dolj County, Romania.
A smooth landing on Runway 27 at 8:08 PM, 48 minutes behind schedule.
Taxiing off the runway.
Austrian Dash 8-Q400 to Vienna.
Bulgaria Air E190 from Corfu.
As happy as I was for having flown on a 737 Classic, I was equally happy to get off the aircraft, as the cabin was worn out and VERY uncomfortable, even for such a short flight.
Last look at LZ-BVU.
Like I said above, our routing was very odd. We initially flew towards Sofia, but then we flew east, passing the cities Brno and Košice. We made two right turns over the Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine and flew almost due south towards Sofia. It seems as though we were purposely avoiding Hungarian airspace, but I have no idea why. We maintained an altitude of 35,000 feet for the duration of the cruise.
Immigration was a breeze, and I was in the city within an hour of landing. Thanks for joining me on this flight, and I hope to see you in the next report. Spoiler alert: I love Aegean!
A very exotic flight in terms of the aircraft.
+ Friendly crew
+ Sandwich service
- Old, tired, uncomfortable cabin
- No form of entertainment or WiFi
- Crappy lounges in Prague
- Nearly 1 hour delay
As an AvGeek, I loved this flight, but if you are after comfort, I'd advise against flying a Bul Air 737. They have 2 737s (LZ-BOO and LZ-BOT) with different cabins, but I don't know how much better those cabins are. If you want to experience a Bul Air 737 Classic but for a really short flight, they fly them from Sofia to Athens, Burgas, and Varna. For Bulgaria Air flights, stick to their A319s and E190s!