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Dirty Green And Red. Transatlantic AZ And FB  
User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 14584 times:

Dirty Green and Red.

There are two airlines that I would never, ever, again fly with: Alitalia and Iberia. No matter how cheap or appealing a route, I had promised myself to never pay those two another cent.

Well, I did not keep that promise. In early November I found out that I had to fly urgently to Sofia, of my native Bulgaria, for business-related reasons. After a quick search on Kayak I realized that the only reasonably-priced and reasonably-routed option I had was with AZ. I was to fly Chicago-Rome on Alitalia (AZ) and then on to Sofia with Bulgaria Air (FB). I wasn't thrilled with my options but the prospect of flying with FB was some kind of consolation given that I had never flown with the national carrier (neither in its present form nor it's previous ones) of the country I was born in.

For this trip I had to use my Bulgarian passport for the first time since I was probably a toddler. I quickly realized how differently you are treated by staff in ORD when they see that you are Bulgarian. From the girl at the check-in counter, to the porters, to some of the security stuff, to the ladies that direct traffic in the immigration area (who all, miraculously happened to be Bulgarian) they all sooner or later found out that I was Bulgarian (they either had to see my passport or they managed a sneaky peek at it) and were subsequently very polite and helpful to me, something that doesn't always come naturally to most of my compatriots when in their native land. Even though I had pre-selected seat 15A, I was actually given an exit-row window seat without even having to ask, and all of this thanks to my Bulgarian passport. Who would have thought!

After security I proceeded to the gate which was still completely empty. A few minutes after I got there a bunch of 6 or 7 porters came and sat opposite me, apparently waiting to be taken to the arrivals' level to unload wheel-chair and elderly passengers from the inbound flight that was about to arrive from FCO. Those guys (who were all no older than 20 and surprisingly not Bulgarian but Polish) acted as if I was not there. In the 15 mins that they were there they manged to litter the place with M&Ms (they were throwing them to each other), they arm-wrestled, fought with each other both verbally and physically, burped loud, shouted to each other and mentioned the word "kurwa" more times than I could count. During this time I couldn't help myself think how much these guys reminded me of "chavs". I found it somewhat amusing but it definitely was not appropriate behavior for airport employees, especially in the presence of a passenger.

http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4101.jpg
Our 767 aircraft on its arrival from FCO

Despite my horrendous experiences with AZ in the past, I had decided to give them a second chance, so I was trying to consciously not be too critical about their service. However, they wasted no time in testing this decision of mine by carrying out a pretty chaotic boarding, which unfortunately is very common with some carriers and definitely not specific to AZ. Despite the announcement informing the passengers that boarding will take place by class and seat row, pretty much all of them congregated in front of the gate. An Alitalia employee would have to talk in Italian to those right at the front and remind them of the boarding procedure. This led to a back-and-forth of groups of passengers that was amusing to watch from my seat. Again, not AZ's fault I guess, but not a pretty sight. While boarding was taking place the snow flurries outside turned into a snowstorm and before we knew it the wings were covered in snow and we needed to be de-iced before we could leave. Despite my pessimism this was done in no time and our departure was delayed only by 30-35 minutes. The exit row seat I got was very comfortable and spacious but not in such a great a shape itself as you can see from the photos. Not only was my armrest sawed in half, not only did the top part of it kept falling off, but (and not surprisingly) the audio would not work. I tried several times to plug in my headphones to watch the movies shown on the overhead monitors but all I was met with was white noise or nothing at all. Soon after take off my seatmate decided to relocate to one of the, completely empty, middle row seats where he laid down and slept for most of the flight. That gave me the opportunity to move to his seat and try to plug my earphones there in order to watch the movie. Alas, these were not working either. I tried to tweak them, double-checked the sound volume, changed sound channels and even the headphones themselves but to no good; the sound was simply not working on these seats. I eventually gave up and decided to focus on my book and AZ's Ulysses magazine. The Ulysses magazine provided information about some interesting city breaks but it also provided some really ...amusing pieces of information such that the Chicago "Spire" skyscraper is to be completed in a few months (within 2012), when in fact its construction has been cancelled since 2008. Not terribly up to date dear AZ.


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The legroom joys of exit row seats


The sudden snowstorm caught us all by surprise


De-icing in progress

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The pretty sad shape of my seat's armrest

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The pretty enormously out-of date Ulysses magazine's article about Chicago.

On another interesting note, at no point during the flight were we shown the flight path map. Instead during the periods between movies (2 of them in total, one American and one Italian) we were simply shown the Alitalia logo. When it came to food AZ did not disappoint me. The portions were generous and tasty, and it must have been the first time ever that I felt full on a transatlantic flight. Normally after a couple of hours following the meal I start starving again. After managing a couple of hours of sleep I woke up and waited for the breakfast service. This consisted of my beloved Milano cookies, an apricot pastry and a raspberry yogurt. While this was an excellent breakfast by my standards one could not miss the absence of spoons for one to eat the yogurt with. In amusement I watched people trying to scoop yogurt out using the coffee-stirring stick that came with the tray. I did the same and I must say that it requires some skill. Eventually, just before it was time to pick up the trash, someone brought the lack of spoons to the attention of the crew at which point they handed out a few spoons to those that had not eaten their yogurts yet. An isolated incident you may think (in fact it wasn't because there was more to come) but after having observed the AZ crew over 3 flights on this trip I could tell they were not the most engaged I have come across.

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Pre-meal snack of mixed crackers

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View of the cabin and the overhead monitors with Alitalia's logo on constant display,

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Our truly tasty meal. Chicken with beans and other veggies, baked macaroni and cheese, a salad of ham and green beans, Monterrey Jack cheese, crackers and almond-based cake.

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Breakfast

After our arrival at FCO, transfer passengers did not go through any passport control but instead we took the shuttle train to Terminals 1/2 and we were immediately met with a security checkpoint before proceeding to our connecting flights. Once I got to the gate for my connecting flight to SOF I was met with a sight that screamed of the Balkans. Here's a space with about 25 seats that, somehow, was occupied completely by no more than 12-14 people, while several others had to stand up. Not only people's bags occupied seats but a certain gentleman single-handedly occupied 4 or 5 seats by laying flat on them and taking a nap. Lack of consideration for other people is one of my pet-peeves and behaviors like these do not make me happy.

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A Blue Panorama aircraft at FCO

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Our Gate

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Our FB aircraft in the distance

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A quick look of our bird from inside the bus.

The flight was to be operated by a Bulgaria Air 737 but the bus took us instead to a BAe 146 in Hemus Air colors. Hemus Air does not exist anymore (it has purchased and merged with FB) but most of FB's smaller aircraft maintain its livery. The interior of the aircraft showed its age and leg room was scarce. FB's magazine (Bulgaria On Air) was as ...confused as AZ's, and contained route maps that implied the existence of transatlantic routes from Varna and Skopje... The service involved juice of our choice (alcoholic beverages such as Bulgarian red wine and beer were also available), a ham, cheese and cucumber sandwich, and a chocolate wafer. Our path took us over Split and then Bosnia and Serbia before we descended into Sofia.

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Tight legroom on this one

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FB's Bulgaria On Air magazine... Notice the extreme similarity of Bulgaria Air's letter font to that of Virgin Atlantic's and also that of their logo with that of Aeroflot...

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...and a look at its slightly confused route map

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Cabin view. Notice the very colorful bulkhead.

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Our meal

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Flying over the Dalmatian coast

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Another look at our aircraft from within the bus at SOF

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A FB aircraft in the new livery

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A look at SOF's Terminal 2

After clearing passport control and collected my luggage I was picked up and headed downtown. Normally when I visit Bulgaria I stay with family or friends but this time I decided to stay at a hotel. I chose to stay at the Hill Hotel in the Lozenets area due to its proximity to the business I had to attend and it proved to be a decent enough choice. I don't know how it compares to other hotels in Sofia but I had no complains other than that they need to fix the lights on their roof inscription which at night reads "Hill Ho". On my first night there I decided to take a walk around downtown and shoot some photos.

Below a selection of photos from around Sofia
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After having finished part of my business in Sofia, I had to head south into Greece and specifically Thessaloniki. For that I was to travel by road. Unfortunately the road that leads to Greece was closed due to erosion following the overflowing of river Struma. As a consequence instead of driving directly south, we had to reroute and go up the mountains, through the towns of Bansko and Goche Delchev and then enter Greece not from the Kulata-Promahonas crossing but from the Ilinden-Exohi one instead. This took us through some pretty narrow roads, full of curves, which combined with the completely insane, inconsiderate and purely criminal way some Bulgarians drive (especially those with slightly expensive cars, who cannot grasp the concept of no-overtake zones) made me cringe for the duration of the trip. After staying in Thessaloniki for a night I had to travel back into Bulgaria a couple more times over the next couple of days, once to go back to Sofia and once to visit the town of Petrich. Finally I returned to Thessaloniki where I was to fly out of SKG and back to ORD, through FCO.

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Driving south to Greece


Stopping for a lunch break and some local beer

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Driving through the winter resort town of Bansko

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A road block outside Bansko

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The mighty Pirin mountains

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The town of Petrich

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The Luda Mara river that traverses Petrich

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Entering the tunnel within which the Bulgaria-Greece border line is located (Ilinden-Exohi).


I arrived at SKG at about 4am, 2.5 hours ahead of departure. I've always had issues with checking-in at SKG. It seems that they always manage to screw things up in some way, regardless of what carrier I am flying with. A couple of years ago I was flying SKG-OTP-BRU-ORD with TAROM and AA. When I checked in my luggage at SKG, I got a luggage-tag on which BRU was omitted and as a consequence my luggage was to travel SKG-OTP-ORD (no need to say that an OTP-ORD route doesn't even exist). It was only after I got at OTP that I became aware of the faulty tag, at which point I rushed to let TAROM know, return my luggage and re-tag it. This summer, while checking in for a SKG-ZRH flight with my partner, despite being the first ones to check-in we were put at separate seats, despite the fact that there were plenty of available side-by-side seats on the aircraft. The same happened with other couples that had checked-in together. This has happened many times before while checking-in at SKG. Once, on a SKG-MUC flight that was not full, my mom, sister and aunt were put to sit one behind another, despite, once again being one of the very first to check-in. Anyway, on this occasion I was flying alone do I did not have to worry about this.

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The "Everest" food stand at SKG

Our aircraft was parked south of the terminal and was painted in AirOne colors. The A320 was in a very good state, it was clean and to my surprise the seats had personal screens. Departure was on time and our route took us over Albania and the Adriatic. Soon after take-off a fashion show was shown on the screens and we also had the choice of several music channels. Then came the breakfast service. That is, it came for everybody else except for my row. A food trolley came down the isle with a member of the crew at each side. The first guy served us our drinks but he did not give us any food, despite having done so for other rows. I assumed that it was going to be the second guy to give our row the food but that was not to be. Then I naively assumed that there will be somebody else giving us our snacks so I didn't notify the crew about the lack of food on our row. By the time I realized for sure that we were simply forgotten it was already too late and trash was in the process of being collected. It was partially my fault for not letting the crew know about this but this is again an indication of how unengaged the Alitalia crew was, as two of them failed to notice that our row was not served any food. The old (Greek) couple sitting next to me was similarly perplexed about this but they spoke no English so they didn't notify the crew either. Not a biggie but this is the first time in my 160+ flights that this has happened.

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Pretty standard legroom for this kind of aircraft

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The personal screens

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A view of the cabin

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The meal that was not to be

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Our aircraft after arriving at FCO

After our arrival in FCO, I proceeded to Terminal 3 where my passport was checked and stamped... Are EU passports supposed to be stamped when traveling through another EU country, even if one is to travel eventually to a destination outside the EU? I thought not, but then again I could be wrong. Once at the gate, I noticed an old Greek couple trying to ask (in Greek) another passenger (who was American) whether this was the gate for the flight to Chicago. After a couple of minutes of failed attempts to communicate I decided to jump in and help. Once this couple found out I could speak some Greek they attached themselves to me and kept asking me questions about the flight, the US and other miscellany and this continued even after we were on board the aircraft. Despite seating 12 rows apart the old gentleman would walk up to my seat at frequent intervals and ask me questions. At one point he asked me if I minded to help them with the customs and immigration forms once they were distributed. Of course I didn't mind and told him to just enjoy the flight and that everything would be taken care of.

http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4521.jpg
Looking outside the window of our gate at FCO

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Our AZ's 767 waiting at the gate

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Legroom

Just like in the inbound flight, my seatmate moved to another seat shortly before take-off (the load was no more than 60%, just like in the first flight) so I had both seats to myself. The state of the aircraft was similar to that of the inbound flight a week earlier. Not sure if this was the same aircraft or not (I did not check the registrations). The seats were dirty, the cover of the "ashtray" on my armrest was missing, thus exposing the dirty interior of the tray, the audio panel on my seat was not working AGAIN, but the one on the adjacent seat was functional, despite the fact that it was covered in duct-tape which held it in place. At least I could now watch a movie... It was about time... Out of 4 available seats on the 2 transatlantic flights, only one had a functional audio... The rest of the flight went by fairly smoothly.

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The infamous tray

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Not so sticky

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McGuyver-esque duct-tape fix!

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Leaving Rome behind


Unlike the first leg, this time the flight map was occasionally displayed, usually between movies. We were shown "Eat Pray Love", "La Passione" and "Dinner for Schmucks". Dinner was once more excellent (I had chicken with potatoes and smoked salmon salad) and it managed to keep me happy until breakfast was served, which was also pretty satisfying, if a bit small. The breakfast trash was collected about 40 minutes before arrival. By that point we had not been given the immigration and custom forms yet which made me a bit nervous as I knew I had to complete multiple such forms, not just for myself but for the old Greek couple too.

http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4537.jpg
Pre-meal snack and drink (blood orange juice)

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Meal of chicken and veggies, salmon and mixed veggies salad, cheese and fruit salad.

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Breakfast pizza and sweet bread

Eventually just before starting our descent we were given our forms and I asked the old guy to sit with me so we could go through all the forms together. We managed to finish them just in time for him to return to his seat. He finally asked me if I could help them with the immigration officer once we landed but I told him that I was not allowed to do so and that if necessary an interpreter would be brought to help them out. The approach to ORD was spectacular but I couldn't get any great photos of the skyline or the frozen lake Michigan given that my seat (12L) lacked a window. Instead I had to lean forward and peek through the window of the seat in front of me.


Arriving at frozen Chicago

I was one of the first to leave the aircraft and I rushed to beat most of the traffic before it reached the lines for immigration. The immigration line was pretty short, but it moved at a very slow rate given that only 2 immigration officers were available for Visitors. This is the fewer I have ever seen in ORD. A Bulgarian lady was directing people to the appropriate lines and despite the lack of traffic I could hear her complaining and mumbling under her breath some rude comments in bulgarian about some of them. Again not terribly professional behavior by an ORD employee.

My final impressions? I know that I have perhaps come across as very whiny about this trip but truth be said the performance of AZ was subpar even if I had started with low expectations. The really nice food and the time punctuality were greatly appreciated. All the rest however left much to be desired.



Thank you for reading. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.


Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
28 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinethegreatRDU From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2310 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 14399 times:

Very nice TR...those AZ 763s are just beat up.....

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
A Bulgarian lady was directing people to the appropriate lines and despite the lack of traffic I could hear her complaining and mumbling under her breath some rude comments in bulgarian about some of them. Again not terribly professional behavior by an ORD employee.

LOL



Our Returning Champion
User currently offlineELAL772 From Israel, joined Jun 2008, 158 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 14310 times:

Hey!

Great report and pics.

Alitalia should really do something to improve their product, though their meals on transatlantic legs look generous.

On a happier note, Bulgaria looks beautiful.

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Are EU passports supposed to be stamped when traveling through another EU country, even if one is to travel eventually to a destination outside the EU? I thought not, but then again I could be wrong.

I wouldn't take anything that FCO border control does as "the rule" or what should be as they simply don't have any consistency there. I have Arrived there from Israel or the US with a US passport many times and not had my non EU passport checked at all (I was NOT transiting)

HAPPY HOLIDAYS   


User currently offlineL410Turbolet From Czech Republic, joined May 2004, 5684 posts, RR: 19
Reply 3, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 14187 times:

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
I have perhaps come across as very whiny

Yep.  
I don't know what your usual TATL carrier or carrier of reference is but the actual description of the service seemed like a fairly average one, definitely no "doom and gloom" as the introduction suggested.
I don't know whether I had enough long haul flights with AZ to get some sort of representative sample but my experience with them has been so far neutral or quite positive. I know that AZ is passionately hated by some here on a.net. Last time I've flown them was at the peak of their crisis and their 777 quite comfy and the crew reasonably attentive. Ice cream after dinner added a nice touch. 767 and all-male cabin crew   on the way back was nothing to write home about, but there was unusually generous legroom, which was all I needed to get some rest on an overnighter.


User currently offlineCheco77 From Peru, joined Oct 2004, 1345 posts, RR: 8
Reply 4, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 14120 times:

Thanks for the excelent report! I reasured myself I never want to try AZ in my life   The armrest are a tragedy!!! OMG  
Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
Are EU passports supposed to be stamped when traveling through another EU country, even if one is to travel eventually to a destination outside the EU?

I never heard about this, I think they can stamp you, but nobody does it, I guess your officer was a newbie and "liked" his work  

Cheers,
Adam



Czech Boeing lover living in Lima
User currently offlinechepos From Puerto Rico, joined Dec 2000, 6207 posts, RR: 11
Reply 5, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 13934 times:

Thatnk you for sharing, I did not know Alitalia's aircraft looked so torn. But then again Alitalia is not an airline known for their stellar servce, and you said it at the beginning of your report neither is Iberia. So you never flew on BALKAN BULGARIAN?
I was unaware Chicago had such a big Bulgarian community, I know there is a huge Polish community but apparently there is alot of Bulgarians too.

Regards,

Chepos



Fly the Flag!!!!
User currently offline767747 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 1916 posts, RR: 24
Reply 6, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 13891 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Wow, what a report!

Alitalia certainly gets very mixed reviews; sometimes I hear some great reports about them, and then I see things like this! I can't believe the story about the yogurt. Truly a memorable example of poor service. My parents flew them back a few years ago from JFK-MXP and also had not a very good flight .. too bad, for such an amazing country  

Thanks for sharing!

Matthew (767747)


User currently offlineFLYYUL From Italy, joined Jun 2000, 4970 posts, RR: 51
Reply 7, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 13759 times:

In fairness AZ is trying to renew the fleet with new A330-200s that will replace the beat up 767s. So patience is required I guess.

User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6716 posts, RR: 77
Reply 8, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 13493 times:

Very interesting report, good to get an impression of FB. I'm very disappointed by the bad condition of the 767s, but the meals are generous and look really good.

I once had a quite nice transatlantic flight on AZ:
First And Last Time? JFK-FCO-MUC, Alitalia 777 (by PlaneHunter Apr 23 2008 in Trip Reports)


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlinetk747 From Australia, joined Sep 2009, 339 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 13268 times:

Hi,

Very nice report and pictures, thanks for sharing. Alitalia needs to overhaul the cabins of their planes, however the food served looks very tasty with good portion size for economy.

I would love to fly FB, they look like they get their snacks and meals from an airport cafe . Also love the photos of Bulgaria

TK747


User currently offlineJL418 From Italy, joined Jun 2009, 493 posts, RR: 6
Reply 10, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 13190 times:

Hi there Widebodyroga,

thanks for sharing your TR with us. I loved to see some glimpses of Sofia and of Bulgaria, trip reports which show some aspects of the writer's final destination are always among my most favourite. About Alitalia, well, what can I say? I haven't been flying them since 2004 (with a reason I'd say) and I was hoping that they were improving. Some things tell me they are but others - the service on your FCO-bound flight from Greece, the horrid state of the 767s - show that AZ has still a long way to go. As others have pointed out before me AZ is receiving their new A332s and will upgrade, sooner or later, the 777s. But airplanes such as the 767s you've flown with or the ex-Air One 332s will keep on flying for some years in the future and they are desperate for a renewal and some proper maintenance.


User currently offlineUAL777UK From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2005, 3356 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 13042 times:

Great TR, many thanks.

Whats with those 767's, they are a disgrace!


User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1170 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 12811 times:

On my laptop most of the pictures did not come out.

Anyway nice report. Good to know about AZ.


User currently offlinedebonair From Germany, joined Jan 2004, 2399 posts, RR: 4
Reply 13, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 12292 times:

Quoting lychemsa (Reply 12):
On my laptop most of the pictures did not come out.

   I have the same problem, error "bandwith exceeded".


User currently offlinetrintocan From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2000, 3229 posts, RR: 4
Reply 14, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 11914 times:

Great trip report Widebodyroga but alas most of your pictures did not come out, only the error messages. The few of Sofia that did come out were excellent though. I have never flown on AZ but all the same, sorry to hear your experiences were not the best.

EU passports are not meant to be stamped while travelling within the EU. Even when passport control is required - namely when travelling to and from the Schengen area from nations outside like Bulgaria and the UK - the passport should not be stamped as doing so implies a time limit for a visit, which is contrary to the free movement rules of the Community.

Good on you for helping the Greek couple, the spirit of camaraderie among travellers is alive and well.

TrinToCan.



Hop to it, fly for life!
User currently offlinea340crew From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 277 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 11678 times:

i can not see the pictures it keeps saying upgrade to photo bucket pro badnwith exceded...anyone know how to fix this?

User currently offlineinesilio From Italy, joined Sep 2009, 53 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 11271 times:

Quoting trintocan (Reply 14):
EU passports are not meant to be stamped while travelling within the EU. Even when passport control is required - namely when travelling to and from the Schengen area from nations outside like Bulgaria and the UK - the passport should not be stamped as doing so implies a time limit for a visit, which is contrary to the free movement rules of the Community.

I could be wrong but I believe there are certain restrictions on some of the countries that joined in 2004. I believe it concerns Romania and Bulgaria principally but I can't remember any specific details.

Quoting JL418 (Reply 10):
the horrid state of the 767s - show that AZ has still a long way to go

The 767s are indeed horrid and I've suffered them too many times. The problem is that ever since AZ and AP merged with the former inheriting the latter's A330 order, the 767s have been destined for retirement without any motivation to overhaul them.

The shorthaul fleet is starting to get very respectable, on a par with all of the major European carriers. The new A330s are great and the 777s, although starting to get a bit worn are very, very comfortable. If you can keep away from the 767s, the ex-AP A330s and the MDs, then the AZ cabins are really quite good.


User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 17, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 11262 times:

Thank you guys for your comments so far. I apologize for the temporary unavailability of the photos, the problem has now been fixed.

Quoting thegreatRDU (Reply 1):
Very nice TR...those AZ 763s are just beat up.....

Thanks! Indeed the 767 are not just beat up, but from what I could tell they have not been maintained properly. I'm glad to hear however that they will gradually be replaced by the A330s.

Quoting ELAL772 (Reply 2):
On a happier note, Bulgaria looks beautiful.

I must say, urban Bulgaria is not particularly pretty, with a few exceptions. In my opinion it's the mountains of Bulgaria that hide all the beauty. Not many people know about them, but in my opinion they are some of the most unspoiled in the region.

Quoting L410Turbolet (Reply 3):
Yep.  

Hehe, normally I'm not like that, you can read other TR of mine   Of course this trip was not a total disaster (unlike my very first AZ experience which definitely was) but I could not describe AZs service as just "average", especially after having tried so many different carriers on transatlantic routes out of ORD and not only. The fact that so many negatives (3/4 seats with no functional audio, forgotten spoons, forgotten food, sawed in half armrests, broken and exposed trays, dirty aircraft, etc), took place in just 3 flights is too much. I know the sample is not all that big but a pattern is emerging for sure. I'm glad to hear that AZ is on the way of changing though. Their schedule and routes are very convenient for the destinations I fly to so I would happily become a regular customer if they improved their service.

Quoting Checo77 (Reply 4):
I never heard about this, I think they can stamp you, but nobody does it, I guess your officer was a newbie and "liked" his work

Hehe, my guess at the time was that the guy just saw Cyrillic letters on the passport cover and automatically thought it was an non-EU passport. However the passport cover also features a description in English so it is also very likely that he didn't know that Bulgaria was member of the EU... Just kidding of course, it's just that I was taken aback by this.

Quoting chepos (Reply 5):
But then again Alitalia is not an airline known for their stellar servce, and you said it at the beginning of your report neither is Iberia. So you never flew on BALKAN BULGARIAN?
I was unaware Chicago had such a big Bulgarian community, I know there is a huge Polish community but apparently there is alot of Bulgarians too.

Since you mentioned IB, I had such a traumatic experience with them a few months ago that I refuse to write a TR simply because I don't want to bring back in memory the events that took place.

Nope never flown with a Bulgarian carrier before. The only thing close to it was when I flew BUD-SOF on a Bulgaria-registered Wizz Air aircraft (technically I guess that would be "Wizz Air Bulgaria" or 8Z).

Chicago has a sizable Bulgarian community, which by some accounts approaches a 6-digit population (I personally don't think they are that many). I find it very interesting how many Bulgarians work at ORD though. I have no idea how they all managed to find jobs there. It's just like the janitors at the University of Chicago housing system, who all happen to be Croatian. It seems that, just like in the Balkans, all you need is "connections" in order to get to a certain job in certain sectors.

Quoting 767747 (Reply 6):
Wow, what a report!

Alitalia certainly gets very mixed reviews; sometimes I hear some great reports about them, and then I see things like this! I can't believe the story about the yogurt.

Thanks! I have to say however that my attempt to eat the yogurt with a stick was very entertaining and it helped in letting time go by fast, which is very appreciated on a 10h flight with no other forms of entertainment available.  
Quoting FLYYUL (Reply 7):
In fairness AZ is trying to renew the fleet with new A330-200s that will replace the beat up 767s. So patience is required I guess

Given the opportunity, I will give them another shot once they get those babies  


I will be back with more comments in a few hours.



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineWidebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 18, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 11189 times:

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 8):
Very interesting report, good to get an impression of FB.

Thank you! I was looking forward to FB as well. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get an aircraft in the new FB colors but the Hemus BAe was also a first for me.

Quoting tk747 (Reply 9):
Very nice report and pictures, thanks for sharing. Alitalia needs to overhaul the cabins of their planes, however the food served looks very tasty with good portion size for economy. I would love to fly FB, they look like they get their snacks and meals from an airport cafe . Also love the photos of Bulgaria

Thank you tk747! The food was in fact of very good quality and very tasty. I have noticed a pattern, where Mediterranean carriers offer sizable and tasty meals (AZ, OA, A3, and even IB, not to mention TK).

Quoting JL418 (Reply 10):

thanks for sharing your TR with us. I loved to see some glimpses of Sofia and of Bulgaria, trip reports which show some aspects of the writer's final destination are always among my most favourite. About Alitalia, well, what can I say? I haven't been flying them since 2004 (with a reason I'd say) and I was hoping that they were improving. Some things tell me they are but others - the service on your FCO-bound flight from Greece, the horrid state of the 767s - show that AZ has still a long way to go

I'm with you, JL418, I also love photos from the destinations themselves and I appreciate when TR include them. I have some more photos from this trip which I may upload for everyone to have a look.

Quoting UAL777UK (Reply 11):
Great TR, many thanks.

Whats with those 767's, they are a disgrace!

I understand that these aircraft have been in use for awhile but some basic maintenance of the interior could have prevented such a bad image.

Quoting lychemsa (Reply 12):
On my laptop most of the pictures did not come out.
Quoting debonair (Reply 12):
   I have the same problem, error "bandwith exceeded".
Quoting a340crew (Reply 15):
i can not see the pictures it keeps saying upgrade to photo bucket pro badnwith exceded...anyone know how to fix this?

Problem solved. I just had to upgrade my PhotoBucket account.

Quoting trintocan (Reply 14):
Good on you for helping the Greek couple, the spirit of camaraderie among travellers is alive and well.

They really seemed lost and it would have been really rude not to help. The funny thing was that once I started talking to them while still in FCO, a bunch of other elderly Greeks also traveling to ORD started congregating around me in order to hear what I had to say. I'm not used to be the center of attention so for a moment it felt a bit surreal.

Quoting inesilio (Reply 16):
I could be wrong but I believe there are certain restrictions on some of the countries that joined in 2004. I believe it concerns Romania and Bulgaria principally but I can't remember any specific details.

I think you are right, but I am also unaware of the specific restrictions and procedures.



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
User currently offlineCoal From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 2003 posts, RR: 9
Reply 19, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 11120 times:

Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter):
That is, it came for everybody else except for my row. A food trolley came down the isle with a member of the crew at each side. The first guy served us our drinks but he did not give us any food, despite having done so for other rows. I assumed that it was going to be the second guy to give our row the food but that was not to be. Then I naively assumed that there will be somebody else giving us our snacks so I didn't notify the crew about the lack of food on our row. By the time I realized for sure that we were simply forgotten it was already too late and trash was in the process of being collected. It was partially my fault for not letting the crew know about this but this is again an indication of how unengaged the Alitalia crew was, as two of them failed to notice that our row was not served any food. The old (Greek) couple sitting next to me was similarly perplexed about this but they spoke no English so they didn't notify the crew either. Not a biggie but this is the first time in my 160+ flights that this has happened.

That happened to me once flying Club World LHR - SIN on BA. I guess it's all up to the crew.

Thanks for sharing. I also completely refuse to fly AZ or IB. I got fleas while flying IB BOG-SDQ-MAD. The first time I flew AZ was BOG-CCS-FCO and the flight was not too bad, back then operated by a 742. However, I had a terrible experience flying them MXP-FLR-MXP.

Cheers
Coal



Nxt Flts: VA SYD-CBR-SYD | VA SYD-OOL-SYD | JQ SYD-MEL | VA MEL-CBR-SYD | DL SYD-LAX-ATL-MIA | B6 FLL-DCA-BOS | DL BOS-L
User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1170 posts, RR: 3
Reply 20, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 11094 times:

Thanks for fixing the pictures.

I would much rather fly AZ than Continental. Decent food and excellent legroom. The problem is that they participate with the Delta frequent flyer program which is the worst. And everytime I tried to get an award ticket on AZ (or Delta) it was impossible or it required 120,000 miles instead of 55,000 on CO / UA.


User currently offlinea340crew From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 277 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 10897 times:

Great Trip Report ! I recently flew BOS-FCO-BOS on AZ's A330 (ex AirOne) and the cabin on both legs was in great condition. Food looked identical.

User currently offlinereifel From Germany, joined Feb 2005, 1329 posts, RR: 1
Reply 22, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 10777 times:

Great report! It seems that the 777 is much better than the 767 when travelling with AZ.
I was wondering if you received a boarding pass in ORD for your FB-flight from FCO to SOF.

And, no, usually you don't get stamped with a EU passport when travelling through a boarder of a EU country. Some other countries, which are not Schengen, i.e. UK and Ireland, will not stamp you either. Sometimes you may ask and they will, but usually even if you ask for a stamp they will decline (tried this last week on the train from Krakow, Poland to Lviv, Ukraine, and the polish people didn't wanted to stamp). Therefore it's strange that the italian guy stamped without the need to ask for it. I guess he was a little confused  


User currently offline777ORD From United States of America, joined May 2010, 490 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 10732 times:

Great TR. Sofia looks gorgeous!

Having worked T-5 @ ORD, I can tell you first hand that the employee's are very much of the Eastern European descent. They do work hard, and it shows!

Side note: the guy de-icing you, is one of my (VERY) old co-workers. I nearly fell out of my chair seeing that picture! I also had no idea Swissport serviced AZ now! I thought it was continental (who also does AF).

Again, great TR. I am rather stunned by the condition of your particular AZ 763. A lot of people complain about the various US carrier aircrafts, but that's pretty bad. I do hope AZ can make repairs. I've flown AZ back in early 2000. Great service! Sad to see them like this.


User currently offlineWideBodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 16
Reply 24, posted (3 years 7 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 10169 times:

Quoting reifel (Reply 22):
I was wondering if you received a boarding pass in ORD for your FB-flight from FCO to SOF

I got my FCO-SOF boarding pass at ORD. Given the relatively short layover and the imminent delay due to the snow, I was a bit worried that if I had to get my boarding pass in FCO I could miss my connection. Fortunately I got it in ORD, given that this particular flight was in principle an AZ one that was simply operated by FB. Nonetheless, despite the fact that this was an AZ code-share I did not earn any SkyMiles for this segment.

Quoting 777ORD (Reply 23):
Great TR. Sofia looks gorgeous!

Side note: the guy de-icing you, is one of my (VERY) old co-workers. I nearly fell out of my chair seeing that picture! I also had no idea Swissport serviced AZ now! I thought it was continental (who also does AF).

Again, great TR. I am rather stunned by the condition of your particular AZ 763. A lot of people complain about the various US carrier aircrafts, but that's pretty bad. I do hope AZ can make repairs. I've flown AZ back in early 2000. Great service! Sad to see them like this.

Thank you so much. When I posted the de-icing photo I assumed that your friend's face would not be recognizable and that's why I did not cover it. My apologies for that, even though it seems that you were glad to see him.

It's true that as a general trend the condition of the aircrafts of most American carriers (on transatlantic routes) is not the same as that of some major European ones. However, in my experience there are some less reputable European carriers the aircraft of which are in a condition that is much worse than that of the worst of the American ones. If that makes sense...

And since the Sofia photos were so popular, I decided to upload a few more that did not make the initial cut. Hope you enjoy.

http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4212.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4233.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4236.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4276.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4304.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4248.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4280.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4303.jpg


And my hotel's funny exterior... I'm so immature.
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4305.jpg

One from the mountains of Southwest Bulgaria
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4356.jpg

A few more from Petrich
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4452.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4453.jpg
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4463.jpg

And a nice sunset cloud over Thessaloniki
http://i286.photobucket.com/albums/ll89/JuancaNadal/SAM_4471.jpg



Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
25 dc9northwest : Haha! I had the same experience when I flew AZ on the same route. No spoons! Of course, I used the same instrument to eat the yogurt.... AZ making us
26 RAFVC10 : Hi there!!! Nice trip report!! Just one question after see two pics of your book... which book did you read during your flight? Any recommendation? Re
27 MSS658 : Nice trip report! Especially the sunset pictures, I'm shocked to read about the quality of the AZ 767-300ER, hopefully the 330's will phase them out s
28 WideBodyroga : Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely try and do that next time I'm connecting at FCO. That security line sure was slow. Interesting, maybe this is the
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