This trip report continues from the following report: Not All Roads Lead To Rome: Alitalia LHR-LIN-MAD (by DanTaylor2006 May 12 2011 in Trip Reports)
As per my previous trip report, I had tagged along with three friends to the Spanish capital of Madrid for a weekend. My outbound trip had started off badly, when Alitalia cancelled my flights to Rome and onward to Madrid due to a general strike in Italy on the day I was due to fly, necessitating a rebooking via Milan Linate. My inbound flights however, were unaffected and are those covered in this report.
After a mixed, but excellent, day and a half (thunder and rain to start, sunshine to end) in Madrid, it was time to return to London Heathrow, via Milan Linate, with Alitalia. My outbound had brought me 2 A320's, one in the old Alitalia livery, and one in Air One's livery. I was hoping that this trip would again bring me a few surprises. My return itinerary looked like this:
AZ49 - MAD-LIN - A320
AZ238 - LIN-LHR - A320
Impressions of Madrid
Firstly, I'd like to share with you some photos of the wonderful city of Madrid. I would definitely like to return and have more time here.
Mercado de San Miguel.
Catedral de Santa María.
Palacio Real de Madrid.
Parque del Retiro.
One man and his dog.
From: Madrid Barajas Terminal 2 (MAD/LEMD)
To: Milan Linate (LIN/LIML)
Dep: 14:30 (14:35 actual)
Arr: 16:35 (16:30 actual)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-216
Class: Classica (Economy)
With a departure time of 14:30, it was a rather relaxed awakening on Sunday morning, which is good because I may have indulged a little too much in the cheap wine Spain had to offer. After I had got ready, I bid my friends farewell (for they were not departing until much later than myself), and caught the metro from Avenida de América to Madrid Barajas Terminals 1, 2 and 3 with only 1 change.
Changing trains at Colombia.
I managed to follow the signs this time from the Metro station through to Terminal 2, where the SkyTeam check in area is situated. First impressions of the terminal were okay, it wasn't that cramped and it looked nice.
Alitalia check in.
Since there were no Alitalia self service machines around, I joined the short queue for the desks. There was only one agent available, and she was already dealing with other passengers. I didn't have to wait long, however, and another member of staff hopped on to the Business Class check in and invited me over. I was greeted with a smile and she confirmed that I had already checked in online, and only needed my boarding passes.
With that over quickly enough, I headed downstairs to the security area since I didn't know how lengthy any queues would be.
The passage from check in to security.
I was pleased to find no queues whatsoever at security, and it was a straight through affair, although the staff completely ignored me as I was taking everything off, so I had to interrupt their conversation to check whether everything was to their satisfaction. Aside from this, it was a very smooth process.
I was to depart from gate 81 in the E pier, so followed the again scarce signage for the E gates. To get to them, one has to walk through the D gate area and then a shopping mall. The former wasn't a problem, however, as it allowed me to do some spotting along the way!
Swiss parked up.
Air Europa A330.
D gate seating areas.
Star Alliance territory here.
Heading through the never ending D gates.
The dark shopping area between areas D and E.
As if the walk from security to the E pier wasn't long enough, gate 81 is at the very tip of the pier so another long walk ensued... allowing some more spotting too.
Heading up the E gates.
Air Europa E90.
Ahhh, KLM retrojet, we meet again.
Ready to head back to AMS.
One of the highlights of the day, don't get to see this often!
Closely followed by the second highlight!
I finally managed to get to gate 81, and all the seats were taken so I chose to stand near the windows watching the world go by. Around 45 minutes before our scheduled departure time, I saw an Air One tail in the distance. Minutes later, my ride, EI-DSK today, appeared and pulled onto stand.
I spy an Air One A320!
Yep, hey there 'SK.
The passengers from the arriving flight took their time to disembark, and it was another 5 or so minutes after they had gone before we were allowed to start boarding. Luckily, choosing to stand by the windows near the gate paid off, and I was one of the first to board.
I was met at the door by another smiling Italian lady, and headed to the back to take my seat, 23A. Boarding, just like my previous flights, took its sweet time and seemed like organised chaos. The Italians sure left a good impression on me.
Waiting to push back.
Around 5 minutes before our scheduled departure time, the purser informed us we were ready to go and began the manual safety demonstration. Runway 15L was in use, so another lengthy taxi ensued, and by around 14:45 we were ready to depart.
Iberia retrojet taxiing in.
The first officer had not said anything prior to push back, however he came on whilst we were holding for 15L to inform us the flight was to be a rather quick 1 hours and 40 minutes, with the weather in Milan sunny and at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. Given Madrid was around 16c (rising to a maximum 21c) for our stay, it looks like I should have stayed in Milan!
After this announcement, we pulled onto runway 15L and departed with a left turn after take off over Torrejon Air Force Base.
Madrid Departure Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cXpv87ZpS8
Departure was relatively smooth, given the clear skies, with only the odd knock here and there. We headed North East up through Spain and eventually into the south of France. Again, I simply sat back and enjoyed the scenery outside the window.
Torrejon and Barajas side by side.
By all accounts a good day for flying.
I just can't resist the winglet shot.
An anonymous airport, because I couldn't find it on Google Maps.
Like the outbound flights, the snack service started once we had established in cruise, and consisted again of hot and cold drinks, and a sweet or salty snack. Since I had chosen salty on the way over, I decided to see what I'd get if I went sweet. You'll have to forgive me here, because I can't actually recall what exactly they were, but I think they were some small plain Biscotti type biscuits. I forgot to take a photograph too. I washed those down with my trademark Pepsi.
The service was friendly and efficient again, so Alitalia continued to surprise me on this front. Now, you may recall from the first report that I mentioned (and showed) how tight the legroom is on these hi-density A320s. Well, the man in front of me (part of a large and loud family spread over rows 22 and 23) decided to recline fully for the majority of the flight. Not only this, he decided to play music and videos on his iDevice without any earphones... incredibly inconsiderate, and not doing anything to sway my view on certain Italians!
With nothing else I could do, I simply carried on staring out the window trying to block out the pain from my knees and the sound from his iDevice. As we neared Italy, we flew in over Grenoble and the Alps, which provided some good views again. Closer to Milan, the first officer came on saying he expected us to land on time, and that the temperature in Milan was now a rather tropical 28c!
Definitely getting more mountainous.
Some interesting cloud formations over the mountains.
Hello again Italy.
Looking straight down Torino's runway.
There were no holding patterns to be seen today, and we were pretty much straight in to Linate.
Milan Linate Arrival Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN_oaORkLyM
The approach was again quite windy, and we appeared to float a little before touchdown. Still, it was fun and more importantly we had arrived on time. We again pulled up onto the remote stands and awaited the stairs and buses before disembarking from the rear stairs, allowing some shots of the aircraft again.
So long 'SK.
The bus ride was short, and arriving as a Schengen arrival was easy as it usually is. Given I was on a layover of little more than an hour, I went straight upstairs to departures once more.
From: Milan Linate (LIN/LIML)
To: London Heathrow Terminal 4 (LHR/EGLL)
Dep: 17:55 (18:00 actual)
Arr: 19:10 (18:45 actual)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-216
Class: Classica (Economy)
I was dreading passing through security, because on my previous transfer through Linate it had been confusing, unorganised and took rather a long time. However, this time couldn't have been any more different. There was absolutely no queue, and all in all I was through in a few minutes. It seems I must have been unlucky on Friday afternoon, and its nice to see that it can work well at times.
Knowing that I was to depart from the B gates, past passport control, I headed straight there so as to not waste any time. There's actually a sign before the passport control stating any passengers for London must not enter the area until 50 minutes before the estimated departure time, for 'security purposes.' Interesting.
There was no queue, and there were plenty of seats available since the next flight was the Budapest which departed an hour later than ours. There was little else to do down at these bus gates than sit and wait, so I did. About 40 minutes before departure, they started boarding, which was just as chaotic as all of my other flights... someone needs to tell the Italians that they won't get there any faster by pushing!
It seemed that our bus driver wanted to set a new world record for the amount of passengers he could get on his bus, as he was cramming every last one in. Okay in winter, but not when it's sunny and 28c outside... alas, he eventually departed when he admitted defeat on getting the remaining passengers on. The bus ride was again short, and as we meandered through the aircraft, I noticed EI-DSA sitting there, in its rather dashing 'Alitalia.com' special livery.
I hoped and hoped that we would pull up at 'SA, and lo and behold... we did! I know it's not the most thrilling of special liveries, but it was my first ever flight on one, so I was more than pleased. Everyone got off the bus, and I took my time to admire the aircraft.
I was, eventually, the last person to board, and was greeted by an older gentleman and another smiling Italian lady (they get everywhere!). Being last on meant no overhead locker space above row 6, so I had to put my luggage above row 4, half inside the Business cabin.
When I checked in online, I decided I wanted to film an engine view for once, as nearly all my flights are behind the wing! Luckily, 6F was free, so I snapped it up. A gentleman was already sitting in 6D, so I squeezed past to take my seat. Luckily, being last on I knew that 6E would remain free.
It turns out moving up front was to be the best move I'd made all weekend! The tight seat pitch found down the back was nowhere to be found, and I had Business Class legroom for Economy price. Bargain. It felt incredibly spacious after the last 3 flights...
Cabin shot, nearly ready to go.
It wasn't long before we were underway, and the manual safety demonstration was being done. The taxi to runway 36 was short, and after a couple of departures, and the odd landing, it was our turn.
Sorry Lufthansa, I'm betraying you with SkyTeam today.
Takeoff was relatively powerful, and the buzzsaw noise from being in front of the engine is something I'd completely forgotten about. So very loud! We headed North across the Alps and again into France.
Milan Linate Departure Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyM561R59LQ
The fields and towns of Italy soon gave way to lakes and mountains - still one of the most beautiful things to see from the air.
Casually admiring the view.
The city of Zurich and its airport down below.
Now, in my previous reports, and even in the Madrid-Milan sector of this report, you will have noticed the PTV's (or lack of in the case of the first flight) situated in the seat backs. This was to be my lucky sector... first a special livery, now working PTVs! I didn't have my headphones with me, so I couldn't watch any of the Sports, Entertainment or Lifestyle channels (I think 4 are on offer), but I could watch the moving map! At last.
A company bus passing us below.
A smaller airport somewhere in France.
The snack service commenced, and sticking to my ways, I had a sweet snack and Pepsi again. This time, the sweet snack was a mini chocolate cookie type biscuit, which was very nice. Service was again provided with a smile - Alitalia were on a roll.
The flight passed smoothly, and as we neared the Channel the nose pitched down and the engines throttled back, signifying the beginning of the end of this weekend of experiences on Alitalia. There was some cloud around approaching the UK (unsurprisingly) and we headed straight into the Biggin Hill hold for a few turns due to traffic (of which the captain had informed us).
Hello again England.
An easyBus passing by as we hold.
Oh, grey England. How I missed you.
First glimpses of the Thames.
After leaving the hold we turned as if to head toward Heathrow, and it gave us a great opportunity to see some of the sights of London. This is the first time I've done the 27R approach in daytime, and with ample visibility, so it was really something quite special!
O2 Arena and Canary Wharf.
Passing some BA traffic on our little circle.
Slowing down some.
The London Eye and Westminster.
We did another left 360 away from London as we carried on descending, and eventually we came back round to line up on the approach for 27R. The approach was as bumpy as it was the last time I had done it, in an Air France A380, but the views of central London were again magnificent.
London Heathrow Arrival Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_mZ8kVwgGU
We touched down at 18:45, approximately 25 minutes early. I knew, of course, that this would actually turn into an on time arrival, since we had to taxi around Heathrow and cross 27L to get to Terminal 4. However, I was just happy to sit there and watch the traffic at this excellent International Airport.
The Fire Service were out practising.
More parked traffic. VS and BA side by side.
Awaiting permission to cross 27L.
Whilst waiting to cross 27L, a lot of passengers decided to take their seatbelts off and move around the cabin. The cabin crew at the front had to make a PA asking them to sit down, but this made little difference.
We eventually got permission to cross, and pulled up at our gate around our scheduled arrival time which is always nice when you just want to get home and sleep. Disembarking was slow through the front left door, but eventually we were out and had a nice view of some of the widebodies parked up that evening.
Arik from Nigeria.
Qatar from Doha.
The welcome back you get in the UK is a lengthy queue for the UK Border control, and tonight was no different. The queue was absolutely massive, both for UK/EU and 'Other' passports. Not only this, a woman from the Arik flight got into an argument with the staff after she was refused entry because her visa was wrong... just what you want.
Eventually I made it through unscathed, with the border staff asking me where I had flown in from (small talk or required question? Never been asked before). I was down and onto the free transfer to Terminals 1 and 3 as fast I could possibly move, and then finally on the bus to the hotel for the night.
Lining 'em up on 27R.
A room with a very nice view at the Travelodge Heathrow Central.
Alitalia - Overall, a much better experience than the first time round, mainly because there were no cancellations and no messing around. Everything departed and arrived on time, all the staff I encountered were friendly and polite, and the aircraft I flew were all well maintained inside. My experience of Alitalia is a far cry from some of the awful reviews on SkyTrax, and for the right price I'd fly them again.
Madrid Barajas - I didn't get lost like I did when I arrived, so that's a plus. The airport itself is okay, it's not the most modern, but it's not dilapidated either - it was fine to be quite honest and offered some great views over the tarmac. It is a bit of a lengthy walk from check in to the far end of the E gates though, even with Travelators.
Milan Linate - Again, still dark and cramped, but a much better experience this time around. Security was a breeze, and there were plenty of seats available in the B gate area. If I were to come to Milan I wouldn't hesitate to choose Linate over Malpensa, because it's a lot closer to the city and smaller to traverse.
London Heathrow - Well, this is more of a UK Border problem than Heathrow in particular, but the wait at UK Border is really unacceptable. The fast track 'automatic' gates are there, and they're not working! Defeats the object, I could've been out much quicker if the technology actually worked. It leaves you feeling very stressed once you come out the other side. Still, Terminal 4 is nice and has been scrubbed up well, and the transit between terminals didn't take long.
That concludes this trip, and this trip report, so thank you for reading if you've got this far!