28 December 1999
Alitalia flight 605 JFK-MXP (Milan Malpensa)
Boeing 747-200 I-DELM
Scheduled departure: 5h50pm
Pre-assigned seat: 53D
Departure from terminal 4E, gate 19
Our adventure at JFK begins right at arrival time. We arrive at JFK around
3h30pm and we are immediately told there is already a one hour minute delay
because the inbound flight was late; the new board time is 6h15 instead of
5h20pm (the inbound flight is scheduled to arrive around 1h30pm). We actually
never really know the reason for the delay, be it a mechanical, whether, or
inbound flight related. This delay causes us to miss our morning connection
in Milan to fly to MUC. We are automatically placed on the 4h10pm flight
without any problem. Eventually, we board around 7h40pm and push from the
gate at 8h20pm. Even the Alitalia flight to Rome leaves before us without any
problems. What is interesting to note is how noncholantly the crew arrives at
the gate...all individually, not as a group. Our boarding process does not
stop here, however. After my observatiosn of the interior/boarding process,
wait until you see what happens next...
We board through the first door, where we are able to get a good look at
Magnifica class, Alitlia's version of first class. To me, it looked more like
a business class. That may well be what it is. The seats are a very light
lavender color, almost leaning towards blue. The seats look nice and comfy,
but I notice stains, making me think there must not be anything outrageously
special about Magnifica. Tonight, all the Magnifica pax are in the upper
deck, also making me wonder if Alitalia ever fills all of those seats.
The inside of the main cabin doesn't look too bad on the first look. The
seats in the first section of the main cabin are blue, the second section
seats are (a nasty looking) yellow and the last section seats are red. (I
would think where would have been green seats???) Once we are seated, we
notice that no more pax are boarding and that there are many empty seats
behind us, allowing ALL (literally) of us in the back section to find our own
row. I took my window seat 3 rows back into 56A. The AZ rep. originally
placed my family (4) all in the middle. I wonder why she didn't give us any
options!? The entire aircraft was probably at the most 50% full. Hmm...
The seats of the 747-200 are not too bad...actually, to be honest, they are
better than I had expected. They have a nice pitch and are a nice width. I am
not a big person, but I do notice the space. The configuration is 3x4x3. I
thought that the 74's were 3x5x3!? Would somebody kindly let me know if the
standard is 4 or 5 in the middle? I swear I thought it was 5.
Like I said, we push at 8h20pm, start to move a little bit and stop again. At
precisely 8h27pm, the captain tells us we have a hydraulics problem. I knew
something was wrong because I clearly picked up "problemo" in Italian (I
speak French, so foreign languages like Italian are not too hard to
understand). Initially, he says we have to go back to the gate and it will
take a few minutes to locate and solve the problem, but at 8h40pm, we are
told we need to de-plane and that it will take about one hour to solve our
problem. At this point, we are obviously frustrated, already having been
delayed for an hour and a half because at Alitalia, staying on schedule is
of no importance.
QUESTION: How does one go about fixing what seems to be such a major problem?
Obviously, hydraulics are an essential element to a plane's flight. How can
such a problem arise while the plane is on the ground, because obviously, the
plane flew in without problems? Once we were back on, the F/A said that the
crew "found the part." What happens to "the part!?" Hmm...
At 11h00pm, we finally re-boarded. Yeah, that was definitely an hour...NOT!!!
The thing with being an American passenger on an airline like Alitalia is
that we (at least I) expect updates from the airline. With AZ, we received NO
updates until 20 minutes prior to boarding time, 1 hour and 40 minutes later.
It was really hard for our group to endure such a delay without any new
information. Fortunately, all the players and the parents were extremely
patient. To note: we also got meal vouchers, $12.00 per person, which was ok.
It still did not compensate, though, in my mind.
Further, having a delay in terminal 4 of JFK is HORRIBLE. The international
terminal at JFK is a disgrace to the United States. I am serious. New York is
one of the biggest cultural meccas in the world, yet it cannot even provide a
decent terminal to the millions of pax that travel through it 365 days a
year. Now, I realize that there is a new terminal being constructed, but I
would have thought that NYC would have been on top of that a long time ago.
As an airplane enthusiast, I was frustrated that there were no windows and
that inside is so dark and dingy. Relative to Milan and Munich (which I will
comment about later), JFK is TRASH and a DISGRACE considering the number
international flights it handles. The eating areas are small, cramped, and
not too clean, the restrooms are certainly not clean, the gate areas are
dingy and have absolutely no atmostphere. Once inside security, there are TWO
duty free shops and ONE small magazine shop with the basics: water, candy,
and more futile junk. One must go back outside security and re-enter if one
wants food, which is NOT a good thing if you have a delay like we did.
So, we're back on the plane, exhausted beyond belief and we push at 11h45pm,
a full SIX hours late. One of the f/a tells one of our fathers to sit down
because "we are ready to go" and the father replies "really?" and the f/a,
obviously not appreciating the sarcasm says "yes" and the father retorts, "wow
!" I was seriously amused.
Phew. We finally lift from 22R at 12h04am from JFK. Just before pushback,
newspapers are offered and green AZ socks are handed out, which are a nice
touch. En route, meal is a choice of meat or fish and drinks anytime. Small
breakfast of yogurt and muffin etc. (which was actually good) served one hour
before landing. The service on this flight is not too bad, but not anything
special. One of the flight attendants is much more friendly than the rest of
the crew, however...and she is the one who makes sure that I am able to make
an inflight visit to the cockpit before we land. I am able to get up there
towards the end of our flight just before our descent. The same crew remains
in the cockpit for the entire flight. Which makes me wonder: What is the
maximum number of hours and crew may be on for an international flight??? The
first officer tells me they "will have some fun and land the plane manually
because there is such clear weather in Milan." While I am in the cockpit we
fly over Mont Blanc and the Alps. We also bank to the right a few times,
which is a great feeling from the cockpit. I leave just after the crew is
cleared to descend to flight level 27 from 37000. To note, upon landing,
there is an automated voice informing passengers about our approach, not to
smoke, to fasten seatbelts, and not to forgoet handbags.
Regarding smoking, I was intially told by the customer service manager by
e-mail that our flight was to be non-smoking. Pax in the last four rows,
however, were allowed to smoke, which was very surprising. On our flight back
to JFK, there was no smoking allowed. Alitalia really needs to get
consistent. And on the subject of consistency, they need to get consistent
about their electronic devices rules because on the way over to MXP, I
listened to my CD player without any problems. On the way back to JFK, an f/a
saw my headphones out and said "no, can be very dangerous" and also told me
buddy infront of me to take his headphones off later in the flight. I was,
however, able to listen to my discman evem after he told me no, and f/a's ran
up and down the aisles and told me nothing. What IS the REAL DEAL with this
electronic devices policy???
Touchdown at MXP at 12h30pm, 5 hours and 15 minutes late. The fact that our
flight to MUC would not be until 4h10pm was nice, however, as I found a nice
spot between terminal A (domestic) and B and inside B to take some nice
shots. Milan Malpensa seemed to me to be a SPOTLESS and very EFFICIENT
airport, a huge contrast to JFK. I know, however, that Milan-Malpensa is a
very new airport, replacing Milan-Linate. The only thing that bothered us is
that nobody adheres to the no smoking advisories. I also noticed that there
are a lot of females who work the ramp. Spotting in Europe is such a thrill
because literally EVERY plane that goes by is something new, something that I
have not hammered before. Of note that I spotted/hammered: Air Europe A320
x2, KLM 734, 738, AZM80 blue hybrid (***anybody know what this is? reg. is
D-IAVX or (K).***), Braathens 735, ElAl75, IB75, TAP319, AirChina744
(beauty!), Varig763(oc), AerLingues735, AF321. I saw so many more a/c that I
couldn't shoot. Oh, also, I saw a Futura with the plain white fuselage and a
BLUE tail. Is that new? I couldn't see the reg. AND, The sun was out, which
made it even more of a thrill. Wait until you see what I saw when I left
Well, this is the report for JFK-MXP. I will send out a separate trip report
for MXP-MUC and MXP-JFK as this is already REALLY REALLY long. Thanks SO MUCH
for your patience!!!