BrightCedars From Belgium, joined Nov 2004, 1291 posts, RR: 2 Posted (10 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 8336 times:
Trip report: Brussels to Beirut and back via Milan on Alitalia
This time I fly AZ on my way from BRU to BEY; adding a 9th transit (after AMS, ATH, BUD, CDG, FRA, LHR, VIE, ZRH) point to my collection of vias. I haven't flown AZ since my first flight with the carrier, from MLA to FCO on an MD-80, back in 1994. The experience at the time was not of great quality (particularly the food they served) but was nonetheless a success from an enthusiast point of view as we boarded the aircraft from the rear staircase!
Earlier today I dropped my wife and daughter at the airport as they were catching an earlier flight on CY thru LCA. I checked in my luggage for the AZ flight and drove back home to park the car and have a shower. Later, with hand luggage only, I took the airport bus. We live in Evere, East of Brussels, and the airport is very close so the bus is convenient! Why are they flying CY and I AZ would you ask? Well, I had expiring Flying Blue miles so I had to book a free ticket; only AZ was available; and CY was cheaper than AZ for the girls. We've added the savings to our Christmas shopping budget.
Leg 1: AZ0155 BRU-MXP 17:40 19:15 M82 Y (Actuals: 18:05 19:15; Seat: 11F)
This flight is full tonight. I would expect so on a Friday night the day before Christmas. The aircraft (no reg) is clean and most lights are working. The bins are not very big and have an 80's design (angles rather than curves); they also have a yellow shade that comes with age. The seat is not the most comfortable (no head or foot rest; no coat hook; no cup holder) but the pitch is acceptable. First/Business class seats look very nice at a fixed 4-abreast on this aircraft but there doesn't seem to be any kind of entertainment either. My row back in economy is 5-abreast but has two windows to itself!
As the flight was full, we had announcements that oversized or multiple hand luggage would be dropped off the aircraft (not sure whether they meant they would join the bulk below); I never had that one! As boarding was nearly complete, we had an announcement that hand luggage can be stored 'under the seat in front of you' if there is no space left in the bins. We waited 20-25 minutes without any explanation why we're not leaving and then we taxied to the runway and had a powerful yet very smooth take off. One thing I noticed is that the engines where very quiet at all time, but you felt the power.
Ten minutes into the flight they announced that they would serve us drinks. I wouldn't expect more on such a short flight in economy with today's market. But actually they gave us a snack box (Alisnack) and it was really nice! One cheese and chicken sandwich, one cake, one Italian chocolate, and a cup of water. As drinks I took the delicious Santal red orange juice plus a Coke and skipped the coffee service. 20-30 minutes later they collected the garbage and the flight went smoothly until we had a soft landing, on time, at MXP.
Overall, I would rate this flight 8/10.
First encounter with Milan's Malpensa airport
MXP isn't the best airport I've been to but it's acceptable; I would just try to keep connections as short as possible unlike today's 3 hour wait. One hour seems well enough to transit and avoid getting bored. I didn't see any soda machines around as it seems you have to sit in one of the cafeteria/restaurant areas to get a drink; I'm put off by this.
Also, it seems they have concentrated 'exotic' (to say the least; you'll see what I mean) destinations to the boarding by bus gates (B24-26), away from the rest of the terminal. Down there I saw flights listed for BEY, DKR, IST and OTP.
The wide-body lineup tonight included a JL 747-400, an RG MD-11, a QR A300-600R, a PK A300 and several AZ 767s and 777s.
Leg 2: AZ0822 MXP-BEY 22:20 03:00 320 Y (Actuals: 23:15 03:30; Seat: 4F)
Boarding by bus to a remote stand; nobody's cup of tea. We stayed on the bus for 5-10 minutes after reaching the aircraft as it wasn't ready. We would later get an apology for this and for the overall delay due, according to the crew, to late preparation of the aircraft.
The aircraft itself was I-BIKO and has a flexible business/economy cabin with 6-abreast that can be changed into 5-abreast for the front rows. Having seat 4F I enjoyed the wider seat and the maybe more generous pitch. But the seats where kind of broken and had a feel of low quality. The crew was male to the exception of one rather cute female attendant. The handling of and interaction with passengers was rather cold. On this flight they announced that they would served dinner to which I would have preferred getting another Alisnack box. Indeed, the tray had a salmon entree (but the salmon was not cut and cleaned properly), chicken and beef cold cuts with tasteless zucchinis (nothing edible here), a piece of jam pie (too sweet) and some fresh fruits (good but mostly apple). A cup of water was also included and I took a glass of sparkling water and a glass of diet Coke on the side; skipped the hot beverage service. Entertainment was the drop down LCD screens kind with a selection of flight tracking interrupted by comics and details on overflown destinations. Although the seats are equipped with audio, no headphones were distributed on this flight.
The remainder of the flight went smoothly and I had a great sight of the starry skies; passed out for an hour or two before landing (no claps) in rainy Beirut. Formalities were the usual rat race to the visa stamps counter and an unusual very long wait in the immigration line.
Overall, I would rate this flight 5/10.
Now I'm celebrating Christmas with family but do expect the end of the report with the return legs sometime in January!
IDISA From Italy, joined Jun 2004, 267 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (10 years 4 months 1 week 6 hours ago) and read 7791 times:
Glad you've experienced our flag-carrier. As I work in MXP some of your comments made me smile, as they are so...true! For example:
Quoting BrightCedars (Thread starter): The experience at the time was not of great quality (particularly the food they served) but was nonetheless a success from an enthusiast point of view as we boarded the aircraft from the rear staircase!
Still this procedure is used at MXP but most of the pax uses front staircase.
Well, I have to agree, nothing special. Let's say "normal apt" ok?
Quoting BrightCedars (Thread starter): Boarding by bus to a remote stand; nobody's cup of tea. We stayed on the bus for 5-10 minutes after reaching the aircraft as it wasn't ready. We would later get an apology for this and for the overall delay due, according to the crew, to late preparation of the aircraft.
Eh eheh... I know this situation very well... But I can assure you that the crew gave you the right info. However I get disappointed any time I see pax standing on the bus so long, you can imagine what may happen on a hot summer afternoon...
BrightCedars From Belgium, joined Nov 2004, 1291 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (10 years 4 months 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 7575 times:
Quoting Soups (Reply 1): Is RB still operating BRU-BEY on their 747SP? u should try this one day
As LO231 mentioned, it is now an A320 weekly service. RB's flight frequency doesn't help with our plans, not to mention they are sometimes more expensive than airlines that provide a better service and miles worth; not to mention, what is their name again?
Cedarjet From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 8628 posts, RR: 53
Reply 9, posted (10 years 4 months 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 7212 times:
Excellent report. Man I wish I was in Beirut, it's one of my favourite cities (hence the username) and England is unbelievably cold right now. Enjoy yourelf; looking forward to the sequel to your report.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
BrightCedars From Belgium, joined Nov 2004, 1291 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 7050 times:
All good things come to an end and it is unfortunately time to leave sunny Lebanon back to probably gloomier, certainly colder Belgian skies. Come to think of it: my wife, daughter and I were all playing outdoor under the Sun and in more than 20°c just a few hours ago!
Leg 3: AZ0823 BEY-MXP 04:25 07:25 320 Y (Actuals: 04:25 07:00; Seat: 9A)
I always request a window seat as forward as possible in the cabin. This gives a competitive edge in the usual deplaning rat races. The aircraft stood ready for boarding by aerobridge at gate 18. The flight is almost full this morning and I’m lucky as 9B was one of the few empty seats. Got a copy of the FT and one of the WSJ, the latter sucked. News for Alitalia was good though with signs of investment and short term relief for this loss making carrier.
The aircraft on our flight is I-BIKU and the crew is once again male only. What happened to all those beautiful Italian girls? Pillows had been prepared on all seats. Video security briefing (I tend not to pay attention to those when on a known aircraft type and if the crew is not interacting during the presentation), cabin lights off, and unusual take off apparently from the North-South runway heading south and making a right turn after reaching some altitude. The crew informed us that we would be served breakfast shortly.
I was a bit surprised as often, on these red-eye flights, we get to sleep soon after take off and are served breakfast prior to landing. As usual with Alitalia, breakfast was nothing exceptional. A thick Philadelphia sandwich accompanied by some poultry cold cut and cheese, a piece of apricot cake (I hate peach and apricot), an apricot labeled yogurt (at first I thought yerk but I didn’t actually taste like apricot), some fresh fruits (loads of sour apple, two pieces of kiwi and one piece of orange), and a bun of bread, no butter or jam. Took a glass of orange juice (fresh Santal again but not the red one this time) and one of sparkling water.
After the trays were removed I put the seat in the sleeping position and fell asleep for about 2 hours (this is as much as I slept from yesterday morning till this morning when I’m writing this part of the report), the seat didn’t feel as bad as that on the way in but it wasn’t really comfortable either.
The crew made an announcement that we would soon be landing in Milan and that the outside temperature was of -7°c! After a long and painful descend (that’s what my ears have to say) we landed smoothly (think I slept during landing) I was hoping we would dock to a gate but we got parked at a remote stand. Fortunately it wasn’t or didn’t feel as cold as announced.
Again entertainment was the drop down LCD screens kind with a selection of flight tracking interrupted by comics and again although the seats are equipped with audio, no headphones were distributed on this flight. And the onboard magazine was still that of December.
Overall, I would rate this flight 6/10.
Second encounter with Milan's Malpensa airport
A normal experience again and a lot of queuing for all purposes plus no carry-on luggage carts like in Beirut. Brussels should also introduce these little handy carts. Most shops were still closed at 7 and the aircraft lineup was made of the variety of Alitalia types and of a more exotic Air Madagascar Boeing 767-300ER. Enjoyed Sun rise and the beautiful clear sky; well seated with a view on landings.
Leg 4: AZ0146 MXP-BRU 10:05 11:40 M82 Y (Actuals: 10:25 11:40; Seat: 12F)
Boarding by bus again! All of my Malpensa experience has been by bus expect when arriving from Brussels on the 1st leg. 1 out of 4, gives you an idea of my rating for that airport considering I think air bridges are a basic airport feature.
Again a mad dog and this time I got the reg: I-DATJ. Powerful yet silent take-off. Cloud free skies and a beautiful overfly over the Alps. An hour of flying towards Belgium over clouds and then again clear skies and a beautiful view of my country! I even spotted the Lion at the Gileppe dam! Coming to Brussels from the east, then overflying the airport north-south, our house in Evere, and the rest of the city including Manhattan and the Basilica all the way to Wavre's giant antenna. Then turning back and descending over very nice east of and east Brussels residential areas before overflying Ikea and landing on the shorter runway (can somebody confirm it is the 7?).
Onboard, nothing special. Nice seats in business again (6 rows) and a neater look (less yellow) around the cabin. Hot and cold drinks were served (I had orange juice and coffee) and a wrapped cake was given. No entertainment and one female attendant on this flight.
Overall, I would rate this flight 6/10.
This was a Skyteam award ticket and I frankly would have preferred to fly KLM, try CSA or even endure CDG to fly Air France but Alitalia was the only option available on my dates.
I will fly Alitalia again as price is an important factor in my travel decisions (after safety and geopolitical considerations) but I would rate them below most experiences I've had on the route. That means below AF, KL, LH, MA, ME, OA, OS, SN, SR and TK. I'm planning to write a special trip review about that, compiling 25 returns trips from Brussels to Beirut.
Cross-checking of Alitalia on the route will actually happen as we have made our Easter plans with them again. Another Skyteam free ticket to use and this time my family will tag along on paying tickets. Same flights but in April so stay tuned for another report on Alitalia on this particular path! A third try is due for Summer on an AMS-MXP-BEY routing.
Overall ratings for this return trip:
I wish a Happy New Year to all and I hope you enjoyed this report!