Jsnww81 From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1867 posts, RR: 16 Posted (7 years 3 months 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 27864 times:
This is the second part of a report on my trip to Italy (read the first part here ). I spent three days in Milan, which is a sizeable but not very memorable city – it’s very industrial and businesslike and doesn’t have as much of a classic “Italian” feel as Rome or Florence. On the second day, I took a side trip up to Lake Como, which was very nice despite the cloudy and rainy weather.
Although I would be using Malpensa Airport for both of my trips, I also wanted to visit Milan’s other airport, Linate, so on the afternoon of the first day I took the bus out there. It’s definitely much closer to the city than MXP – only about 20 minutes on the bus from the Piazza San Babini. Linate handles primarily domestic flights these days along with a smattering of flights to major European capitals. There’s an agreement in place stipulating how many non-Italian flights may be flown from Linate vs. Malpensa, but I’m not too clear on how it breaks down.
In any case, the terminal at Linate is old but in good shape, although the check-in areas seemed a little on the small side. It was fairly empty when I visited (about 6:30pm) but I could easily see that it must get very crowded during peak periods. Alitalia and Air One operate the lion’s share of traffic (AZ has its own dedicated check-in area off to one side), with Meridiana and Volareweb bringing up the rear. British Airways, Swiss, Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia, etc. make up the rest of the traffic.
The Malpensa Express train leaves from Cadorna railway station, which is on the northwest side of central Milan. Cadorna is pretty small compared to the very old and very elaborate Stazione Centrale (used mostly by the national train operator Trenitalia). Local rail operator Ferrovie Nord run several commuter rail lines from Cadorna in addition to the Malpensa Express:
Malpensa Express trains are bilevel and modern, although on both trips the trains seemed to be mostly empty. Most of the trains pulling INTO Cadorna this morning were packed to the gills with commuters, but my carriage only had about three other people aboard. The trip to MXP takes about 45 minutes, with stops at Bovisa and Saronno.
From the train station it’s a quick walk to MXP’s Terminal 1, which was opened in 1998 after years of construction- and corruption-related delays. For such a new terminal, it’s not too impressive, especially when compared to some of the other new buildings opened that same year (Chep Lap Kok and the new KUL, for instance). The architect used a lot of ceramic tile and soft earth-tone colors in the design, which make everything seem very dark. The floors are all made out of some kind of spongy-feeling terrazzo, which does a good job cutting down on noise and making the place seem mellow:
I found the Swiss check-in desk and joined the line. The entire Japanese national ski team was checking in ahead of me (the Torino Olympics had just ended the night before) so one of of the two check-in agents was trying to sort through the passports and get all of their giant ski bags checked through to Tokyo. I wasn’t checking a bag – I just needed a boarding pass – but I still had to wait about 25 minutes before I got to the front of the line.
Despite the drab architecture, there are two great things about the Malpensa terminal – it’s non-smoking (no small feat in a smoker’s paradise like Italy!) and the entire airside of the ticketing level is glass. The view across the ramp was very good, although a lot of the movements are rather distant. At the center satellite (used for intercontinental and non-Schengen departures) I caught an Alitalia 767 preparing to depart for Boston:
On the other side of the satellite was Continental’s daily 767-400, turning around for Newark:
The departure gates are sandwiched between the ticket lobby and the arrivals hall, so I took an escalator one flight down. The large central security checkpoint was jammed with people – the line wrapped all over the place, snaking through a Disneyland-style queue area. It looked intimidating but actually moved very quickly, and after a short stop at passport control I was on the departures concourse.
I figured a small bird like a Swiss Avroliner probably wouldn’t get a jetbridge, and sure enough we were leaving from a ground-level bus gate on the center satellite (Switzerland isn’t a Schengen country, so Swiss flights use the center gates). There were about six bus gates and a small departure lounge down below, which had lots of room to stand but almost no seats:
Our bus was late,and even after it arrived the ground staff waited another 20 minutes before they started taking boarding passes. On board the bus we had a great view of the Delta 767-300 parked right in front of us (the buses load up right underneath the jetbridges) but there were security personnel everywhere and I didn’t think it would be wise to take any pictures.
When the bus was filled to the brim with passengers – I think they managed to fit everyone in a single load – we pulled away and drove across MXP’s large ramp toward the remote stands. Our Avroliner was waiting for us:
One stand over was one of Azerbaijan Airlines’ brand-new A319s, painted in a rather elaborate multi-striped livery:
Swiss International Air Lines Flight 1617
Milan Malpensa (MXP) – Zurich Kloten (ZRH)
Departs MXP 11:00am, arrives ZRH 12:00pm
Avroliner ARJ-100, seat 16A
Flying time: 40 minutes
Swiss’ Avroliner appeared to be in better shape than the SN Brussels variant I’d flown on a few days before, but it still didn’t seem very comfortable – the seats felt very thin and legroom left a lot to be desired. I would have tried to get a seat toward the front of the coach cabin, since those tend to have better legroom, but then my view would have been blocked by the Avro’s underwing engines. In any case, on a 40-minute flight I was willing to put up with a smaller seat pitch, and the flight turned out to be so scenic that it was definitely worth it.
The flight was almost completely full (about half of it with members of the Japanese ski team) and as boarding wrapped up it was clear we wouldn’t be leaving on time. My seatmate, a half-Italian half-American businessman, was connecting to Dubai via Zurich, and started to get anxious as his connection grew smaller and smaller. One of the flight attendants assured him he’d enough time, saying that Zurich is “one of the easiest places in Europe to change planes.”
We taxied off our stand about twenty minutes behind schedule… one of the advantages to a remote stand is that you don’t have to wait for a tug to push you back. As we taxied out toward the 35L/R thresholds, there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to MXP’s runway configuration – aircraft were landing and departing on both strips indiscriminately. We headed for 35R, the more distant runway, following a Finnair A320 and Air Dolomiti ATR.
Looking back toward Malpensa’s cargo area and very futuristic-looking control tower:
Turning onto the runway with flaps set for departure. The Avroliner’s flap assembly is pretty complex and a lot of fun to watch. Note the Turkish 737 holding for takeoff to Istanbul:
VIDEO: Takeoff from Malpensa http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8961685341487585825
Departure was to the north on runway 35R. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had my video recorder set to a low-resolution setting, so that coupled with the morning haze make the video a little lower-quality than I usually take. Still, we got a nice view of Malpensa on climbout, including the original terminal (now called Terminal 2) which is used by charters and a handful of smaller scheduled airlines.
Climbing above the haze and turning off the runway heading, shortly after takeoff:
Heading east-by-northeast after takeoff, passing above the A8 autostrada and the town of Besnate:
About a minute later we passed this castle/palace-looking structure northeast of the airport – are there any Milanese on A.net who know what it is?
In contrast to my flight into Milan, the weather was relatively clear, and the scenery on this flight was some of the best I’ve ever seen from an aircraft window. About five minutes after takeoff the Alps were visible off in the distance, including one very tall mountain. Anyone know which peak this is?
We crossed into Switzerland and passed right over Lugano and its tiny airport. The Lago di Lugano was also visible:
Shortly after we passed Lugano the mountains grew steeper and there were fewer and fewer towns and roads below:
Once we leveled off (briefly) at our cruising altitude the inflight service began – a limited beverage service (coffee, water or orange juice) followed by duty free sales. There was no food served onboard, although I imagine the folks up in business class received something. From what I’ve read, Swiss recently switched back to complimentary food after getting a mostly negative response to their buy-on-board program – are you listening, American/Delta/United? Shortly before landing the cabin attendants were back in the aisle, distributing small bars of Swiss chocolate marked with the message “Thank You for Flying Swiss.”
Outside the landscape had gone from scenic to really scenic:
After only about five or ten minutes at our cruising altitude the captain announced the start of our descent into Zurich. The mountains below were craggier than ever, and there was now a shelf of clouds to deal with as well:
As we descended the chief flight attendant read a list of connecting gate information – primarily longhaul flights heading for North America and most of them leaving from the Midfield Dock E. I’ve read that Swiss will soon be consolidating most of their operations in Zurich’s Pier A. The terrain flattened out somewhat as we sank down, and the clouds dissipated too, revealing most of northern Switzerland covered in snow:
Passing over Mellingen and the Reuss river on a long downwind leg into ZRH:
The scenery outside had changed from mountainous to just hilly, and it was become more and more urbanized – lots of multilane highways and medium-sized towns with high-rise housing blocks. We swung into a long turn back toward ZRH, passing by an impressive-looking nuclear power station on the way:
VIDEO: Landing at Zurich http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4270515535267125059
I started the video just after the flaps were lowered – I wish I’d started it earlier so I could have recorded the strange sound the Avroliner’s flap assembly makes when it’s first lowered. Landing is on runway 14, although I think we may have initially been headed for the somewhat parallel runway 16 – we make quite a few corrections on final. Cabin announcements are made in German, then English, and finally Italian, although I turn the camera off before the purser gets to the Italian part.
We taxied basically to the end of the runway 14 and then crossed runway 10-28 on the way to our gate at Terminal A. On the way we passed two Helvetic F100s parked on remote stands (the windows weren’t very clean, so the picture didn’t come out as nice):
Pulling into our Terminal A gate alongside company A320 HB-LIK:
This was my first time flying into ZRH and as I made my way down Pier A I was extremely impressed. It’s exactly what you would expect from a Swiss airport – clean, modern architecture, upscale shops and cafes, and lots of clear, straightforward signage. At the end of Pier A I found the British Airways/Servisair transfer desk, where I received my boarding pass from a very helpful agent. I’d been worried that there wouldn’t be any window seats left by the time I arrived at ZRH, but the agent said the flight was only about half full and there were lots of open seats left to be had.
I didn’t have a lot of time until I needed to head to my next gate, but I spent about ten minutes exploring ZRH’s Airside Center, which opened in 2004 and has a great view across the terminal apron. ZRH isn’t as busy as it was during Swissair’s heyday, but Swiss runs a respectable operation, and the lack of crowds help the airport feel very spacious:
Swiss A319 HB-IPV parked at Pier A with the distinctive ZRH control tower in the background:
More Swiss birds parked at the far end of Pier A:
An MNG Cargo Airbus parked on Pier B, which is currently closed and used only for remote parking:
One of South African’s A340s rests on Pier B, with an MD80 of low-cost airline Hello taxiing at rear:
I wish I had had more time to spend wandering around ZRH – the whole terminal isn’t brand new, but it’s in spotless condition and it looks like there’s a lot to do and see. The ground staff were making announcements about every thirty seconds, though, and the “ding-dong” chime that plays before each one was starting to drive me a little crazy. My flight was scheduled to board at 2:00pm, and with our late arrival I needed to head downstairs to catch the train to Pier E.
The ride to Pier E takes only about thirty seconds, and interestingly the Pier E train station is built with lightwells that let in lots of daylight:
Before heading to the gate we had to pass through another security checkpoint, which in true Swiss fashion was fast, efficient and amply staffed – much nicer than anything run by the TSA, or the security folks at Heathrow, my next destination. From there I took an escalator up to the Pier E departure concourse:
Once inside Pier E I took a stroll around to check out the aircraft parked at the gates. The building handles most of Zurich’s longhaul traffic,including this Emirates A340 pulling in from Dubai:
An El Al 737 resting before heading back to Tel Aviv. After I took the picture I waited for the inevitable Mossad agents to come up and hassle me, but they must have all been over at LAX harrassing the photographers there:
A few gates over was a nice surprise – a Thai A340 in the new color scheme (although I guess ALL Thai A340s are in the new scheme ). This was my first time seeing the new colors – I really like the deeper purple color mixed with the gold:
Eventually I wandered back toward my gate (on the south side of the pier) for boarding. As I said, I was very impressed by Zurich Airport. Maybe the lack of crowds or nice sunny weather outside influenced me, but it’s definitely among my favorite airports now.
British Airways Flight 713
Zurich Kloten (ZRH) – London Heathrow (LHR)
Departs ZRH 1:15pm, arrives LHR 2:10pm
Airbus A320, seat 6F
Flying time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
British Airways had set up a small checkstation outside the entrance to the jetbridge and ground staff were checking everyone’s passports along with their boarding cards. Once through the jetbridge there was a small table with a nice selection of Swiss and English newspapers. I grabbed a copy of the London Financial Times, figuring I’d need something to read on the longer LHR-ORD flight that evening.
From the glassed-in jetbridge I was able to get a nice shot of a Cyprus Airways A320 parked at the next gate:
As I came through the door of the A320 I was greeted by three flight attendants, one male and two female, with a further two flight attendants at the rear of the aircraft. I’d forgotten how nice it is to have a full complement of crew on an A320, since all of our carriers in the US staff their flights with the bare minimum. The crew on this flight were able to spend much more time tending to the passengers – contrast this with a flight in the US, where the forward flight attendant has to greet the passengers AND take coats from the first class pax AND count beverages AND check the manifest AND help close the forward overheads. Doesn’t leave much time for smiling, does it?!?
I was seated in the first row of Euro Traveler, British Airways’ coach product on shorthaul flights. The business class section, Club Europe, is separated by a movable curtain divider. Today only the first five rows were partitioned off for Club Europe (identifiable by the Club Europe seat covers placed on each seat). However, my row was also in Club Europe configuration, since on busier flights the curtain would be moved back a further three or four rows. So I got to enjoy a wider armrest and a little extra legroom, all for a coach ticket price!
My one complaint about the quasi-Club Europe seat is that it felt extremely hard, almost like it was made out of plastic. As we waited to push back I got a nice shot of a Swiss A330 pushing back for a flight to Miami:
After the doors were closed the captain came on, saying there was an aircraft pushed back behind us (it was the Cyprus Airways A320 from above) and that we’d be just a few minutes late getting off stand as a result. To pass the time the cabin crew lowered the LCD screens and played the safety video, which was a neat little animated production that actually held my attention better than a live-action video. The safety announcements were repeated in German over the loudspeaker after the video.
Pushing back from a now-empty Pier E:
This afternoon, Zurich was taking arrivals on runway 14, with longhaul departures using runway 16 and shorthaul flights using runway 28. We made a quick taxi to the runway 28 threshold, where we got in line behind a Swiss ERJ and a small private Cessna with the Swiss flag painted on the tail. Eventually it was our turn to depart:
VIDEO: Takeoff from Zurich http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=467027232111060665
Departure was on runway 28, passing by an American Airlines 767 and the empty Pier E before rotating right as we crossed runway 16-34. Power was reduced pretty sharply after takeoff – you can hear it in the video – I’m guessing this was due to noise abatement. The area to the west of ZRH seemed to be fairly built up with houses and businesses.
Climbing out of ZRH:
Strangely, we turned to the southeast after takeoff, heading in almost the opposite direction from London. Here we are passing over the town of Spreitenbach:
Finally we made a very long back toward the northwest and London:
Shortly after takeoff the screens dropped down again, this time to display British Airways’ version of the Airshow program – height, position, time to destination, etc. Our route would take us right past the Swiss city of Basel, then into the Alsace-Lorraine region of France (just south of the city of Nancy) and then out over Amiens in France to the English Channel, where we’d start our descent into London. Sure enough, we flew just to the south of Basel a few minutes later – I could see the Basel-Mulhouse airport from my window, but you can’t really see it in the picture:
The cabin crew came through the aisles handing out a snack, which came in the form of one of BA’s “All Day Deli” sandwich boxes. There didn’t appear to be a choice of sandwich… I got a pickle-and-mustard sandwich which was alright, although relish on sandwiches isn’t my first choice. The box also came with a small container of chocolate mousse and a strange little midget can of Diet Coke (interestingly, it was actually called “Diet Coke,” and not “Coca-Cola Light” like it is in most parts of Europe):
Following the snack service the flight attendants made an announcement advertising their duty free service, then came through the aisles selling goods to interested passengers. Despite the light load on the flight, I was surprised to see many of the passengers making purchases. As we flew over the French countryside I thumbed through the High Life inflight magazine, which has a nice set of BA route maps in the back, as well as a LOT of information about the different types of aircraft they fly.
Shortly after passing Amiens the captain pulled back on the engines and we started our descent into Heathrow. The purser had announced at the start of the flight that London was reporting mostly sunny skies, but the definitely wasn’t the case anymore – there was a dense layer of clouds down below. The captain said he expected a few bumps on the way down, so he asked the cabin crew to check the cabin and take their seats “a little early, please.”
On all my previous flights into LHR I’d landed from the west; this time I was really hoping for a landing from the east over central London. After we made a pretty bumpy descent through the top of the cloud layer, we made two holding circles over southeast London (the Airshow map showed us circling over Bromley). We were in cloud the whole time, so I wasn’t able to spot any other aircraft holding alongside us.
When we came out of the hold we flew back toward the west, and I cursed my bad luck that I’d be landing, yet again, from the west. A few minutes later, though, we made another long turn back to the east – we were flying a very serpentine route into Heathrow today. The slats along the wing dropped down and, still inside the clouds, we made one more tight right-hand turn back toward Heathrow, landing from the east just I’d hoped we would.
For a few more minutes there was nothing to see but mist trailing over the wing and the engine, but finally we dropped out of the clouds, right above the Thames River, with Pimlico just beyond the wing:
A close-up view of Victoria Station – Buckingham Palace is beyond, although you can’t really make it out:
Passing over the Thames yet again, now established on final approach:
VIDEO: Landing at London Heathrow http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1223908825892237502
The video starts just as our A320 passes over Kew Gardens, then crosses the Thames one final time. Final approach to runway 27L is over Acton and Hounslow, then very low over the Hatton Cross tube station and past the British Airways maintenance base. The captain didn’t apply any reverse thrust, but braked VERY hard so as to vacate the runway close to Terminal 4.
British Airways’ Zurich flights arrive into Terminal 4 – I’ve used T1, T2 and T3 but this was my first time flying into the newest Heathrow terminal (“newest” meaning about twenty years old.) T4 is famous as the home of most of BA’s longhaul flights, and the lineup didn’t disappoint as we headed to our gate:
I figured our small A320 would have to park remotely, but surprisingly we turned onto the T4 apron and headed for a jetbridge gate alongside a KLM 737 (KLM is one of the few foreign airlines using Terminal 4.):
The engines were shut down just about five minutes behind schedule (owing to our short delay leaving the gate at ZRH) and I filed off the aircraft with the rest of the passengers.
London Heathrow Airport
As I said, this was my first time transiting Heathrow’s Terminal 4, and my first impression was that it wasn’t quite as disgusting as most of the other LHR terminals. We arrived into one of the former Concorde gates, and had to walk through a very strange network of twisting narrow passages before we emerged onto the T4 arrivals concourse. From there it was an extremely long walk (without any moving sidewalks – even ratty old Terminal 3 has moving walkways!) to the center of the terminal, where terminating passengers went one way and connecting passengers another.
I took a short escalator down to the connection lobby, where buses for T1, T2 and T3 pick up passengers and drive them across the apron. The Terminal 3 bus showed up in fairly short order, and we were off toward the center of the airport, passing through the long underground tunnel beneath runway 9R-27L. We popped out between Terminals 2 and 3, then drove underneath the impressive new extension built for Virgin Atlantic’s A380s (which today was just handling a Singapore Airlines 747-400) before diving back under the bowels of Terminal 3.
Once inside T3 we had to clear security yet again, and then I headed through the vast shopping area towards the Admirals Club. I’d never used the LHR Admirals Club before, but with Heathrow being such a major operation for American I figured it’d be a pretty nice place. The club is located just past the shopping area and is very large – it sprawls through several rooms and includes a business center and lots of seating areas. Unlike the Chicago Admirals Club, alcoholic beverages were free of charge, and even better there were great views across Terminal 3’s northern ramp. An Air Canada 767 and Emirates A330 were parked adjacent to the now-finished new control tower:
British Airways operate one – and only one – daily flight from Terminal 3, a 747-400 to Miami. Today it was operated by this 747, which looks to have been signed by BA employees:
One of Virgin Atlantic’s dwindling number of 747-400s pushes back:
A PIA 747-300 in the (I think) rather dull new colors pulls into the gate:
Qatar Airways’ A330 heads out on a flight to Doha:
A nice treat – one of Biman Bangladesh’s A310s pushing back. Outside of New York, it’s tough to spot any Biman birds in North America:
A Varig MD11, its nose blurred by exhaust from the APU of the BA 747:
One of Japan Airlines’ new 777-300s arriving from Tokyo Narita:
Virgin’s amazing A340-600, which looks almost too long to be real!
When my flight was called I headed down through the dark and dirty corridors of Terminal 3 to my gate. I won’t bother writing too much about the return flight to Chicago – it was a pretty standard 777 transatlantic crossing, and I was seated in an exit row without a window (so I couldn’t take any pictures.) By the time I landed in Chicago it was about 8:30pm – or about 4am to me!
That’s it for my trip to Italy. Flying Swiss and SN Brussels was a nice (and new) experience, and as I’ve said I was especially impressed with Zurich Airport. I’m hoping to make a separate trip to Zurich sometime in the future – the whole area looked really pretty.
Next up for me is a trip out to the Bay Area to visit some friends from college. I’ll be flying ORD-DFW-OAK-SNA-ORD (all on American except for OAK-SNA, which is Alaska.) A few weeks later I’m heading out to Amsterdam for a long weekend with friends – that one will be ORD-LHR-AMS and back, with American and bmi. Stay tuned until then!
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8275 posts, RR: 56 Reply 4, posted (7 years 3 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 27057 times:
Nice report & photo's, many thanks.
I agree with your comments about MXP, it actually looks very dated and drab despite being relatively new. The best thing about it is the ability is the windows, great for spotting when it's cold and wet outside,
ZRH is a great airport, just a shame it's pretty quiet now days.
ZRH From Switzerland, joined Nov 1999, 5544 posts, RR: 40 Reply 6, posted (7 years 3 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 26908 times:
Thanx for this nice report. I am glad that you liked Zurich Airport. It is really great since the construction works are finished. Spacious and with much day light and great views because of its huge windows at the Airside Center and Dock E. It is also very easy and fast to navigate, clean and plenty of shops and restaurants (air side and land side). It is quieter as at best times of Swissair (then 21 mi now 18 mi passengers). But we have still a nice amount of intercontinental flights with different wide-body aircrafts.
I don't think that you can call Italy an smoker's paradise anymore, fortunately (although still a lot of people smoke). In Italy it is prohibited to smoke in all public buildings and all restaurants and bars. I wish it would be here the same. Regarding the protection of non-smokers Switzerland is a banana republic.
Jsnww81 From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1867 posts, RR: 16 Reply 12, posted (7 years 3 months 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 26481 times:
Quoting Highpeaklad (Reply 11): Great report, but I have a question, why did you route via ZRH instead of MXP-LHR direct? Was it cheaper or were you just looking for a bit of variety?
A little of each, actually! There was a slightly cheaper itinerary that would have taken me through Brussels coming AND going. I ultimately picked the longer trip and paid about $30 more for the privilege of flying Swiss and transiting Zurich. I'm glad I did.
Of course, effective April 1, Swiss joins the Star Alliance, and I probably won't be seeing too many Swiss flights listed on AA.com anymore. So I'm doubly glad I got the chance to fly them - and collect AAdvantage miles at the same time!
ZRHnerd From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 14, posted (6 years 4 months 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 24769 times:
Cant believe that this report has gone so unnoticed, great effort mate
As for LX's ZRH operation. It's not true that LX will move all of its movements to Terminal A. this would be impossible to operate during LX's tight departure/arrival banks in the early morning, at noon and in the evening. They have shifted all of their domestic and intra european flights to Terminal A, while all of their intercontinental flights leave from Terminal E.
Once again, great TR, glad you liked ZRH. The reason why ZRH wasn't really crowded when you were there is because you have just missed the late morning/noon bank by about thirty minutes.