Around Christmas I flew BRU-BEY and back on Alitalia. It started with my second ever sector on AZ, the first one having been made back in 1994 betwene MLA and FCO. As promised then, I would fly AZ on BRU-BEY again around Easter and here it comes: a repeat experience for the same airline on the same route some time apart.
Leg 1: AZ0155 BRU-MXP A320-200 I-BIKE Y (seat 15C)
This time I arranged to travel together with my wife and daughter on the leg to Beirut. However, I using a Skyteam award and them having AZ e-tickets didn't make things easy. I expected some problems and had decided to email the AZ Internet Booking Office 2 months ago to make sure they manage to seat us together. 3 weeks later I got a reply (apologizing for the late reply) and telling me to call reservations 24h in advance. So I did call reservations 24h in advance and they told me it'd be done. Having sent my Skyteam award ticket back to France for a change of my return date and still waiting for it in the mailbox on the day of departure, it took a while to get a new (electronic one this time) issued at the AF desk at BRU. Enough time, I'm positive, to mess up our early check-in plan to avoid being seated away from each other. So we checked in and ended up on both ends of the plane. I related the steps above and she managed to put us just 2 rows apart; giving me an untradeable middle-seat in the process. We boarded, I told the crew about the situation and they came up with the same conclusion: nobody will trade for a middle seat. Luckily enough, the passenger who was assigned 15C agreed to swap seats and made us all wrong. I have to admit it may not have been luck for him as he had to choose between a middle seat or sitting next to my 2 1/2 year old daughter. She's a sweatheart and a quiet child I'll tell you but I've learned from these forums that some passengers are really unhappy at having children flying along.
We boarded using the air bridge. The plane was full and we left 40 minutes late due to late arrival of the aircraft. A nice uneventful flight with again a nice Alisnack box and that nice red orange juice they have. although this time around they were not shaking the pack which has a definite impact on the resulting taste. I would say this flight was comparable to the same flight around Christmas. We had to take a bus to get to the terminal but luckily we got hold of our strawler from the aircraft (it's not always the case).
Transit at MXP
I was actually happy to see out transit time at MXP shortened as I didn't have good memories of the facility. During the little less than 2 hours to kill there, we noticed the toilet was barred but accessible and with no indication where to find another one. And they really ought to do something about basic cleanliness and hygiene at most areas of the airport.
The queue to exit Schengen having cleared up, we processed and then found out that our gate was not at -1, like the previous time, but even at -2!!! I'm really starting to think that they are discriminating against certain flights and sending those passengers to the basement as here we had 4 flights, again all of them to what could be called less prestigious destinations by some e.g. Beirut, Cairo, Tirana and Bucharest.
Leg 2: AZ0822 MXP-BEY A320-200 I-BIKI (Seat 27F)
Down in the basement, there wasn't enough room for 2 boarding queues, don't mention 3 or 4. Boarding for our flight was called and people started getting on the bus. Then boarding was suspended and a technical delay of 15 minutes was announced. People stayed in the line and on the bus. 15 minutes later, they told us the delay would be 30 more minutes and people were offloaded from the bus. It was clear then that we would spend some more time in transit at MXP. Indeed, some time later we were announced a further 1 hour delay and eventually the plane was called for boarding shortly before 1 am; with a total delay of over 3 hours. Now they told us that there was such a technical issue with the aircraft that they had to resort to using another one. But I'm still wondering why they couldn't do that before as we all know that most European airlines have plently of aircraft sitting around doing nothing at night if they're not on a cash-cow red-eye to the Near East, anyway. After the standard 2 hours grace period, those willing to travel back to the gate were offered the European Commission imposed food and drink vouchers and where in for a queue and fight at the unfriendly staffed cafeteria.
We left MXP shortly before 2 am, which would mean a landing in BEY at 6 am! Onboard, they served us an untrustable tray of cold food. I don't know if it's just me but for the return leg I'll pack my own food for the flight. We landed in Beirut at dawn, taxied to a gate, were told by the ground staff that it is airport policy not to give the strawlers at the aircraft's door (!) and took more than half an hour to proceed thru security. By 7 am we were leaving the airport parking and thankfully enjoying the Lebanese blue sky and early sunshine.
Return leg will take place on April 19th so stay tuned!