Welcome to part 4 of Ivan’s (Apuneger) and my (Sabena 690) spotting trip to Italy and Spain!
Part 3 ended in Madrid, after returning from PMI and BCN on IB.
The ones who haven’t read the previous parts yet, can read them by clicking on the following links:
- Part 1: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/47923/
- Part 2: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/48196/
- Part 3: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/48551/
Madrid, Sunday July 18th, 2004
After packing our bags, and taking a quick shower, we took the shuttle bus to T2, where we arrived around 8.30am.
As usual, we went to the cafetaria in the ‘Boulevard Barajas’ for breakfast, and spotting.
Some of the more interesting visitors during the morning: EC-IZM Air Plus Comet B737, N77014 CO B772 “Peter Max”, EC-IYN Air Madrid A332, 4X-EKI LY B738 in hybrid colours (North American colours and LY titles), YV-1040C Santa Barbara Airlines DC10, N417FE FedEx A300F, RA-85670 Aeroflot Tu154, HA-LOL MA B73G,…
Because the cafetaria was very busy, we decided not to check-in together (one goes to check-in while the other one keeps our table free). At 10h15, I went to the Alitalia counters for our flight leaving at 1pm.
Check-in was done by a not very friendly check-in agent. I asked her: “if possible, I’d like to get a window seat in the beginning of the Y-class section, somewhere in row 8-9-10”. She replied with an angry voice: “No, 18A”.
Checking me through to BRU was apparently impossible, so we had to go to the AZ transfer desk in FCO (more about this later).
Ivan went to check-in afterwards, and at 11am, we decided to go through security. I walked around in the B-gates, and I can only recommend the spotters who plan to visit MAD for spotting one thing: stay in the cafetaria as long as possible! Views were bad, and reading registrations of the landing aircraft was impossible. I still managed to get the biggest part of the regs, because almost all aircraft have to pass the C-gates before going to their gate.
When the gate where our flight was leaving from was known, we proceeded to the gate area which was completely filled. I took one of the last remaining seats just behind the small AZ-counter, and I noticed something interesting: this counter had a computer listing all flights, inclusive the number of passengers booked!
Some observations: unfortunately I lost the paper on which I had written some flights with the number of pax booked, but I still remember that:
x almost all IB flights (about 15 were listed) were full, except one with only 25 pax (a domestic flight on an A320)
x the Aeroflot Tu154 had 86 pax listed
x the few flights of other airlines listed were also about full
Our AZ flight was not listed, but I expected it to be totally full because all seats had already sold out 1,5 week before departure.
30 minutes before departure, boarding was announced.
About the flight
Mc Donnell Douglas MD82
Departure time scheduled/actual 13:00/13:31
Arrival time scheduled/actual 15:25/15:19
Photo © William Ronciere
Photo © André de Heus
I said good afternoon to the gate agent who scratched my boarding pass, who didn’t say anything back. He actually didn’t say anything at all to the passengers. The “have a nice flight” I mostly hear from other gate agents is a more friendly touch.
Since our aircraft was parked on a remote stand, we had to be bussed. Always nice for a spotter to drive between the aircraft! While driving, an IB A346 passed next to us, what a sight!
I went on board, and was greeted by a friendly flight attendant. While I was going to row 18, I passed two other flight attendants who also said “hello”. Now already, the difference with the crew on our MXP-MAD flight was noticeable. They were helping the pax stowing their luggage, they were greeting the pax, etc etc.
Although the cabin of the AZ MD82’s looks a bit dated, it’s still comfortable, also thanks to the good seat pitch.
Push back was about 10 minutes behind schedule, and we started a long taxi to RWY 36L.
Funny was the fact that we passed about 3 planes that were waiting for take off, and almost immediately taxied on the runway, after the take off of an AF CRJ! We had priority apparently…
We started climbing through the clear sky after a roll of 45 seconds (!), and shortly after take off, the female First Officer welcomed us on board.
About 10 minutes after take off, the meal-service started, with the distribution of the Alisnack-box.
There was no choice this time, all passengers got a cheese sandwich. I personally found it very dry, and quite basic for a flight with a scheduled flight time of 2h25min.
About 30 minutes after take off, all dirt was collected and the crew disappeared. No second drink service on this flight again!
Nothing interested happened during the rest of the flight… The First Officer made an announcement in the middle of the flight which was not understandable because the people in the row before and after me were talking very loud (and if you have already seen Italians who are heavily discussing something, you’ll know what I mean ).
Landing was smooth, and we taxied to a remote stand quite close to the AZ maintenance area where 3 Ghana DC10’s were stored. Also some AZ MD11’s could be seen, and some ex-AZ A300’s. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get the regs of those aircraft, except for the GH DC10’s.
Rome Fiumicino Airport
We were bussed from the plane to an arrivals area where you had to go right to collect your bags and upstairs to catch a connecting flight. In the middle was an Alitalia transfer desk, with nobody behind the counter. We waited for a few minutes, with nobody coming. So we went upstairs, where we were greeted with a huge queue because everybody had to pass security, and only one counter was open.
So we went downstairs again to the Alitalia transfer desk, which was still empty, although the computer was on, and a machine was there to print boarding passes. 2 Police officers were there, and we asked them whether they spoke English. The answer was the expected ‘NO’. So we kept on waiting in front of the desk, till one of them told is: “desk closed”. Desk closed? What a service…
We went back upstairs, where the queue was still as big as 10 minutes ago. At this moment, somebody from Alitalia passed, and I asked her where we could get a boarding pass for our flight. “Exit the airport, go to the departures terminal, and check in over there”. Wow, what a service…
When we passed the luggage reclaim area, we decided to go to the lost luggage-desk of AZ to see whether they could help us. It was not possible, so the only solution was to go outside to the check-in counter, and to pass the passports control and the security check again.
Because this flight was operated by SN, we had to check-in at the SN Brussels counter. I saw 2 SN counters, with a big line of people waiting. Although the 2 desks were manned, and the flight was going to take off in less than 2 hours, they were just sitting there. 1h40 minutes before departure, our counter opened, and things were going very slow. Luckily, a 3th counter was opened after some time.
When it was our turn, there were luckily still 2 window seats left.
Afterwards, we quickly went through security, to be able to finally spot some planes at FCO. But how wrong I was: only a few planes could be seen from where we were standing, there was no time left to walk around (it was about 30 minutes before boarding), and the windows were very difficult to look through. I didn’t see anything special, so I won’t mention a small log with some specials over here…
While I was bored, I checked my boarding pass, and saw something interesting: a wrong time was printed on it! While our flight was due to leave at 17:50, it was listed on our boarding pass as leaving at 18:00. Boarding time was listed at 17:35, while it was actually 17:25. Knowing that a flight mostly closes about 10 minutes before departure, would have been enough for several people to miss their flight if they would have arrived 5 minutes after the gate should have opened following the info on our boarding pass..
There was also a discussion going on at the gate, because a couple with 2 children were refused on board due to an overbooking. Why exactly they refused those 4 people is still a mystery for me, because one of their children was heavily handicapped, and was sitting in a weelchair. Just imagine that you have to wait for more than 2 hours, till the next flight leaves, with a heavily handicapped child. In the end, this situation was solved, because there were no-shows. They were put in Business Class, because all Economy seats were taken.
About the flight
SN Brussels Airlines SN3182/AZ7064
First flight: 22/10/1999
Departure time scheduled/actual 17:50/18:20
Arrival time scheduled/actual 20:10/20:08
Photo © Mike Moores
Photo © David Goose
This is no new frame for me unfortunately, I flew on her already a year ago.
While entering the aircraft, the passengers were not greeted by the purser, because he was busy with somebody of Alitalia groundhandling.
During boarding, the second cabin attendant made twice the same announcement, about the fact that all luggage had to be stowed safely, that mobile phones had to be turned off etc. At this point, I was a bit surprised because I thought I recognised her voice, but in the end, it turned up to be someone else than I had expected!
I took my seat, and at 17:50, an announcement was made by the captain to welcome us on board, to present the cabin crew, to give us some weather information about Brussels (there were thunderstorms in the area), and to wish us a nice flight.
This was followed by a taped announcement in the Italian language.
After the tape, purser Gunther Jacobs introduced Sandrine, the second stewardess on this flight, and himself. He gave us information about the flight-time (which was going to be 1h50min), and repeated this Dutch announcement into French and English.
We pushed back 17 minutes late, and some music was played after the safety briefing.
After quite a short taxi to the runway, our Avro RJ100 spoiled up its engines at 18:20, and we were breaking through the hot Italian air after a roll of 39 seconds!
Already about 10 minutes after take off, we got our first drink service, with a choice of water and orange juice.
In the meantime, we passed a very strange island: although there were no clouds, this island was totally covered with clouds. This was about 20 minutes after take off.
After the drink service, I made myself comfortable, but not for too long, because 15-20 minutes later, our hot meal was served!
I can’t show you a picture yet, please be patient…
Here is a description: the meal consisted of a tasty hot pasta-salad, together with a small Twix-bar, cold curry-salad (which was also very tasty) and crackers. Although the quantity of the meal wasn’t big, I was already very glad that we didn’t get served a dry sandwich like AZ. SNBA at least make an effort to improve the meals.
The wine was a good “Côtes du Rousseau” or something like that.
Once our meal was finished (we were now almost flying for an hour), we got served another drink service about 10 minutes later followed by yet another one 20 minutes later for all who still wanted something to drink. This was followed by a chocolate service!
At this point, we had started our descent already, so thanks to the good service, there wasn’t any possibility to sleep! If this flight had been operated by AZ, we would have gotten a dry sandwich, and already 30 minutes after take off, the crew would have disappeared.
At 19:45, the captain announced that we had started our descend. He told us about thunderstorms in the area (the weather was very bad indeed), and he thanked us for flying SN. He also wished us a nice evening.
We descended through the rain and thick clouds, and at 20:05, the lights were dimmed, the landing gear was down, and at 20:08, we touched down at Brussels, followed by a taxi in the rain to the A-Pier. A funny detail: about 6 ARJ’s of SN were lined up for take off!
I said goodbye to the purser, and he wished me a nice evening.
Nothing special was parked at BRU, except for LZ-MIL, a Tu154 of Air Via (always nice to see), and I spotted one new reg, namely TC-APZ of Pegasus.
Before I end my trip report, I would like to highlight that on this SN flight, I met one of the best flight attendants I’ve ever seen: her name was Sandrine, and it was the first time I saw a flight attendant working so hard, and doing such a big effort to make the flight as comfortable as possible for the passengers. She was extremely friendly, and extremely helpful, so a big thumbs up to Sandrine!
Voila! I hope that you enjoyed Part 4! All comments are welcome as usual of course! It took me several hours to write those reports, so I hope you all liked them.
The only and probably last trip report left for this year, will cover my BA flights of a few days ago (a return from BRU to LHR).
Thanks for reading!