Good times they come and they go
Never going to know
What fate is going to blow
Your way just hope that it feels right
Sometimes it comes and it goes
You take it ever so slow
and then you lose it, then it flows right to you
So we rely on the past
Special moments that last
Were they as tender as we dare to remember
Such a fine time as this
What could equal the bliss
The thrill of the first kiss
It'll blow right to you
It's never as good as the first time
Never as good as the first time
Dear fellow Anetters, hello!
Welcome to my first ever published trip report.
With these words of introduction by Sade, I realized that I had plenty of flights to choose from to enter the wonderful world of trip reporting; however, not much has ever been written about the Italian airline NEOS let alone about a privately chartered Boeing 737-800. So here we go, Malaga (AGP) to Milan Malpensa (MXP), 1st may 2012.
I work as a freelance audiovisual technician and around mid-april, I was offered to take care of the sound for a bankers convention at the Marbella’s Congress Centre, a place I’d already been to 5 years ago. Our client, a PR agency had book outbound tickets from Milan Malpensa airport on EasyJet. Not much to write home about. I could only complain about the lack of services available to passengers at those very early hours of the day. Come on! Bars cannot open at 6.00 when most flights of the first bank of departures are already boarding. It might be a low-cost terminal but Italians will never relinquish their right to a beloved morning coffee or cappuccino. The airport management should be well aware of that and start services much earlier. So the first flight out was early in the morning on a cramped A319, not the best experience ever. I managed a last row, blind window seat, but at least, I could lean against the wall to finish off sleeping.
Upon arrival, we were transferred by private bus to Marbella.
Some serious AV equipment here
The Neos experience:
Malaga Pablo Picasso (AGP) - Milan Malpensa (MXP)
Boeing 737-800W I-NEOT
Scheduled 13.00 / 15.40
Actual 13.05 / 15.18
1st May 2012. Three days of rain and a conference later, time had come to return to Milan, this time on a very special plane. This was to be a real novelty for me. I’m not a big fan of organized tours and I much prefer dealing with all bookings by myself. My last charter flight was on board a Balkan Bulgarian Airlines Tu154 back in 1995 for the United Nations and the French Army; I was going to Sarajevo, but that’s another story...
So, the returned flight would be with Neos and given the fact that SanPaolo Intesa bank (our conference client) has been some kind of a shareholder in the parent company, the choice of airline was a no-brainer I guess.
For info, Neos stands for Nord-Est-Ovest-Sud (North-East-West-South) and also gets inspiration from the ancient Greek word meaning “new”. They operate a fleet of 6 Boeing 737NG and 2 Boeing 767-300ER on charter flights to popular destinations for Italian tourists, mainly the Mediterranean cities, Egypt, Cabo Verde, Zanzibar, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. They also offer their fleet to football clubs.
8.00am outside our hotel, the minibus transfer for tech staff was ready, under a brilliant sun! Finally, Costa del Sol deserved its name.
Some views from our hotel roof swimming pool just before leaving the building.
The ride to Malaga Pablo Picasso airport took just under one hour and we were finally dropped in front of the terminal with more than two hours to kill. Obviously, being a chartered plane, no online check-in was available.
I took some time to wander around the airport, both the old and the new parts are interesting and the terminal really has a spacious feeling. There were quite a lot of departures this morning to the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and France along with domestic flights.
A couple of coffees later and a tour of the airport meant I missed the front line for check-in. Bugger! That’s how I found myself being amongst the very last passengers in line to drop my luggage. I was not pleased at all as this may have resulted in a middle seat. It took more than 30 minutes to reach the counter and the nice Iberia ground agent finally dealt with me. Fortunately, some spare window seat had been blocked for me, courtesy of our PR agency man I suppose. I managed a seat change from the last row to the middle of the plane. BP in hands, i bid farewell to the nice check-in lady and headed to the security checks.
Actually the first time I could take a picture in such an area without being shouted at...
While going to my gate, I did some spotting looking for an interesting bunch of aircraft from Northern Europe…
The flight was indicated on-time and I found the plane already parked at its gate.
Boarding was orderly and it took only a few minutes to get the full load of passengers seated and strapped in, ready for departure.
I had no idea what to expect from that little known airline but I was pleasantly surprised to notice the seat pitch was not as tight as EasyJet’s airbuses and the cabin crew welcomed everyone on board with a genuine smile.
Passing by the GA aviation terminal.
Safety demo was carried out manually and within 10 minutes, we were on our way to RWY 13 with a short welcome speech from our captain who explained (in Italian) our departure procedure and the expected routing for this 2 hours flight to Milano Malpensa. I’m not a huge fan of the 737 as I find it a bit noisier than its Airbus counterpart although seating near the engine meant I was going to appreciate every single decibel the CFM56 would produce once takeoff power was applied.
Our departure took us away from the coast with a first climb over the sea before returning towards mainland and climbing to higher heights.
Passing on top of the airport
Meanwhile, the crew distributed our menu cards. Distributing food for every single passenger took some time but upon reaching our row, the smiling FA were still keen on explaining the offering for the day, and I ordered some red wine which was not served in the proper glass though. Never mind, that was a good excuse for a second glass! Thumbs up for the quality and contents. It’s amazing how food helps time pass by. Funnily enough, though, Neos has chosen not to serve any junk drink (the fizzy ones in red/orange or blue cans, I mean). I like this policy of healthy food on board although some passengers around me were disappointed by the lack of their favorite beverages. Funny how some people are spoiled.
Food consisted of a nice fresh salad, some turkey cold cuts served with a goat cheese mousse I left aside because of an allergy to goat milk and a piece of cake. Not bad I would say and surely more than enough for the duration of the flight. Fresh bread, water and complimentary wine completed the meal.
After the meal tray had been collected, I elected to recline and enjoy the rest of the cruise with the limited views as we’d now left mainland Spain covered by clouds and were heading towards Nice. A good book and some coffee later, we were ready to enter Italian air space over Ventimiglia and then proceed with the usual MXP arrival.
The weather was not great over Northern Italy. In fact, rain had been following all my trips for the past two weeks. It was a bumpy approach to my delight but the couple seating next to me definitely did not enjoy the shaking and moving around! Landing was on RWY 35L and a short taxi to a remote parking stand followed.
Short finals 35L…
Reverse in action
Leaving the active for our parking position, Terminal 1...
Company 767-300ER parked at the future Satellite C…
Don't know much about that airline...
DHL at the Cargo ramp…
I left amongst the last passengers for the short bus ride to Malpensa’s terminal 1.
For once, luggage were delivered quickly and my colleagues and I parted as they had a company car waiting for them. I took the train to Milano Cadorna. At €11,00 it’s a bit of a rip-off, not as much as Lyon’s tram service but still expensive given the fact the ticket does not even include access to Milan’s public transport system.
A strange art installation between the terminal building and the train station…
As I said, I’m not familiar with charter planes but as a first time, it proved to be a very positive experience. The client’s choice of airline was dictated by some economic common sense.
For the outbound flight, easyJet provided what they were asked for, no frills offered, no frills asked for either. Your average orange low-cost trip across Europe. AZ stopped flying the route a long time ago and they've been replaced by a more efficient carrier. The return was definitely not your average Euro-trip...and Neos was a fresh surprise to me. I wouldn’t mind trying a longer flight although I doubt this will ever occur. They did the job: on time departure and arrival, nice service by nice crew. The plane was in good condition and the trip was comfortable enough.
Malaga Airport is always a nice experience, like most Spanish airports I’ve transited through. Spain in itself is a great country. Only IB is a shame but my experience with them this time was limited to check-in procedures. Nothing to complain about, really. Malpensa was Malpensa, an airport I’m happy to stay away from as much as possible.
Thank you for your time. Comments appreciated!
Guillaume (aka okapi).