Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This will be the first of a 2 part series covering my trip to Milan. This part will cover my outbound flights between London Heathrow, Brussels and on to Milan Malpensa. The following part will cover my return sectors between Milan Malpensa and London Heathrow, stopping in Zurich and Dusseldorf along the way.
Sectors covered in this part
Before I’d managed to get over my trip to Madrid the previous weekend, it was time to set off again. This time on a much more interesting routing down to Milan. As I mentioned in my Madrid trip report, I had initially wanted to go to Rome that weekend but it proved a bit on the expensive side. However I still wanted to go to Italy as id never been. Initially I had looked at AZ, and they had a pretty attractive fare – £128, with the outbound flight from LGW on an Air One A320 and returning on one of their new E-Jets to LCY. Admittedly I wasn’t too bothered about the Air One A320 but I did want the opportunity to fly into LCY again. While studying my options I decided to take a look at what LH had to offer. I’d managed to get a good deal to [url]http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/213173//]Brussels in March[/url], so wondered if I could get a similar deal again. I typed in the route I was after, plus a couple of stops and in the end came up with going out via BRU and back via ZRH for a reasonable £148. Then I tried another option I saw: there was a route back that made a stop in DUS on a pair of LH 737’s. I selected this option instead of the ZRH-LHR leg and only bumped up the price another £14! So that was the flight options sorted – I had wanted to try Swiss mainline, but the opportunity to squeeze an extra flight in on a pair of rapidly disappearing 737 classic’s and taking in another new airport proved too much to ignore! Incidentally the first leg of this trip would also be my 100th flight, and my 20th of the year. Shame it was on yet another A32x, but my 101st flight later in the day would be on the RJ100 – a new type for me.
As usual it was then time to look for a hotel. Most seemed pretty pricey and didn’t seem too great. Eventually I settled on a Best Western – it got so-so reviews on trip advisor and was around the price I was willing to pay without having to pay stupid money.
A couple of days before departure, I received the following reminder.
The morning before my flight, I remembered that by using the Lufthansa app back in March, I was able to check in before the 24 hour mark. The same applied to this flight too.
Then my boarding passes were issued
Once again the Woking Railair coach would get me to Heathrow
Not the best conditions to fly in.
It was still no better the nearer to LHR we got.
The coach arrived at 09:00, and I headed off to Terminal 1.
Looks like LH have taken over the old BMI premium check in.
I then made my way down to get my souvenir boarding passes.
When the check in agent got my details up on the screen, she sat there wide-eyed and mouth wide open. She then says “So, you’re going London to Brussels… Brussels to Milan, Milan to Zurich, Zurich to Dusseldorf and Dusseldorf back to here”. Yes – que a rather confused look from her!
And after a brief wonder around departures, it was through security, which was a little busy but faster than the BA fast track I went through last week at T5. Also, it was everybody else holding proceedings up this week rather than slow security staff.
Feeling hungry, the first stop was to get some breakfast.
Breakfast – one of the better ones I’ve had in an airport.
The next 45 min was spent wondering around T1, as on my previous visit I had access to the BMI Great British lounge.
My flight’s gate was due to be announced at 10:15, so around this time I was keeping an eye on the FID’s.
Then at around 10:20 I heard my name called out over the PA telling me to go to the Brussels Airlines service desk. I headed over to the SN service desk, told the slightly uninterested girl who I was, handed over my passport and without saying much she got on the phone. Her next move was to give my passport to the other uninterested girl sat next to her and say, “Can you offload him”. Erm did I just hear that right??? Offload? Excuse me? She carried on her phone call, pulled out a scrap piece of paper and started scribbling down LH flight numbers and times. During this a few people started hassling the other girl as to when the SN flight would be boarding but all she really had to say was she didn’t know as the plane hadn’t left Brussels yet and that she’s off on her tea break. This unsurprisingly caused a bit of annoyance to the other passengers, who were mostly Belgian. To be honest I’ve come to expect that sort of customer service (or lack of) from most 16-20 year olds in this country so wasn’t overly surprised. Although they were still just abut a step up from the IB ground staff from my previous trip. When the girl who was dealing with me had finally got off the phone, she basically said the SN flight is late and I’ve been booked on to LH via Munich, as I’ll miss my connection. She handed my passport back, along with the bit of scrap bit of paper and sent me off to the LH transfer desk, as I was now their problem. Well, LH is an upgrade over SN, and MUC is a new airport… But I will have a five hour layover there and I won’t get into Milan until 22:30 now. At the LH transfer desk, an older and friendlier looking BMI agent greeted me and rebooked me on to the Lufthansa flight with no problem. I asked if there was any way I could get a food voucher of some sort to use due to my now unexpected layover but she said I’d have to ask once I get to Munich, but not to get my hopes up unless the MUC-MXP leg is delayed as Lufthansa had got me to my destination on time. Little did I know at the time, I was on full price tickets for both rebooked sectors so I ended up with a decent haul of miles in my miles and more account. Not that they’re ever likely to see any use before they expire.
Flight number 100 in the log
20th October 2012
Off Stand: N/A
On Stand: N/A
The revised maps:
So I found my self a window with a view away from the masses and set about trying to cancel my original hotel for something nearer the airport, as taking an hour long train ride to the city late at night didn’t really appeal. The Sheraton was the only airport hotel I could think of that was connected to MXP so I investigated prices there. It came in at €115 – around €20 more than my original hotel, but it was worth paying the extra for in my opinion to avoid travelling across the city for around an hour late at night to Milan Central station. The only issue was that I had passed the cancellation point for my original hotel in the city. I tried to phone, but they told me to email as the manager was away and they would have to check with him to see if I could cancel without penalty. Only once the phone call had ended I realized I didn’t actually have their email on any documentation… so another phone call to Italy it was.
T2/Heathrow East progressing
By the time I had phoned and emailed the hotels in Milan I figured it was about time to head to the departure gate – so I left my quiet haven feeling a little stressed and back into the hustle of the main T1 area. I waited around for a bit, checking the FID’s until a 30 minute delay flashed up. Will I ever get on board my 100th flight?! Annoyingly, my original flight to Brussels was now boarding.
A couple of seconds later a text confirmed that my flight was indeed delayed.
Might have done this if I’d seen it earlier just for a change of scenery
Why 13:37? Seen this in the US, but not in Europe before.
So I made my way down to gate 19. As expected, there was no mention of my flight although a few more people turned up shortly after so I’m assuming they received the same message I did.
There was a nice mural to look at though
Around 10/15 minutes later we were let into the holding pen.
Eventually at around 13:45 boarding started.
The actual flight number 100 in the log
20th October 2012
A319-114/ D-AILX Fellbach
Off stand: 14:02
On stand: 16:41
Once on board, the captain came over the PA and gave a little information about the flight and the delay, saying it was down to a crew change, although no flight time was given. Shortly after the boarding complete announcement was also given and it turned out that I no seat mates. I was surprised at this due to the fact I was sitting at the front and load was fairly high – maybe around 70%.
I’m a big fan of this livery
Bit of a queue forming
You wait hours for one…
These doves are getting pretty common
After a few bumps, the cabin crew started their service. What would LH meal roulette throw up today…
A few moments later the drinks were handed out.
Unfortunately there weren’t many views to be had while watching the world go by today
Instead, I browsed through the in flight mag.
Wonder if they sell these onboard?
See any problems with this one PlaneHunter?!
Didn’t expect to see a VS jet in the LH magazine.
At just after 16:00 local, the first officer made an announcement, saying that we had just passed Frankfurt, were just starting to descend and should be landing in 30 minutes. Also given was a weather update. It cleared up a bit but then got much worse as we neared Munich.
The weather was pretty bad – no views to be had at all on approach. In fact this was the first flight I’ve been on where the landing gear was lowered and locked in position whilst still above the clouds.
We arrived at gate H30, and as I had such a long wait I decided to head through security and landside to see what MUC had to offer. I also had a brief flight deck visit, but I was told that I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures. Interesting that they had a touchscreen displaying the map of the airfield, and other charts I presume fixed permanently to the sidewall just above the side stick. Following a very brief chat I was out into MUC
There’s something not quite right here
May as well stock up while I’m here
On my travels I did manage to find this…
…well that ended that idea.
I also grabbed some dinner. Munich wasn’t quite my intended destination for dinner tonight, but if I tried hard enough, I could pretend I was in Milan!
Wasn’t proper Italian pasta, but tasted very good, and that’s the main thing.
Not liking the look of this weather
I made a pass of the departure area to check in for tomorrow’s flights.
Although this was a non starter. The self serve check in machines only showed todays flights, online check in put me through to Brussels Airlines, Brussels airlines put me back to Lufthansa and the Lufthansa service desk looked pretty abandoned.
After that I headed through security. The 2 doors ahead of check in we’re pretty busy, but no more than 10ft to the right there was an empty lane, and I was through in about 30 seconds.
Once through I killed a bit more time abusing MUC’s free coffee and Internet
Whilst using the free Internet, I decided to double check what sort of plane I was due to be on. I’d checked earlier at Heathrow and it said it was due to be an E195, however upon checking again it was now an A319. Shame as I would of preferred something different.
I wanted to be on one of these!
No doubt there will be another sale on Thursday morning
My final roll of the dice for checking in for my flight tomorrow – and hopefully getting my preferred seats – was to ask the gate agent. At first she said of course, but when she realized she couldn’t, she was very apologetic and said she couldn’t help me. I told her the story of my day, as by this point I was glad to have somebody to talk to, and she was very sympathetic. Great customer service from Lufthansa again. A million miles from my experience with Iberia last week.
As there was no sign of a plane on stand, I figured it would probably be a bus gate. And I was still holding out some hope of something other than an A32x.
Amusingly, just after I took this picture, a couple of Japanese tourists from the ANA flight also came up and took pictures of a stand with no plane. More trip reporters perhaps?!
At just before 20:45, an announcement was made in German, and I thought it was to say that boarding was starting, however keeping with the theme of this report, it was to announce a delay. Due to the late inbound arrival of the aircraft, boarding had been pushed back to 21:25. Just as this announcement was made, an E195 pulled on to the adjacent stand. Here’s hoping.
My hope was short lived however
Boarding eventually started at 21:15
20th October 2012
Off stand: 21:28
On stand: 22:26
Interesting to note that this one had the older style seats
The only time I had sat in these types of seat previously was on a BMI aircraft back in May. It seemed to me that the legroom was a little better on this one?
This flight also seemed pretty full. Mostly Japanese tourists that I suspect came from the ANA flight that arrived a few hours previously. Surprisingly though, despite the heavy load, I had no seatmates.
We pushed back, and taxied out into the murky night.
Take off was at 21:39.
And around 30 seconds later, we had broken through the clouds – giving an interesting looking blanket effect.
Shortly after the crew started their service. LH meal roulette on this flight threw up some happy mix. Admittedly it was a mix, but I didn’t feel any happier.
The captain was over the PA during the snack service saying we were cruising at 31,000ft and we were just passing Bergamo. He also mentioned the delay was due to the bad weather in Munich. However the expected weather in Milan was much better.
Then it was time to descend. The destination I’d spent the best part of 12 hours trying to get to ended up taking the grand total of around 50 minutes on this final sector.
There wasn’t a great deal to see on short finals. Touchdown was at 22:22 local and we made a short taxi over to the terminal, arriving on stand at 22:26.
As usual the whole plane got up as the parking brake was applied, however I could see something that meant that we wouldn’t be getting off any time soon
Shortly after, the captain was over the PA and in a final insult to the days proceedings said that a jetty driver couldn’t be found.
This one taxied past while waiting
Least I was able to get a (semi)decent shot of my ride in Milan
Then to my hotel – the airport Sheraton, where I know a few a.netters have stayed before. Pretty big spacious room, but thought it was a bit off that they pre authorized my card for €35 more than the quoted price – and at the time of writing still hasn’t been put back. Good job I wasn’t planning on going into Milan for a big spend up!
And that’s where this chapter of the story will end. It was a shame that I missed out on the A pier at BRU after a brief look around in March. The same goes for the SN RJ100 – which I also missed out on in March after the prices shot up at the last minute. Although on the plus side I did get to fly with Lufthansa again, which is undoubtedly a much better airline. I was also pleased I managed to get a very good look around MUC, which I found was a very decent airport. I did consider going into the city, but figured if something went wrong I’d end up a bit stuck. Also, I guess it was good of SN to rebook me at LHR than send me out to BRU only to find I was stranded. Although it was a little frustrating at the time, in the long run it was the best option.
Stay tuned for part 2!