Hello and welcome to this long awaited flight and trip to Iran!
I am currently spending a few months here improving my Persian and flew into Tehran from Rome though initially coming from Paris CDG. I had booked my tickets well in advance. I was of course tempted by a direct AF flight from CDG to IKA, but Flying Blue makes it so wonderfully easy to keep status by adding connections to your itineraries, which also allows you to discover new airports and companies.
The price was very acceptable (less than 400€ rtn) but not the cheapest as the price war on Europe to Tehran flights is currently waging after the partial lifting of sanctions. It was very difficult few years ago to find full-service companies flying to Tehran for that price, while I was now spoiled with choice. Among SkyTeam connections there was a. direct b. via AMS c. via FCO d. via SVO. There are also direct flights with IranAir (IR) and Mahan Air (W5). Further connecting flights with TY, LH, OS, PS, EY, EK, QR and many more… definitely a change of scenery. I had never flown Alitalia and was keen to see what their A330 is like, so I booked via Rome for outbound, while inbound in two months will be via AMS.
I am not reporting the flight from CDG to FCO as it was just yet another standard european service by AF that has been so extensively reported. However it is noteworthy that this flight had a decent delay of 02h40 because of a missing screw in the back stabilisor of the plane (old A321) which made a change of aircraft necessary. I was glad I had booked a long enough connection (05h) in Rome.
This is my BP of this first flight where you can see the new boarding time.
Also, I submitted a complaint about the 02h40 delay and actually got a 200€ voucher from AF. Not bad, eh?
I started spotting a bit while still on the A321 arriving from Paris. Clearly Alitalia-land, with some new and old liveries.
After disembarking I was in the Schengen Zone
I passed immigration after a decent 5-10 minutes walk to get to terminals D&E where non Schengen flights depart from.
Suddenly the signage in terminal E for the lounge had disappeared. I had to ask my way around this brand new terminal to know where the lounge, which I found a bit strange.
The entry is quite hidden…
The lounge was a pleasant surprise, except I don't know its name… I ticked a random one below, if someone knows which lounge it was (terminal E) you're welcome to tell me. It did have natural light and the furniture was very light. It was actually a little bit too light, almost clinical and there was not much entertainment nor newspapers. However there was a great bar with a barman serving drinks and despite it being 3 in the afternoon, there was a delicious buffet with warm Lasagne, Pasta, marinated Zucchini and turkey, lentil salad, buffala mozzarella balls and many more. The lounge was not crowded at all which made the whole experience very relaxing.
I spent an hour in the lounge, where I also got a new boarding pass, as the AF one did not seem to please AZ employees. The new one has a more old school design and the main bit was teared off at boarding.
Boarding time. As I walked off I realised gate E35 is part of a satellite which can only be reached with a peoplemover. Nowhere is this mentioned and nor did the staff tell me. Given this takes a decent 10 minutes, this info should be provided in order to avoid delays and hassle.
Gate E35 was not crowded at all, and as the AZ staff called for boarding just as I arrived, there was no rush. We were two to board through the SP lane.
On the way to the aircraft, some spotting
A little obstacle in the way – unnecessary mistake or lack of coordination. As we got on the plane, the FAs had not received the info we were coming. One lady was making her hair and one gentleman whatsapping his GF. I scared him to death as I walked in from behind :-)
I like the colour scheme and the material of the Y seat.
Back to my seat – 34A. Pitch: good! Pleasant surprise. Despite the big fat novel I don't touch the seat pocket.
Well, despite this box thing under the seat in front of, I can say I was comfortably seated. The screen pixel resolution was decent.
Push Back was right on time although boarding was completed way before, as I'd say this plane was about 25% full… maybe 35. (low season, mid week, Trump…)
You cannot miss at all at any time that Etihad is a major shareholder. During boarding we got to see all the Etihad Airways partner adverts but nothing on SkyTeam.
Safety demonstrations, however, have not been updated since. This artificial FA wears the old uniform and the resolution of the video was horrendous, and the same thing goes for the safety card, which is actually a problem as people will find it less appealing to read it.
We also got some super cheesy but calming italian tunes, which I have to admit, I enjoyed. Among others "Volaaare, wohohoohooo. Cantare…." and "Ti amo, ti amo_ti_aaamo…"
Time for take-off!
This was on my seat before take-off, just forgot to mention it. Nobody sitting next to me, so plenty of space to spread out.
Apéritif came after about 30 minutes. As this is my last (legal) intake of alcohol for three months, I went for white wine (I asked for Prosecco, sadly no… AF would have it…)
Watching the news between apéritif and dinner.
Dinner! Creamy Chicken with Polenta and Green Beans. I could have also had Lasagne, but I imagine these to be disappointing in the air.
Overall I was very happy with this dinner, especially as my ticket said "Cold Meal" and it actually was warm and opulent. The starter salad had some real parmesan and the cake was good too. The main course was well seasoned with thyme, making it a refreshing and pleasant dish away from the classic pasta+tomato sauce or chicken+rice. The beer was 0.33 which I did appreciate too.
If you have read my FR on Aeroflot, you know, however, that I do not rescind to order the second option to try it. Unfortunately as I pressed the FA button, it just happened that nobody came. Disappointing. Later on a lady next to me pressed the button too, and same, nobody came.
The loo has moodlight.
Flying to "Destinazione" - Strangely the name Tehran never appears. Sanctions related?
Some more cabin pictures - what is this divan??? Surely not a crew rest, it's 04h30 flight and the crew was sitting in the galley most of the time and stayed in IKA after landing…
The Alitalia Magazine "Ulisse"
I also watched Café Society by Woody Allen. The headset is better than Aeroflot but still mediocre.
Wifi is available. $$$$$$$$
We are approaching Tehran but there's not much too see.
Before landing, several announcements were made - "Please do not take any picture in the airport and of airport infrastructure. Thank you for your cooperation." (read: please don't bring us into trouble by pretending to be a spy when you're not)
- "We remind ladies that in accordance with the law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they must cover their hair and body" (read: wear wide clothes that do not show your forms)
Now, as I have seen some reports on IKA before, I decided to still take some pictures, but did so discretely.
Disembarking was swift. Note the ladies now look at a tad different.
I did not take pictures of customs of course. The luggage came after ten minutes. As a foreigner my luggage was not screened by authorities, but it seemed to be quite systematic for Iranians.
This a view of the arrivals hall from the escalator that leads to the departure hall where an exchange office is located that uses the private rate, rather than the official governemtnal rate, saving you some 30% when you bring € or US$.
After this I hopped onto my prebooked taxi to the hostel. Some nice views outside of the terminal were not captured by my poor camera, as it was dark. The metro station seems to be in its final stages, there are now two big hotels outside of IKA and they are building a second terminal. Can't wait to see all of this to be finished :-)
BONUS 1 - TEHRAN (sorry I really didn't spend much time here)
BONUS 2 - ESFAHAN
SI O SE POL BRIDGE (running water is very rare now due to gov mismanagement and wasteful attitudes, so cherrish these pictures!)
The entry to the Bazaar on a Friday (closed)
A thousand year old Mosque outside Esfahan
BONUS 3 - IRANIAN FOOD 1. KUKU SABZI - Iranian Omelette stuffed with herbs. Or Herbs stuffed with omelette?
3. Kabab - Grilled meat form skewers with bread, vegetables and herbs. The iranian classic.
Casa Alitalia Piazza Navona
Rome - FCO
Tehran - IKA
Pleasant lounge experience in FCO in a new and shiny terminal. Boarding was easy, but next time I'd like to know ahead of time that I have to get to a satellite.
Overall I was satisfied with short long-haul flight. An empty plane assures you some peace of mind, which was rounded up by a good meal. The crew was professional and spoke good English except for the "button-Lasagne" incident. The cabin is very good, and so is the IFE.
IKA is not a superb airport, as it looks some charm, is not yet connected to public transportation and is too small and a little bit amateur. But it seems to be on the right path with the many projects around it.
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