On January 13th 2020, I flew with Alitalia from Catania to London City Airport with a stopover en-route in Milan Linate. This proved beneficial for me as the ticket cost was not too expensive while offering to break a relatively long flight in half and a chance to fly to an airport I have not yet flown into!
Milan has three airports serving the city. These are Malpensa, Bergamo and Linate. Flying in from Catania, it means that I have now flown through all three. Linate serves a more corporate clientele when compared to the other Milan airports. With its close proximity to the city centre as well as some cargo facilities, flights from here are limited by the airports smaller size (22 slots per hour), flying regional aircraft in and around Europe. One of the main features of the airport is the giant neon Emporio Armani sign that sits over the main eastern hangar. This was placed here by the company in 1991 after an agreement with the airport and has become a local landmark ever since.
Linate itself is relatively small but has a number of services to give you a boost, from Duty-Free to a sizable multi-floor restaurant. For what it boasted in service, lacked in accessible power. There were only two wall sockets that had easy public access, one outside the restaurant and another on the floor outside the lowly used toilets.
The departure hall is also shared by the arrivals, leading to two-way traffic within the airport itself. This, however, didn't create much of a problem with congestion as the floor space is relatively large within the main passageway which leads to security and arrivals. This is certainly not the norm, as the only other airport I have seen this at is Vienna. It, however, does allow for saved space and in the best of cases, more efficient running. Business also thrives as you get two-way traffic, people arriving into Milan as well as those leaving.
You've heard of SkyLounge and JFK Clubhouse, but let me introduce you to Michael Lounge!
Behind the restaurant and away from the gates are a set of toilets that I'm fairly sure nobody knows about as in the hour and a half I was sitting here, I could count the number of passers-by on two hands. The long corridor that leads away from the main terminal snakes around the back of the restaurant before splitting off to men and women. Here it's totally spotless and also has a coat hangar for amenities. Within access to the airport WiFi and an accessible wall socket, I really couldn't complain about my stay there, even if it was the floor outside of a public toilet! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
With 45 minutes to go until departure, I headed back through the corridor and down some stairs into the non-Schengen departure terminal. Here I passed through border control and entered a sizable hall complete with comfy benches, a small kiosk-style restaurant and toilets…with wall plug! (Don't worry, I didn't use this one, honest!)
I was not in here for too long, but it was nice to sit on a bench and not the floor for a couple of minutes. Our flight was called, boarding pass checked and entered the bus waiting for us.
Aircraft: Embraer E190LR
Engines: 2x GE CF34-10E7
Age: 8 Years
Having arrived from Catania on an Alitalia A320, I took this next leg on the much smaller Cityliner Embraer E190. Boarding the aircraft I was excited to tick another aircraft off my list of planes flown, as well as enjoying a small taste of luxury I would not normally get a chance to fly!
Boarding was nothing special, the same service you would expect on any bus trip from terminal to plane. Sitting down, however, that was when you got your first taste of what was to come. For an aircraft so small, you enjoy mass amounts of legroom and seats certainly wider than the average! The E190 has a capacity of 114 seats in max compact, the plane we were flying only had 90! This was also improved on when I had both seats to myself. The aircraft was certainly only about half full, with very few passengers sitting towards the rear of the plane.
If I were to pick out a demographic onboard, it would certainly match that of the nickname London City has within London, the airport of Bankers and W*nkers. I was maybe one of three passengers not in full suit out on a business trip, certainly fitting with that statement!
Taxi and takeoff were nondescript, and very shortly we were at cruise, flying over the Swiss alps at night.
One thing I was not expecting but certainly enjoyed was the complimentary drink and snack! Each passenger got a free drink of their choice, as well as either a sweet (cinnamon biscuits) or savoury (crisps) treat. I opted for the sweet biscuits and certainly enjoyed the quick filler. Cabin crew were also more than happy to help, the guy that offered the drink and biscuits served with a smile. When it comes to the service that Alitalia crew provide, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the show they put on!
Cabin lights were also dimmed for the duration of the flight. Lights were turned off as per regulation for takeoff and landing but were never fully lit again during cruise. I particularly liked this as it meant I could rest during the flight and be fully aware once landing in London for the cross-city journey home. It's a policy that I wish other airlines would use as in particular during a night flight, it just quietens the mood in the cabin while looking out the window at night is much clearer.
The aircraft does not come with any extras such as WiFi or IFE screens, but a plane of this size and on an hour-long flight, it is not something you would expect. I certainly did not mind the lack of this and instead watched a TV series on my phone.
On the day I flew into London, the UK was being battered by Storm Brendan. Up and down the country, flights were being cancelled and transport disrupted as high winds battered the island and pushed things to their limits. Being such a small aircraft and flying into such a pinpoint airport, our E190 was taking the full force of the winds.
London City Airport requires a Steep Approach Approval Compliance Statement because it requires a much steeper approach (30°) when compared to a standard airport (5° to 15°) when on final. Only a handful of aircraft are capable of doing this due to strict regulations surrounding these kinds of approaches.
Having never flown in or out of City before, I have also never realised how late the aircraft is established onto the glideslope. As we made our way from the east towards Runway 27, strong gusts of wind certainly made the approach interesting, but our aircraft and pilots were more than capable of bringing us in with relative ease. At one point I was almost certain that we would see a go around with the aircraft blown off the glide path and the ground effect pushing us off-centre and potentially divert to Stansted where unable LCY landings go at night, but in this case, we were fortunate to tick the landing and stop.
The aircraft touched down with a fair bump, full reverse thrust and breaks, and as quickly as we entered the runway we were soon off and taxiing to gate. You don't normally hear bankers and businessmen applaud, but the sighs of relief and claps from this one showed that the pilots certainly pulled off one heck of a landing!
Passing through City is not a long process, which is good for a London airport especially! In the heart of London Docklands, it borders the financial district of Canary Wharf. The airport itself opened in 1987 and was a relatively late addition to the development, with its whole purpose to serve the banks of London with quick flights and easy access.
We deboarded the aircraft through a set of stairs at the front of the plane and walked down the covered tunnel into the terminal building. You arrive at a border control hall and join one of five queues for ePassport checks. Within five minutes you are now in the UK.
Transport from the terminal is good, with a handful of London Buses out front as well as easy access to the DLR giving you London Underground connections at Canning Town and Bank. In the upcoming months there will be a Thames Clipper riverboat connection with a new pier under construction, and potentially an Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) connection too, but with progress being slow, this seems unlikely.
Unfortunately for me, the bumpy landing followed by heavy breaking meant that I managed to lose something unsecured from my bag, and only realised after passing through security when looking for it. I tried to find someone to speak to, but with the airport closing for the night this was unfruitful. Calling the terminal on a number of occasions dialled out, and Alitalia's number at City Airport was also a blank. I did manage to revisit the airport after work soon after, but again this, unfortunately, did not prove to be helpful, which is a shame. As much as the airport provides easy access, the lack of support here, especially for lost property, does not bode with me well and will definitely be taken to mind whenever I look for a flight back into London.
While Alitalia may not be the most spectacular of airlines, their Cityliner service absolutely is! Maybe I just got lucky flying into a business airport with most if not all other passengers travelling for work, but for such a small aircraft you are enjoying plenty of luxuries that you wouldn't even dream of on any other European low-cost flight! I'd certainly fly with Alitalia Cityliner again, even if it means going through London City once more.