After a week in Roma, dreading 3 impending AZ flights the entire time after the nightmare outlined in Part 3 of this series, it was time to head south to the little known town of Bari. Refer to Part 1 for the detailed introduction. As a reminder, the routing is as follows:
FCO is very accessible by train using either local trains or the LeonardoExpress. I opted for the LeonardoExpress from Roma Termini with nonstop service to Roma-Fiumicino airport for €14. At 2pm the train was pretty much empty, only two other passengers in my car.
Arriving at Fiumicino Airport, the walk from Terminal 3 (where the train station is) to Terminal 1 took a good 10-15 minutes. Stepping into Terminal 1, it has a large airy feel with good lighting. There is a large departure board up top, but we are too early for my flight to Bari to appear.
There are a ton of AZ check-in counters, most unmanned. I use one of the self-service kiosks to print my boarding pass, then step into the line for bag drop-off. There were maybe 20-30 people in front of me in line, but it took only 5 minutes until I was talking with an agent. The agent smiled when she said “buongiorno” so AZ ground agents are already light years ahead in service standards. After checking in I noticed a smaller departures monitor, this time my flight to Bari does appear.
I also came across this store next to the check-in area; apparently Hello Kitty hasn’t arrived in Roma yet. We have this imitation store instead.
With two hours to kill before my scheduled boarding time, I had a final lunch with my friend (who had a 6am flight the next morning so opted for a room at the airport) before parting ways and heading into the terminal. The security line was deserted at this hour so it took longer to weave my way through the queue than it did to get through security
A look back at the security check point as we take the escalator up to the Terrazza Roma, which is the giant duty free shopping mall you have to walk through to get to the actual concourses. I like all the hard wood floors in FCO, but most of the terminal is very dimly lit. We keep on heading towards Concourse B, where my flight is scheduled to depart from.
After sweeping through Concourse B, I notice it is not too spotter friendly, so I decide to keep moving. I then head to Concourse C, where I spot this line-up of AZs occupying Concourse B gates (the ST livery was on an AZ E190). Also, notice that there is a pilot checking out the engine on the A319 in the foreground (always reassuring for a passenger to see this).
Concourse C sucked for spotting too, so then I wandered over to Concourse D. I was also looking for a *A Lounge in the vicinity, but didn’t have any luck. Arriving at Concourse D, I found an interesting nook near Gate D1 that had a nice line of sight to an active runway, even though the windows had bad glare and were quite dirty. A LH A319 was leaving from this gate so the area was now deserted. I watch her get backed up and eventually see her as she takes off enroute to MUC. She was followed by a BA A321
Back to the ground, we see a RJ A320 getting ready to head back to Amman. As she taxis out, she crosses a 4U A319 that taxis and eventually takes the position at the remote stand vacated by the RJ A320. Moments later, we see the RJ A320 rising up into the sky.
I then watch a FR B738 get pushed back from a remote stand that was next to this VY A320, before moments later seeing the FR take to the sky.
Next up is a QS A320, a new company for me, which is seen taxing in the background before eventually taking off.
This was immediately followed by an AZ A332 in the “Calabria” special livery taking off on a different runway, before a long string of various AZ narrow bodies (this is FCO after all..).
4U seems to be a very active airline at FCO. I see a 4U A320 lifting off in the distance right before a different 4U A319 taxis past me in the foreground.
That SK tail belongs to this A321 that I see getting backed up from a gate near where I was sitting. While she is getting backed up, we see both a PC B738 and U2 A318 cross on the taxiway. Both the SK A321 and the PC B738 take-off sequentially (not sure how the SK won the race to the runway).
A couple of special liveries that I have never seen before then appeared. First up is this AB A320 in a “Discover America” special livery. This was followed almost immediately by a TK A321 in a “Borussia Dortmund” special livery. I bet even the TK frequent flier, lagentsecret, hasn’t seen that one before.
We then having dueling A320s belonging to SV and LX on the tarmac, the departure of the SV A320 is followed by a Posteitaliane ATR-72.
This is also a first time airline for me: a 0B B734.
I wrap up my spotting with a final hoorah. An IB A321 lifts off in front of a taxing OS A320. We then see the OS A320 and this KL B738 depart.
Finally, we wave goodbye to Numero_2 as he heads back to the land of LX.
I then begin the long trudge back to Concourse B to catch my flight to Bari. On my way back to the gate, I stop and look at this departure monitor that confirms I’m leaving from B9 still.
Arriving at B9, I see a massive crowd at the gate even though boarding hasn’t been announced yet.
Taking a peak outside, we see that we have this AZ A320 in “Air One” livery at Gate B9 and I start to get excited. Unfortunately, I take another look at this long line forming at Gate B9 and the monitor at the gate says they are boarding a flight to Cagliari… (go back a couple pictures and you’ll see this flight also leaves at 17:10, but was listed Gate B14).
I go back to the departure monitor, and now both flights to Cagliari and Bari are both listed as 17:10 departures from Gate B9. What is going on? Then seconds later, my flight now shows a 10 minute delay and a switch to Gate B4. I take this extra time to wander down to the paxbus area of Concourse B and take these tarmac level shots before heading to my gate.
Alitalia, AZ1607 Equipment: Airbus A320-200 [EI-DSC, “Lorenzo De' Medici”, delivered January 2007 (ex-Air One)] Departure: 17:10 (ATD: 17:50) Arrival: 18:15 (ATA: 18:38) Flight time: 0:48
Getting to my gate, we stop by the window and take a picture of my ride today.
In the distance at a remote stand is the AZ A332 in “EXPO 2015” special livery.
Since my flight is showing a delayed departure of 20 minutes now, I take a seat at an adjacent gate and do the standard document and corporate shots enabled by FCO’s free WiFi.
It’s now 17:30 and there is a huge mass of people clogging the gate even though boarding hasn’t been called yet. I just wander down the terminal a bit and take a picture of The Doctor!
Eventually at 17:35 boarding is announced and it is a complete mess, no priorities were respected and people just mobbed the gate. I just stood there until everyone had boarded, then got on when they made the final boarding call. It’s not even worth it to deal with these uncivilized people, pushing and scraping their way onto the plane. By the time I get to the jetbridge, it is completely empty. This allows for a nice casual jetbridge shot of my plane without getting pushed in the back. Boarding the plane, the FAs are busy in the galley and don’t even acknowledge my arrival. Ahhh, back to the great ol’ AZ service I’m used to.
I eventually make my way back to the exit row and take my window seat. Since the plane was completely full at this point, no cabin shots. I should also note that this plane was operated as completely Y and it looked 100% full. I guess Bari is a popular weekend getaway since this was a Friday afternoon flight.
Right after I sit down, the front door closes and they seemed rushed to get this plane on its way ASAP. I take out my camera and take this wing shot as we are being pushed back.
As soon as the shutter goes, I hear this female voice from behind: “NO PHOTO!” As I turn around, a Monique walking up the aisle gives me a stern glance and tells me “all electronic devices must be turned off NOW.” I was speechless; I have never heard that as a reason for no photography before. Yes, a camera is an electronic device, but so are watches, I don’t see you telling people to turn battery-powered watches off. My camera has neither wireless nor Bluetooth capabilities.
After the incident on my previous AZ flight, I didn’t even respond, I just put the camera in the seat back pocket and sat there for the rest of taxing and take-off. I was not in the mood to deal with another moody AZ FA. We did get a priority taxiing position due to our delayed departure, we skipped several E190s in the queue.
Fast forward 30 minutes until we finished out taxi, take-off, and breathtaking views departing FCO that I couldn’t share with you all. As soon as I hear the beeps from the cockpit, I whip out the camera and get back to work. Here goes the standard wing shots.
The flight to Bari is short, about 45 minutes wheels up to wheels down, so as soon as we reach cruising altitude the drink carts come out. The exit row is pretty much right before the split in service (forward cabin and rear cabin), so we get served last. While I wait for the service, I’ll show you the seat pitch, which is good in the exit row. The only drawback of the exit row is that you can’t store anything under the seat in front of you.
Eventually, the cart reaches my row and a smiling male FA asks me what I want to drink and if I want a sweet or salty snack. It’s amazing how much variance there is between AZ FAs, it suddenly felt like I was on a different flight from the cold reception and “no photo.” I asked for a coffee and a sweet snack. Unfortunately, I was served an empty cup and a sweet snack…
Okay, okay, there was coffee in that cup if I retake the photo, but it was the stingiest serving of coffee I have ever seen. Maybe the coffee carafe was near empty since we were the last row for service, but giving me 2cm of coffee is not acceptable.
Within seconds of them finishing the drink service, you can feel the plane start the descent into Bari. A look out the window shows that the sun is beginning to set and it is quite cloudy outside.
A brief seat tour to show you the current state of AZ’s narrow body fleet. The useless IFE that is microscopic and has no purpose on these planes. Even if I wanted to use the IFE, I couldn't thanks to this gum. It’s good to see these planes get cleaned well. Also on the back of the seat is the safety instructions for exit door operation. The seats are not in good condition as shown by this last photo.
The issue of Ulisse is the same as the last flight, but here is the domestic network map showing showing where Bari is in relation to Roma. I actually want to go to Basilicata, but there were no airports in that region so I opted for Bari.
Okay, I have to include this wing shot, it’s just too beautiful not to add. It was at this point the “turn off electronic devices” announcement was made so I put away my camera not wanting another scolding from Sister Monique. It was okay, we soon plunged into darkness and it started to rain as we arrived at BRI. The landing was smooth despite the rain and we quickly taxied and parked at our gate. From the window, I was able to enjoy watching FR passengers scurrying from their plane in the pouring rain to get onto buses at a remote stand. That was the only other plane on the ground at the moment.
Deplaning, I’m given an “arrivederci” with a smile by the same friendly AZ crewmember that did the service for my row and the first officer was also standing there as we deplaned thanking passengers. Then we enter this dark jetbridge that has a colorful advertisement provided by “Banca Popolare di Bari,” no HSBC here!
Fortunately, the terminal has marginally better lighting as we make our way to the baggage claim.
Reaching the baggage claim area, we can see we will be collecting from baggage claim 1. There are five carousels in the baggage claim area, the FR passengers are at the other end claiming their bags.
With bag in hand, we head out into the arrivals area of the terminal and then make our way towards the train station.
The Bari Airport is connected via a private railroad company, but they were nice enough to build this nearly 1km long tunnel system to connect their station with the airport, which all looks brand new.
It’s €5 to reach Bari Centrale from the airport, which seems okay for a 20 minute ride. Trains leave about every 30 minutes. The worker on the left of this photo starts yelling at me in Italian after going through the turnstile. I just give the classic “Americano” excuse for whatever I’m doing wrong. He then starts pointing at the floor. I guess he didn’t want me rolling my suitcase over the areas he had just mopped. I carry my suitcase over to a bench and wait with one other passenger for the train to arrive.
That concludes this domestic trip with AZ from FCO to BRI. You can skip to the bottom if you don’t care about tourism bonuses.
Okay, now to turn into Marathon for a bit and give a cultural/historical lesson. So why on earth does anyone want to go to Bari? This was the question everyone was asking me into the lead up to this trip. It’s a very obscure destination, but I wasn’t actually going to see Bari as I alluded to above, I was heading to Matera:
So what is Matera? Well, it’s a small town in the Basilicata region of Italy that until recently has been referred to as a ‘forgotten city.’ It’s about 1 hour by train from Bari and makes a nice day-trip. It’s famous for it’s Sassi and Rupestrian Churches that have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. This looked fascinating to me, so I picked this as my destination for my final days in Italy. Matera has also been named as the Italian host of “European Capital of Culture” for 2019.
The city of Matera itself is your typical small European countryside town. With nice piazzas and old churches.
There is also an old castle in Matera, the Castello Tramontano, but it was currently closed for reconstruction.
In the city proper, there are several small museums that you can go into for some history of the region. I stopped into this one that contains collections from all of the archeological digs that have been done in the region. The large ravines that cut through this part of Italy were the homes of several of the oldest human settlements in what is now Italy. The museum showcases these artifacts reclaimed from a lot of cave dwellings in this region.
There are also some art museums in town that are all quite small. This one had some questionable artwork.
But really, people come to Matera to wander through the Sassi district. There is a large district that lines the ravine that is now abandoned. This ghost town is slowly being rediscovered and there are a number of small cafes and B&B’s that are starting to open shop in these old, run-down houses. You can literally spend hours wandering through these empty streets taking in the beautiful scenery and feral cats.
In the center of the Sassi are several rupestrian churches (churches that were built into the natural rock formations). These cave churches are lined with immaculately done drawings on the stone, but no photography is allowed inside of them. They are so far removed from the gilded churches that occupy Roma.
Another beautiful aspect of Matera is the large ravine that cuts through the city. This would be a great place to go hiking, unfortunately this day was around 10C and there were heavy winds. A tad bit cold for me.
Across the ravine, you can see the cave dwellings that were excavated.
And I will conclude with some final photos during sunset of the Sassi and the Duomo of Matera that was unfortunately being worked on. There seemed to be a lot of construction going on as the city prepares for the tourist influx in the coming years following their naming as a European Capital of Culture.
Last, but not least, some pictures from my walk down the Bari promenade at dusk. Bari has your typical Mediterranean seaside town feel and really seems to embrace its fishing community tradition. More on Bari in the next FR…
Thanks for stopping by this report and I’ll see you all next time with the return leg to Roma as I begin the zig-zag trip back to Japan.
Rome - FCO
Bari - BRI
So my second AZ experience was slightly better than my first. Still not great, but an acceptable domestic flight.
Cabin comfort: These seats are really showing their age and the state of the cabin was not great. Gum on the seat back (in plain sight) is not acceptable for a plane leaving an airline’s hub. That said, seat pitch was great for the exit row and this was only a 45-minute flight so comfort was not a problem at all.
Crew: The full spectrum of personalities on this flight. The Monique that scolded me for taking pictures could have asked a little bit more politely with a “please” in there. The FA that did drink service for the front cabin seemed friendly. No welcome boarding, but a cordially goodbye leaving. Pretty neutral opinion overall.
Meal and catering: It’s a 45-minute flight that barely had enough time for a drink service. The crew moved efficiently to make sure they completed service. I felt my coffee serving was on the light side (although if they gave me a full cup, I might not have been able to finish it). You do get a salty/sweet option to go with it.
Entertainment: None. No personal IFE, no press offered, only the inflight magazine. Only natural IFE on this flight, which was unfortunately cloudy other than take-off.
On-time performance: We left 40 minutes late and arrived 23 minutes late for a 48 minute flight. I always base my judgments on arrival time since that is usually more relevant for travelers. 23/48 ~ 50%
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