After two days exploring Bari and Matera, it was time to begin the long winding road home to Japan. The first segment of this trip home will be a short hop from Bari to Roma on my favorite carrier, AZ. As a reminder, the routing is as follows:
Bari Airport is accessible via train from Bari Centrale station, where I will begin my journey today. English signage is very good and the trains run every 30 minutes. I used the self-service kiosk in the lobby to buy my ticket, which costs €5. The train was clean and contrary to must rail experiences in Italy, actually ran on time.
About twenty minutes later, I find myself back at the Bari Airport train station. Signage is good enough for the blind to find their way back to the Airport. Another trip through the long tunnel dumps me at the entrance of the airport at the arrivals level.
A quick stop in the arrivals level bathroom is made only because I want to show these awesome industrial doors for the stalls. No one is going to be breaching your privacy, these look like they could be cockpit doors. I saw them on the inbound flight, but there were other people in the bathroom at the time.
We then take the escalator up to the departures level of the airport. On the way up, there is a sign showing where ticketing offices are for the various carriers that frequent BRI. We can clearly see who runs this town…
Arriving at the departures level, there is a monitor showing the flights this afternoon. My flight is showing on time, but that sad news is that there will be little spotting prior to departure. The departures lobby is large and open, but there isn’t much here. There are restaurants at either end, but no other shops. I do approve of the tacky cactus shaped neon lights up on that balcony on the second floor. Really spruced up the place!
When I first arrived, the check-in area was closed. Whoever was checking in for the Milano-Linate flight had gone on break. So, I decided to go have lunch at one of the two restaurant options.
After my snack that was hardly worth €13 (take home message: eat before going to BRI), the check-in counter for AZ was now staffed so I went to get in line. There were a couple of people in front of me, so it took about 10 minutes to drop off my bag and receive my boarding pass.
With my boarding pass in hand, I went over to the security line. There was a special line for all the LCCs, which seemed strange, but AZ was given “priority” through the security line. No wait for me as an ‘elite’ AZ passenger, so I was airside within a minute.
My gate, A1, was literally right next to the security checkpoint so I decided to take a walk down and see what was happening on the tarmac. First up is this beautiful Fokker 50 owned by Air Vallee (ex-PR) that operates charter flights to Tirana out of Bari.
A little bit further down we see a FR B738 being boarded for a flight to MLA. A second later, another FR B738 is seeing taking off right behind it bound for BVA.
The terminal is bright and new. There aren’t too many shops, but there is this large Peroni Bar in the middle where most of the passengers seemed to be congregating.
A couple minutes later, we see the FR B738 bound for MLA taxing and then taking off.
Not a normal sighting, but out of nowhere I hear a helicopter in the distance. Going over to the window we see this bird belonging to the Vigili del Fuoco come swooping in and landing near where my gate is.
The W6 A320 bound for BUD is then seen taxing and then taking off.
This is when I notice something very peculiar. I see this red tail at the far end of the terminal. I start walking down there and see that it is an OK A319. That may not seem out of place, except that OK doesn’t fly to BRI. I go walk to the gate and it is actually operating as a 4U flight to STR. I don’t frequent Europe, but this seems very strange to me…
Walking down the terminal, I also notice something else interesting. They must not have repainted these recently; I wouldn’t be expecting a B757 or A300 to show up at BRI anytime soon…
In the distance, I see my plane arrive from LIN. That’s my cue to start to making my way back to my gate.
Making my way back to the gate, I stop into the bathrooms airside to see their state. Marathon will be sad, in BRI, diaper changing is still a woman’s job.
Nothing seems to be happening at my gate yet, so I take a seat near the Peroni Bar to do the requisite documents shots. Unfortunately, despite the advertisement that there is free WiFi at BRI, I was never able to connect to the network. Therefore, no corporate shot for this flight.
As I’m sitting down taking my photos, I hear a bunch of noise in front of me and when I look up, it is the A.S. Roma youth team standing in front of me. For those of you that saw the bonus in Part 3 of this series would know why this situation is uncomfortable for me. They all start sitting down around me, so I will take a discreet picture with my phone. They had a match against A.S. Bari the day before and all 30 of them would be on my flight back to FCO.
Boarding is called on time, and it was conducted a little bit more orderly than the mob boarding I witnessed in FCO. SkyPriority was respected, which I am not, so I will wait my time. My plane is hiding behind the jetbridge, but we can see her tail!
Again, I wait until the last minute to board the plane. The jetbridge has windows giving me this opportunity to get a better picture of my planes nose.
As we continue down the same rainbow jetbridge we had before, we can see two AZ crewmembers up ahead boarding the plane (deadheading I presume since the pilot was in uniform), who were very polite. They were talking to the gate agents when I showed up to board, saw me and politely stopped their conversation to let me go through. So, there are respectable AZ crew out there. A look to the right before reaching the plane’s threshold gave a nice shot of the OK A319 getting backed up with the Adriatic Sea in the distance.
A warm welcome on board by a FA, who then directed me to my seat. As before, it will be the exit row for me. No cabin shot since the plane again is 100% full and will only be operated in a Y-configuration. I like how AZ does not block out premium seats when doing seat selections. When you are used to getting nickeled and dimed back in the US, these small things give an airline a positive impression.
Taking my seat, I see that a W6 A320 just arrived and was taking to the non-Schengen side of the airport. This was followed by the OK A319 lifting off in the distance to begin its journey to STR.
Despite receiving a scolding on my last flight for using my camera during taxi/take-off, I threw caution to the wind and took whatever pictures I wanted. After all, I can always play the “ignorant American” card.
We push back on-time and begin the taxi to the runway. If you’ve noticed, all arriving and departing aircraft had been using the runway from west-east. We taxied for a takeoff east-west. I don’t know if this is the reason for the following problem or not, but what happened next was amusing (at least I thought so!). We pull up to the threshold of the runway and stop. I can see a FR B738 coming in for a west-east landing. They touch down and then all of a sudden there is a massive puff of brake-dust as the FR missed the turn-off. Not sure if that was an ATC problem or FR pilot problem, but they were stuck in no man’s land. My plane was blocking the far end of the runway and there was an AZ A320 in final descent right behind them. So we see the FR B738 do a quick U-Turn on the runway and speed off the runway just in time for the AZ A320 from FCO land, who does not miss the turn-off.
After that excitement, we lined up on the runway and began our trip back to FCO. We get a nice view of the Puglia countryside as we rise to cruising altitude. As we reach cruising altitude, the Apennine Mountains are present in the horizon.
As before, as soon as they are released, the FAs waste no time in getting to work. They have about 10-15 minutes to do cabin service. While service is underway, let’s take a look at the seat offerings. This seat is gum-free and the pitch (as before) is very good in the exit row.
We have already reached the Tyrrhenian coast just north of Napoli before the cart ever reaches my row. You can see Ischia in the distance (the volcanic island in the middle of the picture). We then follow the coastline north to Roma.
The cart arrives at my row and a smiling FA asks me if I would like anything to drink and if I wanted a snack. I ask for a coffee and a sweet snack. This time, we get a different cup (all white, before it was green), but more importantly the cup was half full! A big improvement since this was an acceptable quantity.
By the time I finished my coffee and trash was collected, we can already see Fiumicino out the window. You can see the mouth of Tevere sticking out prominently.
We continue our descent into FCO over the quaint Italian countryside.
Our taxi takes us past the PosteItaliane headquarters and this beautiful IG B763. As we keep going through the remote stands, we can see a U2 A319 in the foreground and an AZ A321 in the background that has an unpainted vertical stabilizer. Updating the livery?
We then arrive at Concourse B that is filled with AZ narrow bodies heading out on domestic/Schengen short-hauls
We pull into Gate B5. As deplaning commences, I look outside and see an A3 A320 taxing and an AZ A321 lifting off in the distance.
A picture of my seat upon deplaning as well as picture of one of the aisles near the front of the plane (I obviously need to work on my strafing skills because that photo is neither straight nor focused…).
A cordial goodbye from the crew in the galley deplaning (bonus for remembering I was English-speaking). The windowless jetbridge is sponsored by Vodafone. After getting back into Concourse B, it’s time to head to the baggage claim following the signage downstairs to the arrival level.
After heading down the escalators, we keep going until we reach the baggage claim. A peak at the monitors shows that I need to head to Baggage Claim 13.
While waiting for the bags to come (~10 minute wait, but it was only a 2 minute walk from the plane so no complaints there), I decided to use the bathroom to get photos of these newly renovated FCO bathrooms since there has been some FCO hate recently. They are nice looking with these hard wood floors, modern sinks, and always had cleaning crews going in and out of them.
With bags in hand, I head outside and take the shuttle to my hotel. I decided to spend the night in Fiumicino in order to get some good seafood and relax my final night before beginning a long day of travelling (4 flights).
This FRist wasn’t prepared, but when I walked to dinner in Fiumicino, I was rewarded with an amazing sunset over the Tyrrhenian Sea. These were taken with my phone, so I apologize for the quality, but are a great way to wrap up this report.
And to appease the Great Cobra, I propose a food bonus from my final meal in Italia. Fiumicino is a quaint fishing town so there is no better way to fill yourself than with the local products. Since I do not drink wine, we will indulge in a Fiumicino brewed beer, 'na biretta Chiara, and locally baked breads. Primi was monkfish and secondi was squid ink tortellini and mussels.
This concludes this domestic trip with AZ from BRI to FCO. You can skip to the bottom if you don’t care about tourism bonuses.
This time, I would like to propose a tourist bonus of Bari. I briefly showed a glimpse of Bari at night in the last report, but this time I’ll take you on a stroll through Bari Vecchia. There isn’t much too see in Bari, but it does have a Mediterranean charm. The old harbor is lined with palm trees and small fishing boats floating in pristine blue water.
Every morning, the fishermen come into the harbor and sell of their morning’s catch along the promenade. They can also be seen throwing their octopi on the ground and cleaning their boats.
Bari is also a major port that has cruise lines that offer transportation to various cities in Croatia and Montenegro.
It wasn't planned, but I somehow found myself in Bari for the final days of the Bari International Film Festival.
A walk through the downtown section is nice since there are large pedestrian streets with shops and restaurants lining the road. It makes for a nice stroll at night, but during the day it is deserted and we can just admire the buildings and statues.
The former castle, Castello Svevo, is located on the edge of Bari Vecchia providing nice views of the steeples in the old town.
The pride of Bari is their cathedral, Basilica di San Nicola, build nearly 1000 years ago. It was a beautiful structure on both the outside and inside. I happened to be there on Palm Sunday, so I also got to enjoy the procession.
The streets in Bari Vecchia embrace the culture of the region with brightly colored buildings lining narrow roads.
Since I was there during the Bari International Film Festival, most of the hotels were sold out, so I opted for the more traditional accommodation for my stay in Bari: a little B&B in the Old Town. For €45/night, it was more than adequate for my short stay and it reminded me more of spending the weekend with my grandmother since the little Italian grandmother treated me like family while I was there (including a packed lunch for my day in Bari). Their house formerly belonged to a noble family so the house itself was over 800 years old and still retained the original painted ceilings. People rave about the Japanese toilets, but the urinals in Italy are brilliant!
Thanks for stopping by this report and check back in as we begin the trip back to Japan with NGO85’s first intra-European business experience. How will my next AZ business experience go, we’ll see soon!
Bari - BRI
Rome - FCO
AZ has been gradually improving in this series. We already went from bad to okay, but I’ll be the first to admit that this third flight was good.
Cabin comfort: These leather seats are aged, but comfortable enough for a short haul. Seat pitch is great in the exit row and it helped sitting next to a petite Italian grandma who didn’t hog the armrest.
Crew: No negative crew interactions this time. From the courteousness of the off-duty crew in BRI to warm welcomes and goodbyes on the plane, this crew was overall good and was efficient in service. I don’t expect anything more on a short flight.
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. This time, coffee quantity was okay, I won’t complain. The salty/sweet option was also present.
Entertainment: None. No personal IFE, no press offered, only the inflight magazine. Natural IFE was beautiful this time, so I was a happy flyer.
On-time performance: We left on time and arrived early. Well done, AZ.
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