After a wonderful vacation all around Europe with my brother, it was time to return home. I was able to secure one business class seat from Rome nonstop to LAX on Alitalia. Before this trip, I never had flown Alitalia and despite the mix reviews, I was excited to fly the Italian carrier. My flight the night before from Frankfurt on Alitalia was less than memorable, but I thought that it was only bad because it was an intraEurope flight and I was hopeful that a transatlantic flight would be much better. After all, Alitalia has won awards for the best inflight meals three years in a row, so if all else failed there was going to be at the very least good food!
Check in & Security
I arrived for my flight 2.5 hours before departure time. I did so purposely because I needed to receive a VAT refund and wanted to check out a few of the lounges at the Rome-Fiumicino Airport. The Rome airport was extremely busy and Alitalia made check in more difficult than most airports. There was more than one area to check in for business class passengers and passengers flying to the States were required to check in at the furthest counters from security.
Unfortunately, nearly every flight to the USA (Chicago, Boston, LAX, & NYC) was checking in at the same time and it made the line extremely long. Even the sky priority line had over 50 people in it and only three agents. The economy class passenger line was about 5x as long, but offered approximately 12 agents. Either way, tensions were high and people were not happy with the slow moving lines. 45 minutes later, my bags were checked and I worked my way back towards security; a good five minute walk from check in.
Thankfully, security was quick and only took me about 10 minutes. The queue and crowds made it look like a zoo, but it was somehow still organized. Shortly after the quick security check; this was a hybrid version of TSA pre-check (shoes on, but liquids and computers out of the bag). Passport control was to the left of security and divided the terminal in two security post, Schengen region flights vs non Schengen flights. The lines at passport control were also dreadfully long, split between non-EU citizens and EU Citizens.
Both queues were 100 people deep and were moving at a snail’s pace. Thankfully about 10 minutes after I cued up, two more control booths opened and the line started moving very quickly. When it was my turn to see passport control, I went to hand the agent my passport, but the minute he recognized it was a US passport he handed it directly back to me. He didn’t scan it, looked at my boarding pass or anything. How odd! But either way, it sped me through faster. By this point I was less than 1.5 hour for departure and I still wanted my VAT refund, therefore I sped towards the refund office and cued up again for another long wait. So long in fact that I didn’t make it to a single lounge!
If you were in a bar and it was on fire and there was only one exit, everyone would have been burned. Or at least this is how it felt when boarding the Alitalia flight. It was pure chaos! With only 20 minutes until departure I headed towards the remote gates to board my flight to LAX. The gate area was extremely small and was tremendously crowded.
The flight had just started to board and around there was a mob around the boarding area, with each person pushing their way towards the six gate agents who were working the gate. Two were checking boarding passes, two were checking IDs and two were scanning boarding passes. I worked my way through the mob and boarded the plane without any of the extra ridiculous security measures often in place on flights to the USA.
After working my way down the escalator and to the plane, two Italian male flight attendants greeted me and directed me to my seat. As I turned the corner towards my seat, the all grey interior overwhelmed my senses with gloom. It was like a rainy day in Seattle! Nothing about the all grey bland interior relaxed me, made me comfortable, or made me feel cozy. It was boring, looked dirty, and nothing about the interior was luxurious.
I found my way to my seat 9g (a “love seat”) and quickly found a couple that had been separated and asked to trade. I traded my love seat for a middle aisle seat that was thankfully separated by a divider and large desk/workspace area. My seat was closer to the traffic, but at least provided me with a little space between the people next to me. I made myself at home in my dark and gloomy seat and started to explore my seat and awaited preboarding service to begin.
The wait was long and since I was in the rear business class cabin, every passenger seating in Premium Economy and economy passed through the rear business class cabin to reach their seat. I spent the hour it took to board the plane to explore my seat, play with my seat function and dig through my amenity packet (more of this “packet” later). The inflight entertainment system (IFE) was turned off so after I was done exploring my seat, I picked up my book and started reading. Finally, after every passenger had boarded the plane, almost a full hour after I got to my seat, the flight attendants offered passengers in business class Prosecco, tomato juice, or water. I opted for the sweet Prosecco and watched the inflight safety video and flight attendants passed out BVLGARI amenities and inflight menus.
After what felt like hours on the ground, we were finally on our way towards Los Angeles in our gloomy silver bullet. As we crossed Europe, it wasn’t until almost 2 hours into the flight that the IFE was turned on. As we ascended away from Italy, passengers around me became restless and started to play with their remotes, trying to get the IFE to work, finally after about 45 minutes into the flight, people started asking the FAs about the IFE.
They kept saying that it will be turned on shortly and it’s not time yet. Why they didn’t turn it on right away baffles me, but passengers across the business class cabin were not pleased. Then due to software issues, it was almost a full 2 hours into the flight as we were passing Ireland did the IFE FINALLY come on and start working! By this point, dinner was already being served and I had started a movie on my laptop.
Meanwhile, during the IFE debacle, meal service had begun. I was most excited about Alitalia’s meal service because I’ve read raving reviews from other travel bloggers and Alitalia has won “Best Inflight Cuisine” in 2010, 2011, and 2012. I was certain that I was in for a real treat. My table was set and unlike most airlines, every passenger in Alitalia business class was provided with a full size wine glass, even those who were not drinking wine. It was almost as if I was in a high end restaurant.
Then afterwards the sommelier went person by person filling up their wine glasses. I was less than impressed though because when I asked him about one of the wines, his response was “It’s good” and didn’t bother to go into any more details. I then asked him if I could sample it, and instead he poured me a full glass. Thankfully it was good, but overall the experience was apathetic.
The rest of the meal service was unique as each meal was carted through the aisles and then served to each customer. When it came time for the main course and pasta, it was served from large dishes to the consumer. No plate was preheated or platted in the galley. My only critique would be that drinks were not refilled often enough, and in fact, often times the FAs would leave the galley and refill passengers drinks and offer them more bread and food in the forward business class cabin but then forget about the rear business class cabin.
I saw the sommelier walk through and refill drinks in the forward cabin three times, but not once in the rear cabin. It wasn’t until I flagged him down did he offer refills to those of us sitting in the smaller rear business class cabin.
Overall the meal was decent, but nothing was special about it other than the presentation. In my opinion the pasta was overcooked (not cooked al dente like the Italians usually prepare it) and the rest of the meal was overly salty or bland. I chose the fish option and it was good for airplane fish, but nothing like my lobster on Singapore Air. Dessert was flavorless and tasted like I was chomping on air or uncooked pie crest. Needless to say, all-in-all I am not going to fly Alitalia for their food!
Appertizers: try all three
- Zibello culatello with quince jam and mixed vegetables
- Smoked salmon herbs tartare
- Parmigiano Reggiano flan with mushroom ragout
Lunch – main course: try them both
- Large herbs filled dumplings with bechamel sauce
- Pasta with Pdo San Marzano tomatoes and basil
Entrees: choose one
- Parma rose-like meat roll with Marsala, Lambrusco and rosemary sauce
- Romgna fish-roll in corn crust with minth courgettes
Side Dish – Try them all
- Butter spinach
- Breadcrumb tomatoes
- Sauteed patotoes
- Green salad
- Rosemary-topped bread
- wholemeal bread
- Walnut bread roll
- Spighetta baguette
- Vanilla flavoured butter mouse with armaretti and savoiardi biscuits
- Maria Luigia cake
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Espresso coffee and tea
Snack (really breakfast before landing)
- Strolghino and Parmigiano Reggiano chese flakes
- Parmigiano Reggiano quich with San Secondo shoulder (ham)
- Olive Oil and regano bread
- Fresh seasonal fruit
The rest of the flight was extremely uneventful. After the meal service, I laid back, watched a few movies (not overly impressed by the selection) and enjoyed my flight to Los Angeles. For the rest of the flight the staff was almost completely absent from the cabin and huddled in the forward galley. In the middle galley, a makeshift walkup bar was offered but only offered water and soda and some light snacks. These bottles of water and soda were never replenished and the single wine bottle had been emptied within an hour after it was placed out. The FAs were nice enough to get you anything to drink that you asked for, but you either had to call them or walk to the front of the plane because again, I stress that the FAs were not attentive and did not do cabin walkthroughs to check on guests.
About 2 hours before landing in Los Angeles, breakfast service began and included a light meal considering the length of the flight. The breakfast was not nearly as good or as nice as on my KLM flight from Los Angeles a month earlier but still included a small quiche, fresh fruit, parmesan cheese cubes and cured meats. I avoided the meats, the cheese was scrumptious and the quiche was dry. Yet, I was hungry so I ate it and then cleansed my pallet with the fresh fruit. Shortly after breakfast, our trays were collected and the aircraft cabin was prepared for landing.
Meals: Uniquely served and great presentation but overall lacking flavor. The main dishes are good for airline food but not nearly as good as food I have experienced on airlines like Singapore, Thai, Asiana, Brithish Airways, or KLM. Dessert leaves a LOT to be desired. In fact, the best part of the meal service is the wine. So drink up and Cheers! There’s also sandwhiches available midflight at the walk up bar (pictured below).
Alcohol: Speaking of drinking up, the wine selection on Alitalia is great! Being an Italian company, I would say Alitalia does a wonderful job not only serving wine (full size wine glasses in business), but selecting flavorful and delicious wines to serve at 30,000 feet. In addition to wine, the airline offers traditional Italian Grappa Francoli in barrique (yuck!) and mouthwatering Limoncello villa massa. In fact, I enjoyed the Limoncello so much the purser gave me an entire bottle to take home for free since they did not sell it in their duty free! Italian Theresianer beer and other spirits (Chivas Regal, Amaro Mediterrano, and Amaretto Bianco) are also offered to passengers in business class. The selection is not as vast as other airliners, but Alitalia’s primary focus is on their wines.
IFE: Bigger is not always better, or at least that is how I feel about this 15.4 inch LCD monitor in business class on Alitalia 777-200. The large TV screen provided a great viewer area, but primarily offered older Hollywood hits and few newly released films. A wide selection of movies (Alitalia claims 45 movies) in multiple languages (French, Italian, & English) is offered, but most of these films are either from the 90s or early 2000s or are foreign films which require subtitles if you are not bilingual. There was a selection of TV shows and games, but I did not explore this as I found myself watching movies on my laptop instead. Either way, hours of entertainment is available at your fingertips. Granted, the IFE has to be turned on first and hopefully working before 2 hours into your flight (still a pain point for me)
Seat: The all aisle access leather 180 degree lay flat seat with massage function is a nice feature of the business class cabin as it makes it so no one has to step over their neighbor to get up and use the bathroom. The seat moves into a number of positions between the upright landing position and the lay flat position. I found that my favorite position was somewhere in between and allowed me to lounge with my legs rested on the leg rest, but not be completely flat. It provided a great angle for watching the IFE and plenty of leg and back support to keep me comfortable. In the bed position, the seat was comfortable, but a taller individual over 6 feet would have to bend their knees to fit in the seat. The seat also offered very little storage (under the foot rest) for personal items. There was a powerport and an usb charging port at my seat. Each seat also had a blanket and a small pillow.
Amenity kit: A bit of a joke at first. Alitalia’s amenity kit is a hodgepodge of amenities wrapped in plastic wrap and placed on each seat before boarding. Once unwrapped, each guest was presented with disposable airline socks, an eye mask, ear plugs, tooth brush, shaving cream, toothpaste, and a disposable razor. There was no bag for these to be placed in and most of the people’s contents ended up on the floor of the business class cabin. In addition to this pack, a cardboard box was handed out shortly before takeoff and included BVLGARI lotion, lip balm, aftershave lotion and him & hers perfumes. This part of the amenity kit is definitely the best part, however Alitalia really could work on the presentation of their amenity kits or reusability.
All in all my flight on Alitalia was just alright. I will not go out of my way like I did this time to fly them, especially long haul as I am not impressed with the Italian hospitality. The airline has its issues and needs to find a way to not only improve their on time performance and reliability but also their inflight offering. The AF-KLM little sister could really benefit from investing in their product. An airline that was once the pride of Italy has done very little in my opinion to rebrand and revive themselves since their near collapse. If you have an option to Europe and you’re going to spend the money on Business class, I would HIGHLY recommend KLM or Lufthansa over Alitalia.