After a fantastic five weeks traveling Europe, it was time to return to the states. I was traveling on a Delta award ticket and I had redeemed 100,000 miles to fly business class to and from Europe. My return flight was on Alitalia from Frankfurt via Rome and onwards to LAX. Upon arriving at Frankfurt, I found that my Alitalia flight departed from terminal 2 which is a good 10 minute walk & tram ride from the airport metro stop. After trekking for what seemed like miles (Star Alliance carriers have it made in T1) I arrived at the check in counter for Alitalia. There was no one in line in the Sky Priority line and the agents were extremely friendly and all smiles. It also appeared as though the agents were checking people in for both Alitalia flights and Aeroflot flights. My flight was delayed due to a late incoming aircraft and the agents informed me that the flight should leave about 35 minutes past the scheduled departure time. The agent then provided me with a boarding pass and directed me towards security.
Security was a breeze due to my priority access, and in only a few short minutes, I was on my way to the Air France lounge located in the Schengen departure area of T2. Thank God there was a decent lounge because my 35 minute flight delay quickly became 60 minutes and before it was actually time to board we were 2 hours and 5 minutes late. The airline did provides refreshments and snacks in the boarding area for customers, as required by EU regulation, but they were not worth the mention and the snacks and beverage options in the Air France lounge were much better.
snacks and refreshments provided
About 10 minutes before boarding started I headed to the gate because the Air France lounge was closing. The agents working the gate asked me if I was Mr. Horan as I approached, because it turned out I was the only person who had not yet checked in at the gate and they were concerned I had left. After a quick laugh with the agents about the delay I found a seat among the other travelers. Not even minutes later, they announced that boarding would begin and the departure hall broke out in an uproar of hoots, cheers and applauses. Clearly the travelers were happy to finally be on their way!
Since boarding passes are scanned when entering the departure lounge, simultaneously everyone headed towards the gate when boarding was announced. Passengers had to walk down 4 flights of stairs to the ground level and then boarded a bus to the remote stand. As I have discovered in Frankfurt, regardless of the airline, most Schengen flights operate from remote stands. Boarding was quick and efficient as three buses were waiting for passengers; at the plane, boarding was done from both the front and rear of the aircraft.
I boarded the front stairs and found my seat in 2 A. The first class cabin only had 6 seats, row 1 which was only on the right side of the plane and row 2. Each row looked like economy class seats, but the middle seat had a tray that folded down and had cup holders on it & leg room was slightly increased in first over economy. One the plane was fully boarded, an inflight safety video was played and we departed towards Rome.
The flight to Rome was hardly exciting. Each seat had a seatback TV, however they did not function and there was no inflight entertainment. Thankfully I had my computer and book and the flight was barely two hours in length. Shortly after takeoff, service began. The friendly Italian flight attendants (oddly all men) provided me with a warm towel and a glass of red wine. The wine was served to me in a plastic cup and I instantly thought to myself, I’ve found the US Airways of Europe!
Meal service continued and consisted of a nearly inedible meal. Thankfully, it was vegetarian friendly, but the smoke salmon appetizer was the only thing that my taste buds enjoyed. The spinach pie was dry and flavorless and the bread was as hard as a rock. The pistachio pudding was decent, but left a nasty film on the roof of my mouth. How Alitalia had won the Best Airline food meal three years in a row baffles me!
After dinner I was provided with a large plastic glass of delicious Lemoncello, and despite having a bad meal experience I was sipping the drink in delightful bliss as my taste buds finally dances with ecstasy!
Overall, this short hop from Frankfurt to Rome on Alitalia was decent, the meal was nowhere as good as the meal I had on my KLM flight from Amsterdam to Rome and the service was not nearly as memorable as my CSA flight from Madrid to Prague. Regardless, Alitalia offers a somewhat solid inflight product for intra-Europe travel. They are missing some of the luxuries that people enjoy while flying first/business class and could work on their service (i.e. no plastic glasses in first). To my surprise I was the only person sitting in the first class cabin, and I was on an award ticket! This could partially explain Alitalia finance issues –people are NOT buying premium tickets. Would I fly Alitalia again? Yes – but not as a first choice.