With Alitalia operating in bankruptcy protection, I figured this might be my last shot to sample a longhaul flight on the carrier. Let’s hope not, though, because I actually had a very pleasant 13hr flight from Rome to Los Angeles.
Walking to Terminal 1 from the Hilton Rome Airport, I found the premium check-in area and was swiftly checked in for my flight by a courteous agent. She was dressed in a red uniform very similar to what FAs would wear onboard. I find Alitalia’s uniforms to be stunning and unique in a sea of drab blacks and blues.
I stopped by the pre-security Alitalia Lounge for a cappuccino before proceeding to security. USA bound flights have a special security line, which was a mess. While there was a special line for premium/business class passengers, it was closed. The lines that were open were a free-for-all. Still, it took only about 10 minutes to work my way through security.
Past security, I was stamped out of Italy and found a rather small Alitalia Lounge. Boarding time indicated 9:10am and so I was at the gate by 9am in order to position myself to board first.
Boarding did begin promptly at 9:10am.
Rome (FCO) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Wednesday, August 23
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 3L (Business Class)
Onboard, FAs were still prepping and one held me (politely) at the door for about 30 seconds before welcoming me onboard. I was directed to my seat on the starboard side of the aircraft, 3L.
Alitalia Business Class Seats
Alitalia has staggered business class seating in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seat is similar to what you find on Iberia and select Etihad flights. On the 777, business class is 46 seats, including 10 in a mini-cabin behind the larger forward business class cabin. Choose A or L seats if you want the most privacy and best window views. Seats C and J are also technically window seats, but the shelf is on the window side as opposed to the aisle side.
The seat contains a USB plug, universal power port, headphone jack, snake reading light, and adjustable seat controls (including massage).
Alitalia offers excellent business class bedding including a plush blanket and pillow:
Alitalia Business Class Amenity Kits
FAs handed out Bvlgari amenity kits, which contained lip balm, face creme, hand creme, perfume, a dental kit, comb, eye shade, and ear plugs.
I made the mistake of trying to switch my kit with one on the open seat across the aisle from me…
Alitalia Business Class Dining
Three menus were waiting on my seat: a food menu, wine list, and coffee menu. I was pleased to find the coffee menu and also excited for the chance to try a pasta course with lunch, something unique to Alitalia.
Here are the menus:
Prior to departure, I enjoyed glass of sparkling wine and a hot towel.
Although the menu indicates “all day dining”, meal service took place for everyone directly after takeoff.
First up, canapes with another glass of sparkling wine. Very delicious.
The table was laid for lunch, including a white tablecloth and high-quality cutlery wrapped in red ribbon. Since I ordered lamb for the main course, I opted for a delicious glass of Barbera D’Asti Docg red wine.
The first course looked odd, but tasted great. It was a thyme potato flan served with a fennel salad in pink sea salt. Very tasty.
Pasta came next. It was difficult to decide between the two choices, but I opted for an Agnolotti pasta (like a ravioli) in a rich meat sauce. It was incredible, but not even the highlight of the meal.
The highlight was the second course, a magnificent lamb loin with hazelnut curst. The picture does not do it justice. I asked for a green salad with it, which was served with a small bottle of balsamic vinaigrette.
The cheese course was not memorable, especially in presentation.
Fresh fruits were offered including pineapple, cantaloupe, kiwi, honeydew, and grapes.
Finally, the meal concluded with a “Bonet” chocolate cake and cappuccino.
Admit it: this meal is first class quality.
10 hours is a long time to go between meals. About halfway through the flight I ordered a pizza and cappuccino. The pizza was a small round disc about four inches in circumference. It was a bit soggy, but a nice snack.
In between the two business class cabins was a self-serve drink station that contained only water and soft drinks.
90 minutes prior to landing, a second meal was served. It was not listed on the menu and was…odd…to put it frankly. The meal contained a warm rosemary roll with bread and cold cuts as well as a hot hash brown and bowl of fruit. Hash brown?
I polished off the plate in a few seconds…and was still very hungry.
So I asked one of the FAs if there was any lunches leftover from earlier in the flight. My request was obliged and I was offered a yellow perch fillet. It was delicious, though my lamb was much better.
Overall, the food was exceptional on Alitalia.
Alitalia Business Class Service
My Italian friends had warned me to expect a “union break” sometime in the middle of the flight and that did indeed occur. About four hours into the flight I was hungry and rang the FA call button (Alitalia does state dining is on-demand, after all). It went unanswered for 45 minutes. Finally, the break ended and a single FA reappeared, slowly working his way through the cabin to refresh beverages. Interestingly, the FAs were not just hiding in the business class galley during the break–they were gone.
But on the whole, service was excellent during the flight. FAs were friendly…they smiled and engaged. In what I consider the ultimately measure of good service, prior to landing I asked for a leftover dinner from the first meal service. If a FA was lazy or apathetic, the answer would have been a quick no. Instead, the FA was happy to accommodate my request. Maybe it was my charming smile, but I did not get the sense that FAs hated their jobs or were just going through the motions (like on Aerolineas Argentinas).
Alitalia Business Class IFE + Wi-Fi
I was pleased Alitalia had wi-fi onboard and it worked fairly well throughout the flight. It is not cheap, but I paid $20 for 200MB which at least allowed me to connect my iPhone and stay up-to-date on email and text messaging.
IFE was easy to use and contained a large library of movies, TV shows, games, and music. I watched a movie called Gifted (hoping my son would be equally gifted) then started an old Christopher Nolan movie called The Prestige.
My first set of noise-cancelling headphones was broken, but FAs provided me a second set (which were of a different brand than the first set).
The view outside also provided great IFE. I never recalled the water being so blue when leaving Rome in the past.
Alitalia Business Class Lavatory
The lavatory was clean, but lacked any amenities.
Remote Gate at LAX
We arrived about 30 minutes early at LAX, but waited nearly an hour at the far end of the airport (by the ocean) at a remote gate. This was the first time I’ve ever arrived at a remote gate (this was not even the satellite terminal but even further out). Finally busses showed up and we were allowed to exit the aircraft.
It was another 10 minute ride to get from the remote stand to the Tom Bradly International Terminal for passport control. This was a sad way to end the flight — I don’t know if Alitalia is being penalized for not paying its bills at LAX or just being cheap, but it certainly is embarrassing.
All things considered, Alitalia was tremendous. For a bankrupt carrier, I appreciated the excellent onboard catering, good bedding, warm service, and nice amenities like the Bvlgari kit and wi-fi. It’s anyones guess as to how long the carrier will survive, but don’t hesitate to fly Alitalia in the meantime.