I have reviewed many European Airline’s Business Class within Europe and with a few exceptions they are quite similar and Alitalia is no different. So why do another review on a European Airline? Outside of their long-haul catering, Alitalia has not had the best reputation over the years. I personally haven’t flown them since the mid 2000’s and my experience on the handful of flights I took then was in line with that reputation. But, after Etihad had purchased a sizable stake in Alitalia in 2014 I started to read and hear favorable things about both their long-haul and European Business Class products. This continued even after Etihad sold its stake in 2017. Now this review is based on one flight I took towards the end of last year (Oct. 2109) from Rome FCO to Moscow SVO which was before the Italian Government retook control of Alitalia last month (March 2020). I am writing this quick (hopefully) review with the assumption the travel world returns to some sense of normalcy and Alitalia does not revert back to the mid 2000’s.
My wife, mother in law and I were connecting in Rome from Venice. We arrived at Fiumicino with plenty of time to connect to Moscow. Passport and security was a breeze for my wife and I (automated e-gate) but took a while for my mother in law (Russian passport). Despite the delay, we still had more than enough time to visit the lounge. I have flown out of FCO several times the last 20 or so years and have always been disappointed with their Business Class Lounges. However, in late 2018 I visited the Star Alliance Lounge (Lufthansa flight) at FCO and it was great. So I was looking forward to seeing what the Alitalia Lounge had to offer. Alitalia has three lounges at FCO after security. Casa Alitalia Piazza Venezia, Casa Alitalia Piazza del Popolo and Casa Alitalia Piazza di Spagna. Our flight was leaving from Terminal 3 – Boarding Area E (not Satellite) and we visited the Casa Alitalia Piazza di Spagna Lounge near gate E11. It was still morning when we arrived at FCO and the Lounge was very crowded, but what an improvement over the last time I visited an Alitalia Lounge. The food and drink selection was very impressive with a large selection of buffet items and a live cooking area with a chef preparing eggs. I would have liked to be there later in the day when they have more tradition Italian fare like pasta and pizza.
As I said, Alitalia’s Business Class is similar to most European carriers. The seats are the same as Economy Class in a 3X3 configuration. Just the middle seat is left free and has a tray attached to it. Our flight was on an A320 and there was three rows in Business. Alitalia also flies the A321 on Medium Haul routes. We were seated in row 2. The leg room in Business was definitely a little roomier than the Economy Class seats we were on from Venice to FCO (also A320). According to SeatGuru the seat pitch is 32″ in Business and 30″ in Coach (seemed more in Business and less in Economy). I’m not quite sure how many rows have this extra pitch as the curtain and Business Class Cabin can be adjusted depending on load factors. The bulkhead even had a little more legroom than our row, plus because the tray table is in the outer armrest the seat width is the same as the other seats.
There are no power ports to charge a device nor was there entertainment or Wi-Fi on board. The cabin is somewhat appealing with blue leather seats and yellowish antimacassar (small cloth on headrest – I never knew it had a name :)) on the headrests and paneling on forward wall. The seats didn’t have adjustable headrests and not all seats had this small coverings. None the less, it still had a different feel and look than most airlines forward cabins. This was enhanced by a very nice blanket and pillow in protective wrap on the seat. The pillow actually could be split to wrap around your neck. Very clever and helped when taking a nap. I am not sure Alitalia has these pillow and blankets on all their European flights or just on the longer flights. Our flight was full in Business, but that was only because a few pilots and a flight attendant were deadheading to SVO. Still, there was plenty of room in the overhead.
Boarding was surprisingly orderly with a separate line for Business and Priority. No pre-departure drink was offered nor was there any interaction with the flight attendants before departure, but this is the norm with European airlines. At a little over three hour flight time from FCO to SVO a full meal was served. I am sorry, but I am not sure what Alitalia would serve on shorter routes. One of the things I remember being disappointed with Alitalia when I last flew them all those years ago was the meal service. So based on the visit to the lounge I was very much looking forward to Lunch/Dinner.
There were no menu’s issued. Shortly after take-off the flight attendant gave a description of the two meal choices and also took an initial drink order. The first beverage was served in a plastic cup with a packet of Rosemary crackers (popular snack – also was served on trains). The two entrée choices for the meal was either Potato Ravioli or Beef Filet. After having Pasta seven days straight I still went with the Ravioli (I love pasta and my wife would ordered the Beef for me to try). Beside the entrée the tray also included a Salad, Dessert and a small Candy. Bread was offered with the meal and the flight attendant returned with a second helping. The Pasta was tasty and nice and hot. The Beef was not quite as enjoyable, but I was also full at that point. I was pleasantly surprised that the dessert was Crumb Cake as it is one of my favorite foods (I consider cake an essential food group ;)). It was good, but not great. Again, by this point I had eaten almost two meals and not sure anything would have impressed me. Being so full I passed on Tea or Coffee after the meal. A wrapped Italian Cookie was handed out before landing. There were four flight attendants working the flight. The two that serviced Business Class were very pleasant and professional. A hot towel was not provided after take-off or lunch, however there was a packaged towelette on the meal tray. Announcements were in Italian and English with some pre-recorded announcements in Russian.
Overall this flight was certainly much better than past flights I’ve had with Alitalia (despite small things like; missing head coverings for some seats, no hot towel and plastic cups for drinks). I would put them on par with most other European Airlines (which is a big improvement). While I enjoyed the meal, I wasn’t blown away by it and I think their International Business Class catering is much better (always wins awards). The main benefits of flying Business Class within Europe is not so much the seat, rather, lounge access (we were also able to use Alitalia’s lounge in VCE), free checked bags, priority check-in and boarding (all come with SkyTeam Elite status regardless of cabin flown) and much better catering. In addition, I was able to pre-assign our seats though Alitalia’s website for no charge after ticketing. Hopefully the effects of this pandemic will not cripple Alitalia (I’m afraid many airlines will be) and this review will be relevant and accurate in years ahead.