Cabin-Check: Business Class at Alitalia
Route: Rome - Santiago de Chile - Rome
Flight Time: 15:30
Airplane: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 1L (best seat as it has more width for the feet and nearly no noise)
Lounge: 10/10 (Casa Alitalia Rome)
Value for Money: 9/10
Total: 8/10 (7.5)
I think everyone is informed through the recent news about the state-owned Italian flag carrier. They went into bankruptcy in March 2017, hence they received a loan by the italian government to save jobs and keep their business running. At the end of 2017, it didn‘t look very bright around the future of the airline and there were discussions of Lufthansa and Easyjet to take over parts of the airline. Time for Alitalia to make short term money. So what did they do? From one day to the other you were able to book tickets to the end of the world in Business Class for about 1.500 euros return - which is 60% off the regular business rates to Chile compared to Iberia and Latam. Of course I did not hesitate and book a flight to the end of the world, without knowing what to expect from the Airline. Once I booked, I planned a quite long layover in Rome by purpose - first to visit a hotel in town and second to have more time in Alitalia‘s flagship lounge Casa Alitalia.
I started my journey in Milano Linate from where I was taking an Embraer Jet to Rome. Besides a seat in the first row, there was no difference to economy class. I was not even offered a glass nor any meal. The only service was a drink and a cheap puff pastry. Flying Alitalia Business class on short- and medium haul is just waste of money but as I had a complete ticket from Milan via Rome to Santiago (cheaper than Rome - Santiago only) I did not care. As long as I am seated on 1A, it‘s all fine. We landed in Rome quite on time, which I was surprised of. Pickup by the hotel was also nice and more about my layover at the Cavalieri Rome in a separate article.
Let me point out that Rome‘s Fiumicino Airport is just massive in terms of size. I have no idea how many kilometers I walked and it is not considered to be an easy airport in terms of navigation. Even tough I was at the airport 2 Hours before Departure, I only had 40 Minutes left in the Casa Alitalia. Honestly, this lounge was the best airport lounge I have ever seen. Not just in terms of design but also of food and drinks. There was the possibility to order any drink at the bar or freshly baked pizza along with an excellent selection of pasta. The bathrooms were super chic and clean providing Terme di Sirmione toiletries. Due to time issues I had no chance to use the showers. Service in the Casa Alitalia was nothing special, the barkeeper was friendly and nice tough - making sure I always had a full glass of Ferrari (Italy‘s premium sparkling wine). The highlight for me was the Poltrona Frau interior along a very well pizza freshly made in the lounge. Right on time, the flight was called out and the lounge being situated in the Satellite terminal, it is only accessible for passengers flying on Alitalia’s long-haul flights. It took me about 90 seconds until I reached the gate and found myself as the first one on board. Quite impressive so far for an airline with a terrible reputation.
The general interior of the Business Class was very nice from my point of view. I had a seat and began to arrange all my stuff eg placing the headphones next to me and preparing the phone charger. After I have been all set, the purser came to my seat, introduced himself and shook my hand. I know this service from Austrian Airlines but was impressed to see this at Alitalia. He informed me about the ultra long flight and the flight time. The first stewardess arrived and handed me over the amenity kit as well as the menues. Alitalia‘s amenity kit is made by Bulgari and includes of course a Bulgari face cream, hand cream and lip balm along the usual products provided like eye mask, ear plugs and socks. The bag can be used as a tablet case, generally a nice idea and more exclusive than the kits at Iberia or Austrian. The pre-departure drinks were Ferarri spumante (Italian Champagne), orange juide and water. I didn‘t mind another glass of bubbles to sleep better (I know it is not the right way to sleep on a plane but personally it helps).
Just right after we took off with a delay of an hour, the crew came and asked for the dinner selection. Alitalia serves a four-course dinner plus some finger food along the Aperitif. It’s probably the airline with the best Aperol Spritz, and yes it’s tasty and has volume. I was served the first course: a cold seafood salad, followed by a pasta dish which I would describe as some of the most tasteful pasta I have had on a plane. The main course was a sea bass fillet with rosemary potatoes and grilled vegetables. I totally fell in love with the taste and the quality of the main course. Also the wine menu was quite alright with good white and red wines, tough the price was low and they weren’t of highest quality. Interestingly the poured my wine glass nearly completely full like 0.2 instead of 0.1 litres. This could be due to the fact that after dessert (which was the worst part of the menu by the way) nobody ever arrives again. So whenever you wanna drink or eat something you have to get up and go find someone. Alternatively you can just serve yourself at the bar in between the two business class cabins. Not sure if this was planned to be but I would have loved to have a coke or sparkling water. To be honest, it was quite hard to not drink anything during 10 hours. Fortunately I managed to sleep for a few hours - being too excited to meet my colleague and friend Lukas finally again.
From my point of view the flight was very comfortable in terms of turbulences. Sleeping without a duvet underneath the body wasn’t too much fun - the seat wasn’t able to change firmness so it stayed quite uncomfortable. To all my surprise the entertainment was excellent and the remotes were touch screen so totally state-of-the-art. Be aware that Alitalia flies with two versions of Entertainment on their B777 jets - on the way back I had the old entertainment and it was totally disappointing with the television screens being turned on only when reaching cruising altitude. 2 hours before landing, breakfast was served and consisted of an egg dish and fresh fruits. The only good thing was the orange juice and the coffee. I am into the idea of Italian breakfast so I was fine with the warm puff pastry- but don’t expect the breakfast to be extensive. Another surprise was that even tough we started an hour late, the arrival in the dry region of Santiago was on time and I would describe the approach as interesting and picturesque with the Andes mountains right outside the window. Honestly, I felt so excited when we touched down in Chile - it’s the first time for me in Chile and I always have that cautious feeling when flying to South America. Tough this feeling doesn’t urge anymore after having seen how peaceful Uruguay, Argentina and especially Chile is. They are actually as boring as Switzerland in terms of hustle and bustle... haha.
All in all, 1.500 Euros for the return ticket from Europe to Santiago de Chile is extremely cheap for a Business Class flight and therefore there is not much to complain. From the Value for Money point of view, the flight was 8 out of 10, however would I have paid 3k or more, the rating would be somewhere between 5 and 6 due to the passive service, altitude of the staff and seat comfort. With that comes the bad entertainment on my flight back so a 5.5 would be appropriate for the regular price. However should you still manage to grab a ticket for 1.600 euros (there are still some available to Santiago) in Business, get there as soon as you can. And as you see Alitalia is still operating and they didn’t touch the state loan so will be working in that condition for the next years I guess. After all it proves again: no risk, no fun - my trip was one of the best travels I have ever made and I am really grateful for this opportunity.
I paid for my ticket by myself and due to the airline’s financial situation I think it is clear that I have not worked in any way with Alitalia. Therefore all above written expresses my own opinion.