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The good and the bad: Alitalia J Class Rome-Buenos Aires


Old Sep 26, 09, 5:35 pm
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The good and the bad: Alitalia J Class Rome-Buenos Aires

Thought I’d add a trip report of Alitalia’s longhaul business class product which has not been reviewed in a while.

I avoid flying with this airline despite travelling home at least 4-5 times a year. On a recent occasion however I had to combine a trip to Italy with a trip to Argentina and Alitalia turned out to be the only viable option for the Rome-Buenos Aires flight.
Other airlines I considered were Iberia and Lufthansa, however they have a horrendous daylight flight eastbound which spoils a whole day and therefore they were ruled out. BA has a night flight both ways but with a stopover in Sao Paulo and a change of aircraft in London the trip added up to some 20+ hours to which the direct, non-stop 13-hour Alitalia flight was preferable.

I checked in one hour before departure at the Canova Lounge in Terminal C which is basically a separate check-in island for “Magnifica” (longhaul J) passengers and “Freccia Alata” (Gold) members. There was nobody and service was quick.

FCO layout is so poor that you need to walk to Terminal B, go through security, then backtrack through passport control to Terminal C. This can take almost one hour during rush hour when security queues alone can well take 40 minutes. This evening was quiet and I was in the “Giotto” lounge in the Terminal C satellite in less than 10 minutes.

The lounge is the most depressing facility I’ve been to, even compared to many third-world airport lounges, and should be avoided altogether. The agent was friendly though and moved me from row 2 to row 3 to secured an empty seat beside mine.

Boarding started on time and there was a priority queue which boarded first. So far so good.
Magnifica Class on the 777-200 consists of 8 rows of 2-2-2, five in the front cabin and three in the back cabin with a bar area in the middle.
The cabin was less than half full so did not feel cramped.
The seats are upholstered in grey leather and the cabin looks airy and smart. On closer inspection however my seat was worn and some of the fittings were kept together with duct tape. Not good at all.

Did not receive much of a welcome onboard and in fact my jacket sat on the seat next to mine until we taxied away when I asked a crew member if she could kindly hang it.
Crew did pass around with a choice of water, spumante or ruby orange juice, menus and amenity kits.
The kits deserve a special mention – well stocked with eyeshades, earplugs, toothbrush/toothpaste, socks, comb, lip balm, shaver, shaving cream and moisturizing cream, the kit itself was nice and big enough to re-use it as a washbag.
Newspapers were offered next – a good choice of tabloids but a single magazine (Panorama, an Italian periodical, which would be of no use to non-Italian passengers).
Earphones were noise-cancelling. The blanket and pillow were wafer thin and of very poor quality – same as in economy class.

At departure time the captain announced a delay due to ATC restrictions. We moved away from the gate 25 minutes late and taxi took forever.

Once airborne tables were set up and we were offered peanuts with drinks. A cart with a choice two types of pastas was wheeled though the cabin (Sardinian gnocchetti with tomato sauce or orecchiette with smoked salmon, broccoli tops and cherry tomatoes). Quality was fair and the plate is assembled on the spot which means you can order a sample of both. This “primi piatti” is a service which to my knowledge is unique to Alitalia although to be fair it replaces hors-d’oeuvres or salad served on other airlines. A topping of Parmesan cheese was offered and accepted.
Next was a choice of meat or fish: again a trolley was wheeled through the cabin even though this time the course was pre-plated. I opted for the fish which was a small, simple fillet of brill panfried served with a dash of cherry tomato sauce and a braised julienne of vegetables.
Several wines were on offered – I opted for the red Refosco which was spicy and delicious.
Next course was a small plate of cheese with two types (one mature, one mild) with crudités, crackers and a choice of fresh fruit from a basket (I believe I had grapes).
Finally, the trolley made its last appearance with dessert (a packaged ice-cream tartufo) with a choice of coffee, tea or liqueurs. I had Limoncello with ice to finish off the meal. The quality of the meal was overall 5/10, neither good nor bad, the pasta was the best part of the meal. I was really surprised that packaged desserts made their way to longhaul J class. To be fair, the brand (Antica Gelateria del Corso) is one I would buy, however I was definitely hoping for something better.

Service was, like the meal, ok. Nothing particularly wrong with it, while FAs did their job and nothing more they did not appear to be especially excited to do so.
FAs handed out small bottles of water, then lights were dimmed for the night.

IFE is AVOD with a rather small choice of offerings but adequate if all you are looking for is a movie to get you to sleep on an overnight flight. I found “The reader” which was perfect for the job, at the end of it I reclined the seat fully and slept for the next 8 hours despite recurring turbulence.
The seat is not lie-flat but is the “cradle” kind although recline is very generous. I found it very comfortable and, without the sliding down effect, I think I woke up in the morning with muscles less stiff than if I had spent the night on a AF or LX lie-flat.

During the night the self-service bar had a choice of drinks and nibbles. I only woke up once to get a glass of water.

I woke up at around 4am Buenos Aires time and freshened up. Breakfast started precisely one hour before landing to maximise sleeping time. I have never witnessed this on any airline and it certainly is rather impressive.
Granted service was rushed – however I still prefer this service rather than being awoken too early and then sitting with nothing to do for the last hour of the flight.
A tray was offered (no tablecloth) which had fresh fruit, jam and butter, and a glass of ruby orange juice. A bakery basket had a choice of toasted bread, croissants, cookies and sponge cake. The trolley then made its appearance with a choice of yoghurts and coffee or tea.
Finally orders for omelettes were taken – this service was turned down by most (Italian) passengers. The fine herb omelette was actually not bad and offered with bacon, button mushrooms and filled tomato.

By this stage we had already started our descent so there was sufficient time to clear tables and shortly later we were making our finals into Ezeiza airport, where despite the initial delay we landed on time at 6.30am local time.

Outside was very dark and for some reason we were kept on the tarmac for a good 5 minutes before being allocated an airbridge.
Disembarkation was swift but we had landed behind an American Airlines 777 and therefore there was some queuing at immigration.
At EZE you need to walk though duty-free to reach the baggage hall, where there was a further wait for bags. Mine wasn’t among the first, but nonetheless I had cleared the airport shortly after 7am.

Verdict is, predictably, “a mixed bag”.
I liked the seat comfort, amenity kit, bar area onboard, priority boarding in FCO and late breakfast service.
Food quality was average, and so was the service.
Poor items are the horrendous lounge at FCO, meagre choice of magazines and movies and the appalling state of my seat.

The return flight EZE-FCO was similar. The seat was in a slightly better condition. Food was slightly better. The shared lounge in EZE (“Salon Centurion”) was on par with the one at FCO. I slept like a baby for most of the flight and therefore welcomed the breakfast service started 1 hour prior to landing. Kudos for that.

Last edited by hilltopper; Sep 26, 09 at 5:40 pm Reason: typo
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Old Sep 26, 09, 7:03 pm
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Thanks for the report hilltopper.

I flew the route last year...my trip report hiding somewhere down in the depths of the forum.
More or less echoes our AZ experience.....horrendous lounge in FCO down in the basement which after we had a look we hurriedly came straight back out again.Seat I thought was very comfy in Magnifica Class,the service was adequate but the food was terrible apart from the pasta starter.
I would use them again if really desperate but as there is plenty of competition on the Europe - EZE route I doubt it'll be any time soon.
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Old Sep 26, 09, 10:25 pm
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Well done report - Thank-You!
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Old Sep 27, 09, 12:19 am
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Thanks for the report - not a great impression of a National carrier.
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Old Sep 28, 09, 12:48 pm
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Great report.

FYI, Continental Airlines also does a pasta course on its flights to/from Italy, but also offers an appetizer as an additional course.
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Old Oct 2, 09, 9:49 am
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Thanks for the very interesting trip report.

It was very useful because I will fly AZ Magnifica FCO-GRU and I was reluctant to abandon my normal carriers for this route: KLM or AF. But as you said, there are positive and negative aspects about AZ and apparently they are improving. I will give AZ a try.

On the good side, AZ has just launched its new lounge in FCO Terminal C and work will start in another lounge in Satelite C (see news below). This means AZ is renovating its lounges, one of the downsides you mentioned.

New "Le Navi" Freccia Alata lounge

Starting September 8, 2009, the new ALITALIA "Le Navi" Freccia Alata lounge is open at Rome Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport.

The new Lounge, located at Terminal C, occupies approximately 300 square meters and extends on 2 levels. The lounge’s exclusive décor allows seating for approximately 90 guests, offers a bar area with barman, services with showers and information and check-in desks to ensure the most comfort for our customers and help make their trip more enjoyable even before departure.

With the opening of the new lounge, the "Giotto" Freccia Alata lounge at the satellite C of Fiumicino airport will be temporarily closed for renovation.

Also a new version of AZ seat for the B772s fleet will be uncovered in 2010 alongside new blanked, pillors, etc (see link below).


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Old Oct 5, 09, 3:53 am
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Additional link with expected improvements on Magnifica class:


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