In a nutshell: Alitalia 777-200ER business class has some major flaws, with outdated in-flight entertainment screens and very poor catering. The redeeming qualities are the surprisingly comfortable (although outdated) lie-flat seat, which offers plenty of room at the window, and the attentive service.
My Alitalia long-haul business class experience is something I anticipated all year long. It was an error fare itinerary originating in Barcelona. I’d planned to visit Catalonia for a few days and then head back home, but I ended up finding a more appealing Finnair A350 business class award that let me explore Helsinki for 48 hours. I hopped a Finnair A321 economy flight to Barcelona and then began my journey with Alitalia.
I booked this Alitalia business class return ticket back in January 2019. I’d never jumped on any error fare opportunities previously. Why Alitalia? I really don’t know. The Barcelona departure was obviously be a bit tough living in the United States, but I figured I could make it work this fall, and I did. The clincher was that I was able to use Ultimate Rewards instead of cash to book, which hasn’t often been the case with error fares.
The flight cost a mere $580.32 for round-trip business class. It appeared to book into E-class, yet also showed basic economy restrictions (side note: the Delta accruals show X-class, and I’m still arguing the issue). In any case, I had a business class seat. Because I used 38,688 Chase Ultimate Rewards to book my ticket, the out of pocket cost came to $0.
There were many moments of worry prior to the trip. Initially, I wondered if Alitalia would honor the fare. Even worse, maybe they’d boot me from the cabin into economy. But weeks passed, and nothing changed. My booking still showed seats in the business cabins.
Alitalia offers one of only two nonstop options between Los Angeles and Rome, with daily service in the summer and 3x weekly service through most of the winter. The reduced service in the winter was actually a seasonal extension, as the service has been suspended for the winter at times. The other nonstop option is Norwegian’s seasonal summer service.
I was flying AZ620, scheduled to depart FCO at 10:00 AM and arrive at LAX at 2:10 PM.
A Nearly Missed Connection
I connected to my Alitalia 777-200ER business class flight on an A320 flight from Barcelona. I hoped the lackluster Europe business class experience wasn’t foreshadowing how the long-haul flight would unfold.
My itinerary had a fairly tight connection at Rome Fiumicino, with under 90 minutes to make my connection. I figured this would be sufficient. What I didn’t anticipate was a minor delay, plus parking the Alitalia A320 at a remote stand. When boarding time for my Alitalia 777-200ER business class flight arrived, the aircraft door hadn’t even opened.
A French family of four on the Barcelona flight was also trying to make the Los Angeles connection. Curiously, they were all in business class. It made me wonder if they had caught the same deal I did, as heading to Barcelona from Marseille before beginning a 10-day holiday in the U.S. seems less than ideal.
We all waited together anxiously until the buses finally arrived, the doors opened, and we were ferried to the terminal. At this point, we had less than 20 minutes until the aircraft door would be closed. I began my sprint through Fiumicino.
Long story short: we all made it. Passport control fortunately only took a few minutes.
Cabin and Initial Impression
Out of breath and dripping sweat, I was extremely relieved to finally be walking down the jet bridge to my flight. With Alitalia’s limited schedule, the alternative would have been to book me on a flight two days later, or on one of their SkyTeam partners. Or I’d simply be out of luck.
The Alitalia 777-200ER business class cabin was a welcome sight. Considering that the carrier isn’t known for its premium product, that is saying a lot. But I was grateful to have simply made it, and any lie-flat bed for a long-haul flight is fine by me.
The 777-200ER business class cabin is separated into a forward and rear section, divided by a galley and lavatory section. I’d picked a seat in the forward cabin. The rear cabin is slightly smaller.
The Alitalia business class cabin has a 1-2-1 seating configuration. Every seat has direct aisle access. The window seats are the most ideal for solo travelers, offering substantially more privacy as you’re directly next to the windows rather than on the aisle.
The pairs of seats in the middle section of the plane are more ideal for traveling with a companion. In some ways, I actually prefer cabins like this, as both solo travelers and couples can be accommodated well. The reverse herringbone configuration found on so many airlines is more suited for solo travel.
The cabin was pleasant on the whole. There were some noticeable nicks, scratches, smudges showing general wear and tear. Alitalia is constantly facing bankruptcy, so there hasn’t been much investment in their product.
Tan seems to be Alitalia’s color, as the same curtains pinned back at the forward and rear sections of the cabin were installed on the A320 I’d just departed. I think the Italian flag carrier would do well to install something a bit more bright and consistent with their flag colors (maybe green?). But this is hardly a complaint.
Alitalia brands their business class “Magnifica”, which is a bit of an oversell for the product. At first blush, the cabin and seat don’t seem all that bad. I’d hardly call it cutting-edge or “magnificent”, though. I was eager to see how the soft product would measure up.
Alitalia 777-200ER Business Class Seat
I settled into seat 3A, a true window seat on the left aide of the aircraft. There were several windows still available when I booked, and I opted for one in the middle of the forward cabin.
The leather seat was a bit stained and worn in places, especially on the ottoman. But countless shoes have obviously rested on it.
Alitalia’s 777-200ER business class seats offer plenty of foot room. What I also appreciate (and this was even more critical in lie-flat mode) is the space to the side between the seat and the wall. Alitalia’s seat actually felt more spacious that any of the reverse herringbone products I’ve flown.
The blanket and pillow were wrapped in plastic and placed on the ottoman. The window seats don’t really have a true footwell, which is also amazing. Your feet have plenty of space. Note that the middle paired seats won’t have quite the same amount of space.
The seat controls are to the side, along with the IFE remote. Alitalia 777-200ER business class seats offer a massage function and lumbar support.
One complaint is that there basically isn’t any at-seat storage. The water bottle and headphones take up the small cubby adjacent to the seat, and that is literally the only spot you have to store anything.
With a lot of empty, waster space next to the windows, it’s a bummer Alitalia didn’t use the space better. The upside is that the space is left open, allowing the seat to feel very spacious.
The Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit contains the essentials for a long-haul flight, including lotions, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and an eye mask. The one special addition is the Tuscan Soul Bianco de Carrara perfume.
My other complaint is that the windows are all scratched. Horribly scratched. I love taking photos, but this literally made it impossible to get anything decent.
Once we got underway, my universal outlet initially wasn’t working. The light didn’t turn green, and neither my phone nor laptop would draw power. I’m not sure if the crew needs to manually turn them on, but it took well over 15 minutes before there was power. I’m just glad there was, as I was starting to worry I wouldn’t be able to write or charge my phone.
I realize now that I didn’t get a good shot of the tray table, but you can partially see it here. It is fixed and folds out from the wall next to the seat into position. There isn’t a way to slide it back and forth.
Overall, Alitalia 700-200ER business class seats are a mixed product. They are spacious, and the seat itself is comfortable. But there are a few features that could certainly be improved, and some of the seats are quite worn.
Departing Rome Fiumicino
When the flight attendant came around with pre-departure beverages, I requested water, thirsty after my mad dash through the airport. She returned with sparkling wine. Alright, fine. I won’t protest. I had a water bottle anyway.
Curiously, the next thing brought by was the hot towel, just after the newspaper. This was even before we pushed back.
Once we were moving, the safety video started. It honestly looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1999. I mean, safety hasn’t changed much. Or this is fairly new and Alitalia simply went with the low bid option.
While departing from Fiumicino, I noticed two Airbus A350s: China Airlines and Singapore. But like I said, the windows were horribly scratched, so I’ll spare you my horrible photo. Alright, I won’t. Here it is.
Arrivederci, Fiumicino! With 6,346 miles to go, it was going to be a long trek to Los Angeles.
Alitalia Business Class Meal Service
The Alitalia menu says “All Day Dining”, which made me think that you could order on demand. But this didn’t seem to be the case at all. The flight attendants soon came around to take orders.
I requested the panzanella for the starter, the fregula with prawns for first course, and the pork with cannonau sauce for the second course. Dessert would of course be the cannolo.
Alitalia also provides a wine list, and they have suggested pairings in the menu. I stuck with the Mare Chiaro Ciro Bianco for the duration of the meal.
The Alitalia attendants starting serving the apertif served about 2 hours after we departed. Turbulence kept the flight attendants seated for quite a while after departure.
The starter was served fairly soon the apertif. I had no idea what I was ordering when I went with the panzanella. It looks nothing like the photos I Googled later. It’s pretty much a loaf of bread cubes soaked in oil and mixed with some veggies and herbs. It was as impressive as it looks, which is to say…it is a flop.
The fragella was slightly better, but still completely unimpressive. It’s hard to judge, given it it is another completely new dish. The prawns certainly weren’t as good as I’d hoped they’d be. I didn’t finish the plate.
Later, I overheard passengers complaining that “everything had anchovies”. Well, we are flying an Italian airline. But I can certainly see this as an issue if you can’t stand fish.
The second course was served fairly soon after the first, maybe 10 minutes later. Service didn’t drag out incredibly long like it had on my Finnair A350-900 business class flight. But the downside was the food was far worse.
Like the previous two plates, the main course was not as good as I’d hoped. The pork is formed into a cube, and the side of sauteed chicory tasted terrible. The potatoes were fine. It’s hard to screw up baking or roasting them.
The meal service wrapped up with about 9 hours left of flight time. Last, and certainly best, was the dessert. Although I was expecting cannoli, as that is what was on the menu.
I washed dinner down with a mug of tea.
Alitalia’s long-haul business class catering scores poorly. Honestly, it is the worst business class catering I’ve had after flying up front with a half-dozen different airlines. Nothing was inedible (except maybe the chicory), but there is still pretty much nowhere to go but up. As the flag carrier of Italy, Alitalia should be serving excellent food.
Unfortunately, the in-flight entertainment quality is about on par with the catering. During the safety video I immediately noticed how poor the video quality is on the IFE screens. The display is dark and old, and things just look outdated.
So what did I decide to watch? Avatar. For the first time (don’t laugh). Because a visually stunning movie obviously needs to be viewed on the crappiest screen possible. The IFE entertainment selection had a few other titles that interested me, but it was not all that extensive nor very up to date.
Alitalia’s business class is supposed to offer free WiFi. At least that’s what I’d read. But offering free WiFi in business class doesn’t really help much if it doesn’t work. After the inoperative WiFi on my A320 flight into Rome Fiumicino, Alitalia is zero for two.
On my return trek I realized there is a simple explanation: it’s disabled. Fantastic.
If you have kids, I’d highly suggest loading up all the entertainment you need on a tablet before you take off. There was enough for me, but I’m pretty low-key when it comes to the IFE selection (although I vastly prefer seat-back screens).
Comfort in Lie Flat Mode
After Avatar wrapped up, I settled in to sleep. I hadn’t expected to nap for as long as I did, but it had been an exhausting couple days. I got 3-4 hours of solid sleep in Alitalia’s 777-200ER business class seat, waking a couple times.
The seat is surprisingly comfortable when flat. Neither your arms nor feet feel constrained, which is a huge plus compared to other business class products I’ve flown. I feel asleep very quickly (two glasses of wine will do that).
The only downside was the lumbar support. The controls for my seat had issues and wouldn’t always respond, either to the “relax” setting or manual adjustment. I tried to reduce it, as it was a bit too full. The support arched my back slightly, resulting in an ache when I woke up. But sleeping on my side was a fine option for the next couple hours.
Before I turned in, I had an interesting conversation with a flight attendant and a few other passengers. The primary complaint was the inoperative restroom between the business class sections. This left just one for the business cabin, which resulted in both traffic from the rear cabin and a line basically all the time.
One lady in particular was very rude to the flight attendant about the issue. The wait was generally 5-10 minutes, which is certainly long, but what else do you have to do in the sky? It was nice to stretch my legs each time I got up.
The flight attendant was gracious in her response and said that the airline had opted to operate the flight on time rather than try to have maintenance fix the inoperative lav. I didn’t plan to defend the airline’s choice to operate the flight without a restroom, but that’s what ended up happening. I could tell that the FA takes pride in her job with Alitalia, and the disparaging comments about the restroom, food, and service from the other passenger got to her.
The FA tried to pass some of the blame on to the lack of care about Alitalia by the government. We also discussed Alitalia’s “bad divorce” with Etihad, where the Middle Eastern carrier absconded with some valuable London Heathrow landing slots. The conversation ended with the attendant excusing herself.
I can see both sides. On one hand, you have less than satisfied passengers with both the state of the food and the inoperative restroom. Looking beyond these items, however, the service was good. That particular flight attendant (who had served my section) was always polite, caring, and genuine. She didn’t deserve to be berated by a passenger.
I suspect that the conversation may have brought the flight attendant to tears. She disappeared for a while, and the other FAs had a hushed conversation a minute later. And for that I feel bad. I had done my best to try to make things less tense with the other passenger.
The two of us chatted again later. We discussed Alitalia’s financial woes, the difficulties with their partnerships, the airline’s aging equipment, and the bleak outlook. She has been with Alitalia since 1992, quite the career with Italy’s flag carrier!
Second Service and Arrival
After my 4-hour “nap” I asked for a water and a cappuccino. Two glasses of wine had helped me sleep well for a few hours, but I now felt super dehydrated. We had a few hours left to go, and I watched another movie.
The second meal service began with a hot towel a little over 90 minutes before arrival. The meal was served about 15 minutes later. It consisted of a tiella, ricotta cheese, and a stuffed pepper, with a side of fruit.
I know eating ricotta cheese straight up might not be for everyone, but I thought it delicious. Actually, it was about the only thing on the tray that I would definitely pick to eat again. The breakfast catering was lackluster as well.
Then it was time to commit an Italian faux pas: I ordered another cappuccino after the second meal. But hey, the first one had been good, and I had hours left to go in my day.
We began our descent about 45 minutes after the final meal service concluded, touching down around 2:45 PM. Home, sweet….wait. I still needed to hop on a United flight back home, which I’d booked for just 7,500 Turkish Miles & Smiles.
Fortunately, my Priority Pass card got me into the KAL Lounge for a few hours while I waited. I’ll also note that this was the absolute fastest I’ve every transited immigration and customs. I think I passed through in 4 minutes! It made me very glad I went through the hassle of getting Global Entry.
Alitalia 777-200ER Business Class: The Verdict
Alitalia 777-200ER business class certainly isn’t the Magnifica product that the airline claims it is. In a nutshell, the seat is dated, but reasonably comfortable and the service was good on my flight. However, this is complemented by abysmal catering and in-flight entertainment that leaves a lot to be desired. You can certainly tell Italy isn’t investing in their flag carrier, given the state of things.
The inoperative lav was an issue as well, but the crew really made up for this, apologizing multiple times and offering great service throughout the flight. Given the price I paid (38,000 Ultimate Rewards), it was absolutely worth it. However, if I was shelling out cash (LOL) or hard-earned miles, I’d opt for almost any other business class instead.