In a nutshell: This was a better Alitalia Magnifica business class experience than the previous flight, although it is still completely lackluster. The surprisingly comfortable lie-flat window seat is the bright spot of the product, which suffers from poor catering and horribly outdated in-flight entertainment.
This flight review is the bookend to the Alitalia business class flight I took a few weeks prior headed home after a weekend in Helsinki. I wasn’t even sure I would fly it, as the error fare price for a one-way ticket back to the U.S. would have been good enough. But it was a round-trip, and I decided to fly it and enjoy a quick whirlwind visit to Barcelona.
The business class return ticket cost just ~38,000 Ultimate Rewards points, redeemed through Chase Travel. I was paying $0 out of pocket. I’d expected the flight to earn a boatload of Delta miles, but had I know that these would not be credited as expected, it might have changed my decision to fly the return.
Check-In and Airport Experience
I arrived at LAX on a positing itinerary from Northern California, booked on United for just 7,500 Turkish Miles & Smiles. The awful little CRJ-200 pulled up to the gate at the very end of Terminal 8, about as far away from Tom Bradley International Terminal as you can get.
Rather than hoof it all the way there, I decided to hop the bus to Terminal 2 to see if I could enjoy the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse for the rest of the morning. I’d not yet visited this Priority Pass lounge at LAX. This did mean leaving security, but the bus would also save me the long walk.
This was a fatal mistake. It turned out I hadn’t been properly checked in online. The email that I thought contained my boarding pass did not actually provide it. Thus, I was unable to enter through security. Off to TBIT it was. Alitalia’s check-in, along with many other airlines are all at Tom Bradley.
I knew it was early to check-in, but I hoped to use one of the automated kiosks. Without bags to check, I only needed a boarding pass. But this proved futile as well. Alitalia apparently doesn’t let you use the kiosks. I couldn’t find a single one with their airline icon on it. Looks like I had hosed myself and had to wait for the counter to open.
Surprise: the counter agents weren’t on time. I showed up 20 minutes after the counters should have opened, hoping the business line would be minimal, and I there were no agents to be seen. They showed up and opened up within another 15 minutes.
In most cases, gate agents open the check-in counter three hours before departure. This wasn’t the case with Alitalia. The board had said 11:20. They finally started to open at 11:55.
While the wait was frustrating, actual check in was a breeze. Apparently I had been checked in, like I’d thought. The agent just printed my boarding passes and off I went. The regular security line was blessedly short, which left me plenty of time to still enjoy the KAL Lounge.
Business Class Lounge
The KAL Lounge LAX is the contract business class lounge for pretty much every SkyTeam airline at LAX. The giant sign lists them all. You just need a business class boarding pass, or you need to be a SkyTeam Elite passenger flying on a qualifying carrier and itinerary.
You can also access the KAL Lounge LAX using Priority Pass, which is how I’d always previously entered the lounge. They don’t allow Priority Pass access until 1:00 PM, at which point the lounge tends to fill up quickly. I was surprised how empty it was in the morning.
I hung out in the lounge until nearly boarding time, at which point I headed downstairs to the gate.
Boarding and Departure
Arriving at the gate right at scheduled boarding time, I was a bit confused. The agents didn’t look anywhere close to ready, yet the sign above them read pre-boarding. I could tell that many other passengers were confused.
There was no organization at the gate. The Alitalia gate agents put up the different group names on the screens, but didn’t not announce any for boarding. The result was a mass of people rushing the gate and standing in one giant group. There were no real queues. The lack of announcements from the gate agents didn’t help things.
We were now 15 minutes past boarding time, and people had no idea what was going on. Were we delayed? Nothing had been stated. the aircraft was at the gate. The only announcements were for people to come to the podium for document verification.
Boarding finally started a full 30 minutes late. The flight showed as on time the whole time, but this is not unexpected, given the time that you can often make up in-flight on a long-haul.
We boarded through door 2L, which put all the foot traffic through the rear business class cabin. Luckily, I’d picked a seat in the forward cabin, which was nice and quiet after passengers got settled.
The flight attendants offered welcome drinks or juice, water, and sparkling wine soon after boarding, with newspaper service at the end after boarding had completed. Only Italian newspapers were offered. I didn’t care anyway, but the flight attendant apologized profusely that they didn’t have any in English.
The senior cabin manager personally introduced herself to everyone just before we pushed back. Overall, the crew were more attentive and engaged than the previous Alitalia business class flight, although I have no complaints about that trip.
We pushed back from TBIT a bit behind schedule. The pilots had finally announced a delay, but it would barely impact our arrival into Rome. While I have reasons why I can’t stand LAX, the variety of aircraft and airlines you get to see is one of the best parts of passing through the airport.
Taxiing took quite a while, as there was a decent queue of planes. But we were finally airborne around 4:00 PM Pacific Time. Adios, Los Angeles!
Alitalia Magnifica Business Class Seat
After the craziness of boarding, even an Alitalia Magnifica business class seat was a welcome sight. I’d picked seat 5A, the last seat on the left side of the plane in the forward business cabin. Most notably, you’re essentially missing a window. I should’ve thought this through a bit more. Seat 3A on my previous flight was a better choice.
In all other ways, the seat and its contents were exactly as I’d experienced on the previous trip. I mean, I’m flying the same aircraft model, so there should be no difference. Each seat features a side table, an immovable tray table that folds out, seat control and IFE control, and the single small cubby with water and headphones that is your only storage.
Like the previous flight, the at-seat power outlet did not function until we were well above 10,000 feet. But once the light turned green, it worked fine.
The one difference was the amenity kit. It was much larger bag, although the contents are the same. It did have the same Savlatore Ferragamo perfume and other products.
If you’re looking for the best Alitalia Magnifica business class seats, look to the windows traveling solo. Seats 5A isn’t ideal, as it is missing a window. But any of the other ones in the forward cabin are your best bet. They offer the most privacy and room. If you’re traveling with a companion, the center paired seats are the best choice. I’d personally avoid the aisle seats as they are quite exposed.
Magnifica Business Class Meal Service
Alitalia tried to hype their cuisine with an ad that called it the “best airline cuisine for 9th consecutive year”. I really want to know who is providing that rating. Luckily, I knew not to get my hopes up after my previous flight with Italy’s flag carrier. The menu was a bit different, though, which was nice.
Flight attendants came around about 30 minuted into the flight taking meal orders. I settled on the pumpkin flan, pasta with San Marco tomato, pork tenderloin, and zuccotto. Alitalia has courses billed as either traditional or healthy on their menu.
They also have a number of choices on their wine list. After the sparkling wine at the start, I decided to go with one of the reds for dinner.
As before, the food was mediocre at best. Neither the starter or pasta were especially appealing. They were preferable to the previous Alitalia flight, but not in a big way. At least the pasta wasn’t overcooked, one reasons I usually don’t order it in economy.
The main was okay, although the brick of meat is nothing close to pork medallions. The dish was similar to the last flight, with both unappetizing vegetable side and potatoes. At least the sauce was better.
I finished everything off with a cheese plate, which was honestly the best part of the whole meal, sadly.
With dinner wrapped up around 6:15 PM Pacific time, I figured I’d watch a movie and then settle in to sleep. However, the flight attendant came by with one more offering. She basically insisted I finish off with a digestive tea. I couldn’t say no. Totally fine. I just didn’t expect her to continue to recommend it after I initially declined.
Overall, Altialia Magnifica business class offers poor catering. Most everything has been edible, but it is soundly the worst food I’ve had on my handful of business class experiences.
The in-flight entertainment wasn’t turned on until quite a while after we’d departed. Sure, you could watch the ads or plug in headphones and listen to Italian opera, but that was it. Nor was the power operational until nearly cruising altitude.
Alitalia Magnifica business class certainly doesn’t offer magnificent entertainment. The IFE screens are old, outdated, and have a poor (dark) contrast.
The film options aren’t as extensive as one could hope. There are some new features, a handful of old ones as well, and a number of Italian movies. I had a hard time settling on anything I wanted to watch.
I decided to watch The Sixth Sense for the first time. Now I have to be honest and say that I cried. I’m not sure if it is really that moving of a film, or if it is the effect of being at over 30,000 feet.
If you are hoping for WiFi, Alitalia seems to have it disabled across their fleet. As before, it was non-functional. I’m beginning to wonder if it is a way of cutting cost?
Sleep and Second Meal Service
With movie and dinner wrapped up, I settled in to sleep. About the only thing I love about Alitalia Magnifica business class is the large, open footwell and comfortable seat when it is in lie-flat mode. The seat control worked better this time, and I was able to both slide it back and forth, leave it partially reclined, and recline it all the way to flat with ease.
I got maybe four hours of solid sleep, with maybe another 90 minutes of rest for my eyes before I decided to sit up. I enjoyed another film, wrote for a bit, and before I knew it, breakfast was being served.
Alitalia surprised me with breakfast, as the omelet and bacon were actually quite good. The cappucino hit the spot as well. However, if you like unripe fruit, they have you covered. I’m not sure they could have found a worse pear, mango, or apple.
Breakfast started a little over 90 minutes before our midday arrival into Rome Fiumicino. As we started our descent I enjoyed views of the lovely Mediterranean beneath us. I thought the island outside my window might be Elba, but it turned out to be a much smaller island nearby called Isola Capraia.
It seemed like a lovely day in Italy. I wish I could have spent a bit of time in Rome, but I would be headed to Barcelona in just a couples hours.
Finally, we landed at Rome Fiumicino, the long 12-hour trek over. I thought about starting to track the airlines I’ve spotted through my travels, as this was the first time I’d laid eyes on a MEA (Middle East Airlines) aircraft. You’ll see it at the far left. They are the national airline of Lebanon.
Alitalia Magnifica Business Class: The Verdict
After this second flight in Alitalia Magnifica business class on one of their 777 aircraft, I have to say that I really do like the style of the hard seat. It is missing a couple features, most notably storage, but if you pick a window, it might just be the most comfortable sleeping experience I’ve had in business class.
On the flip side, the soft product leaves a lot to be desired. The IFE is outdated. The food is mediocre, at very best. As the flag carrier of a country known for its delicious cuisine, Alitalia fails to bring this to their flight experience. But hey, I’m still smiling.