I chose Alitalia for my spring trip to visit my parents in New York because its bankruptcy deadline is May 1, and the airline might not be around any longer. I booked my ticket in economy class on the website, then upgraded to business class by phone because the website wasn't showing business class availability for the round trip flight. Alitalia doesn't have a good reputation as an airline. I've never experienced delays or lost bags, but when I flew them a few years ago, from Rome to Cairo, in economy class, I remember sitting on the floor waiting for boarding to be called because there were no chairs. I also remember the boarding process being chaotic; taking a bus to the plane and boarding from the back door and the front door with people bumping into each other in the aisles. Finally, I remember the inedible "meal" that consisted partly of a salad that had either gone bad or been improperly defrosted- the lettuce leaves covered in some kind of clear, congealed substance. However, I'm giving Alitalia another chance. Their former partner and shareholder, Etihad, changed the seats and menu before pulling out last year. Additionally, the Rome Fiumcino airport is supposed to have a brand new dining concourse in the "E Gates" boarding area with new restaurants and more options. I chose 2F, in the last row of the cabin. The A320 business class seat is the same as economy, with middle seat blocked. This means that they can adjust the cabin size based on demand. The pitch is extremely tight- only 31 inches, but the seats are 18 inches wide. Hopefully, there won't be anyone seated in front of me.
Here's the seat map for the flight
I downloaded the Alitalia app after booking. Both the app and the website are useless. You can't change your flight, cancel your flight, or even change a special meal request. All of that is by phone. On the app, you can only view your flight and check-in, but I didn't want to leave that to chance so I checked in online. Online check-in opened at 12 AM, 27.5 hours before departure. I chose my seats and my boarding passes were emailed to me, - only the boarding pass from Rome to JFK. Hopefully, this wouldn't be a sign of Alitalia disfunction.
As there are so few business class passengers on this route, Alitalia configured the plane with only 8 business class seats.
I took Uber Select to the airport, which cost 94 EGP, even though it was only a 30 minute trip- they have higher prices for trips to the airport now.
I arrived at Terminal 2 Departures, entered the airport and saw that the Alitalia check in counters were open.
The first security checkpoint was fast and simple. I went to the Sky Priority check in and Alitalia began the long process of reminding me why they are in bankruptcy proceedings. The employee at Sky Priority refused to check me in (although I had Sky Priority, and directed me to the economy counter, claiming that she had a customer). As I stood at the economy counter getting checked in, I glanced over, observed that she had no passengers at all, at which point she smirked arrogantly. As I was getting finished up, another business class passenger got in her line- and she checked him in. Oh well.
Here's my boarding pass for the flight:
I filled out the customs form upstairs. The customs line was long and crowded because of the large number of Umrah passengers, many of which had never been to an airport before, and crowded the passport control lines, forcing the police officers to explain to them that the immigration control officer would only take passengers one by one. The next security checkpoint was chaotic for the same reason- although they had separate male and female security lines, which made the process faster.
Terminal 2 is really a beautiful and clean airport. I grabbed a cheeseburger and fries from the McDonalds upstairs, then headed to the EAS First Class Lounge to relax and eat. There are 3 lounges in terminal 2- the EAS lounge, the Al Fursan Lounge (Saudia) and the Air France Lounge, which is new.
The lounge has male and female prayer rooms with wudu areas.
The food selection was as substandard as I expected; and the employees knew it- I took pictures of the lounge; no problem. I took pictures of the food- and I was informed that photography was forbidden. There wasn't any wifi either.
Finally, it was time for boarding. Boarding didn't start until 3:00; it was supposed to start at 2:45, but the Sky Priority line boarded first. There was no announcement for boarding of families and children, which I found odd.
When I boarded the aircraft, the crew didn't welcome me aboard, or ask to see my boarding pass, or tell me where my seat was, so I put my backpack in the overhead bin and sat down. After the plane boarded, we took off. There was no safety demonstration- there was no video because the A320 doesn't have IFE, but the attendants didn't do one either. After take off, the economy class passengers were served pastries, tea, and coffee. 30 minutes later, business class passengers received breakfast. There were only 5 of us in the cabin, but the flight attendant didn't talk at all; just wordlessly handed over the breakfast tray- there was no choice- everyone received the same chives omelette with mushrooms. After that, he had one word- Coffee? I said tea, and he went back to the galley to make me a cup of tea. This reflects poorly on Alitalia; either the flight attendants aren't customer service oriented, or they don't speak English well. None of the flight attendants spoke Arabic on a flight departing from Egypt.
This is the meal:
The bread seemed to be cut from a larger baguette. It was okay. The main was terrible- the eggs were eggy- and not in a good way, and the zucchini and mushrooms had been boiled to insipid gray and green lumps. The yogurt was fine. The fruit was the best part of the breakfast. The blood orange juice was rather harsh, but I tried it because I heard that it was Alitalia's signature drink. The apple pastry was fine. All in all, a below average meal saved by the orange juice.
I slept for the rest of the flight, until about 30 minutes before landing.
We landed, and pulled up to the gate. No luck. We entered the gate, took the stairs down, and got on a bus. There was no separate bus for business class passengers, but at least we all got seats.
5 minutes later, and we were at the new E-gate terminal.
EAS (Egyptian Aviation Services First Class Lounge)
Cairo - CAI
Rome - FCO
Cairo Airport's terminal 2 is clean and beautiful. Alitalia had nicely refurbished A320, but most airlines have lie-flat seats on trips to Europe (British Airways, Air France). Saudia has lie flat seats to Jeddah for a 3 hour flight. The seats were uncomfortable, the flight attendants had no enthusiasm until the end of the flight, when they said good-bye. The check-in was ridiculous. The food was awful, and the packaged food was better than the cooked food. Hopefully, Air Italy will be able to provide services where Alitalia has failed. It seems like it's FINALLY time to say good-bye to Alitalia.
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