This is the final leg of my trip to Rome: a peak at the Magnifica Class aboard Alitalia’s A330. There were three flights that I had earmarked on this trip as ‘highlights’ (ironically, none were operated by EY); this will be the first of those highlights. Alitalia has an excellent reputation for catering (maybe the only thing they have a good reputation for, let’s see if this report changes your mind…), so I was excited to experience this aspect of their product.
Before we delve into this report, I want to present this photo (taken while boarding my plane in Part 6) that shows a bold company ideology. Remember this statement as you read through this report: “Proud to show the best of our country with passion.”
Refer to Part 1 for the detailed introduction. As a reminder, the routing is as follows:
As I mentioned in Part 1, despite being an Etihad ‘partner,’ seats on AZ-operated flights could not be pre-selected at the time of booking. Or could they? I regularly checked to see if this option was available online since I really wanted one of the 4 window seats. Nothing in the lead in to the trip, but then out of the blue 72 hours before departure, a seat map appeared! And it was completely empty, which had me eerily suspicious that this was some kind of mistake, but I didn’t hesitate to snag 4L. Checking in at Nagoya, I was indeed handed a boarding pass for 4L, so AZ honored that seat selection.
The second thing that this seat map confirmed is that I would be on one of the newer A330s and would get a flatbed seat. AZ alternates their older and newer A330s on this route since it’s not true “long-haul,” for example, the day before I flew it was with the older angled lie-flat seats product so I got lucky.
Fast forward to March 22. After circulating landside to officially set foot on Emirati soil, it was time to get back airside quickly since I had less than an hour before my flight for FCO started boarding. I opted to walk over to the dedicated EY Business Check-in area to get into a Fast Track line for immigration/security. The line doesn’t look too bad at this hour. I was quickly processed and it only took about 15 minutes to filter back into the airport.
Entering the terminal, it has your typical shopping mall feel with high-end duty-free shopping in abundance. I didn’t have much time and there was some confusing signage. I thought the sign said that due to construction, the only Lounge was located way out in Terminal 3 so that’s where I headed.
The airport was extremely crowded at this hour and it felt as if the airport was not built to handle this quantity of passengers. The airport is clean, but it is definitely showing its age and the new terminal will probably provide a much better experience (although probably even more shopping…). The walkways in the terminal felt very narrow, which was compounded by all of the quarantined boarding areas.
Arriving at the EY Premium Lounge, there was a line of about 10 people trying to get in. Getting up to the counter, I was politely welcomed and the gate agent looked at my boarding pass and told me I should go to the Terminal 1 Lounge instead. I told her I just wanted to stop in briefly, and then asked her the estimated walk time to my gate. Walking into the Lounge, it looks big, but it was absolutely packed! I couldn’t even find a place to sit. With a laundry list of flights to Europe about to depart, it’s no surprise there isn't a lack of premium customers. I just grabbed a coffee, stood in the corner (okay, that sounds a little bit creepy…), logged into the WiFi to get the corporate shot, and then left. The place was just crawling with people, not a very good lounge experience… Boarding documents photo taken on my previous flight since I didn’t have time (or space) to retake the photos in the lounge. Also, I completely forgot to take a picture of the departures monitor, so feel free to complain about that too in the comments section. I do like the advertisement in my FR corporate shot: Meet UAE Singles!
Washing that bad taste out of my mouth, I head off towards the futuristic 80s designed Terminal 1, which unfortunately took me back through the traffic jam in the shopping mall.
As I’m walking towards the Terminal 1 area, I spot this beautiful AB A332 waiting for its departure to Düsseldorf. We’ll see her again later in the FR since she takes off right before us.
Walking into Terminal 1, my first impressions are that it looks very dark and drab, but here is your standard photo of the architecture inside. The waiting area is completely jammed pack with people sitting around since there were imminent departures from almost every gate. Whoever designed this terminal probably doesn’t have a job anymore. I just squeeze through the traffic to get to Gate 3, where my flight will be departing from.
Arriving at Gate 3, there is a secondary document check. This small little waiting area has maybe 50 seats, which is nowhere close to sufficient for the two A330s that will share this boarding area.
Boarding started about 5 minutes after the time indicated on my boarding pass. There are no queues for boarding in this area so there is some confusion as to where priority boarding is and where general boarding is. Business/SkyPriority boarding is announced and the gate agent asks all general boarding passengers to move to one side to allow boarding to commence. Priorities were respected despite this congestion in the boarding area. Down the jetbridge we go! The windows of the jetbridge are a little dirty, but I can still get a decent shot of the nose of Canaletto.
Entering through 2L, there are two male FAs who without smiling give a “buongiorno.” Not the warmest of welcomes, but they point me through the galley and tell me to turn left. Walking into the AZ business cabin, it looks almost identical to the EY cabin I just flew in. The all grey tones are very boring, some colored accents here and there could make it look a little bit more lively. Again, the overhead bins were removed from the center of the cabin making it a much more open space. It’s a small little cabin with only 5 rows so it feels very intimate and private. This is a pretty young plane, so the plane looks overall in good condition (from a distance…).
Here is Seat 4L, where I will be residing for the next 6.5 hours. On the seat are located a duvet and pillow in plastic wrap. Looking at the seat, you can see that it is definitely beginning to show lots of signs of wear, the seat is leather and it is not aging well. All the products (duvet, napkins, tablecloths, etc.) are all branded Frette, if you are an Italian textiles buff (pititom probably frequents hotels that use these linens).
Settling into the seat, the pitch is the same as that on EY given the identical seat. The side table is much bigger than that on EY, which makes it a much more useful to place things in-flight, but the drawback is that you get less privacy since your seat is more exposed to the cabin and people diagonal to you can better see what you are doing, so no nose picking.
Same as on EY, the universal power and USB connections are located below the tray table. Both worked on this flight. The seat controls and the remote control for the IFE are both located on the side of the center console and are easily accessible. Seat functions are little bit more basic than what EY has, but has everything you honestly really need. Under the arm rest is a little storage area where A/V inputs are located as well as some crumbs that the cleaning crew did not clean up. Taking a peak in between the seat and the wall, it looks clean enough for a plane that is making a quick turnaround.
Looking out the window, we have an EY A332, our brother from another mother, as a neighbor who is being refueled. Some detail shots of her, like a close-up of the winglet with artistic takeoff in the distance and a close-up of the vertical stabilizer with EY logo.
An FA then arrived with a tray of pre-departure beverages that were limited to water and the poisonous red fruit juice they serve. Even though it was already afternoon in Japan, I accepted the fact that it was still before 9am in Abu Dhabi so breakfast drinks were in order. Since there was no orange juice on offer, I settled for a half full (or half empty?) glass of water (I promise I didn’t drink out of this before taking the photo). Two sips later and we can see the bottom of the glass adorned with AZ logo. No refills were offered on pre-departure beverages nor were any sort of nuts or other pre-departure snack.
Let’s take a look at what is on offer in the magazine rack… Everything seems to be in order there, flipping to the back of Ulisse we can see that we are in one of the twelve A330s that adorn AZ’s fleet. And now your hand model will give you a tour of the safety card of this A330.
A lucky look out the window catches this shot. Okay, no telephoto lens for this one, but I promise if you blow up the photo it is actually a JU A319, which is your teaser for Part 7 of this series.
Oh, my, what a long fuselage you have! An EY A346 is at a remote stand right behind our plane. Next to her is an EY B772 that I can watch getting backed up.
At this time, the FAs came through the cabin to distribute menus, noise-cancelling headphones, and amenity kits. Let’s start by taking a look at the amenity kit.
Oh wait, that’s not the amenity kit; that was the suitcase that required musical storage bins in order to make room for it above the passenger’s seat. Here is the actual amenity kit provided by Salvatore Ferragamo. There is a sleep kit with socks, eye mask, and earplugs. Other hygiene products such as a toothbrush/toothpaste, Gillete razor, and Mentos breath mint (not sure why mine was the only kit that got this…). There are also four products from Salvatore Ferragamo’s Tuscan Soul line: cologne, lip balm, shaving cream, and face cream. A pretty complete selection, but it lacks a pen. Why is a pen important? You’ll see shortly.
The FAs then passed through the cabin with a press offering. I took a New York Times International Edition, which proved useful for this flight.
Push back is eminent as our tug shows up outside of the window. It looks like we will be leaving late today.
The ground crew slowly walks us out onto the tarmac giving us a really good luck at the previously mentioned EY A346, an EY A333, and an EY A320 in a special all black livery for the Abu Dhabi GP. I’ve never seen this livery before, but thought it looked really good, too bad I couldn’t get better shots of it.
As we head out towards the runway, we can see right up the rear of this EY A333 as well as a nice tail line-up at the remote stands of EY and EY ‘partner’ airlines. Including a great view of the EY A332 in “Blue Moon Rising” special livery for Manchester City FC (this plane operated the NGO-AUH route the day before I left, quite disappointing to miss it).
There was some sort of sand storm starting up during the taxi so it started to get hazy at ground level, or maybe it’s just sand being kicked up by planes on their ground movements. Either way, it makes for some dramatic shots on the long taxi out to the runway that I timed at 24 minutes. First up are a 9W B737 with winglets and a SV E170.
As we continue our seemingly never-ending taxi, we see a couple of B777s belonging to an EY and 9W, which finally brings us to this shot of the AUH crescent moon control tower in a sandy haze before crossing a EY Cargo A332F.
Finally reaching the runway, we see this intruder occupying the runway. Never heard of Abu Dhabi Aviation before (and couldn’t even find an IATA code for them), but this is one of their Dash-8s heading down the runway.
In front of us, now visible as they reach the runway threshold is the AB A332 that I saw back at the beginning of this report heading to Düsseldorf. The AB livery looks really good on the A330 body. We see her turn onto the runway, and then begin her powerful run down the runway as we approach the threshold.
As we line up on the runway, we can see that we were being followed by an EY B773. This is probably my favorite photo of this report; she looks beautiful in the sand haze with the control tower in the background and those big GE90s showing prominently.
As we begin our run down the runway; we get a glimpse of this EY A333 in special “Abu Dhabi 2014” livery that flywunala took last month taxing to the runway. Conveniently painted so that they can just repaint the door to make it 2015, if you look closely.
As we begin our lift off, we can see this EY B777 and HM A330 taxing in the sand storm. Then we get another aerial shot of the control tower before we rise up over AUH offering some last second spotting opportunities.
As we turned and continued our rise towards the Persian Gulf, we can admire the roads down below. It’s great that the UAE has embraced the cloverleaf highway interchange. We soon reached the coast and spent some time over water before the cloud coverage started.
Reaching cruising altitude, I started to play with the IFE. The screen is big enough and the quality looked good. It’s an identical product to EY. The provided headphones are much better than those provided by EY, I tried these out briefly and they felt comfortable and were adequate. I briefly cycled through the offerings, then started up an episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” Exactly 40 seconds into the program, the IFE froze. I can be very precise of the time because the remote froze too. I flagged down a FA making a pass between galleys, told them about the problem, and they said they would restart it. The start-up sequence initiated, got to the final part, and then froze again. This is the lovely screen that I would get to enjoy for the remainder of the flight.
So, when this problem happens, there are a couple of options. Since the cabin was completely full, switching seats was not an option. The other option is that the crew could apologize for the mistake and try to offer something to help alleviate the situation. Apologies? That’s clearly not in the AZ handbook. When I pointed out that it was still frozen, the crewmember shrugged their shoulders and walked away. Not even a single word was spoken, are you kidding me??? I had to take some deep breaths because I am not one to engage in confrontation on an airplane.
Soon after, the meal service started up and hot oshibori were distributed. These are very thin and are of poor quality, definitely not Frette. Let’s take a look at this menu. On the back of the menu, they proudly show off their award for best catering for the fifth consecutive year. There’s a little blurb about their catering ideology at the start of the menu. This meal should hopefully take the sting out of the IFE fiasco. Or will it? Turn to today’s offerings, and my stomach just sinks, another breakfast… This is a tricky flight time slot. Do you offer a full breakfast and light snack at lunchtime? Or do you offer a light breakfast and a full lunch prior to arrival (flight lands at 2:40pm AUH time)? They went with the undesirable option. That said, this breakfast doesn’t sound too bad. Let’s play a game, how many typos can you spot in this menu?
We are somewhere over Iran when the meal service finally begins.
The FAs come through and lay out the linens and give a very familiar Magnifica Class place setting. With the very classy red ribbon adorning the napkin. They come through by cart and offer drinks, I was tempted by the venomous red serum that AZ serves and figured the flight couldn’t get any worse so I tried it. As every AZ report on the site states, do not drink this. It is very chemical tasting and maybe the best comparison is that it almost tastes like Hawaiian Punch. The tableware is provided by Richard-Ginori for those that are interested.
After the drink service, the FAs then come down the aisle with a trolley and deliver a fruit plate and offer a selection of breads and croissants. I take a roll and a croissant. Please note that at this point in time both of my glasses are empty, which is exactly as they will remain for the remainder of breakfast.
The croissants were good: flaky and warm. The fruit plate was good, with a nice quantity. The crew then made a second pass through the cabin offering tea/coffee/espresso and more bread. I took a cup of coffee and another croissant. It was at this point I started to think that this breakfast service might not be so bad after all (minus the complete omission to offer refills).
After the fruit plate and pastries were finished off, the table was cleaned and the FAs began their famed trolley meal service. There were several family style trays on the trolley from which plates were served. I was not asked what I wanted, my plate was simply taken from my table and this is what was given to me. The bread was cranberry bread, it was okay. The “apple” omelette was cold and I don’t see or taste apple. The pea pudding tart tasted okay, but was really dry and this is when I could have used some more water. The bread brittle with cabbage and salami was slightly warm and was the best thing on the plate. I thought portion sizes were very small, so I was expecting a second pass of the trolley, but that certainly didn’t happen.
Overall, I felt that this was a very underwhelming meal. I finished everything, but was still hungry thinking that these light sandwiches pre-arrival were going to be even worse! I never saw cereal or yogurt, which were both listed on the menu. Who knows where those were…
Outside there was some heavy cloud coverage forming, so I headed off to the lavatory at the front of the plane. Just like on EY, the A332 has a very small lavatory where you can’t stand vertically and use the restroom. The lavatory was clean, but no products were present, just some Alitalia brand hand soap.
Getting back to my seat, I see that a water bottle was delivered along with the AZ staple: a plastic cup. Keeping it classy.
At this point, I noticed that most of the cabin was gathered in the rear galley. I noticed this earlier in the flight, but it seemed like about half the cabin all knew each other and were looking at iPads with photos from some banquet. Not just any banquet, but something involving EY and AZ. My guess is that most of the people on this flight were AZ affiliated and were coming back from some meetings with EY. This also explains why the crew seemed to give them special attention and hovered around their section of the cabin more frequently. Thanks for taking care of the paying customers.
After working on my crossword puzzle for a bit (luckily the NY Times was offered pre-flight and I had a pen in my backpack), I decided to just call it a day and sleep. Having had poor sleep on the previous flight, it was much needed. Even though these seats look very worn, they were very comfortable for sleeping and I got almost 4 solid hours in, waking up somewhere over Croatia? I’d be able to tell you exactly, but that would require a working IFE… Also, no surprise, but the empty water bottle that I placed on my side table before going to bed was still there, and still very much empty.
Lunch service prep was beginning to start in the lavatory, so I made a quick dash to the lavatory at the back of the J-cabin that sits just in front of Y+. This bathroom was much larger, still clean, but still lacks any sort of products other than hand soap. Leaving the lavatory, I saw some water bottles lying around in the corner of the galley and asked one of the Y+ FAs if I could have one, he gave it to me with a smile, wow, the first smile I’ve seen on AZ!
Back to my seat, the trolley is now coming down the aisle. Food is imminent! Don’t ask me why, but the second meal service was done in the dark even though we were an hour from arrival and it was a daytime flight. Also, the washing machine must be broken because there were no linens for this service: no oshibori, no tablecloth, and regular paper napkins.
First was the trolley with sandwiches. Again, I wasn’t asked what I wanted from the selection, I was merely handed these two lousy sandwiches. Following the trolley, was a drink cart where I asked for a water, coffee, and a beer. I was handed the water and coffee, then the FA opens up the cart, looks, gives an audible “sigh,” and then tells me she’ll have to get the beer from the galley. She comes back with a beer and a glass and hands it to me. I almost felt like I needed to apologize for making her do her job. No choice of beer offered, so it looks like it will be Ichnusa for me! A beer that I have never heard of before.
Let’s take a closer look at this offering. On the left we have a club sandwich, which tasted good. On the right was another sandwich, if you can even call a piece of bread with the smallest amount of meat and lettuce in it a sandwich. No surprises, seconds were not offered even though the trolley was over 50% full when it passed me and I was the second to last person to be served.
But the pièce de résistance! A hard chocolate chip cookie in a plastic bag! This screams Magnifica catering, right?
Right after the meal service, the whole front of the cabin disappeared into the galley again, for another secret meeting. This gives me a chance to give you a picture of the seat in a relax position.
I sat and read the inflight magazine while I drank my beer after that pathetic lunch; it had an article about the new flights they were starting for the EXPO.
Surprise, surprise! We had an espresso service just when I least expected it. I will certainly toast to the end of this flight. Still nothing to be seen outside, just a sea of clouds as we begin our final descent.
The cabin was being prepped for landing (note the nonoperational IFE) as we dipped down to the cloud line. Can anyone identify this track?
We then cruised back into the Mediterranean for a landing from the west. We then ran parallel to the coast where you can see a small regional airport in the distance before turning back towards the coast.
In the final descent, we can get an aerial view of Cobra’s summer residence before starting to cross over the town of Fiumicino.
It was starting to rain a bit, so photos started to become more difficult, but we can clearly see the countryside below us as we cross the Tiber River and head into FCO.
We had a smooth landing slightly ahead of schedule. After touching down, we can already start to do some spotting. We pass by the fire station, and then in the distance we can see a BA A321 lifting off.
Our taxi brings us past some remote stands filled with AZ narrow bodies.
We then pass by the headquarters for Poste Italiane, “Losing mail since 1862.”
We weren’t getting any closer to the terminal, so I started expecting a remote stand as we continued our taxi through a sea of AZ narrow bodies. We eventually made a sharp turn into a remote stand next to this very interesting AZ A319 in “Friuli Venezia Giulia” special livery.
A last look at my seat to prove that I am a good traveler and leave my space as clean as I found it.
Deplaning through 2L down the stairs. Half-hearted “arrivederci” by the crew on leaving. I don’t care anymore, I’m more interested in these tarmac photos.
Business class passengers got their own bus, which quickly sped off to the terminal as soon as the last passenger boarded. The bus ride to the terminal gave lots of spotting opportunities. Up first is another look at the AZ A319 in “Friuli Venezia Giulia” special livery. We then pass by an AZ A320 in “Muoviamo chi muove l'Italia” special livery. There is then an AF A321, W6 A320 with winglets, LH A321, DY B738, and U2 A319. These may seem like mundane planes for most of you, but not for an Asian based FRist.
Then, we come to this 25 year old beauty, a Meridiana MD-82, brings me back to the good old AA years. Followed by a plain old VY A320.
Arriving at the terminal, we disembark and head back into the terminal. The airport seems very dark, but we continue heading towards passport control. The Miu Miu ad in the distance makes me feel like I never left Japan. It took about 10 minutes to clear immigration, the line moved very quickly and I soon found out why. My turn comes, the agent takes me passport, takes one glance at the photo page, then flips to the back, stamps it, and then hands it back to me without saying one word or even looking up. I like this casual European immigration, sure beats the US and the unnecessary fingerprinting in Japan.
Heading into the baggage claim area, we can see that my flight strategy worked perfectly. My friend's flight from JFK arrived just a fraction before mine. The bags actually came out before the indicated time and mine was the second one off. With no customs to declare, I was fending off taxi drivers in no time as I made my way to the train station.
I took the LeonardoExpress to Roma Termini for €14 since my flight did not qualify for Etihad Chauffeur service. As they claim, EY will only provide chauffeur services for EY-operated flights; ‘partner’ airlines do not count. The train is nonstop service and takes just over 20 minutes to make the journey. Seat pitch on the train is not so good…
After that disastrous experience with AZ, it was finally time to begin vacation. There was no better way to start vacation than with an early dinner post-arrival followed by a S.S. Lazio game.
After a week in Rome, join me again as we take a look at some AZ domestic flights. They may be mundane flights, but the reports will be worth your time.
Etihad Airways Business Class Lounge
Abu Dhabi - AUH
Rome - FCO
Oh where do I even start? Go back to the very first picture and the caption: “Proud to show the best of our country with passion.” Did they even come close to living up to that statement? No. I have no interest in ever spending money on this product again.
Cabin comfort: Cabin could do with some color, but overall the seat is what matters. I found it to be more comfortable than the EY seat for sleeping. Privacy is a little bit less than EY, but I was fortunately not in an aisle seat so that was a non-issue for me. I got 4 hours of good sleep, so I’ll rate it appropriately. Good amenity kit.
Crew: Pathetic. As a customer, I felt like I was an inconvenience to them. 0.5 points for that one Y+ crew member that smiled and handed me a bottle of water.
Meal and catering: Pathetic. Magnifica Class catering was a big miss and didn’t come close to its reputation. The breakfast service started off well with a nice fruit plate and good croissants, but then it spiraled into disaster. The main offerings were all cold and other than the bread brittle with cabbage and salami, there is nothing I would ever want to eat again. Some items on the menu weren't even offered during the meal service. Drinks were never refilled. Lunch service was poor, with two measly “sandwiches” and a prepackaged cookie. Having said that, the food was edible even if I was left hungry after both meal services.
Entertainment: IFE was non-operational after 40 seconds into the flight. Flight crew made little effort to fix the problem. I’ll give 0.5 points for that NY Times I received since the crossword puzzle kept me mildly entertained during breakfast.
On-time performance: We left a little late, but arrived into FCO early. One of the few bright spots of this flight, since it shortened the misery :)
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