BEST FOR: Convivial service, great food and wine and a comfortable overnight
PRICE: Roundtrip Magnifica class fare started at $10,830
FLIGHT TIME: 8 hours 45 minutes
BACKGROUND While Alitalia’s financial situation has been in and out of the headlines, what’s not been so front-and-center is the airline’s steady growth, both in terms of passenger numbers and routes. The latest addition to the network beginning in May was this five-times-weekly service between Washington Dulles and Rome Fiumicino International.
CHECK-IN I arrived at IAD earlier than expected, so was able to beat the lines at check-in. The process was friendly and quick, and I was soon on my way through security and headed for the lounge.Since Alitalia is a SkyTeam member, Magnifica Class passengers would usually be directed to the Air France-KLM lounge. However that facility was still undergoing renovation and so I was instead invited to the Turkish Airlines lounge. The WiFi is free of charge, the chairs are comfy and the food and beverage offerings are pretty extensive; all in all, a pleasant place to while away the pre-flight hours.
BOARDING Italians seem to take pride in making their planes and trains run on time, so it was little surprise that boarding was orderly and we pushed back from the gate at the stroke of 4:15 PM.
THE SEAT Arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, the comfortable flat-bed Magnifica seats offer plenty of room. Of note: The center seats in Rows 1, 3 and 5 are called “honeymoon seats,” set close together and slightly angled toward each other to accommodate conversation, though once the sliding partition was pulled up and the seat was in the fully flat position ready for sleep, the privacy was complete.There’s plenty of power with an outlet and USB port. The large IFE screen offers an array of movies, TV shows and music. One oddity: Unless I missed a button on the IFE, each music category seems to be all one predetermined program, not individual numbers. The music was good, just not selectable.
THE FLIGHT A glass of welcome bubbly was served, and shortly after takeoff our cabin crew came to take our dinner selection. Alitalia’s “Dine Anytime” feature allows customers to be served whenever it’s convenient during the flight, but I elected not to wait. I selected the materana style pasta which was, as you might expect, delicious. Likewise, the bari style veal cutlets were tender and tasty; everything was accompanied by a delightful Montefalco Rosso Riserva. After dessert, I settled in for one of the first-run movies on offer, then flattened out for several hours of sleep. Breakfast was a light Continental affair, but I chose to sleep in until closer to arrival time.
ARRIVAL One of the more entertaining parts of the IFE is a belly-mounted camera system that shows exterior views in flight and out-the-front during takeoff and landing. I could watch our touchdown at FCO, right on time and right on the numbers. By the time I got through an expedited immigration line, my luggage was already on the belt at baggage claim.
VERDICT Alitalia has a competitive flat-bed business class product to Italy from a growing number of North American gateways. And it all comes with a generous dose of charming Italian hospitality.