I travelled back from the US to the UK via Miami and Alitalia recently. It is not an experience I would be keen to repeat – nothing fatal you understand, just a series of mishaps, an uncomfortable seat and a delayed bag!
At the time of booking via the Air France website, I was able to select a seat. Subsequently I could not access the reservation via the Alitalia web site and so called the reservation centre in the UK. They could not find my seat allocation and so reserved a new one for me. When Alitalia moved their morning flight from Heathrow to London City, I called again and again, they could not find the seat request. At 24 hours before departure I tried online check-in, and it worked ! Indeed, it even gave me my original seat selected during the Air France reservation! Weird web site.
In a word ‘Chaos’. As I was travelling in Business Class I joined one of the two lines. One line had a member of staff trying to deal with two unaccompanied minors travelling Economy. My line had a couple checking in 6 huge suitcases. I was the only one waiting. As soon as the agent had finished with the UM’s (this took 30 minutes), someone appeared in their queue and walked to the front. I explained that I had been waiting half an hour, but the family said ‘There are two lines’, and jumped the queue. This didn’t get things off to me a good start for me. In the end they ended up being elite members of Delta who were travelling Economy. After a further 15 minutes the 6 bags were checked and checked my bag in. The agent commented “‘LCY’ where is that? I’ve never heard of that airport.” Not very comforting. I asked which way to the lounge? ‘Well do you have Lounge access, ah yes you are travelling Business Class so go right and then to the 4th floor’. I was provided with a lounge invite.
I have to comment on the TSA at Miami. Having been through it with United and American in the past two months I have to say it is one of the worst TSA operations I have ever seen. They are slow, argumentative, shouty and slow – did I mention slow? 30 minutes later, once through the elite line I was in the packed Delta Lounge. (BTW, if you go there take the lift, the stairs are far to numerous to survive with any luggage and in the Miami heat.)
‘Vile’ That’s the best way to say it – hot, packed and loud. I am not a Delta person but it started badly when the agent wouldn’t accept the Alitalia Lounge invite without an elite card. I explained that I was travelling business class and after some tapping on the computer, he confirmed that this was acceptable. Pardon?
Gate Area / Boarding
The aircraft was at the gate when I arrived, which is always good news:
A queue quickly formed for the elite boarding line and after a short delay, the boarding of passengers in wheelchairs, we were on board. Collection of Duty Free occurred at the top of the jet bridge as is typical in the USA.
The lack of overhead bins for the centre seats means these passengers have to put their luggage above the side seats. The 1-2-1 config means that this is usually OK, except at the front where the plane narrows. The crew had to move my bag several times to accommodate the couple in Row 1.
The seating is a little different to most other aircraft I have flown. In Row 1 for example, the window seats are aisles whilst the centre seats are two together. The seating in Row 2 are real window seats whilst the two in the centre are effectively singles as you can see from the picture above. Seatguru shows this better than I can explain in words:
I was seated in 1J. If you travel Alitalia, I would recommend the L seats strongly. One of the problems arises from how I sleep. I tend to sleep on my side and this is impossible as the seat is narrow and your knees or feet will stick in to the aisle. Row 2 allows you to achieve this more easily.
It took nearly an hour for the crew to realise that they had not started the video’s and after assuming that there was a fault, they started the system. There was a decent range of movies, the screen was quite clear and the handheld controller was easy to use.
I liked that it displayed the remaining time for the flight here.
The food was good, but the veal was hugely over salted. I usually add no salt to my food (blood pressure issues!), and the veal and vegetables were very salty. The meals were served from a cart in the aisle, which luckily started from my side of the cabin. The staff were able to converse about the options in English.
The kit was pretty standard with eyeshades and ear plugs. It is actually a good size and has since found a use as my cable bag for travel as it has nice side pockets and base big enough for my power adaptor:
Overnight the cabin was dark enough to sleep. The problem, apart from the seat issue mentioned above, was the couple in seats 2L and 3J who conversed by shouting to each other. As they were both facing forwards, I was able to experience their conversation in its full depth until they nodded off. There was a reasonable amount of turbulence and a call for a doctor about 2 hours before landing. Luckily we did not divert, although we were parked at a remote stand in Rome, and medics boarded the plane. We were not able to leave until they had stabilised the patient.
Not bad flight, but there are a few tips which would have benefited me if I know, especially the seating issue!