The Worst Alitalia Flight I Have Ever Taken — and Why
T he airplane was only approximately 15 minutes late; and we were instructed to remain in our seats until military personnel from the back of the aircraft retrieved their belongings and arrived at the boarding door to be the first off. Passengers applauded the military personnel as they rushed down the aisle.
Great — but another delay for me, I thought.
Fortunately, I still had two hours — but with international flights, you never know…
…and sure enough, I was correct. In Los Angeles, I took the airport shuttle bus to the international terminal. Although the line to check in for Alitalia did not take too long — the agent actually asked to weigh my bag, which was a first for the bag I was carrying — it was the airport security checkpoint line that wound its way around the area which was under construction.
Alas, I was not selected for Pre✓; so I had to go through the whole routine: take out the laptop computer; take out the bag of liquids; take off my shoes — and go through the full-body scanner. I think I can count how many times on one hand I went through a full-body scanner — but I relented and did it anyway.
Interestingly enough, I saw the Pre✓ entrance and line — and they appeared to be closed, as no one was in them. This apparently meant that everyone had to go through this line, no matter what class of service or elite level status they possessed.
Still, I must admit that although I did not like it, the process — aside from the very long line — was not terrible. They really have to come up with a better system, as they only had four lanes open for what were literally hundreds of people.
Alitalia had some really nice long lines for the zones of seats which they called; but fortunately, when I finally boarded the aircraft, there was room in the overhead bin above the row in which I was seated.
Unfortunately, though, the view from the window was once again a wing; and I had a nice metal box at my feet for the ancient in-flight entertainment system, which had one of those handsets which was a telephone on the obverse side. Does anyone really use these anymore?
No real view and a box where I can barely stretch my legs for almost 12 hours — and the middle seat next to me was taken at what seemed to be the last minute on an airplane which contained a lot of passengers but was not completely full. The seat was one of the most uncomfortable seats in which I have ever sat on an airplane, as it was rather hard, with the lower back area angled in a bizarre way — and it was not equipped with any electrical outlets. Add to that that the airplane was hot and there was no individual air vent — and the interior of the airplane never got cooler. The members of the flight crew were not very friendly, to say the least.
Well, this is my home for the next 12 hours — but at least I caught the flight. Gotta look at the bright side.
First we were served cookies, which to me were nothing more than dry butter cookies — containing no butter — with a slight orange flavor which elevated the snack one level above cardboard. I ate them anyway with some orange juice. I have always enjoyed the red orange juice that is served on Alitalia flights — even if there is only 30 percent actual juice in the arancia rosa.
By the way, there was what seemed to be an endless supply of those cookies in the back galley for any passenger who wanted them. I took a couple of packages in case I felt like boring myself with needless calories during an unexpected hunger pang where I cannot otherwise purchase food.
Speaking of food, dinner was a choice of two meals. Because the pasta had cheese, I ordered the carne. I could not tell you what the pasta meal looked like because no one within my sight of view ordered one either. Let’s just say that this dinner was nostalgic for me of when passengers in the economy class cabin were served a meal on domestic flights in the United States; or it was so bad that it was good.
I ate the whole thing. I was hungry. Do not ask me what were those four indiscernible pieces of meat nor the animal from which they came — I could not tell you to this day. The gravy — which was actually quite tasty — made up for the low-quality meat by-product or whatever that was. The hard round potatoes, mushy overcooked vegetable medley and mushrooms rounded out the meal. There was a serving of cold couscous with a few raisins. I have no idea what the dessert was. All I could tell you is that it was a square of cake with frosting which I assumed to have a slight orange flavor.
Orange you glad I told you about my meal?
That middle seat passenger was a woman returning to her home in Israel. She must have been in her 20s. She generalized the conflict between citizens of Israel and the Gaza Strip; as well as the flurry of rockets they have experienced. She claimed that most of the people want peace; and that it is the leaders who are causing all of the trouble.
I told her about the Israeli and Lebanese members of FlyerTalk who resolved all of the differences between their countries in fewer than eight minutes at a barbecue joint in South Florida. She replied that Lebanon was not the issue at the moment; rather it was the Gaza Strip
“If everyone wants peace, how would you resolve the conflict so that everyone is satisfied?” I asked.
“I do not think there is a solution”, she replied. “The leaders of the Gaza Strip are incredibly rich. They hide in these bunkers with all of their electronic toys and gadgets while the people they lead take the brunt of the rockets. Those people are poor and barely surviving; but they are sheltered and fed by their leaders, so they do not know any better. They will not be satisfied until they claim the entire land of Israel.”
I am only relaying what she said to me. I am not about to get into a discussion or an argument about the people of the Gaza Strip versus Israel; and I certainly would like to hear the side of the story from a resident of the Gaza Strip first-hand. This is more about the people I meet and the stories I hear — nothing more. Everyone has a story. This is part of the beauty and wonder of travel.
Breakfast consisted of a dense and spongy chocolate croissant-type thing with a cold roll, some more mystery meat, two quarters of a slice of cheese, strawberry yogurt and condiments. I did not eat the meat and cheese.
I had to take a bus from the airplane to the gate; and for my next flight from Rome to Budapest, I had to take another bus from the gate to the airplane. I could have sworn they used passenger bridges at the airport in Rome — but then again, part of the airport is under construction. I would think twice before connecting from one flight to another at this airport in the near future…
…and the lines were everywhere: at passport control; at the gate; at the airplane.
Thankfully, the Airbus A319 aircraft used for the flight from Rome to Budapest was far more comfortable with more legroom — although I had yet another view of a wing and another passenger seated in the middle seat next to me.
Some luck I have had. Perhaps I should consider changing the name of my weblog from The Gate with Brian Cohen to View Of The Wing with Carry Left. Well, I have my health — and that is what matters most to me. These are nothing but temporary issues.
I have flown as a passenger on flights operated by Alitalia in the past; and I had been quite satisfied with them. This is the first time I was significantly disappointed. Yes, I know and realize that the experience could have been far worse — at least my flight was not affected by a strike or outages due to a fire purposely set — but based on this experience, I would recommend being a passenger on another airline from North America to Europe unless Alitalia improves its product and service in the economy class cabin.