Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
The wing consisted of much of my view for the next 12 hours. Thankfully, a significant portion of the flight was at night — but I missed the snow-capped mountains in Utah. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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?

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
I had to contend with this stupid metal box and the belongings of the passenger in the middle seat for almost 12 hours. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
A chiropractor must have designed these seats to generate more business. Note the weird angle in the lower back area of the seat. Coupled with the fact that the seat itself was harder than most in which I have ever sat on an airplane; and an uncomfortable ride was virtually guaranteed. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Is this in-flight entertainment system still in style? I would have rather had an air vent than a coat hook, shown on the right on the back of the seat. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Anybody want seven tasteless squares of dry crumbly stuff? Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Dinner. Scrumptious! Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Hey, kids! Finish your meal like a good boy or girl and you get to see the Alitalia logotype at the bottom of your plastic tray! Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Breakfast. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
The LAST thing I wanted to do after an unpleasant trip lasting almost 12 hours is to take a bus from a Boeing 777-200 airplane to the gate — but that is exactly what we did. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Ahhh...more legroom — and no metal box. I would have rather used this airplane across the Atlantic Ocean. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Ahhh…more legroom — and no metal box. I would have rather used this airplane across the Atlantic Ocean. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.
Another view of a wing. I viewed more wings than a native of Buffalo, New York. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

      1. Just flew alitalia roundtrip from Boston to Rome. The worst seats I have ever experienced. I like the comment about chiropractors — so true. I felt crippled after an 8-hour flight in which I got not a wink of sleep because I was so uncomfortable.

        1. I am sorry to learn that you endured a similar experience, rwc.

          Instead of figuring out ways to cram more people into the same space, would it not be nice if airlines attempted to figure out ways to ensure that their passengers are more comfortable during flight?

    1. My entire itinerary to fly around the world cost me fewer than $1,600.00 in airfare, including all taxes and fees.

      I feel like I am ahead no matter what…

      1. Then I think you got what you paid for! 😉 Anyway, I am flying Alitalia next year LAX-FCO but in the magnifica class so I’m quite excited. I’m guessing you’re lactose intolerant if you opted out of the cheese menue?

        1. Nope — I simply do not like the taste of cheese.

          The Magnifica class looked nice with lie-flat seats; but I cannot vouch for the service there.

  1. Love to hear your stories about these flights but based on the itinerary, airlines, class of service you chose you should keep your expectations according to your decisions. First of all, your itinerary is crazy. 🙂 Who flies west to LAX to catch a flight that goes east to Rome? Second, flying economy class on any Skyteam airline clearly shows you like to suffer. Alitalia is still a the Stone Age of aviation. Then I see you complained couple times about your seat providing you a view of the wing. Didn’t you check for the least worst seats in economy class in Alitalia? Cannot wait to read the rest of this trip. Enjoy!!!

    1. That is the point, Santastico. Isn’t this far more interesting than another trip report about an upgraded experience featuring champagne and caviar?

      As far as the seats, they were the closest to the front that were available. It was either that or sit towards the back of the airplane — most likely in the middle section.

      I was going to address the flying west to head to Europe in a future article. There is definitely something seriously wrong with me…

  2. Thank you for writing an Economy Trip Report. It’s realistic and a reminder that there is a difference between different Y class seats and service.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, AnonCHI.

      I hope that what I write is useful and — well — simultaneously entertaining…

  3. This is stupid company stupit airport and so on …never ever fly with this guys again!!! Pay soo much money for this stupid guys ! Yes !!!!

  4. I wish I had read this before I flew LAX-FCO. They’re still using the same plane, where your head is jammed forward and one of your legs can’t move.

  5. I fully understand your frustration. I recently moved to Rome and was happy because I could finally have a direct connection to my annual flights to Mexico. However, from now on I still rather fly via a connection in Paris or Frankfurt because just as in 2016, and in your flight, this journey was terrible. The exact same plane, archaic entertainment system and a delay of 2h50min. The delay is still frustrating because by EU law, I can only get compensation if the delay is above 3h. However, we did not actually take off for 3.5h. I really hope that Alitalia gets some new planes with up to date entertainment systems.

    1. Delta Air Lines is supposedly in talks with Alitalia, Michal; so if a business deal is successful, Alitalia may be well on its way to improvement.

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