Review: Alitalia A320 Economy Class (FCO-LHR)


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I normally book my short-haul European flights on British Airways as I can credit them to American Airlines AAdvantage and earn a few miles out of what is usually a pretty disappointing experience…but this time I couldn’t do that. My Qatar Airways flight from Doha wasn’t due in to Rome until 18:55 and the last British Airways flight from Rome was scheduled for around 8pm – that would be cutting things a little fine and could land me in trouble if my Qatar Airways flight faced any kind of delay.

Luckily Alitalia (the now almost completely bankrupt Italian carrier) had a flight to London at 21:20 so that’s the flight I ended up booking.

I could have no argument with the cost as, at £57 ($72) oneway, the “Economy Classic” fare gave me a checked baggage allowance (which admittedly I didn’t need) and free seat selection.

Transfer desk was well signposted from the moment I got off the Qatar flight and all I had to do is walk up to it and hand over my passport to check in.

The connections at Rome airport were well signposted

With my boarding pass in hand I followed the “transit/connections” signs which led to a very empty security check area.

My gate wasn’t showing at this point but I guessed we’d be departing from the Ex-shengen area (where my Qatar flight had departed from a few days before) so I made my way to the Avia Partner lounge I had used a few days before.

Well that was a gamble that really didn’t pay off as, when eventually the gate came up, it showed E12….and that meant a short tram ride back to the main airport area and, annoyingly, another pass though airport security (luckily it was deserted!)

That really wasn’t the smartest thing I did on this trip!

Alitalia Gate E12 at Rome Airport

With a scheduled departure time of 21:20 the gate agents called boarding at 20:42.

As I have no status with Alitalia or any of its partners I waited in the regular Economy class line which was moving pretty swiftly.

For some reason Alitalia do a double passport check – one as you pass by the gate agent and the second about 10ft past the gate agent – I’m not entirely sure what the point of this is but it didn’t really slow me down too much….I was still one of the first 10 Economy Class passengers to board.

Alitalia’s A320 Economy class cabin is set out in a 3-3 formation (just like on pretty much every other A320 I’ve been on)…..

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

….and I had chosen seat 10C (on the aisle and as far forward as I could book).

According to seatguru.com the Alitalia A320 seats offer no more legroom than a British Airways A320 but, for whatever reason, there did seem to be more room.

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

Here’s a picture taken with me seated normally…..

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

…and that’s a good gap between my knees and the seat in front of me…and I’m 6ft tall.

I though that I may have somehow picked an “economy comfort”seat which I know have extra legroom…but those seats had “economy comfort printed on their head rests, something which my headrest did not have.

It’s a mystery.

Anyway…..at this point something weird started to happen.

After a few minutes of taking photos and typing notes into my iPhone I noticed a lady across the aisle staring at me. She didn’t try to hide the fact that she was staring – she just stared….and with a scowl on her face too.

I ignored the unfriendly face (she looked like she was chewing a wasp) and went on typing notes and taking the occasional picture.

Alitalia’s A320s have room for IFE screens and controls but they haven’t been installed

A few minutes later the staring hadn’t stopped (I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or freaked out) and I saw her flag down a passing member of cabin crew. She said something to him in Italian, he quickly glanced over at me and then said something to her in reply.

That’s when I figured it out – clearly the fact that I was taking pictures and typing into my iPhone bothered her…..so she’d reported me to the flight attendant.

I’m not entirely sure what she thought I was doing (perhaps she thought I was a truly terrible jihadi spy?) but the staring didn’t stop….and it was now getting irritating because I knew it was happening and I was finding it hard to ignore it.

Boarding + 32 mins:  “Boarding completed” was announced

Boarding + 34 mins: The instruction “cabin crew doors closed” was heard

Boarding + 36 mins: The captain asked the cabin crew to “arm doors and cross check” and there was an announcement asking all passengers to switch off personal devices for taxi and take off.

I switched off my phone and sat back in my seat.

Boarding + 39 mins: Just one minute late we pushed back and the crew performed the  safety demonstration.

Boarding + 41 mins: The cabin lights were dimmed

Boarding + 53 mins: After a lot of stop-start taxiing around the airport the Captain announced that we were “ready for take off” . We turned left on to the runway, paused, power went to the engines….and we were off.

Take off + 7 mins: The cabin crew announced that passengers could now use electronic devices in flight mode.

I switched my phone back on to continue taking notes (it had been in airplane mode since I had disembarked my Qatar Airways flight a few hours earlier) and started to take a look around my seat area.

I stretched out to get more of an idea of what the chair was like….

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

……and it was actually pretty comfortable.

The seat recline button and IFE controls were on the inside of one of the armrests…..

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

…although I should mention that I didn’t notice any IFE on this flight.

Take off + 9 mins: The cabin lights were raised and the seatbelt sign was switched off.

At this point, the lady who had been staring at me for nearly an hour (no, I’m not kidding) lent overt the aisle and asked me to show her that my phone was in airplane mode.

For a second I considered telling her where I was about to shove my phone if she didn’t back off….but I really didn’t need a confrontation at 20,000 ft so I just showed her my screen and asked “satisfied?”.

She sniffed and leaned back in her seat without replying….at which point I retaliated. I asked to see her phone too 🙂

She didn’t like that….and she refused.

I, very politely and without raising my voice, offered to call a flight attendant to sort this out. That got the desired reaction and out came her phone.

That was the end of issue and, luckily, that was the end of the staring too.

Take off + 45 mins: The cabin crew come around with complimentary soft drinks and a choice of cookies or crackers.

Alitalia A320 Economy Class

There was no option for an alcoholic beverage as far as I could see – not even an option to purchase a drink. 

Take off  +1 hr 55 mins: The seatbelt sign was switched back on as we hit a bit of turbulence but, even after the turbulence was well behind us it didn’t go out. In fact it didn’t go out until we got to the gate at Heathrow.

Take off + 2 hrs 11 mins: There was an almost unintelligible announcement from the captain which mentioned “Heathrow airport” and “20 minutes”….I assumed he said we’d be landing in 20 minutes but he could have been saying anything for all I knew!

Take off + 2 hrs 20 mins: There was a cabin announcement to say that we would soon be landing at Heathrow so; tray tables need to be up, seat backs upright etc… and that was all pretty usual….. but there was also a request for passengers to remove headphones from their personal devices for landing.

That I haven’t heard before….but I guess it makes sense. If an issue arises and cabin crew need to communicate with passengers headphones are going to get in the way of that.

Take off + 2 hrs 23 mins: The cabin lights dimmed for landing and London stretched out below

Take off + 2 hrs 34 mins: We landed at London Heathrow and, 3 minutes later, we were at our gate.

Thoughts

I’m still not sure why my seat seemed more comfortable than the dimensions suggest it should be…but it was. That was a bonus.

The flight crew were friendly on the limited occasions I interacted with them….and at least one flight attendant was sensible enough to ignore an overly paranoid (and very obnoxious) traveler.

At £57 (including seat selection, a checked bag and a drink/snack combo) this fare and flight was pretty great value….let’s just hope Alitalia stays around long enough for me to make the most of similar fares should I need them in the future.

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