Mistake to Madrid: Alitalia Economy Class Rome – Madrid

TRIP INDEX

After a pretty hard core nap of at least 90 minutes, we packed up and walked to the gate to check it out. It seemed like a pretty light load at the gate so it was actually a pleasant boarding experience, one of the few we’d have on the trip.

Rome (FCO) – Madrid (MAD)
AZ60
25 JAN 2013
Airbus A320
Economy Class

Seats 22A, 22B

Our plane was leaving from a remote gate so we were bused to the aircraft on a beautiful Italian afternoon. The weather was a bit chilly, but the sun and fresh air felt good for the 30 seconds we got to have them.

When we arrived, the plane was being boarded from both front and back. It was efficient to board through the rearmost door since we were close to the back of the plane. It turned out that didn’t matter much because the flight was so empty. Joann and I each grabbed an empty row so we could sprawl out if we wanted to.

Bused to our aircraft

Bused to our aircraft

We took off and ascended into the cloudless sky with amazing views of Fiumicino and Sardinia. We basically just enjoyed views and relaxed for the short flight. There was no in-flight entertainment. I wonder if Alitalia has screens installed on any of their narrowbody jets.

Fiumicino coastline

Fiumicino coastline

Fiumicino coastline

Fiumicino coastline

The only thing out of the ordinary on this flight was that there was a medical emergency. A passenger towards the back of the plane needed medical attention so flight attendants asked everyone to stay seated when we landed so that medical staff could assist the man. It didn’t seem like anything urgent and the guy walked off the plane under his own power so that was good.

From deplaning, we went straight to the baggage claim to get our bags and then that was that. Since we already went through customs in Italy, we were on our own in Madrid. Shame that we didn’t get a Madrid stamp!

Metro de Madrid

I had read that the best bang for your buck travel in Madrid was the Metro. It sounded better than a 35 Euro taxi ride to the Westin Palace Madrid so we purchased two tickets from the agent at the window with the intention to transfer lines to our final destination.

Metro de Madrid Entrance

Metro de Madrid Entrance

As an FYI, to purchase a ticket on the Metro, your credit card must be of the Chip & PIN variety. Our American Express Platinum cards were only Chip & Signature so the machines rejected them.

A tip in case you are going to stay at the Westin Palace Madrid, Radisson Blu Madrid Prado, or any hotel in that area:

Take the Metro to the Nuevos Ministerios stop. It’s a large hub for transfers.

Once there, find a machine to buy a ticket (less than 2 Euro) on the Cercanias line.

Take any line that will go southbound and stop at Sol, which is one stop away.

Once you emerge, you’ll be at the Puerto del Sol (middle of this map) and should be able to navigate your way from there.

For the two of us with carry-ons and one big checked bag, it was a 10 minute walk to Westin Palace Madrid… not bad at all.

We also stopped along the way for cheap snacks and beer at Museo del Jamòn. What a fine establishment! How I so badly wish we had one of these by me.

Jamon ibèrico from Museo del Jamòn

Jamon ibèrico from Museo del Jamòn

Mistake to Madrid: Alitalia Economy Class New York – Rome

TRIP INDEX

JFK (New York) – FCO (Rome)
AZ609
24 JAN 2013
Airbus A330-200
Economy Class

Seats 20J, 20L

Boarding

Once we let all the crazy gate lice board, Joann and I decided it was finally our turn. The gate agent scanned our boarding passes, checked our passports, and kindly reminded us that we should sign our passports! They still smelled new since we got them only a few days before, thanks to my oversight.

We boarded and walked through Magnifica (Business) Class. It was their new offering and it looked great, with staggered seating throughout. I would have much rather been traveling there, but for the price we paid, we can’t complain!

Since Alitalia boarded the back half of the plane first, it was fairly empty, but by the time we looked to see if there were any empty rows, everyone had clearly already completed their seat rearranging.

The one downfall to waiting until the end of boarding is obviously the overhead bin space. Walking down the aisle, we saw bins packed with sideways rollaboards (pet peeve!) and winter coats. Virtually no one had a small bag  or a coat underneath the seat in front of them and the FAs were definitely no help. I ended up stowing my 20″ tall convertible back pack underneath the seat in front of me. It basically killed any leg room I had. However, Joann is short and I poached some of her leg room!

The Seat

The seats on the A330-200 are in a 2-4-2 configuration. This is a nice setup for couples. The seat was comfortable enough and surprisingly offered a good amount of leg/knee room.

View of Austrian Airlines from the gate

View of Austrian Airlines from the gate

The seat back in front has a small TV which wasn’t bad when you’re sitting so close. What WAS terrible was the movie selection. I think their only movie from 2012 was Prometheus. I ended up watching The Godfather; it felt right since we were flying to Italy.

I also noticed that the tray table seemed on the small side. The dinner tray didn’t even fully fit on it and my mobile blogging setup, my Nexus 7 and a Bluetooth keyboard, didn’t fit well on it either.

The Food

Dinner service began shortly after we leveled off and it began with drinks. The FAs were a man and a woman who were very short with passengers. I had heard about the demeanor of Alitalia FAs in general so I was expecting it.

Beer and wine were free but the red wine was just horrible. I couldn’t even finish the small glass that I ordered.

The food was surprisingly pretty good. I had a beef and potato stew-type dish and Joann had the pasta. It wasn’t as bad as I remember airplane food in Coach.

Pasta

Pasta

Beef

Beef

The Service

Like I said before, the FAs were not very helpful when we boarded and were looking for overhead bin space and they were a little short with passengers during dinner service. It kind of reminded me of grumpy FAs on some of our domestic airlines.

Despite all this, the service was quick and efficient. Everything was taken away so we had plenty of time to sleep since this was a redeye into Fiumicino Airport.

Overall

The flight started off poorly with me having to stash my big backpack under the seat in front of me, but the rest of it went well. The food was satisfactory, service attentive enough, and we were comfortable enough in the seats to get a few hours of sleep before our long layover in Rome.

From this flight alone, we would definitely fly Alitalia again, if the price is right of course!

Mistake to Madrid: JFK Airport – KAL Lounge

TRIP INDEX

Joann and I started our trip to Madrid by getting dropped off by my parents at JFK Airport. It was our first time flying out of Terminal 1, housing a United Nations of airlines – Aeroflot, Air China, Brussels, Lufthansa, Fly Jamaica, and, of course, our airline for this trip, Alitalia.

We approached a quiet Alitalia check-in counter and the NYC-based agent was happy to check us and our bags in. I also had him verify that our Delta frequent flyer numbers were on the reservation so we could earn Delta miles, as they are in the same SkyTeam Alliance. It wasn’t a problem and he happily verified it. We were on our way to security.

After some slow moving security, we were in the relatively small airside of T1. We went straight to the KAL Lounge because there are no other real choices airside besides the gate.

Note, if you want food, head to the second level landside/before security. It has a pretty extensive food court which, I have to admit, might be better than waiting in the average Korean Air Business Class Lounge.

The KAL Lounge

The KAL Lounge doesn’t scream exclusivity like some of the lounges we’ve been in before, but it would do since we were just waiting less than an hour until our boarding time. We checked in with the agent and she gave us a piece of paper with the WiFi password on it.

KAL Lounge shared by several airlines

KAL Lounge shared by several airlines

KAL Lounge Front Desk

KAL Lounge Front Desk

The lounge itself wasn’t that great. They had some sodas, juices, and alcoholic beverages – nothing high end. For food, they had some cheese, crackers, Fig Newtons, Oreos, and other snacks.

The KAL Lounge also has showers in case you want to freshen up before your international flight.

After indulging in a few beers and plenty of Tillamook cheddar packets, Joann and I left the KAL Lounge for our gate. It fulfilled its duty as far as waiting for a flight goes. I’m glad we didn’t get to the airport early just to check it out.

When we got to the gate, to no one’s surprise, it was a mad house with gate lice completely engulfing the counter.

Since we were already too late, we decided to just hang back and board after everyone else. No need to get stressed out before our 9 hour flight to Rome…

Mistake to Madrid

Introduction
JFK Airport – KAL Business Class Lounge
Alitalia Economy Class New York – Rome
Layover & Lounges in Rome
Alitalia Economy Class Rome – Madrid
Westin Palace Madrid
Things To Do in Madrid
The Food of Madrid
Leaving Madrid, Alitalia Economy Class Madrid – Rome
Alitalia Economy Class Rome – New York
Conclusion

Introduction

Madrid was never really on our immediate radar, but that all changes when an airline makes a “mistake.” Though this wasn’t exactly your traditional mistake where an airline loads a very cheap fare by accident.

As I wrote about at the time, Alitalia published a coupon code that would take about $315 off any Alitalia flight. Using this little blunder by the airline, I was able to book Joann and myself on a little three day jaunt to Madrid for only $284.

Because I was able to get my ducks in a row quickly and act fast, I was able to capitalize on this awesome deal to Europe.  That’s the key to any hot-off-the-presses mistake fare. 

This was our first trip of 2013. We stayed for less than 72 hours but we did good work while there. We saw beautiful sights and ate amazing food. I like these long weekends trips because it gives you the taste of a destination without eating up my precious vacation days.

So please stay tuned for another trip report thanks to Alitalia and some #hustle!

IMG_0872

Travel Tech: XCom Global MiFi Wireless Hotspot + BONUS

Bonus at the bottom of the post!

We just got back from Madrid and I definitely wanted to share this.

While preparing for our trip to Madrid, I was trying to figure out how we’d stay connected abroad. We’re so technology-driven these days (who isn’t?!) that we both agreed we wanted to have data access in Madrid.

In the hotel would be no problem. We’re both Starwood Gold (thanks to each of our Amex Platinum cards) and, as a Gold welcome gift, we’re entitled to complimentary in-room Internet.

Our issue was having data on the go when we were exploring the city. We love Foursquare and Instagram for sharing the places that we visit.

After extensive research, I stumbled upon XCom Global, a company that make two products – a USB modem and a wireless hotspot (“MiFi”). For our intents and purposes, we would opt for the wireless hotspot.

xcom-global

XCom Global boasts service in 175 countries. They also boast unlimited 3G data, which is very key because data can really add up, especially when you break out data-hungry apps like Google Maps.

The per day fee for the MiFi is $14.95, and two-way shipping will cost you $29.90.

Here is a breakdown of what I found to be the key points:

PROS

  • Easier than having to track down a local SIM card in the country you’re visiting
  • Eliminates the need to have a Global phone
  • Flat rate ($14.95) for unlimited 3G data usage
  • Eliminates need to purchase hotel WiFi
  • Up to 5 devices can connect
  • Decent 3G speeds
  • Delivered to you before you depart; ready to drop off for shipping back to XCom Global when you return
3G speed test outdoors

3G speed test outdoors

CONS

  • Relative to buying a local SIM and not needing unlimited data –  expensive pricing
  • Unit does not display how much battery is left
  • It is another device to carry while traveling
  • Battery life is relatively short – I’d say we averaged 3-5 hours of battery life.
    • I’d recommend renting an extra battery through XCom for an extra $1/day.
    • I used my portable battery pack so we were powered all day.
  • Overpriced ‘replacement cost’ of unit if insurance isn’t purchased – $800

Overall

We had a great experience with the XCom Global MiFi wireless hotspot! It kept us connected throughout our trip to Madrid (even the layover in Rome).

The ease of use and multi-device connectivity far outweighed the price premium. As a solo traveler, I might consider other options, but as a couple with a total of 4 devices, this was a no-brainer for us.

I highly recommend this as an option for your international travels, but definitely don’t overlook buying a local SIM card at your destination. It may be far cheaper. As always, do your own research!

Joann and I will definitely be using XCom Global again, probably to our trip to Buenos Aires in April.

BONUS!

Since I was so pleased with our service, I contacted XCom Global about their affiliate program.

They were more than willing to work with me so I’m proud to say I can offer my readers a 5% discount on the XCom Global service! By clicking on this link, you can save 5% on either the MiFi or USB device.

Disclaimer: I do receive a small commission from XCom Global if you purchase services through my link.