Mistake to Madrid: Alitalia Economy Class Rome – New York

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Rome (FCO) – New York (JFK)
AZ608
28 JAN 2013
Boeing 777-200
Economy Class
Seats 40A, 40B

Both Joann and I can easily say that this was the worst flight of our lives… and it had nothing to do with the airline.

Because I wasn’t able to check in online, I had to get our seats assigned at the counter in Madrid and by that time, there weren’t many seats left. We were assigned the second or third to last row.

Normally, that’s not a problem. This time, we had a mother and her two kids behind us. The kids were seated behind Joann and me. Our seatmate was lucky and sat in front of the mother. Oh and we had a couple whose terror of a toddler was in front of us.

First, one of the kids was in a car seat that stopped one seat from reclining AT ALL.

Second, the older kid, a toddler, seemed to enjoy kicking our other seat for the entire duration of the flight when he wasn’t sleeping.

Third, the toddler in front of us was just a terror – standing up on the seats, throwing things (at us!), etc.

We have a niece and nephew that we babysit often so we understand the pains of traveling/caring for children, but this was one of those cases where the parents made zero attempt at controlling their children.

That is a #1 pet peeve of mine when people travel with kids. If you make an effort, it will be noticed and people will have sympathy for you. If you just put on your headphones, go to sleep, and let your kids run rampant, that will also be noticed and you’re just an a-hole in my book, to be honest.

That’s enough of my rant. Suffice to say it was a terrible flight and we could not wait to deplane as soon as we landed.

The bright spot was that Global Entry is still awesome! We landed at 1:45 PM and the immigration hall was pretty packed.

It’s always a great feeling to bypass everyone and head straight for those glorious GE machines!

global entry kiosks

We would have made a clean getaway had our checked bags not taken over 30 minutes to come out! Oh well, wish we could have packed lighter!

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: Rome Airport Lounges

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After landing, Joann and I followed signs to passport control. This was our port of entry for the EU so we I got stamped. Joann actually didn’t get a stamp. Anyone know why?

The first thing we did was get some food. The food on flight wasn’t at all enough, especially since it was a redeye.

Pizza... real original!

Pizza… real original!

With my hunger quelled, the next order of business was finding somewhere to relax. Thanks again to our American Express Platinum cards, we both have complimentary memberships to Priority Pass. It really comes in handy for the trips in Economy Class where lounge access doesn’t come along with the ticket.

Before we left, I used the website to find out that FCO has three lounges available to Priority Pass members.

Avia Lounge

Our first stop was the Avia Lounge. This is the one we spent the least amount of time in because of how disappointing it was. It looked like the newest with the way it was furnished, but it was just way too small. It was a nice thought but even with only two other people in the lounge, we felt a little crowded.

There are beverages, coffee, and a small selection of alcohol. The only food was some prepackaged snacks. It was very domestic airline club-esque in that sense.

Avia Lounge

€25 for entry, no way!

 

Pretty much all of the Avia Lounge

Pretty much all of the Avia Lounge

My advice: skip it!

Le Anfore Lounge

This lounge, while not one we visited for long either, was worlds better than the Avia Lounge. It was much bigger so even though it was very crowded, we felt a little more relaxed.

There is so much seating, but not too much privacy. The spread of food is definitely better and they have a massage chair and showers; very handy for a longer layover.

I think this lounge would have sufficed, but we decided to check out the third and final lounge to which we had access.

Mosaic Lounge

The Mosaic Lounge is shared by many airlines, but probably for good reason. We enjoyed it the most. It was larger than the Le Anfore Lounge and was spaced out much better. Again, there was ample seating, but it didn’t feel crowded thanks to the larger footprint.

This lounge also had showers and a food and beverage spread similar to the last one. All I wanted was an espresso, some free WiFi (there was), and then a long nap. Lucky for us, at the far end of the lounge, there is a walled off area with some lounge chairs that are meant for sleeping.

After setting an alarm for an hour before our flight, both Joann and I knocked out cold since we didn’t get sleep on the redeye and it was effectively 7 AM for our bodies.

Mosaic Lounge

Mosaic Lounge

Overall

If you have a layover in Rome, consider the Mosaic or Le Anfore Lounges. Don’t even bother with the Avia Lounge; it’s too small.

If we had a layover longer than 4 hours, I think we might have tried to venture into the city to see a few things and grab a bite. As this was a short layover, the lounges did their job and Amex Platinum and its complimentary Priority Pass membership save the day again!

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!