Flight Review: Alitalia Magnifica Business Class – Rome to Miami

by on October 5, 2011 · 20 comments

in Alitalia, Trip Reports

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I love trying different airlines – even when they aren’t the most revered. Over the years I’ve heard mostly negative comments about Alitalia, so I decided to finally try them this week when they were showing availability on Rome to Miami on the date I needed coming back from my weekend in Budapest. My outbound portion was on KLM JFK-AMS-BUD and in total the trip cost me 100,000 Delta miles and $90 in fees with all legs in business class.

Arriving at the Airport

I didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the airport because my cab driver accidentally dropped me off at Terminal 5, which is where the flights from the US leave. However,  Alitalia check-in is actually at Terminal 3 and then you train over to the International Terminal. I got to the airport about an hour before the 9:20am departure (my bad!), so by the time I hustled through security and immigration, I only had about 5 minutes at the gate until boarding.

I had gotten my boarding pass the evening before when I left Budapest for Rome, and in the interim, I checked Seatguru and saw that my seat 9C was in a bulkhead with (gasp!) limited legroom. Alitalia did not let me edit the reservation online, so I was at the mercy of the gate agent who gladly put me in a center row with no one next to me. Nice. And I didn’t even have to bribe her with gelato.

The actual waiting area was pretty cramped, but I assume this was done on purpose to encourage people to check out the high-end shops encircling the gate area: Gucci, Prada, Hermes and Moncler just to name a few.


Boarding was fine, though a huge crowd rushed the gate area when business class started boarding and a rep finally shooed away everyone who wasn’t supposed to be boarding. I personally find boarding to be more hectic and the rules less-adhered-to when traveling in Europe. Hey, it adds to the ambiance.

I knew I was flying the 777 which has Alitalia’s old-school recliner seats. They remind me of Delta’s 767-300 seats, and while they aren’t the most cutting edge, I do find them pretty comfortable – especially for lounging on a day flight when I’m not trying to get a night’s sleep. Alitalia’s 767′s have angled lie flats and the A330′s have fully lie flat beds, which are supposed to be pretty nice. So if you’re on a night flight, be sure to get on one of those planes.

Our 777 Rome to Miami

The flight attendants didn’t greet me until boarding was completed and I was offered a newspaper and pre-departure beverage. I chose red orange juice, which was super sweet.

Alitalia 777 Magnifica Business class recliner style seats

Alitalia coach cabin

In-Flight Experience

The amenity kit was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen in business class – an expensive men’s Bulgari set that included the regular items such as eyeshades, ear plugs, toothbrush and socks – as well as a shaving kit, cologne and several skincare products, plus the case itself looked cool. Very nicely done in my opinion.

Impressive amenity kit

The menus were also passed out after takeoff and they were by far the most extensive I’ve ever had on an airplane. Each was in Italian and English and explained the wine/food in great detail, including the regions in Italy where everything was sourced from. Each menu also had a place for taking your own tasting notes, which I’ve never seen before.

Thick menus

Appetizers: omelette, goat and swiss chard and foccacia bread

First course pastas

Food service was prompt and started with the flight attendant hand-assembling my place setting, which was a nice touch. Once set up, I was offered wine, which I wasn’t exactly in the mood for at 10:30am (I know, shocking!), as well as several choices of bread. The starters were warm rosemary focaccia (amazing), omelette (blah) and goat (horrendous). I’m not a gamey meat kind of guy, so I found the cold goat to be repulsive.

Meal presentation with warm foccacia

Omelette and disgusting cold goat dish

They then came around with a cart that had two pasta choices: Smooth macaroni (i.e. cream sauce) with fennel, or a Sardinian gnochetti with fresh vegetable ratatouille (red sauce). Naturally, I had to try both. The creamy macaroni was just okay, but the gnochetti in red sauce was really nice with robust flavor, which is often lost on airplane foods.


For my main course I went with the seafood option (Turbot) with roast eggplant, artichokes stuffed with sheep’s milk cheese and rosemary potatoes. The other option was a baby pork glazed with honey and fennel – it sounded good, but after a weekend of heavy Hungarian food and a decadent meal in Rome the night before, I tried to go with the lighter option, which ended up being a good move. The fish was light and tasty, though it was shown up by the sides which were all really flavorful.

Main course of turbot - lots going on!

I couldn’t bear to do dessert because my eyes were literally closing – I didn’t have a ton of sleep in Rome and I was still exhausted from a whirlwind weekend in Budapest. Since the Rome-Miami flight is over 10.5 hours, I had plenty of time to nap. Fortunately the cabin was nearly half empty, so I was able to snag an extra blanket and pillow which I made into a pretty comfortable sleeping cocoon. Even though the seats don’t recline to a lie-flat position, I find them extremely comfortable and I was snoozing in no time – without the help of a sleep aid, which is a rare thing for me and is probably more a result of exhaustion than absolute comfort of the seat.

The seat at full recline

My very own bed - who cares if it isn't lie flat

I was so tired I slept for about 6 hours – almost all straight until we hit some moderate turbulence near Bermuda (Triangle?). After I woke up, I hit up the galley for some biscotti and bottles of water and checked out the in-flight entertainment, which had a bunch of recent and old-school movies.

In-flight entertainment system

About 90 minutes before landing the flight attendants brought around a snack plate of Italian sausage, cheese and some sort of turnover served with fruit and coffee. To be honest, the sausage was very potent and almost salami-ish, so I just munched on the really nice bread and fruit.

Snack time


My overall experience was more than enjoyable. The crew really took pride in the meal service and I actually found the seats very comfortable and well-padded. I suppose it helps that I had no one next to me and the cabin was about half empty, but my expectations were far exceeded. My only advice for anyone traveling in this cabin would be to choose the middle column of seats so you don’t have to climb over anyone – I suspect you’d feel trapped if you were sitting at the window and the people in front of you and next to you were reclined since these seats are not in pods. I’d also recommend avoiding row 9, which did look to have limited legroom due to the bulkhead.

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  • BigR3dBears

    Taking JFK-FCO-KBP RT in business next summer on their 777 and was somewhat disappointed to find out they have angled seats. Was debating switching to another flight (out of EWR) for full lie-flats, but now happy to see your review and that you find those seats quite comfortable. Whew

  • Anonymous

    Did Business on Alitalia earlier this year LAX-FCO and loved the service. The seats, like yours, don’t work for sleeping. I like how they roll up in a push cart and serve your food. The new Bvlgari amenity kit makes me wanna fly them again. I’m a sucker for goodies.

  • Victoria

    How do you go about searching Delta’s Alitalia award availability? And am I correct that you have to call to book and can’t do it through the website?

  • Dave

    Sorry was the flight 100k miles one way or roundtrip?

  • Anonymous

    I used Expert Flyer and then called Delta to book and they had no issues finding it and getting me booked at the low award levels and $90 in taxes for the roundtrip and 100,000 Skymiles

  • Anonymous

    JFK-AMS-BUD, BUD-FCO (overnight layover), FCO-MIA

  • Million Mile Secrets

    That amenity kit looks fabulous!

  • Lance

    I’m looking forward to trying their J product as well. I’ll be on the 777 in Nov. from JFK-FCO. Then on their A321 from FCO-ATH.

  • Tenerani

    This winter the 777 will be refurbished with flat seats

  • Nybanker

    Those seats are the same as DL’s international 757s.

  • Hillrider

    You need to spend more time in Italy…what you had in your snack is salame, encased cured meat which retains its supple softness. It’s not the American “italian salami”, which is a North American invention and is dried to a disgustingly hard consistency.

    It’s not a salsiccia, which would be a sausage, i.e. uncured ground meat.

    Oh, and goat can be great; you need to expand your palate!

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure many people love goat, but as someone who doesn’t like real gamey meats, it’s just not for me. I don’t think it’s about expanding my palate as much as knowing what I like. Same goes for lamb- I beautifully prepared lamb at French laundry and still didn’t like it!l

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  • Jennifer

    I enjoyed reading your review… I came across it with a search of “Rome to Miami flight attendant blog” as I am researching and exploring the possibility of living in Miami and working for Alitalia in 6+ years when my only child graduates. Your review helped me see a great side of this airline! :) Thank you!

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  • Sam

    I am thinking of taking Alitalia from MIA to FCO. From Miami it’s a 777-200, and to Miami, it’s an A330. I am a bit concerned about the seats as I definitely want lie-flat seats and read your review for the A330 flight which confirms that they have the new lie-flat seats. Now was your flight on the 777 a 200 series or not because I contacted Alitalia and they “assured” me that all their transatlantic seats are lie-flat. Would hate to get on that flight and find that my “assurance” was complete BS. Thanks

  • Alvin Tse

    The 777-200s are all retrofitted.

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