In a nutshell: My first experiences in Europe business class met the low expectations I had of the product. From the economy seat pitch, to the mediocre food, Alitalia A320 Europe business class was pretty much the lackluster experience I figured it would be.
Quick note: This review is a compilation of two different trips I took in Alitalia A320 Europe business class. These were the first and last legs of the error fare I booked. It’s written primarily through the experience of the first flight, but may photos are from the second flight, as the daytime lighting was much better.
What I whirlwind trip I’d had up to this point. I kicked the solo adventure off with a stellar Finnair A350 business class flight, followed by 48 hours exploring Helsinki before flying a separate Finnair economy ticket to Barcelona. This is where I began the “outbound” segment of an Alitalia business class mistake fare I booked back in January.
Arrival and Airport Experience
I arrived at Barcelona-El Prat Airport at 4:40 AM, taking the Airhostel Barcelona shuttle. I’d neglected to tell the staff of the hotel how terrible of a night I’d had, figuring they’d just tell me that you get what you pay for. Next time I might be willing to shell out the additional $80 for a hotel room and some actual sleep.
For some reason, I needed to check-in in person. This is always frustrating when all you have is a carry-on. I found the Alitalia counter tucked away in the farthest corner of the Terminal 1 departures hall. The signage for BCN check-in counters is rather poor. I was first in the priority line, which meant I had a boarding pass in hand in no time at all.
Security was a breeze at just before 5:00 AM, taking only 7 minutes. It made me glad I’d taken the 4:30 AM shuttle and not an earlier one!
Alitalia contracts with the Pau Casals VIP Lounge in Barcelona. Even if I wasn’t flying Alitalia business class, or currently a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, I’d still have had access via Priority Pass. The lounge opens at 5:00 AM daily, which meant I arrived just in time for them to open.
Boarding and Departure
Arrived at the gate at 5:52 AM, just in time to catch the last call announcement. My boarding pass clearly stated 5:55 AM as the boarding time. I was very glad I got there when I did. This wasn’t an issue on my return Alitalia A320 Europe business class flight from Rome. It took forever to board the aircraft at a remote stand by bus.
There was a moment of worry that there wouldn’t be any overhead bin space, but that turned out to not be an issue at all. There was still plenty of bin space in the business class cabin.
Alitalia’s business class cabin offers just four rows of business class, a total of 16 seats. The middle seat in each row is blocked. The cabin was nearly full on the trip from Barcelona, but less than half full on the return a couple weeks later.
For the first flight from Barcelona, we didn’t take off until 6:50 AM. Even with the early boarding Alitalia pulled, the rest of the process to get us underway was unhurried.
The flight time from Barcelona to Rome Fiumicino is 1:20. We would certainly arrive late into Fiumicino, probably late enough that catching my long-haul would be difficult. I was a bit anxious when we finally took off.
Alitalia A320 Europe Business Seat
Like most other European carriers, Alitalia offers essentially economy class seating as their “business” product. It’s not even comparable to domestic first class that we see on U.S. carriers. The seats are practically the same as economy.
The only difference is a middle divider that fills the center seat. This at least provides some space between passengers, which is certainly welcome. But it wouldn’t alone be enough for me to pay business class prices.
I guess the seat pitch in Alitalia A320 Europe business class is a bit better as well. At 32 inches, it’s not anything to write home about. But that is slightly better than 30 inches in the economy cabin.
The seats offer neither seat power nor seat back IFE. I wasn’t expecting IFE, but the lack of seat power in business class surprises me. It would make sense for them to at least install outlets in the business cabin.
Alitalia’s magazines in the seat-back pocket were rather beat up. This was the same at nearby seats. Actually, the plane overall felt like it had seen a lot of use, with plenty of smudges, scratches and stains on the plastic and seats. The interior just seems old, with the brown finises and paneling. I did enjoy the route maps in the magazine, though.
There was no WiFi signal once we hit 10,000 feet, and nothing for the rest of the flight, either. A flight attendant announced that it was deactivated. I caught this in the Italian cabin announcement, as he didn’t mention it in English.
Alitalia Europe Business Class Service
On the first flight, breakfast was served at 7:25 local time, as soon as possible during the flight. Trays were offered to each passenger in business class. There was only one option, so you could take it or leave it.
Breakfast consisted of a ham pastry, a croissant stuffed with raisins and I believe apple, a side of fruit, and a yogurt/kefir drink. I guess it is passable for airplane food, and it should have alerted me to Alitalia’s mediocre catering in advance of the long haul experience.
The return flight was timed around lunch, so that is what was served on that segment. I would venture to say that lunch was slightly better, although the vegetable lasagna wasn’t all that great.
Service was efficient. We were served the trays, followed by coffee, tea, or other beverages. I’m just glad that a full meal was offered, as you wouldn’t typically see this on U.S. carriers. It’s one of the things that stands out to me on even short international economy flights.
Flying Over the Mediterranean
I really enjoyed the route, picking a window seat for both short-haul Alitalia A320 business class segments. The early morning flight offered a lovely sunrise. My photo doesn’t do it justice. You can see the mountains of Corsica peeking through the clouds.
On the return trip I enjoyed views of Sardegna. I’d love to visit either island, but this is the closest I’ll likely get for a while.
And here is my final view of the trek as I disembarked at Barcelona El Prat Airport. But back to the first flight’s story, as I almost missed my connection!
Arrival and Transit through Fiumicino
My first flight landed just after scheduled boarding started for my long-haul flight. I knew when I booked the ticket that the connection was tight. But I’d not expected it to be this tight.
Parking at a remote stand made things way worse. I’d at least expected to be able to hurry off a jet bridge, sprint to passport control, and hopefully catch the flight in the middle of boarding. No such luck. We had to wait for stairs and buses.
Obviously, I was anxious to deplane. I could tell the French family in the row behind me was as well. Catching a glimpse of their son’s boarding pass, I saw Los Angeles as their destination as well. Soon we were all worrying together. Finally, we were able to deplane and enter the bus.
Long story short: we all made it. I sprinted through Fiumicino Airport. I thought I’d left the four of them behind, but they’d found an agent who whisked them through EU passport control. Now it was time to settle in for the long haul to Los Angeles.
Alitalia A320 Europe business class is not something I would ever pay for outright. There is little about the experience that warrants the premium over economy. I knew this would likely be the case heading into the flight, so my expectations weren’t really missed. I’ll just say that had it not been part of the full itinerary I’d booked, there is no way I would ever bother to sit “up front” on their short-haul product again.