Alitalia A321 Business Class

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Check-In

I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, Alitalia’s hub, at 18h15 for my 19h55 AZ206 flight to London Heathrow. As the UK is a non-Schengen destination, Alitalia has to operate the London flight from Terminal 3 rather than the Alitalia- and Skyteam-branded Terminal 1. It means premium passengers on this route don’t benefit from the impressive Bramante pre-security lounge at T1, which has check-in desks, a bar, plentiful seating and a meeting room. I therefore headed for T3’s smaller premium check-in area, located behind a baggage wrapping company, down a corridor. It is like a mini-executive lounge, with leather seats in the colours of the Italian flag. There were two check-in desks, only one of which was manned, and there was one person in front of me – otherwise the area was empty. The luggage belt didn’t work so someone came to collect my bag. Business class passengers flying with Alitalia can use the fast-track security points, well worth it as there was only one person in front of me when I went through, rather than the 30 or so at the standard security point.

The Lounge

After passport control I followed signs to the airline’s Giotto lounge, which was close to my gate (7) in boarding area G. It was spacious and stylish, with sleek leather seating in Alitalia’s colours, but had no natural light. While it is open-plan, the venue makes good use of dividing glass panels, creating sections of varying sizes including some good corners for napping on reclining chairs. I grabbed a bottle of Peroni from the self-service bar, where there were also some snacks (mainly cold pizza, bread and croissants). Adjacent is a manned bar, where you can get spirits and a freshly prepared cappuccino or espresso. I found a seat with a European plug socket nearby, charged my laptop and checked emails – Wi-Fi is free. There are no computers. Large departure screens are visible from most seats.

Boarding

My flight was announced in the lounge. When I got to the gate there was already quite a long queue (there was no separate line for business passengers) but it moved quickly. I was through in little more than five minutes. Once on board, I put my coat and bag in one of the overhead lockers.

The Seat

The configuration on this two class A321 is 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F), except for the emergency exit rows, nine and 24, which are 3-2 (A-B-C, E-F). The middle seat is kept free in business, which was across rows one to four on this flight – there is a curtain to separate the classes, which can be moved to behind the seventh row. I was in seat 1C. All Alitalia’s A321s on the London-Rome route have now been fitted with comfortable new leather seats in gunmetal grey. The ones in business have slightly more legroom (up to two inches) but no more recline than in economy. As I was in the front row, I had extra legroom and plenty of space to use my laptop comfortably – the table, which came out of my armrest, didn’t bounce when I typed, but note there is no in-seat power.

Which Seat to Choose?

The best seats in business for legroom are in row one. Bear in mind that they are closest to the galley and washroom, but on such a short flight this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The Flight

We took off about five minutes late. A hot towel was offered at 20h30, followed by drinks – I was offered wine or beer but opted for sparkling water – and the meal service shortly afterwards. For dinner, which was served with metal cutlery, I was given crespelle alla ricotta (crespelle are Italian crepes), which tasted good, although were quite heavy as there was a lot of cheese. There was no other meal option. A basket of fresh bread was also brought around, and I tried a pizzetta bianca, which was delicious – like a warm doughy pizza with no topping. The service was good, and I was offered extra bread and another drink.

Arrival

The landing was fairly smooth, although once we arrived at our stand, about ten minutes early at 21h35, there was a complete black-out on board for a few minutes, which was a little unnerving. There seemed to be no major problem, however, and the doors opened shortly afterwards. I arrived into Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and followed the signs at border control for IRIS, only to find it out of order. Fortunately, the nearest desk was open and there was no queue. Once at the baggage hall there was a short wait, but my case was among the first out.

Verdict

A decent short-haul business class product with tasty food and a comfortable seat. The Freccia Alata lounge was a great pit-stop along the way.

Sara Turner