Flying With Alitalia & In The Field Airline Research

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29/03/2009 – Flying With Alitalia & In The Field Airline Research

Over the past few months I have frequently written about the Italian National Flag Carrier, Alitalia Airlines. For those of you who have missed my postings on Alitalia, in short the airline was on the brink of collapse; the airline was bought up by a group of investors; the airline merged with Italy’s #2 carrier Air One; the “New Alitalia” launched in January, and just the other day Air France-KLM officially purchased a 25% stake in the carrier.

Following my last post regarding Alitalia I received a series of e-mails from an industry observer essentially telling me that my research was shallow and that I needed to ‘put up for shut up.’  As much as I disagree that my research was shallow I set out at the end of February to conduct some in-the-field research.

On the 28th of February I spent a part of my day at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle International Airport (CDG) seeking out frequent flyers travelling between Paris/CDG and Rome/FCO. These frequent flyers were traveling on both Alitalia and Air France flights. Both airlines ‘code-shared’ the combination of four flights, two on Alitalia Airbus A320 series aircraft and two on Air France Airbus A320 series aircraft.  The first round of flights departed approximately 15 minutes apart, as were the second round of flights.

The information I gathered on the 28th of February was quite interesting on why frequent flyers chose one airline over the other, in many cases having a preference for one airline over the other, until the metrics of pricing came into play.

Not satisfied with speaking with frequent flyers traveling on short-haul routes two days ago I set out for a 43 hour journey on Alitalia while on my way to Amsterdam for a business trip.  For this trip rather than fly with Air France & KLM as I have done in the past, I booked my two long-haul trans-Atlantic flights with Alitalia.   While my flights from Milan (MXP) to Amsterdam (AMS) were on KLM aircraft, as Alitalia no longer flies its own aircraft on the route I was flying, I made sure to book these flights as Alitalia code-shares, with Alitalia flight numbers.

On Friday I took my seat in the back of an Alitalia 767-300 (763) and departed New York’s JFK International Airport (JFK) bound for Milan’s Malpensa (MXP) on an Alitalia. In a few short hours I will again board an Alitalia 763, this time flying from MXP back to JFK.

During my time in the in Alitalia’s gate area, lounges and in flight I took the opportunity to speak with quite a few passengers regarding their choice in flying with Alitalia and their opinions of the airline.  It was interesting how similar the answers were between passengers flying between New York & Milan were compared to those flying between Paris & Rome. Even the answers between the frequent flyers and the casual flyers were strikingly similar in many ways.

The information gathered in the field, along with my own well-travelled opinions have actually furthered my opinions of the airlines. There were certain details that were fleshed out and some areas of interest from flyers that were unexpected.

I plan on finishing up my research when I land in MXP in about 45 minutes, and will continue it through my fourth and final flight of the weekend as I head back to New York.

…so to you ‘Mr. Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up’ thank you for reminding me that nothing beats good hard boots on the ground research.

I plan on following up with Alitalia directly once again following the condensing and organizing of my notes.   After I make contact with the airline I’m sure I’ll follow up here.

Happy Flying!
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  1. HI Fish,
    My brother was given that name too many years ago because he shot his basketball hoops like a fish. Anyway, if you could help me I would be most grateful. I am planning a trip ( a first) to Italy with my 83 year old mother this september. We have booked a Delta Flight with New Alitalia Flight 8180. It is on a 777-200 out of JFK. Do you have any suggestions? Can you take a walker on the plane with you?? I can’t seem to get through to anyone on the phone. Do you think getting to the airport 2 hours early is enough time?? In Rome I transfer to a flight to Naples with

  2. Patty

    If your Mom is 83 and uses a walker you want to explain this to the reservations agent and look into seats 80 A/B/C & 80 G/H/J. A walker will likely be gate-checked and make sure you request a wheel chair in the reservation so you have the wheel chair from check to gate.

    For an international flight out of JFK Terminal 3 I’d allow a minimum of 3hrs and check in online 24hrs in advance. Make sure Delta marks down a wheel chair to meet you in Rome and assist you through immigrations and to your Alitalia onward flight.

    Happy Flying!


  3. Me and my girlfriend, we flew from Israel to Venice in transit via Rome unfortunaly by “alitalia”. To begin with, that in the reservation was at first one price and then called and told that the airline company suddenly raised the price. Okay, I think $ 200 is not a problem. Departure aircraft was late for an hour, we nearly missed our flight interchange, but it happened well, thank God. The plane was old, it should be noted, and the floor shook so as my parents’ dacha outside Moscow. So there we went almost without incident.
    On the way back to Rome flew well, almost. In Rome, the same staff of this esteemed company for some reason decided that it was me and my friend with a totally European in appearance and with a handbag, it is we who embodies the “axis of evil” and we were invited for a personal inspection. Politely bag dug in my purse and friends. Then he was asked to arrange the legs and raise hands, and that all everybody watching. God, what a shame I experienced, I’m not talking about his law-abiding friend why she had such a time during this shameful raid with climbing in the perineum. Why is checked only to us, I specifically stood and watched as his uncle with suitcases and backpacks pass by the airline workers unhindered. We had a ticket at the window, as in a series of three chairs, then there was another passenger, and that the passenger was an old woman, who can not get up because the patients legs and a very impressive physique on hundredweight weight. And the first problem was to move through this old lady to our seats. When I saw that take the place we do not succeed without surgery, he asked a steward to old woman seated in the middle of the plane, well, where the passage and the distance between the seats with the meter. Italian only shook his head emphatically and giving me a withering look set to farm in his truck. Well, I thought to myself, and began looking for vacant spaces. Fortunately, I still found the place and we sat down and the plane, shaking his old body, snorted, and lifted us to unprecedented heights of the Roman sky.
    What again unpleasantly surprised, because it is passing steward on the plane caused a feeling of air holes, but after an hour, we have become accustomed to it. And in the end after passing passport control, we went to his luggage and … correctly, it was not. It turned out that he simply forgot somewhere and with someone. No explanations. No apologies. No luggage, stand in a queue, write said maybe find. What was started with my girlfriend ….. That’s such a glorious history of flight by alitalia.

  4. My only child and his wife are flying to Rome this Sat.on Delta using New Alitalia, departing JFK at 5PM. Do you think they will be on a safe aircraft?
    Thank you, Martha

  5. Martha,

    Safety has not been an issue with Alitalia. The airline’s long haul fleet of Boeing 767-300 and 777-200, along with the Airbus A330-200 acquired during their merge with AirOne are all very well maintained and safe aircraft.

    Delta 8189 (also operates as Delta 8712) is a code-share on Alitalia 609. The flight is on board an Alitalia Boeing 767-300 (which AZ designates as 764 aircraft). The flight is very safe. It may be late, bags may get misrouted, the customer service experience may be lacking…but the flight is most certainly safe.

    The last significant Alitalia incident was on 17-December-1991 in Warsaw Poland with DC-9-32. In that incident there were ZERO fatalities among the 96 people on board.

    Your son and his wife will be absolutely fine.

    Happy Flying!


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