Airline review: Alitalia economy, Abu Dhabi to Venice

THE PLANE 

Airbus A330-200, the airline has 14 of these aircraft in its fleet.

THE ROUTE 

Abu Dhabi to Venice

THE LOYALTY SCHEME 

Skyteam Alliance. 

CLASS

Economy, seats 21A and B. The plane is a third full and crew are relaxed about passengers moving wherever they wish.

DURATION 

Scheduled take-off is 9.05am but a runway backlog delays our take-off until 9.50am. We arrive in Venice 10 minutes late after five hours and 55 minutes in the air.

THE FREQUENCY 

Alitalia flies return to Abu Dhabi each Monday.

THE SEAT

This is one of the first flights aboard Alitalia's freshly branded jets, launched four days previously. The A330 cabin has 20 seats in Magnifica (business) class and 263 in economy, where seat pitch is about 79 centimetres and the width is 43 centimetres. There is a startling freshness to the cabin interiors, with splashes of colour complementing the sea of dove-grey seats and wood panelled partitions. Even in economy the red leather headrests with orange leather overlays, custom stitching and tactile textiles show uncommon attention to detail. Each seat has its own USB port and power socket (110 volt). 

BAGGAGE 

One checked bag up to 23 kilograms. 

COMFORT 

The lack of people is the biggest comfort in economy, although crimson fleece blankets from top fabric house Frette come a close second. Pillows are cased in caterpillar-green synthetic fabric that has all the warmth of recycled plastic. Seats recline to 110 degrees, which feels quite generous though obviously not a patch on the 180-degree flat beds in Magnifica class.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Economy seats have 23-centimetre seatback screens for viewing dozens of films, including recent Hollywood hits alongside Italian cinema, world movies and classics. TV and music options are limited. Passengers can upload their own content via USB flash drive. 

SERVICE 

Cabin crew, spiffing in tailored green and navy uniforms, are friendly and accommodating during service runs but hard to spot otherwise. Alitalia attendants are to be trained at Etihad Airways headquarters in Abu Dhabi, so standards should improve. 

FOOD

The hype around the "new" Alitalia makes much of its food and beverage offerings but breakfast is not the best showcase. No alcohol is offered and the meal consists of an eggy slice (tastier than it looks) with bog-standard fried potato and chicken sausage, three slices of chilled fruit, a B-grade pastry and a strawberry yoghurt. There is no mention of the new "Caffe" service with its on-demand cappuccinos; we're offered only (rather good) brewed coffee.

ONE MORE THING

This is one of just two Alitalia jets offering Wi-Fi. Passengers can use global roaming or log into the airline's Wi-Fi network ($15 for one hour, $31 for three). Alitalia plans to introduce Wi-Fi across its long-haul network in coming months.

VERDICT 

Now flush with funds from new saviour shareholder Etihad Airways, Alitalia has its sights set on becoming a "five-star airline". The style is sorted thanks to new livery and interiors but it will be a longer haul to sort out the substance of the inflight experience through improved service, technology and onboard catering.

See www.Alitalia.com

Tested by Kendall Hill, who travelled at his own expense.

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