The Dutch sun had already risen when my alarm clock rung at 5:45 in the morning. After whispering some insults, which are not worth repeating here, I slowly woke up. I thought about starting by finishing my packing, but decided to first have a shower.
After quickly putting all my stuff into my suitcase, I went downstairs to have some breakfast. My mom caught me at the kitchen and said “Easy you, Marcos – we’ll grab a bite at the airport”. I was actually feeling hungry, but I thought I’d better not start discussing with my mother.
At around 7:30 the taxi arrived. I bided my last farewell to The Hague and in no time we entered A4 motorway, following all signs to Amsterdam. Meanwhile, on the radio they were announcing the death toll of Al-Qaida’s last attack in Sharm al-Sheich. Ben Laden and his friends certainly deserve to burn in hell for ever.
Once in front of the airport, we paid the taxi driver, took our luggage and made our way to Departures 1, where Alitalia check-in is located. Whilst waiting for a moment until one of the two agents was free, I paid a look to our ticket, printed in KLM paper – “Total Price: EUR 25.95”. You gotta love redeeming miles for flights. We wouldn’t have got this price with any other airline at this time of the year, not even with Ryanair.
Check-in was done by KLM ground staff, no surprise since the flight was codeshared with them. The girl, dressing their typical light-blue dress, was quite nice. She printed our green boarding passes and sent our luggage to Rome. “Your Flying Dutchman – err, Flying Blue numbers are already in the computer”, she said. I smiled, both because she misnamed the programme’s name and because we were not supposed to get any miles on this reward flight.
Security was done in a breeze, which is something really unusual at Schiphol. Once on the airside we went upstairs to KLM’s Crown Lounge. The old lady at the entrance desk asked for our boarding passes and Flying Blue cards. We gave her my mom’s Platinum Elite card and my dad’s Gold Elite card. When she asked to see mine, I replied “I’m their guest”. She smiled and let us in.
Even though the lounge had certainly been just refurbished, there was something I didn’t like about it. I believe it was its huge size which bothered me, since I am used to Lufthansa’s Senator Lounges, which are very small in comparison. Besides, all furniture and walls were white and blue, which are not the cosiest colours on Earth. Overall I found the ambiance to be somewhat cold.
Anyway, finally it was breakfast time. We settled in one table, and I picked a coffee, an orange juice, some croissants and a copy of Libération, a French left-wing newspaper. After some 45 minutes, my father said “¿Vamos?”, a multiuse Spanish word which, in this case, meant something like “Shall we go?”. My mom and I agreed, and we left the lounge. No “good bye” or “have a nice flight” from the lady at the desk, in contrary to Lufthansa employees, who always bid you farewell when leaving the room. I know that is not really necessary, but it is a small touch I always like.
We went downstairs and started our long walk to B-pier, from where our flight would be boarding in some minutes. We passed by some Martinair planes, being prepared for their flights to warmer and sunnier destinations across the whole world.
The Airbus A319 that would later take us to Rome was already parked at position B12. It was registered I-BIMA and baptized “Isola d’Elba” (“Elba Island”). For those of you who don’t know it, Napoléon Bonaparte spent some years imprisoned in Elba, before escaping and reaching France. Later, he would become Emperor, go to war versus almost every single European nation, and be imprisoned again, this time in Saint Helena island, in the middle of the Southern Atlantic, in order to avoid escaping again. Indeed Napoléon was not able to escape, and he died in Saint Helena - some say because of natural disease, some because he was poisoned by the Britons. No matter which is the truth, his life certainly was interesting.
Back to topic now. Pre-boarding was announced for Alitalia flight AZ 107 to Rome Fiumicino. I convinced my parents to wait outside for a while, since I badly hate pre-boarding. I am not the type of person who enjoys being stuck between four small walls with other one hundred fellow passengers for a considerable amount of time. I know the plane is going to wait for me anyway, so why should I hurry? We boarded only when the gates’ doors were opened. Before entering the plane, I took a copy of Rome’s newspaper “La Repubblica”.
“Isola d’Elba” was delivered to Alitalia on June 2002 and still looks new. Interior is full of green and white, basically the two colours one would expect from Italy’s flag carrier. Economy Class was packed, without a single empty seat. On the other hand, only two passengers were flying on “Prima Classe”.
I have always found Alitalia’s names to be interesting – “Prima Classe” for their Business Class, although it literally means “First Class”; “Classe Magnifica” (“Magnificent Class”) for their First Class. And my all-time favourites, “Ulisse” (“Ulysses”) and “Freccia Alata” (“Winged Arrow”) for the two higher levels of “Mille Miglia” (“Thousand Miles”) frequent traveller programme. All names look very nice and clever when compared to some other airlines’.
Security announcements were played on the LCD screens in Italian and English. The Italian version also included sign language, which I thought was really great for deaf passengers. It is the only time I have seen it, and wish other airlines would copy it.
As for our route, we flew over the Netherlands, western Germany, Austria, the Alps, Lombardy, Tuscany and finally Lazio, and approached Fiumicino from the Mediterranean.
Service consisted of a box, again green and white, called “Alisnack – with the compliments of Alitalia”. It consisted on a strawberry yoghurt, a piece of cake and a sort of ham sandwich, what in Argentina (and perhaps in Italy, too?) we call “traviata”. It also included a refreshment towel. The food wasn’t great, and the cake was dry, but it was a lot more than what you get with other so-called “full-frills” European airlines on flights this length – learn from the Italians, Lufthansa!
On the LCD screens we were showed some old cartoons during the whole flight. Although I did not watch them, some people apparently liked them, as they laughed every once in a while. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy – everyone was going to Italy on holiday.
Much to my surprise, there was no Alitalia in-flight magazine on any seat pocket. There only were the safety card, an airsicknessbag and a small, orange brochure of “Griffair”, their duty-free shop. The flight attendants even passed once selling “duty-free” goods, which I found to be odd – on flights between the EU, like this one, all goods are taxed.
Our crew consisted on three flight attendants, two males and one female. The two males were really nice and cheerful, yet the old lady was really annoying. When I took the above-posted cabin picture, she came and told me, with a strong Italian accent “It is forbidden to take pictures onboard!” One of the guys came after, smiling, and said “Don’t pay attention to her”. I had a good laugh, because this scene could have perfectly taken place at any Aerolíneas Argentinas flight. Italians are our brothers, there’s no doubt about it.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, including some breathtaking views of the Alps. Landing at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino was good, and we parked at an outside position, from where we were bussed to the terminal.
Baggage claim took ages, and the airport was packed, with lots of flights arriving from everywhere in Europe and beyond. While waiting for our luggage, we were all smelled by an anti-drugs dog of the “Guardia di Finanza”, Italy’s customs authority.
Fiumicino was so full of people, it took almost two hours to reach Hertz’s desk and pick up our new Fiat Punto, which we had rented for a week.
Now, it’s time for the verdict. It was my first time flying Alitalia and would try them again without hesitation. The aircraft was new, service was alright and flight attendants were…well, let’s put it this way, they were very Italian, if you get what I mean. Now that my Flying Blue account is left with some 300 miles, I may join Mille Miglia, which looks more generous than other Sky Team programmes.
This was part 2 of my series of trip reports from South America to Europe and back. You may find part 1 here: LH EZE-FRA-AMS: The Good Ol' Days Are Gone (Pics!) (by Marambio Aug 7 2005 in Trip Reports)
I hope you enjoyed your reading. As usual, bear in mind English is not my mother tongue, so excuse me for any kind of mistakes I may have had. Comments, criticism and questions are, of course, more than welcome.