Best airline to Italy?

I’m thinking of traveling to Italy in October/November and am looking into airline tickets.

So… anyone have any recommendations for airline?

If travelling from (North America)…try your best to take British Airways to London and then take a connecting flight to wherever in italy(most likely Alitalia). The reason I say this is because British Airways is simply the classiest airline I’ve ever been on. Whenever possible I take this one.

If you are travelling from Austrailia, Quantus is usually your best bet. They are safe and pretty nice too.

If you are travelling from Asia, I unfortunately can’t help you because I don’t know much about any Asian Airlines. The only advice I can give in this case is to say that Alitalia is at the least, a decent airline.

Oh yeah, which continent I’m traveling from would probably help…

From JFK to Rome to be specific.

From JFK? I’d say your best guess is Alitalia or one of their (American) partners. KLM (Dutch) broke up their alliance with Alitalia, but there are some connecting deals out there via Amsterdam. Which, in turn, means that NorthWest (another KLM partner) may be an option, but I don’t know.

British Airways IS a good airline (I wouldn’t call it the classiest in the world, though). But are you looking for value, or service?

As always, the only airline worth flying is Lufthansa. Work your trip so that you can fly Lufthansa as much as possible.

Either that or Quantas, definitely Quantas, yeah.

I had a good experience flying to Italy on Continental Airlines (Austin to Newark to Rome then Rome to Newark to Houston to Austin), which is somehow affiliated with Alitalia. (Flying back, I had Alitalia tags on my bags but sat in a Continental DC-10).

Of course, Newark–not JFK–is a Continental Hub.

But hey, the beer was FREE from Newark to Rome and back! But for all I know, that’s true for many international flights; nonetheless, I was pleased. Mmmm… Miller Genuine Draft!

Hey, I’m making the same trip! (Or a very similar one, anyway.)

Anyone have any experience with Air France? They have some good deals right now, especially on “open-jaw” flights (into one city and out of another).

Dr. J

I enjoyed Alitalia immensely when I went to Italy last fall. Everything was run in that sophisticated yet comforting way that only continental Europeans seem to be able to pull off. I felt like I was in Italy as soon as I got on the plane.

The flight attendants wore white gloves, plus they showed Mr. Bean instead of those boring travel videos other airlines always have. F**kin’ sweet!

Aside: Genitalia is not the national airline of Italy.

My only one piece of advice is to avoid Alitalia at all costs. They suck all around. I had a couple of bad experiences with them and yet, to take advantage of their lower fare I bought a ticket from Madrid to HongKong (layover in Milan) with them. It was a nightmare. They lost my luggage and I have been battling them for months. This is not one isolated mishap. Their service in HongKong sucks. Their service in Beijing (where the luggage was sent) sucks. Their service in Milan (where the luggage was misdirected) sucks. Their service in Madrid (where I bought the ticket and filed the claim) sucks. I had to chase the luggage myself because they just weren’t doing anything. They lost it again. I have to chase them for five months to finally get a ridiculous compensation. They would not reply to my letters and I have spent a small fortune on phone calls. Their answer was, basically, “so sue us”. Their service in the US sucks. Their customer service in NY is an answering machine where you leave your name and phone number and you never hear from them again. Try it. Leave a message and see if you are luckier than I was and they call you back. Their office here in DC sucks. It is a small office on a second floor and when you go there a guy answers the door like you just woke him out of bed. This is not one isolated thing. They suck all around and there is no way in the world I am ever flying with them again. We had a fire on board. They really stink. They may offer you the cheapest fare but, believe me, it is not worth it. For a little more you can fly an American airline or British Airways or Lufthansa which are a million times better. In fact, I have flown BA to HongKong and there was a small mixup with my luggage and the people were so efficient and attentive I wrote them a letter of commendation. I have also flown with Lufthansa and they were also very good. I do not know what possessed me to fly with Alitalia after my previous bad experience with them. As I say, I am understanding about an isolated incident but these people just suck big time. If you want the details here’s why I hate Alitalia.

Since you are flying into Rome, Alitalia as well as several American airlines (Delta runs them out of JFK, as I recall) have direct flights to Rome. This is about a 9 hour trip. Personally, I think it’s worth it to suck it up and condemn yourself to sitting in a plane for 9 hours rather than break up the trip and change planes somewhere (more on this below).

Alitalia recently turned over almost all of their fleet (I think it’s so cute how the airlines call their planes a “fleet,” you can pretend you’re an admiral or a grand moff or something), so chances are you will get a new, roomy, spiffy plane. There is of course no guarantee that you will not get stuck on one of the few old, uncomfortable planes they are still using, but the odds are in your favor.

Price-wise, I have found that Delta and Alitalia have the lowest rates (I make the trip about four times a year).

If for some reason, you wish to take another national airline, such as British Airways, KLM, Sabena, Air France or Lufthansa, you will have to change planes in one of their hub cities and then take a smaller plane into Italy. Some people like this because it breaks up the flight time into more humane legs, but it also increases your risk of having lost luggage and a flight delay can make you miss your connection, thus dooming you to wandering around the Munich airport for several hours, buying over-priced snacks and getting all your change back in a currency you cannot use either at home or in Italy. If your plans change and you decide to fly into Florence or Pisa, for example, there are no direct flights from the US so you have to change planes anyway.

If you make your reservations far in advance, Alitalia sometimes has tourist packages that let you arrive in Rome, and depart from say, Milan, which is nice if you are travelling about, without charging you any extra. There is usually a hefty fee for arriving and departing from different airports, so ask in advance.

I agree that British Airways is an extremely classy way to fly, and KLM and Sabena also put on a good show. I used to do the Air France flight a lot, and in the past two years I noticed that their previously excellent service is not so excellent any more, and they lose luggage a lot now (although Dr. J, the low prices might be worth the risk). Again, these airlines are only an option if for some reason you do not want a direct flight into Rome.

Do you have a Visa card? This has nothing to do with airlines, but I wanted to mention that it is worth buying just about everything you can in Italy with a credit card because you get a very good exchange rate, better than what you will get at the currency exchange places, or even at the banks. Even if you are not usually a credit card user, it is a good idea to whip out the plastic every time you can in Italy. This also saves your cash because you will inevitably arrive at a store or restaurant that doesn’t take credit cards.

If you are doing shopping, do save your receipts because you can get a tax refund at the airport on your way home. The VAT is fairly high, and they will refund it to you if you stand in a very long line and fill out some forms.

Go to Google and do a search for “Alitalia sucks” and you’ll get a long list of hits, longer than you can imagine, including from a disgruntled passenger who had an experience similar to mine. I don’t know how you say “Alitalia sucks” in Italian but I’m sure you’d get a few hits too.

By the way, I read Milan (Alitalia’s hub) was the worst airport in Europe regarding delays etc. Not that it would surprise me. In Madrid I filed my complaint and three weeks later a guy calls me asking me for photocopies of the ticket etc. I told him I had attached the photocopies to my letter and he said “well, these photocopies are not too good, can you send me better ones?” Idiot! The photocopies are not too good because the original ticket you gave me is not too good! I asked him how it took him three weeks to just get around to looking at my letter and he said “it must have been delayed in the mail because I only got it today”. Really? Look at the envelope and you will see I delivered it in hand to your secretary three weeks ago! In the following five months I have had to deal with several people because “so and so no longer works here”. What a surprise! I will be so happy to see Alitalia go out of business. What idiots.

My advice: Avoid Alitalia, Air France and Iberia like the plague and try Lufthansa, British Airways or some American Airline. I have no recent experience with KLM, Swissair, SAS but they are probably also OK. But avoid those three like the plague. I am talking from personal experience.

SABENA?? Such A Bad Experience, Never Again!

It’s true, you know. Sabena’s all but bankrupt at the moment, and pilot strikes are a commonality. Fleet maintenance ain’t what it used to be either, or so I’ve heard.

sailor: we get your point. :slight_smile:
However, Milan has a new airport now. I’d be surprised if that one has more delays than, say, London Heathrow.

If what you’re looking for is Cheap But Reliable, then it’s still worth checking out that old stand-by, Icelandair. Their fares, unfortunately, are not as bargain-basement as they used to be, but they still have some good deals in the off-season, which includes October and November. You can mix’n’match between the cities they serve in North America and the cities they serve in Europe.

Plus you get to land at Keflavik and watch the sheep watching you as the plane taxis in.

Since nobody has mentioned it, and since I just returned form Italy, I’ll tell you that Virgin Atlantic gets a 50/50 rating from me. The service was great, the flight attendants were outstanding…however, the coach seating was like a cattle car. While I’ve put on some wieght around my middle since the last time I flew, I’m pretty positive that I haven’t grown any taller. There was literally no room beteen my knees and the seet in front of me. And I’m not increadibly tall, only 6’2, and when the person in front of me put their seat back, I was literally pinned in my seat. If I ever fly them again, I’ll pay the extra to upgrade to “premier economy”.

Does anyone know of an airline that has some decent seats? I don’t expect a recliner in coach, but at least enough room for my ass in the seat, and my feet to move around a little in front of me.
Also, I second the suggestion that you try and get a non-stop flight. We had a 12 hour layover in London, and it about killed up. Wasted a day that we could have been in Italy, kicking around Heathrow.

AlItalia served me very well. Except for the plane breaking on our way back from Sicily in March of 2000 (on the ground, necessitating a rescheduling for the following day). They put us up in a resonable hotel, though, which afforded us an extra night and dinner in Rome. And gave us comp tickets to make up for it, which made our Feb. 2001 trip to Tuscany possible.

  • I flew them on one transatlantic expedition, and I liked it. They’re the only ones I’ve seen - yet -with a personal LCD TV (choose between six movies) even in ultra-economy-monkey-poor-people-class. And they had a self-service cart in the pantries with beverages and sandwiches, something I haven’t seen elsewhere. YMMV.

My one & only experience with Alitalia (Copenhagen-Sardinia) was quite troublefree as well.

S. Norman

Wow, I’m really sad to hear this. I haven’t flown on Sabena since last October, it’s too bad they’re in a downward spiral. They had the latest flight connecting to Italy that departed from JFK, which was great if you were stuck in business meetings in NY through the evening.

I think the moral of this thread is that any flight on any airline has the potential to suck like a chest wound. I have had good experiences with airlines nine times, and the tenth time was a nightmare of epic proportions.

Coldfire, I am talking about the new airport. The information was sometime around March this year.

I fly fairly often and, of course, most flights go without incident but it is how the airline (or any business reacts) to a problem what counts. I have written letters of commendation to several airlines after such inciddents. United replaced a damaged suitcase and I wrote them a letter of thanks. British Airways mislabeled my suitcase and we had some problem with that but their handling of the incident was curteous and efficient. My point with Alitalia is not that an incident ocurred, it is that their response to the incident was lousy all around. Not one person but the entire airline.

Same thing with AirFrance who treat people like cattle. Remember the incident where they dragged a man from a lavatory into the aisle because they thought he was smoking and it turned out he wasn’t? I guess this would be possible (though very unlikely) in other airlines but it is the handling of the incident after the fact that is inexcusable. You would think Air France would apologise? Think again. They were adamant that it was just a mistake and too bad it happened. Last I heard the passenger sued them and I don’t know the outcome. An airline where I have to sue to get any satisfaction is not my idea of a good airline. Iberia, Air France and Alitalia are squarely in this group. If you are lucky and things go well, then no problem, but if you have a problem with them you’ll be sorry.

Alitalia never even gave me the amount they are supposed to legally give you immediately for immediate expenses. Their ignoring my letters and then saying on the phone “so sue us” is not the way I like to see things handled.

I have written letters of thanks and commendation to several airlines in the past, I am not one to only complain. I wrote one to British Airways commending two of their people in New York for their superior handling of a crowd of passengers who were acting like cattle. Today passengers are often acting very inappropriately and these people from BA were extremely tactful.

I also remember an incident between a United Airlines flight attendant and an unruly passenger who deserved to be kicked in the balls.

As I say, I would much rather fly British Airways, Lufthansa or some other airline rather than the three I mentioned.

Thanks for all the advice. Sounds like I might be stuck with Northwest, Delta, or Alitalia if I want a non-stop, and I do. Too bad – the British airlines sound nice.