Browsing Tag: Flight Review

Alitalia Airbus A330. Delish!

An Alitalia Airbus A330-200. Delish!

Alitalia is one of those airlines that I have always watched closely but have never had the chance to fly. While its business matters are complicated and ever evolving, Alitalia continues to run a solid operation with a highly regarded business class product and service standard. I was happy to join the airline for a flight in Magnifica Class on its newly added Dulles to Rome route, one of a small handful of new routes Alitalia has added to its map this year.

Alitalia does not have its own lounge at Dulles and instead leans on Skyteam partner Air France, but that lounge is currently under renovation so Magnifica passengers have access to the nearby Turkish Airlines lounge in the meantime. After a few lounge drinks it was time to board EI-EJL, an Airbus A330-200. Alitalia’s longhaul fleet is made up of 14 Airbus A330-200s, 11 Boeing 777-200s, and one single Boeing 777-300ER. Why does its fleet contain a single 777-300ER? Well, nobody really knows, actually.

A United 787 Dreamliner taking off in San Francisco

With other carriers bringing in record profits, United Airlines struggled to find the “Friendly Skies” after merging with Continental. In eight years together, they’ve experienced more PR nightmares than any other carrier in North America, by a country mile. Burdened by a negative reputation, United became an afterthought; soon overtaken by Delta and American Airlines.

After CEO Jeff Smisek resigned in 2015 under suspicion of corruption, things looked bleak. When incoming CEO, Oscar Munoz, experienced a heart attack one month into the job, the pulse appeared to be gone completely. We struggled to keep an open mind about the airline.

Bonus: Guest Flight Review: United Airlines Doesn’t Live Up To Expectations

Our first experience with the new United, back in 2015, did not go well. In Vancouver, we had difficulty checking in and selecting our seats, our flight from Denver to Austin was canceled and when we were finally re-booked on a later flight, our seats were separated. However, when I visited Austin a year later for the U.S. Grand Prix, United felt like a new airline. This time I had no issues selecting seats, no delays, and no unexplained procedures. Considering my moderate expectations for a basic economy fare, I had nothing to complain about. I couldn’t really judge the airline on my first two experiences; the sample size was too small. I needed another experience to break the tie.

Unfortunately, due to the personal circumstances which were about to unfold, the flight experience would be the least of my concern. But it became an opportunity to put United to the test and come up with a new conclusion. Read on to see a bit more what I am talking about and my two-stop journey on two airlines, and three aircraft types (including flying a 777 domestically).

All aboard TF-ICU - next stop, ORD.
Boarding TF-ICU, aka Dyrhólaey at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, next stop, Chicago’s O’Hare International

The backstory

Loyal readers will recall our 2017 review of Saga Premium (which, at the the time, was called Saga Class) on Icelandair’s venerable 757-200s.

Since then, Icelandair has added several Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets to their fleet (they ordered a total of 16 of the MAX in both the -8 and -9 variants), using them on routes to U.S. destinations on the east coast and upper midwest, along with several European routes.

I flew SEA-KEF on a 757, then returned via Chicago on a 737 MAX 8, as Seattle is, unfortunately, beyond the working range of the MAX 8.

So, two years on, what was it like to fly Saga? Candidly, I was a fan of the last trip, so the memory still felt fairly fresh. My outbound flight was on TF-FIR, aka Vatnajökull, aka 80 years of Aviation, aka the glacier livery.

This AvGeek was stoked at the opportunity to fly on Vatnajökull, even though it was parked at a corner gate between two diagonal jetways at SEA, making photos pretty much impossible that day. IMHO, it’s the one of prettiest planes in the sky today, tied for that honor with Icelandair’s Hekla Aurora livery on TF-FIU.

TF-FIR landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2017. I wasn't able to get out on the ramp to get pre-flight photos for this trip, so we'll have to make do with an existing image

TF-FIR landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2017. I wasn’t able to get out on the ramp to get pre-flight photos for this trip, so we’ll have to make do with an existing image

The outbound flight from SEA to KEF was as good as the last time – I was in seat 1A for this flight, which is in a bulkhead row. The seats themselves are the same as we reviewed in 2017. They feel even more dated now, especially when compared to contemporary options even on some domestic US carriers, but they’re still very comfortable and offer a generous amount of recline.

Glamour Shot of a OneJet Plus ERJ. - Photo: OneJet

Glamour Shot of a OneJet Plus ERJ – Photo: OneJet

Note: We flew OneJet Plus and wrote this piece right before the airline abruptly went belly up. Their “indefinite operational hold” provided no warning to customers, on-ground employees, or airports. The airline’s end stranded travelers across their network, including at least one flyer in Kansas City who had to make last-minute, costly alternate arrangements via a different airline. While we’ve consistently found ourselves to be quite fond of the unique OneJet product, the best service is always the one you can rely on.

That said, we’ve decided to move forward with this piece because OneJet’s product was excellent, and it leaves a void. Here’s hoping another cheeky upstart will step forward to fill the gap in service between mid-sized cities. So without further adieu, a flight review for a defunct airline.

OneJet Plus Review- Circa mid-2018:

Raise your hand if you get excited at the prospect of flying on an E-145. Yeah, Ok. Non-starter for most folks. I completely understand. Just the mention of an ERJ throws me back to a grim period in my own life where I was flying 145s far too often via the Continental brand. For many, the ERJ conjures up bad memories. But what if I told you the spunky little airline upstart OneJet was doing their damndest to make lemonade out of these otherwise sour planes?

Remember OneJet? We flew on them in 2015 and were among the first outlets to offer up a review. Don’t care to read the old article? No problem. In a sentence: It was love at first flight. When I first heard the company planned to offer a net-new ERJ product alongside their established, plush, and well-received Hawker 400s, I was solidly skeptical. If the Hawker 400 is a Mercedes, then the ERJ is an AMC Gremlin.