Travel Tales / Travel Tips

The Biggest Loser: Airlines

It is with great sadness that I report that the worst food and in-flight entertainment award for my trip goes to Alitalia, the Italian airline. After a week of exceptional food in Venice I was ready for one last taste of Italy on my way out, not the case.

This is one of the first international flights I’ve taken that has not offered a choice in meals. And the only one (aside from the 50 minute flight from Sri Lanka to the Maldives), to not have anything warm. The only choice: cold mystery meat over cold mystery salad thing served with cold bread. I know the meat wasn’t pork, because a little note on the tray said the meals contained no pork, but I haven’t the slightest clue what the tasteless white meat might have been. And cold, hard bread? They must’ve waited until we were no longer in Italian airspace because that cold hard bread would not fly in Italy!
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Even the pasta salad with olives and pesto was either so undercooked or overcooked that it was downright hard and inedible. And this label of inedibility is coming from someone who just ate mystery meat and a strange mushy pile of mystery salad thing, so clearly my standards are not that high.

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For dessert? A piece of candy! ONE piece of candy, in a flavor randomly selected from a giant tray by the stewardess. The husband got “red” which everyone knows is the best candy flavor. I was left with orange, which everyone knows should be removed from all fruit candy mixes and replaced with various red fruits. (*Luckily I had a pie in my purse and cannoli in my carry-on. It is important to be prepared for dessert emergencies at all times while traveling!)

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The best part of the meal was the pre-packaged cheese and crackers, which Alitalia had no way to mess up but also gets no credit for.

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On to inflight entertainment. There was none. Each seat back had the smallest screen I’ve seen, and a credit card reader which occupied most of the space, but none of them actually seemed to work. I would have considered swiping my credit card to see if the tiny screen would magically come alive, but given that the “carrier imposed fees” were more than the cost of my actual ticket, I’m not going to give free reign of my credit card to an Alitalia plane!

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Speaking of which, what on earth were those “carrier imposed fees” for? Clearly not food or entertainment. And definitely not taxes either because that was separate too and also almost as much as the ticket itself! The fee doesn’t seem to be supporting new planes either as the seats didn’t even recline on our domestic leg. Do the Alitalia executives just have a Christmas party where they roll in piles of money collected as “carrier imposed fees”?

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Second place in the biggest loser airline category goes to Philippine Airlines, FYI. Aside from not being part of any frequent flyer alliance (presumably because no one wants to be associated with them), their plane takes the prize for dirtiest, oldest plane of my round the world journey. Also no entertainment, but the food was at least warm and the flight super short, bumping them up past Alitalia. Several budget airlines now fly almost every route served by Philippine Airlines and I assume they are all somewhat better. They don’t always show up in booking engines like Kayak and Travelocity though, so you may have to go to their websites directly.

*As my Alitalia flight ended, I realized another problem- service. They cleared our meal trays but never again came around to collect trash. I still had my tea cup when we began our descent so I left my tray down hoping to get the attention of a flight attendant, no luck. Also no immigration forms for our destination. This is the ONLY international flight I have ever taken (budget airlines included) that did not distribute these forms, causing many passengers to get rejected by passport control and pointed to the back of the room where a few small stands held copies of the forms.

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