Flight Plan

Height of luxury: at 36,000 ft, a taste of Seventh Heaven

Venky Vembu | Updated on January 22, 2019 Published on January 22, 2019

If you are inclined to sleep The 24 seats in Air Italy’s Business Class are at a 78-inch pitch and open out into flat beds, for some shut-eye

Flying business class on Air Italy’s service to Milan is an experience to savour

At 36,000 feet, it’s easy to persuade yourself that you’re halfway to heaven.

But enveloped in the cocoon of Air Italy’s Business Class hospitality, I didn’t need any persuading that I was all the way in Seventh Heaven. Federico Fellini may have introduced us to La Dolce Vita, but the concept of The Good Life has been taken to new heights by the born-again Italian airline.

I flew Delhi-Milan (IG 956) on an A330-200, and given the early-morning departure, which makes for a low-on-sleep night before, I was eager for some shut-eye. Everything — from the check-in experience onwards — appeared attuned to helping me meet that objective.

The check-in took all of three minutes, and I was soon wallowing in luxury at the Plaza Premium Lounge. At 4 am, the lounge is sparsely occupied, which enhances its exclusivity, prepping you for onboard indulgence.

Sufficiently restored, I was open to new sensory offerings, of which there was plenty onboard. The Business Class livery, in soothing burgundy and turquoise blue, reflects Air Italy’s heritage. The burgundy is drawn from Qatar Airways (which owns 49 per cent of Air Italy); the turquoise from Alisardia (which owns 51 per cent) invokes the Mediterranean.

My cheery host Stefan proffered me a glass of Maxime Blin champagne, from the Saint-Thierry region in France. Admittedly, 6 am is not the optimal time for a glass of the bubbly, but I abided by the protocol that you eat and drink for the time zone you’re arriving at, and it was still party time in Milan!

The 24 seats in the Business Class are at a 78-inch pitch, and open out into flat beds; the airline provides a comfortable mattress, and a turndown service. I was offered pyjamas and slippers, and a Fedon amenity kit with Acca Kappa toiletries. Stefan also gave me a coupon for complimentary inflight Wi-Fi access. But soon after take-off, I turned in: after a virtually sleepless night, a flat-bed is something of a life-restorer.

Air Italy has an international cuisine range, including concessions to the Indian palate (Goan fish curry; masala dosa; khandvi): for breakfast, I settled on a cheese omelette with Lyonnaise potatoes, sautéed mushroom and herb roasted tomatoes; freshly baked sourdough bread; and seasonal fruits. Given the time of day — I arrived in Milan at 10.30 am — that’s as much justice as I could do to the spread.

Spirited repast

The return flight, which departs from Milan Malpensa at 4 pm, gives greater scope to explore the range of wines, food and in-flight entertainment. The check-in was smooth, and the Fast Track facility let me breeze past security lines. On board, I was again greeted with champagne and, later, offered a wholesome range of wines (I savoured a Chianti Superiore from Castello Del Trebbio, near Florence; and the Casadei Sogno Mediterraneo Toscana, also from Tuscany) and spirits, including the iconic Negroni cocktail.

Palate special The food served on Air Italy was an epicurean delight

 

The food menu was an epicurean delight: I began with a winter salad (bresaola, Chiodini mushrooms); moved on to a melt-in-your-mouth Sardinian stuffed pasta, with creamy porcini sauce and Grana Padano shavings; grilled cod fish with lemon sauce, roasted potatoes, carrots, asparagus and courgettes; spriga bread with a selection of cheese; seasonal fresh fruits; and a Sicilian cannolo for dessert. After such a spread, the rest of the flight was given over to lambent dullness, interspersed with bouts of binge-watching movies and yet more wine. That’s all the spiritual persuasion I needed to convince myself that all was well in this corner of heaven.

The writer recently travelled to Milan as a guest of Air Italy (airitaly.com), which has thrice-weekly direct flights to Milan from Delhi and Mumbai

Published on January 22, 2019
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