It’s Time I Fly Meridiana Business Class

For a while I’ve been fascinated by Meridiana, which is the second largest airline based in Italy, after Alitalia. Last year, Qatar Airways even announced that they’d buy a 49% stake in the airline.

They have one of the first & business class products that I’d be most interested in reviewing. Meridiana flies seasonally to New York JFK out of both Naples and Palermo, and historically has even offered more routes from Italy to New York.

One of the things that makes them interesting is that they consistently have excellent business class fares. For example, their normal business class fare between New York and Italy seems to be ~$1,550.

Meridiana-1

Meridiana-2

I’ve had a lot of people ask me if they’re a decent airline to fly, given that there’s not another airline flying nonstop to Naples and Palermo (Naples is a popular jumping off point to the Amalfi Coast, which I know a lot of people want to visit).

I recently flew Ukraine Airlines from Kiev to New York, and I’d be curious to see how Meridiana compares. The airlines have a lot in common. Both fly 767s to New York, and both also have eight seats per row in 767 economy, which is extremely tight (almost all other airlines only have seven seats per row).

Meridiana’s business class product looks… well, not great.

Meridiana-Business-Class-1

These are really old style recliner seats. They’re not fully flat, and aren’t even angled flat, and aren’t even the latest generation of recliner seats. So they’re probably almost a few decades past their prime.

Meridiana-Business-Class-2

Nonetheless, I’d have to imagine that food on Meridiana is pretty decent, given that it’s an Italian airline… at least I’d hope so.

Meridiana-Business-Class

They even publish their menus for flights to/from New York online. For example, here’s the menu for flights out of New York (grilled meat, yum!):

Meridiana-1

And here’s the menu for flights out of Italy (tilapia, yum!):

Meridiana-2

Anyway, I’m planning on taking this flight in the next couple of months. I’m trying to decide whether I should just do a same day, direct turn to Italy and back (that sounds like a unique way to spend 24 hours), or if Palermo or Naples would be worth spending a couple of days in. My travel schedule is already pretty full, so I’d at most like to do a couple of nights somewhere, and ideally it wouldn’t be too far from the airports (in other words, I don’t want to spend six hours on a train).

Has anyone flown Meridiana? Should I visit Palermo or Naples? Anyone have a hotel recommendation around either city? Am I crazy for even thinking of doing this?

Comments

  1. I do know you review airlines/hotels for a living.
    But you are flying more new airlines than new airlines being created.
    Does it really make sense to book these for a turn around?

  2. Positano is a little over an hour from Naples and worth the trip – even if only for a few nights. Most hotels will pick you up in a Mercedes from the airport.

    Naples is rather run down in my opinion. A driver once told me that the unemployment rate is close to 40% in Naples and about 10% once you pass through to tunnel to the Amalfi Coast. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure feels that way.

  3. @ Alan — I might run out of airlines, but I’ll never run out of products. Airlines are constantly introducing new products, and I’ll never be able to keep up with the pace at which they’re introduced.

  4. Naples is the home of pizza and has some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. I’d go just for that.

  5. There used to be a great Luxury Collection hotel in Naples but it’s not SPG any more sadly. Still, a great city–just keep your guard up, it has a reputation for crime. The pizza is indisputably amazing though.

  6. If you can imagine you’re living in 1985 it’s fine, though my imagination wasn’t sufficiently vivid for that feat. Still, it’s the fastest commercial way from NYC to Amalfi. And if you haven’t been to the Amalfi coast, that’s obviously a travel gap you need to fill immediately, what a happy place. I’m sure you realize one day won’t cut it, so if you can swing it go spend at least a week and do Ravello, Amalfi, Positano and Capri, spending the most time in Ravello. And check the Pompeii box.

  7. Naples is awesome. Gritty, but wonderful.

    It’s also the birthplace of Gelato. The best seafood in Italy (as is the rest of the Amalfi coast). Very inexpensive for many things. If you are at all interested in Greek sculpture, go to the museum, it’s world class.

  8. I believe Naples has High Speed train service to Rome (and Milan ? Don’t quote me on that) so if you have to reposition it wouldn’t be that bad (no 6 hours in a train ^^)

  9. Naples is definitely worth a visit! Amazing food, very nice people, beautiful waterfront with some very nice hotels offering very cheap rates.

    Also, Positano is more than an hour from Naples, so it’s not that quick of a ride but definitely worth the trip.

  10. Naples and Palermo are both fascinating cities to visit with great art and history and FOOD. South of Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi coast south of Naples are also wonderful places to visit – one for history, one for relaxation (and food). There are a lot of reasons to spend time driving around Sicily too. If you are only going stay for a few days, go with Naples or Florence.

  11. Those pictures remind me a lot of the old Pan Am seats upstairs on a 747. Considering the evolution of seats, that’s not a compliment.

  12. Spend a day or two at the Holiday inn Nola. Don’t pack at all, just buy new clothing at the attached mall. Do as the french peasants were advised, eat the cake at the breakfast.

  13. @lucky

    My wife and I flew Meridiana Sep. 2015 to Naples. It’s not amazing, but totally fine. Your assumptions are all correct. The seat and cabin are dated. The seat is better than domestic first in my opinion. Reclines a little more and has foot rest which helps. Food was pretty decent. Again no book to cook flying from SIN, but pretty decent. Crew was great both ways, nothing to complain about there.
    Naples is pretty run down, but I would highly recommend going to Capri for few days. Ferry terminal is short cab ride from the airport. The flight lands early AM, so your ferry is crossing to Capri as the sun rises and you can have early breakfast on the island before it gets too busy with tourists. Capri is touristy, but not nearly as busy as the towns on the coast. Worth to stay for few days and explore. I’d recommend staying in Anacapri, not as busy and very central to the rest of the island.

  14. Even though it’s your job. It’s borderline insane to fly to some of the nicest places in the world and then leave.

  15. Naples is fantastic!!!!! It is not fancy as Milan but it is the real southern Italy that still keeps the tradition. Food is out of this world!!!! I stayed at the Renaissance Mediterraneo hotel which was great and the location was simply perfect with breathtaking view of Mt Vesuvius. You can take day trips to Pompeii, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast (Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, etc…) and Capri. I was there last summer and if you decide to visit I will be happy to share the places to visit and eat. Naples is the birthplace of the best pizza in the world and the espresso. It is also known for amazing seafood and pastries.

  16. Naples is fantastic (the “gritty but wonderful” description above is apt) but the surrounding countryside of Campania even more so. If you have time to vist the Caserta Palace, it is beautiful. The Amalfi coast can be swamped with tourists but check out http://www.hikingcampagnia.com as it directs you to the most amazing walks.

  17. Fly from JFK to Palermo spend some days in the Hilton Gardini Naxos or the new Sheraton in Ragusa and then fly from Catania to Naples. Spend some days there and fly back to JFK. You have to visit the Etna!

  18. Lucky, trust your readers: You absolutely need to visit the Amalfi Coast. Positano is only about an hour from Naples Airport and the car transfer is super easy.

    There’s a reason why there are thousands of Australian and US tourists in the high season. It’s one of the best places on earth. If you go outside of peak times, it could be life-changing.

    The high-speed rail service from Salerno to Rome (1.5-2hr) also seems very solid if you need to reposition.

  19. Palermo is wonderfull and if you love art, sunny days and food it’s definitely the place to be for a couple of days. Start with a stroll in the city center and then go to Monreale (beautiful church) and Mondello (beach). Taste fresh fish, ‘arancini’, ‘pane e panelle’, ‘cassata’ and ‘cannoli’.

  20. Stay a few nights in Naples…its really over the top. You will feel like your in Bensonhurst Brooklyn with the clothes hanging outside to dry and the amazing pizza (Pizza was invented here as they say). Stay alert.

  21. The fact that you even contemplate getting off one bus just to get on another when travelling to Naples or Sicily says it all. Send Daniel or one of the others.

  22. I guess Lorenzo is Italian like me.
    Lucky, if I were you, I’d stick to his plan, even though Giardini Naxos (or Taormina) are a 3-hour drive from PMO

  23. Thanks for all the awesome tips, guys! Hmmm, actually tempted to do the Amalfi Coast/Positano. Anyone have a favorite hotel that ideally isn’t $1k per night, but is still nice (looking at going in the off season, if that helps).

  24. @Lucky: This is what we did last summer. We flew into Naples and hired a private driver to stay with our family the 5 days we were staying the region. We used Sorrento as a base and stayed at the Hilton Sorrento using points. If you don’t want to fight the crowds going to the Amalfi Coast you can get your own private boat with a skipper in Sorrento and he can take you anywhere you want. We did the entire Amalfi Coast by car first but then did by boat. Wow!!!! A completely different experience. The boat took us to Capri and to Amalfi and Positano at our own leisure. We just had to tell the skipper at what time we wanted to get back and he was there waiting for us. Take a look here: http://www.nauticasicsic.com I highly recommend their services. If you want to stay in the Amalfi Coast you will for sure pay over $1k for boutique hotels.

  25. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed Palermo. It is the most fascinating combination of Arabic and Italian cultures, and I always love a decent sized coastal city. Also, in both Naples and Palermo, we were given so much free food when we ordered drinks that we did not need to actually order much of a meal. Maybe you could fly into Palermo, spend a couple of days, go to the Amalfi coast and then leave from Naples?

  26. @ Lorenzo @ Marcello — Ben has stayed with me twice in Eastern Sicily, and I think he had a nice time. 😉 I love Palermo, but I’m not sure the city is set up as well for solo travelers on a short visit, particularly those who don’t relish driving in Italy. So Amalfi might be better for this trip.

  27. @Tiffany
    Either way, Ben is up for some incredible sights.

    My two fav hotels in Amalfi (even though I’ve only been there to eat at their gourmet restaurants) are Villa Cimbrone & Monastero Santa Rosa.

    Check them out! (Not available on points & miles though)

  28. Lucky,
    I would highly recommend the Naples flight. When you arrive in Naples, you could drive 30 minutes south, to the Amalfi Coast. The weather in Amalfi is great! It is like San Diago, just in Europe. You can also take a boat over to Capri for a day, which I highly recommend. I was just there last summer, and I loved every minute of my stay! Hope to see trip reports on the Naples and Amalfi areas soon!

  29. Hotel Poseidon in Positano is great and the Palazzo Murat is meant to be very good. Le Sirenuse is where celebrities and super-rich stay.

    Even some of the 4-star hotels offer free boat trips up and down the coast.

    There may be cheaper or points-based options, and I’ve heard of people staying in good Airbnbs overlooking the village.

  30. You should absolutely spend some time around Naples. Visit Pompeii and/or Herculaneum first (only about half an hour outside of the city), then head down the Amalfi Coast. Be sure to catch a boat to Capri. You won’t regret it. Visit the Castel dell’Ovo and have a pizza before catching your return flight.

  31. I agree that trick with Positano is to find an airBNB or apartment rental, as its charm really lies in its old vibe a bit higher up the hill. Its hotels peddle a cheesy, packaged version of the town that you need to work hard to avoid.

    But why not just stay in Naples? It’s one of the most “Italian”-feeling Italian cities. Laundry hangs from clothesline strung over cobblestone alleyways. Young lovers cavort on the seafront promenade. Locals pray in spectacular old churches. Fishing boats come and go. The pizza is mind-blowing and the wine is cheap. If you like wandering around Hong Kong, then you’ll have more fun getting lost in Naples than sitting in the back of a Mercedes for 3 hours round-trip just to see a quaint tourist town.

  32. DONT do a 24 hour back to back. Explore the Amalfi coast & review a boat tour! You review airlines, why not review a boat ride around the coast of Italy for a day? 😉 But in all seriousness can you beat italian food & amazing scenery even if it’s for 2 nights? Do it!

  33. Italy’s largest airline is Ryanair. Meridiana is a tiny spec, smaller than BA, Lufthansa, etc.

    Meridiana is to Italy what Cape Air is to Massachusetts.

  34. L:

    U rock.

    Meridiana biz is great – old planes, joke check in, old seats, indifferent service, so so food, minimal entertainment – but super reasonable non-stops from NYC – Naples and Palermo which adds min half a day in Europe on either end. And the area around Naples is one of most amazing in summer places in world – Capri, amalfi coast, aeolian islands

    More detail
    Planes take off from term 1 at JFK – I’ve always arrived at last min and they have 2 unmarked booths – I imagine it might be a scrum at prime check in time.

    Plane takes off right next to Air France lounge which I used with sky blue plat, but no other lounge.
    Biz alllows ok first.

    Old 767s – seats are like late 90’s united – and once u get over anachronism – they are totally comfy and fine – much better to sit in on flt back than to sleep in on flt out but big bucket seats. Even sleeping fine – way better than coach obviously and like falling asleep watching TV not in a bed, but for price and unique route great.

    Service regimented and rote – drinks come on cart, food on trays etc but again when I adjust for expectations fine. On flt back, team will get u stuff midflight generally happily, but don’t expect folks to check in on u all the time.

    Food edible. No real IFE.

    Naples airport on way back hectic and tired but functional.

    Again, point is if u want to go to magic Capri for say 3 days from nyc, u can leave thurs night, be there for bkfast Friday and leave first thing Monday from Naples and be in NYC for lunch. U have 3 full days there.

    And they price cheaply – u’re not paying main line biz class fares. It’s more expensive than norwegian (which is a better product – new planes, ife – though I think meridiana has marginally more recline), but still a usually 50% competitive fares.

    I’m a fan.

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