When I found out a few months prior to my trip that I was being booked on Meridiana airlines I went searching online about this airline I'd never heard of and found mostly horrible things written about them. Inasmuch as my trip HAD to go on, I decided that perhaps the only thing to do was upgrade from coach to business class. I based that move on the countless negative reviews and figured at least the upgrade would make the 9 hr flight more tolerable.
With no online check-in I had to get to the airport earlier than I'd have liked, but with business class the check in was instant and I was directed to the Air France lounge at JFK which was comfortable so things were off to a good start at least.
The boarding was on time and at least in business class was simple and unrushed. Here is what I was figuring - I CANNOT sleep sitting up - only in a flat bed so I knew going into this that the seat was an old style recliner BUT being that it was in the early afternoon when I wouldn't normally sleep - it should be OK. Once ushered to my seat I found that the legroom was fantastic - seriously more than ample. The seat was old, as was the plane, but was comfortable at least. The controls for the foot rest, etc on many of the seats did not work. Thus, my reference to the old seats. It did recline and for the most part was comfortable for a daytime flight. Once we took off the passengers in business class were offered ipad devices loaded with maybe a dozen or so movies. Certainly by todays standards this is really not a very elegant business class -- BUT I can tell you that my counterparts who were in coach on this same flight would've gladly moved up front and considered it an oasis compared to the cramped and loud economy class.
I do not fly expecting a gourmet meal from ANY airline. I was surprised by the attentive service, selection and decent tasting food on Meridiana. So, they scored well here too. My business class experience, while not extravagant compared to almost every other airline was good. Seats comfortable, lots of leg room, some entertainment, decent food selection and quality, pleasant and attentive cabin crew. If you want a convenient flight to Palermo from JFK, this is the one, but consider upgrading to business.
The downside: The plane is old and I will admit when we hit some turbulence I was more anxious than with other newer airplanes. This may be non-sensical but I was nervous navigating bumpiness in a 30+ year old plane. Obviously all was fine, but it was a little scary even for someone who flies alot. The other thing was that since it's a small independent airline we had a weather delay on the return changing departure from 1pm to 7:30pm as they use this one plane back and forth to NY and it came in late. The problem for me was now it was a night flight and more uncomfortable in the recliner seat. We made it into NY around midnight and while the flight seemed longer than the trip in, the service and everything was just fine.
In conclusion - if you want a non stop to Palermo from NY at a decent price, use Meridiana - but use the business class if you can. Also, I saw complaints about their customer service phone handling - NO problem for me, I called twice with questions and was helped immediately. And my luggage even was there with me on both ends of the flight - so a success all around.