This will be the outbound trip only with the return trip Milan to Houston to follow in another posting, please enjoy and provide comments/questions.
UPDATE 9/18,2019: The Flights: Milan to Houston
My wife and I are headed to Bellagio, Italy, on gorgeous Lake Como for an eight day vacation to a spot we dearly love. After many hours in my United MileagePlus account scouring numerous routes to find the best Business Class award tickets with United Airlines (UA) and their Star Alliance partners, then having booked the trip only to find Saver award tickets at a much reduced number of miles a few weeks later by adding an additional day we were all set some 10 weeks before travel.
With airline confirmation numbers and boarding passes, hotel reservation confirmations, driver to and from Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP), boat rental info for a day on Lake Como A Day On Lago di Como, Italy, passports in the backpack and each with dragging our roll-a-board we headed off to Houston George Bush (41) Intercontinental Airport (IAH) for our Business Class flight IAH to MXP on Lufthansa Airlines (LH) with a change of planes in Frankfurt, Germany. Yes this is how you pack (with room to spare) for a week and a day with a roll-a-board!
I'd been toying with the idea of trying to get into the eight seat First Class Cabin on the LH A388 either using more miles or paying for it, but since the miles never became available I thought that we'd check-in at IAH with LH and ask at the counter in Terminal D. As luck would have it when I asked if they still have three open seats she started to check inventory and told us, "yes you can upgrade for $1750". Hmmmm, I asked "for both or per person" and yes, it was per person. Ah NO thank you we will keep our seats 10A/B at the bulkhead of the Business Class upper deck. Also, for those flying LH and using a carry on bag they are very strict about the weight at size of the bag (both of ours came in at 10 lbs well under the 8 kg or about 17 lbs) and they were quickly tagged with an LH approved carry on tag that we'd need in FRA for our connecting flight.
IAH Departure Airport Experience / 10 out of 10:
The TSA has Pre-Check available in Terminal D so we breezed right though that and we were off to make the four minute walk over to Terminal E and the UA Polaris Lounge. When traveling long haul in Business Class on UA or a Star Alliance partner airline you have access to the new Polaris Lounge at IAH which is located right next to the UA Club in Terminal E. You have access to this lounge at your departure and connecting airports which if very nice. We are not thinking of venturing into our usual go to lounge at IAH which is the AMEX Centurion Lounge in Terminal D with Polaris access. Check-in to the lounge was easy and quick with the two agents welcoming us and getting the elevator up to the third floor. There are five Polaris Lounges open currently Polaris Tracker - Desktop with IAH being most likely the latest to open.
There are numerous spots to kick back and relax as well as a good sized bar area near the floor to ceiling windows that opens up to the southeast Terminal E alley/ramp around Gates E9-E15 and the west end of Runway 9/27 on the south side of the airport. Plenty of action to view if you're an AV Geek like myself.
The lounge was fairly empty as it was just past 1 PM and the long haul international flights of UA from places like Munich, Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam as well as Singapore Airlines from Manchester, England were just starting to arrive. Once these all clear Customs/Immigration and get re-cleared through security the joint will get much busier.
Food options range from a very large variety of food on the three tables of the buffet to a sit down restaurant with service off a menu.
We opted for the buffet and a seat at the bar with some outstanding Champagne and Wine offerings, all free
Boarding is set to begin at 3:10 PM for our 3:55 PM departure from Terminal D, Gate D9 which is one of the two gates at IAH (D12) that have an upper and lower jet way to board the A388's that use IAH. We said bye to the very friendly and bartender and attendants in the lounge and made our way over to D9 right on time. It seems like you can board almost 500 people with the upper and lower decks faster than you can a B737!!!
Flight IAH-FRA on LH 441 / 10 out of 10:
Arriving at the upper door of LH 441 we were warmly greeted by one of the many Flight Attendants and made our short five second walk to our seats 10A/B. As I was storing the bags in the spacious overhead another Flight Attendant greeted us by name, "welcome aboard Mr. & Mrs. IAHFLY". WOW, very nice and in fact he was responsible for the first four rows on the A/B side of the aircraft and greeted each passenger exactly the same way without having paper with the names on them (or not that I noticed). Sure wish I remembered his name as he was OUTSTANDING during the 9 hour and 35 minute flight. We were immediately offered drinks and as many as you wanted before departure. The lie flat seats were very comfy with nice pillows and blankets along with huge storage spots along the windows. While the windows are not as large as what you'll find on Dreamliners, they were very good to see out while still daylight.
With the doors closed off we went. Even with the engines right next to us the A388 seems to be much quieter this time than our first time on it six years ago. Very smooth and comfortable with a bright airy cabin.
Service was impeccable for the entire flight. We did enjoy plenty of Wine before dinner, in fact since we were unfamiliar with the Wine selections so we were given a nice sampling on top of the large entertainment displace to try, which was really another feather in the crews hat.
Food options for the four course dinner had three entree selections to pick from and we opted for Tortellini for the Mrs., and mine was Sea Bass which we ended up sharing. Yummmy for sure. Before we knew it was time to doze off for the rest of the flight until I saw light coming in from the window over western Germany and breakfast was served. We landed at FRA at 8:40 AM well ahead of our schedule time of 9:10 AM.
FRA Airport Experience/ 8 out of 10:
After a quick taxi we parked at Terminal 1, Gate Z62, gathered our belongings, said thank you for keeping us safe as well as the excellent service and bye to the wonderful Flight Attendants. As we approached the top of the jet way there were two LH Gate Agents who directed those with connections one way and the rest a different way. We entered the terminal and made the five or six minute walk to Immigration which had a very short line with numerous places to have your passport checked. They hardly even let us stop walking before handing our passports back to us and welcomed us to FRA before we wandered over to one of the many lounges that LH has in FRA. Since we arrived from the United States and were in a Schengen country headed to another Schengen country we did not need to go through security again, nice.
Again traveling in Business Class you are granted access to the Arrivals Lounge (but outside security), The Senator Lounge, but with Star Alliance Gold status which we have we went to The Business Lounge near Gate A26 where we'd spend the remaining 3 plus hours of our connection time before heading to the gate for LH 252 to MXP, We were tet and checked into the lounge with a warm greeting along with the location of food, beverage, showers and restrooms. A good number of breakfast items were available and self serve bar area with of course German Beers and Pretzels. The lounge was almost full with the many international flights from all over the world, but still plenty of room to wander about without feeling cramped.
Time to get over the the gate for MXP which was about a 10 minute walk. Many people tell of horror stories on connecting in FRA, yet on both of our times here we've not had an issue with it since there signs everywhere that give all the information one should need.
Arriving at the gate we learned that this was a bus gate meaning down the escalator after showing your boarding pass and on to a bus for the ride to the aircraft which is parked on far end of the ramp. This was the only part of the airport experience I did not care for as it was not well organized as it should have been, otherwise 10 out of 10.
Flight FRA-MXP on LH 252 / 10 out of 10:
We arrived at our A320 and climbed the air stairs to take out seat in Row 1, D/F, in the Business Class cabin. LH like many other European airlines does not outfit the Business or First Class cabin on narrow body aircraft like airlines in the U.S. There are six seats across the cabin with the middle seat blocked from having anyone sit there where as in the U.S. you have the First Class cabin with a 2X2 arrangement. Plenty of overhead space available and before we knew it we were given a choice of beverages before departure by another friendly yet professional LH Flight Attendant. Right on time the door closed at 12:35 PM for the 1+10 flight to MXP.
Flying over the Alps is always a beautiful sight and this time no exception, sorry no photos as we kept the phones and camera in the backpack for this short flight. With a quick snack/lunch and a couple of glasses if Vino we were on approach to MXP and said thanks to the crew for a very good smooth flight, even though the landing was a bit rough due to strong winds.
MXP Airport Arrival Experience / 9/10:
We got a jet way in MXP so no stairs, but the walk to the exit of Terminal 1 was quite long taking about 15 minutes and easy to get around with excellent signage just like FRA. No passport needed as we arrived from a Schengen country so the baggage claim carousels and out of the secure area where we met out driver hold a sign welcoming us to Italy.
Before we knew it we were driving along the short of Lake Como on the Lecco side of the lake and in what seemed like no time we were standing in Hotel Metropole checking into our room.....YEAH!
After leaving our house at 12:15 PM Tuesday and arriving in Bellagio at 3:30 PM on Wednesday crossing seven time zones we were pretty alert and energetic, so lets get out amongst them!
Hope you enjoyed getting to Bellagio with the return portion go come along in a few days.
Thanks for reading and "keep on keepin' on Insiders".