This will cover the return flights from Milan to Houston while the Houston to Milan flights are reviewed The Flights: Houston to Milan. Sorry no pictures, just the facts.
We had just spent five glorious days/nights in Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como and were flying from Milan Malpensa Airport on a mid morning United Airlines (UA) to Houston George Bush (41) Intercontinental Airport (IAH) with a three hour connection in at Newark Liberty Airport (EWR). We would be flying on award travel in Polaris Business Class on a UA B764 from MXP and having missed a connection in EWR before when coming home from Munich, Germany, I picked the three hour connection rather than either a one or two hour connect just in case of a delayed flight from MXP. Plus it put us on a B772 with lie flat seats, so win win I figured. UA is currently retrofitting all of their B772's and other wide bodies from the older yet still very nice lie flat First and or Business Class seats (First Class nomenclature applies to domestic travel, Business Class to international) to the new Polaris Class. I'd been checking ourEWR-IAH flight a few weeks before an noticed that some of the B77'2's in fact had been swapped out for the new Polaris Cabin which I'd wanted to check out anyway. Only drawback is rather than the 2x2x2 seating in the older cabin, Polaris was 1x2x1 which meant in order to sit next to my wife we'd have to be in the middle of the plane. Not a huge issue at all as long as I caught it quick and moved around our seats as we were on separate itineraries due to taking miles from both our accounts. We shall see!
As we've previously done when leaving Europe on mid morning flights back home we book a hotel room the night before at a property close to or on the airport. This trip was no different and I found the Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre - Ferno | Marriott Bonvoy that is inside Terminal 1 for the one night using a CAT 1-5 certificate.
UA is currently retrofitting all of their B772's from the older yet still very nice lie flat First and or Business Class seats (First Class nomenclature applies to domestic travel, Business Class to international) to the new Polaris Class. I'd been checking the
After a restful night and breakfast in the Executive Lounge at Hotel Review: Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre we packed up our roll-a-boards and made sure we had all things to include passports, checked out of the hotel and walked from the lobby right into the terminal. Since we had wandered around the terminal the night before we knew what check-in position UA was going to be located and made the long walk to what seemed like the end of the terminal.
MXP Departure Airport Experience / 7 out of 10:
As we approached the very crowded UA check-in position 23 there were two different lines for Economy and one linef for Premier/Polaris travelers, but no one was paying attention to the signs. To make matters worse, Delta Airlines was crammed right next to the UA counter and with each airline having two flights to check in....what a zoo!!
We had access to the Sala Pergolesi Lounge as it is part of the Priority Pass Lounge program, but when we were all checked in the agent had stamped access to the Sala Pergolesi Lounge stamped on our boarding passes which they give Polaris Class travelers access to which is a nice touch. We started the very convoluted trek toward the lounge in Boarding Gate B area near our departure gate of B1. It seemed we walked in a complete circle of the ticket counter area before finally reaching the passport control area. There was signs for "Bio-metrics" folks and standard passport lines to use, so with our bio-metric passports we took that line and found a machine similar to Global Entry kiosks that cleared us to visit the Passport Control Officer who stamped our pages with MXP and away we went for the remaining 10 minute walk to the lounge. Total time spent from entering the UA check-in line to the lounge 45 minutes which wasn't that bad considering the crowding at the UA counter area and long walks to get to the lounge.
The lounge is on the floor above the gate area so up the escalator we went and checked in quickly. The place was jammed, but we found two seats across from one another to enjoy some Champagne and a few small bites of some Italian Meats and Cheeses before heading to the gate to start boarding at 9:40 AM for the 10:30 AM departure.
I thought we'd find a down escalator to the gate area, but no......only the up escalator.....I know that's just crazy so I picked up both roll-a-boards and down the stairs we went to the gate.
Flight MXP-EWR on UA 18 / 10 out of 10:
Boarding started right on time in a very organized fashion with Business Class in Group 1. On the B764 met by a smiling welcoming UA Flight Attendant as we turned left from door 2L and made our way to seats 1A/B. Plenty of overhead space and we got settled in for the 9+10 minute flight with a pre-departure beverage and Polaris menus for five course lunch service. With all passengers on the plane, the door shut and away we went 15 minutes early, wow they sure boarded that quick.
For lunch we both selected the Pasta dish with Marinara Sauce that was delivered after the warm nuts, Chilled Appetizers and Salad. The service was not rushed in the least and it was all fresh with good flavor, just enough to not feel stuffed. The Purser (lead Flight Attendant) then came by with a decadent Sundae that we decided to share.
The entertainment selection was enormous with documentaries, TV shows, movies, music and games and headphones though we use our own. The lie flat seats are spacious enough and comfortable in the 2x1x2 cabin of the B764.
An arrival snack was served of half a Sandwich with a small Salad along with more beverages. We never went wanting for drinks or water as they kept them full. When about about over Boston we were informed of a delay into EWR due to storms, but they only thought it would be 25 minutes of holding. Well before we knew it we were on our to EWR with only one turn in the holding pattern so all is good.
Landed EWR Runway 22L and with a short taxi to Terminal B were were back in the U.S.A., for an early arrival at 1:15 PM. Another very good safe flight with excellent service from all the crew.
EWR Airport Experience / 10 out of 10:
Now before you say what the heck, 10 out of 10 at EWR, yes it was splendid. With the holding pattern in the air over Boston, getting through the Terminal B Global Entry kiosks, handing the Customs Officer our kiosk printed paper, on the Air Tran to Terminal C. We got through Pre-Check and into the Polaris Lounge lounge at 1:45 PM which was five minutes after our schedule arrival time into EWR.
The EWR Polaris Lounge is massive, probably three times larger than the IAH lounge. Huge bar area and incredible food on the large buffet and then you have the sit down restaurant to select off the menu.
Remember the possible plane swap to IAH to the Polaris cabin, well it happened while we were in the air from MXP. We were in 1L/K and now wife is 1L and I'm in 2D......whoops, someone is not going to be very happy. Older cabin to the Polaris.
So I went to the front desk and told the Agent of our situation. All the seats were taken and he couldn't just move someone, but the person in 2L right behind my wife was coming in from Europe as well and most likely would wander into the Polaris Lounge (why would you pick the UA Club over the Polaris) and he'd ask if the person would switch with me. About an hour later I was called back to the front desk and bam....the person swapped with me. Awesome though not like sitting side by side it was much better than being across the plane.
Overall totally impressed with the Polaris Lounges we experienced, very classy and a big improvement of UA Clubs in general, although the UA Clubs have upped their stuff in the last couple of years.
Flight EWR-IAH on UA 598 / 6 out of 10:
We headed down to Gate C74 to board our flight home for the 5 PM departure. Have to say the new Polaris cabin is very nice, spacious, lots of comfort things and private suites almost. We took our seats of 1L and 2L to find the Flight Attendants in the aisle taking drink orders and making sure we were all comfortable. I notice a Maintenance fella talking with the Captain and walking to the mid galley at door 2L. Hmmmm well, 5 PM comes and goes without a peep of a delay. Finally around 5:20 PM we get the word of a maintenance issue that has to be fixed and they'd let us know soon of an expected time we would leave. Turns out when the Pilots got on the plane and pressurized the systems a water line above the mid galley started to leak. WHOOPS.....well since it may take a while we all had to get our belongings and get off the plane. Great.....so back to the Polaris Lounge and some sad folks wanting a drink to drown their sorrows of not being on the last flight home of our wonderful trip.
At 9:15 PM they page all those on flight 598 that there has been an airplane change and it is now ready to board from C120. Off we go, same seats and crew. They apologized over and over for the delay, yet stuff happens and rather be late and safe than have an issue in the air with something.
Finally push from the gate at 10:15 PM for the 3+50 minute flight to IAH. At this point we were spent and had no desire to eat dinner as we'd have real good food in the lounge since we landed in EWR and were full.
A few hours of sleep and finally arrive at IAH on Runway 27 at 12:55 AM.
All in all the maintenance issue will happen and it did slightly dampen our last leg home, but certainly not the entire trip. The outbound trip with photos can be found here The Flights: Houston to Milan.
Thanks for reading and hope all your travels are safe and excellent.