Trip Report: First Ever and Turbulent Trip to Italy (MXP), as a *G Flying with a SkyTeam Carrier!

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  1. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    On Friday May 9, I was scheduled to fly out to Milan (MXP), and was quite excited because, hard to believe, this would be my first ever trip to Italy. As a UA 1K determined to make 1MM, I had booked to fly with UA as far as they could take me, which meant doing:

    LGA-> IAD ->MUC on UA, and then MUC->MXP on LH

    The return trip would be the very same itinerary but in reverse.

    The upgrade for the LGA->IAD segment on Embraer E-170, which I did not care much about, had cleared and I had been waitlisted for the IAD->MUC segment. The MUC->MXP segment on LH was just a short hop in Y.

    The departure time on Friday, May 9, was 2:30 pm. I had a car service scheduled to pick me up for LGA at 1:00 pm. At 12:25 pm, the turbulence started with this email notification from UA:
    I called the car service and asked that they come to pick me up at 2pm, instead. In the meantime, the departure time for the IAD flight kept being revised upward. I arrived at LGA around 2:30pm. I went to check in and the agent told me something that I was already too keenly aware of: due to the delayed LGA->IAD flight, I would not be able to make my IAD->MUC flight because it was scheduled to depart at 5:00pm and the latest on the delayed flight was that it would arrive at IAD at 4:53pm. The agent then said she would try to re-route me. After searching for a while, she said that the only UA flight she could find would leave out of EWR through LHR to MUC, with a long delay at LHR. She asked me if wanted to take that one. I said categorically, ‘no’. She then started to look for a transfer to another airline, any airline, out LGA or JFK to MXP. It was about 3:30pm when she finally said that she could put me on a Alitalia flight that would fly me directly from JFK to MXP at 8:00 pm. Considering my options, the deal sounded pretty good, so I accepted it. I took a cab and got to JFK around 4:15 pm. I went to the Alitalia counter and it seemed that they were waiting for me. The Alitalia agent then offered me yet another option: instead of waiting until the 8:00pm for the JFK-MXP flight, which would arrive the next morning at 10:40, she could put me on a 6pm flight that would do JFK-FCO-MXP and arrive the next day at 11:00; just 20 min after the direct flight. Having never been to Rome, and considering that I would get into MXP around the same time, I accepted the detour. I still had about one hour to kill so I used my Priority Pass membership to go wait for the flight in the KAL lounge airside. Nothing fancy but comfy…

    Finally, it was almost time to board the Alitalia flight for FCO, my first non-*A flight on US soil in years! Just for the heck of it, I approached the Alitalia GA and said that I had been transferred to their flight because of cancelation, but I am UA elite who always boards with the first group. Could she accord me the courtesy of letting me board early? She said, “No problem! Just stand by the SkyPriority sign over there.” Kool. I would be flying in Y with a carry-on bag and large backpack, so boarding early allowed me to find overhead space without too much trouble.

    The flight to FCO was uneventful, but I was a bit disappointed after arriving at FCO because there was not much to see, which, in retrospect, made the detour seem like not such a great idea. When it was time to board the flight for MXP, I again pulled the courtesy-priority-boarding-as-a-rerouted-UA-elite shtick and it worked. After just an hour in the air, I finally arrived at MXP, a *G on a SkyTeam carrier!

    At the airport, I found an ATM and drew some Euros and, as I always do when I arrive in a country or city that I had never been to before, I looked for a metered taxi and hopped in for the 30-min ride to Milan, the city. Taking a cab turned out to be a costly mistake because as I sat there, I saw the fare on the meter getting bigger and bigger and bigger! By the time we reached my destination at Hilton Milan, my cab fare was 94 Euros (~US$120)! I handed the driver two 50-Euro bills and, without asking me, he helped himself to the 6 Euros that he owed me, and then gave me a receipt for 100 Euros. I told myself that helping oneself to someone else’s change was probably a local custom. I said nothing because I would have given it to him anyway. When in Rome…

    After the cab left, I found myself standing in front of Hilton Milan, and thought that something was strange. There were no solicitous bellboys in sight, which has never happened to me before. Then again, most of my trips are in Asia, where one is literally swarmed by bellboys before one has even stepped out the cab. I picked up my backpack and carry-on bag and walked into the lobby and straight to the check-in counter, where I jocularly expressed my surprised at not seeing a welcoming committee outside to help me with my luggage. The agent simply laughed and proceeded to check me in. When she said that they upgraded me to executive floor as valued Diamond member -- usually my cue that it was time to request a suite upgrade -- I said that I am usually upgraded to the exec floor, so I was hoping for a warm Italian welcome in the form of a suite upgrade. Smile; “let me check”. A few minutes later she said there are no full suites available but she could upgrade me to a mini-suite. Good enough for me! I had arrived at long last!

    Hilton Milan: Mini-Suite
    MXP-HILTON-MINI-SUITE.jpg

    Hilton Milan: Executive Lounge
    MXP-HILTON-EL.jpg

    Between attending the all-day scientific conference that was the purpose of the trip, trying different restaurants and joints at night, and sightseeing every chance I got, 6 days went by quickly. It was time to return to the US on May 16. That is when we learned that a nationwide strike by the transport sector employees could paralyze the city and some of us might not be able to find a ride to the airport. I escaped the strike because I had a 9:00 am LH flight to MUC, so I left early, catching a bus to MXP near Hilton for just 10 Euros (never take taxi from or to the airport in Milan)! The strike must not have started at the airport because the baggage was loaded onto the LH flight just fine and we left on time. At MUC, I connected to UA133 for IAD, having secured an upgrade to BF. The TATL flight was uneventful and I slept most of the way. At IAD, I was hit with the reverse of the turbulence that had hit me on the way out:
    I found the nearest United Club to see what they could do to get me to NYC. The agent could not find any IAD->LGA flights on UA, so she again checked to see about transferring me to another airline. She found availability on a US Super Shuttle but leaving out of DCA! I had no choice so I said I would take it. She gave a voucher for $28 to help cover the expense for taking a taxi from IAD to DCA, which ended up costing me $65. The US flight was scheduled to leave at 6pm. We boarded and pushed out just after 6pm. Suddenly, the plane stopped, and the captain informed us that due to a backlog of flights landing at LGA, our flight would be grounded for at least another hour before we could take off. Around 7:35pm, we finally left DCA and I arrived home at 9:00pm, just a brief reprieve before I was to leave for yet another meeting in YUL, where I am now, at 1pm the next day!

    After only the miles for MUC-IAD posted, it dawned on me to ensure that my PQMs/PQDs/RDMs for all the flights that I was forced to take on non-*A carriers would be credited. So today, I called the UA 1K desk. I explained the situation to the agent, who was very understanding and said she would take care of it. I gave her the PNR and she quickly determined that I had been transferred to a Alitalia flight. She said that I would be credited for my original UA itinerary. The PQMs and RDMs for the UA segments should post within 24 hr, while those for the LH segments should post within 15 days. I reminded her that I was also transferred to a US flight on the return trip, and she said that those PQMs and RDMs would be credited by UA within 24 hr. Great! Now came the question I’d dreaded to ask: since I had flown on Alitalia metal on outbound, and a segment on inbound was on US, would I get any PQD credit for those non-UA, non-016 flights? She said absolutely! The rule is that whenever UA transfers a pax to another carrier due to an irrop, the pax gets full PQM, PQD, and RDM credit. I will keep close tabs on the situation to make sure that I get full credit for everything, but it is cool that fairness prevailed!

    That was my very first and turbulent trip to Italia!
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
    Newscience, uggboy, MX and 1 other person like this.
  2. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    What was wrong with EWR-MXP? No seats available?

    And why would you choose the earlier departure with a connection? I guess, not having checked luggage, you were spared the almost-guaranteed Al Italia special your-luggage-tours-Italy-for-free service, but I'd rather fly at 8pm than 6pm to Europe, and without the extra change!

    Glad you enjoyed Italy. I'm on the EWR-MXP flight Friday night.
     
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  3. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    In general, I hate flying out of EWR. I think the 1K requalification calculus likely suggested the original long way. But after the "turbulence" started I would gladly have accepted EWR-MXP had it been one of the options. It was not.
    I chose the earlier flight because I wanted a glimpse of Roma! It was not such a good idea, in retrospect. Enjoy MXP but beware the unforeseen "turbulence" !

    Sent from my DROID4 GLOBAL using milepoint
     
  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I think you didn't address the key question: did you double-dip by sending your Alitalia boarding passes to Delta for credit?

    And yeah, I cringed when I saw you pick the connection instead of the nonstop :)
     
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  5. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    A United 1K based in NYC that hates EWR. Hmm.....the irony.


    A short hop on the malpensa express train to milano centrale would have gotten you to central milan for fraction, then hop on an easy taxi from there.
     
  6. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I am afraid I am not that "sophisticated".
    Where is your spirit of adventure?!
    Been living in NYC for 20 years and I have flown out of EWR exactly once, last September to LIS. I do not feel like I've missed anything. I live just a 15-min ride from LGA and if the only advantage of flying out of EWR is to get direct flights then, duh, I like to travel the long way and it is called playing the mile/point game. As they say, to each her own...;)
    I have since gotten the perfect 20/20 vision of hindsight. The taxi fare will be reimbursed, although I see eyebrows going up at our finance department...:)
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
  7. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    BTW, let me add, since part of the reason for posting one's triumphs and mistakes here is for others to learn, that the Malpensa express to Milano Central sounds great, but if you'd be staying at Hilton Milan, the bus is the way to go because you'd get off at the main bus station in the city, which is just a 5-min walk from the Hilton. Depending on where one's final destination is in the city in relation to Milano Centrale, the additional cab fare could be hefty because cab rides are expensive in Milan.
     
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  8. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    First, I have now confirmed that UA has credited me PQMs and RDMs for all the segments on Alitalia and US, and the PQDs are shown as "processing", which means that they will be credited or it would simply have said ineligible. As to "what was wrong with EWR-MXP", I remember what was wrong with it: 2-3K fewer PQMs than the itinerary that I chose. After the LH miles post, I would get ~11K PQMs vs. just 8+ for EWR-MXP. Like I had indicated, it was probably a 1K requal calculus and now I am sure it was. But also, I truly hate flying out EWR, which was not even a UA hub until after the merger...

    BTW, look below (top part not enclosed in red box) how I got to YUL. LGA-ORD-YUL, which I could have done on AC as LGA-YUL. Same calculus...
    LGA-MXP.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2014
  9. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Update!

    Now that the turbulence of this trip has subsided, it has given way to an unexpected windfall on several fronts!

    First, when I sat down to do my travel expenses for this trip, I found out that Hilton Milan had charged me a much higher rate of €299/night than one that was displayed when I made the booking, which was €177/night -- a HUGE different. I called the HHonors Diamond desk to report the discrepancy; they checked the booking history; determined that I was right, and contacted Hilton Milan requesting that they honor the rate that I had been offered at booking. Within 3 days, Hilton Milan had complied, returning €744 or $1,012 to my Citi Reserve visa account. That was the first, huge, windfall.

    Second, by the time I noticed that I had been charged a higher rate, Hilton Milan had already transferred the number of HHonors points equivalent to the original rate of €299/night for 6 nights, which, with various bonuses and the double HH points promo in effect at the time, totalled 81,184 points. Its has been more than two weeks since the fix for the lower rate was done but the extra points that I got for the higher rate have not yet been deducted from by HHonors account and I suspect that they won't be. Not only that, but the extra base points that I got for the higher but wrong rate, which count toward my Diamond requalification, have also not yet been deducted, and I suspect that they won't be. That is the second potential windfall.

    Lastly, on the UA flight from MUC to IAD the entire musical section of the IFE was inoperative and I complained about it to one of the FAs. Apparently, it had been inoperative for at least six weeks and no one had tried to fix it (wonder why morale is down?). I feigned outrage and got a voucher (I wonder if anyone else also got the voucher because this IFE failure was plane-wide but the vouchers were not issued automatically). Anyway, I went online and submitted the voucher but to my disappointment, I simply got a "Thank you for reporting this problem; we will investigate and get back to you" message. I had hoped to be offered a choice of compensations instead. However, about a week or so later 15,000 RDMs labeled as "Customer Care Compensation" appeared in my UA MP account. Good Enough for Me and that is my windfall trifecta!

    All in all, if the gains in HHonors points, especially the elite qualifying ones, are not rescinded, I could get used to this type of "turbulence"! ;)

    PS:
    All the points and PQDs that I was supposed get from UA, even for flying with Alitalia and US, have posted by UA. I am now just missing the PQMs and RDMs for MUC-MXP, which LH was supposed to credit my account within 15 days...it's now been about that long.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2014

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