United Airlines Newark EWR to Milan MXP
United Airlines Basic Economy as a Star Alliance Gold elite member
No frills United Airlines Basic Economy is a way of competing with low cost carrier fares by offering the flyer only a seat allocation and only disclosing the exact location at check-in. Passengers on the itinerary learn their assigned seat at check-in, generally available from 24 hours before flight departure. United Basic Economy means passengers pay extra to buy a self-selected seat assignment by flight segment, pay extra to check bags, and sometimes may even need to pay extra to bring a regular size carry-on into the cabin.
I spent 2015 to 2018 trying out several low cost carrier airlines flying between San Francisco Bay Area and Europe with Level, Norwegian and WOW flights. There were some really low airfare deals for $300 to $375 round trip for several years until finances started to unravel on the budget airline scene.
United Basic Economy became a pay-for-benefits model adopted as a competitive measure to match low cost carriers. The advantage for me of United Basic Economy compared to low cost carrier airlines flying California to Europe is Star Alliance Gold elite benefits provide many of the benefits denied to ticketed United Basic Economy passengers. I have Star Alliance Gold elite through Aegean Miles+Bonus and that allows me free checked bags and Priority Boarding Group 1. Sometimes I get TSA and priority security lines. I also have lounge access domestically in USA as a Gold elite member of a Star Alliance airline member based in Greece.
The primary disadvantage of United Basic Economy is no preferential treatment for seat allocation. While Star Alliance carriers generally seat us together, Kelley and I have been seated in different rows on United flights a few times and sometimes seated in the same row in different sections. On a recent United transatlantic flight we were seated in the two middle seats of a four seat middle section.
In 2023, I still find low airfares with United Basic Economy tickets flying between San Francisco and Europe or from Europe to San Francisco round trip. United Airlines flies SFO to London, Paris, Frankfurt and Munich as year-round major destinations. From these major cities there are a variety of Star Alliance airline partners with Luthansa, Swiss, Austrian, SAS, LOT and others providing flight connections across Europe.
United Airlines Basic Economy $451 open-jaw return: San Francisco SFO – Milan, Italy MXP // Tallinn, Estonia TLL – San Francisco
(January 2023 departure – May 2023 return)
I initially booked United Airlines San Francisco to Milan with a United-operated first flight segment SFO to Frankfurt FRA, followed with a Lufthansa connection to Milan MXP. United changed the itinerary in early January to all United-operated flights SFO – Newark – Milan MXP.
All United-operated flights were good for maximum miles with Aegean Miles+Bonus. SFO-EWR-MXP earned 3,291 Elite Tier Miles and redeemable miles with Aegean Miles+Bonus.
United’s rescheduled itinerary only provided a 75-minute window between the flight from SFO landing in Newark and flight departure for Milan MXP. The last thing I wanted for our trip was a missed Newark flight connection and need a last minute hotel at EWR airport. Plus, losing a hotel reward night in Europe past the cancellation hour is often the most costly factor of a one day delay arriving in Italy.
I changed our United itinerary over the phone with United customer service to fly the San Francisco-Newark flight one day earlier with a 21-hour layover before the Newark EWR to Milan MXP rescheduled flight. We ended up staying one night at Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan and walking the High Line on the day President Biden was in town before heading back to Newark Airport for the flight to Milan. We spent about 2.5 hours in the United Club Lounge near Gate C123.
Newark Liberty International Airport United Club Lounge – Mezzanine Level, near Gate C123
United Club Lounge, Terminal C Mezzanine level near Gate C123 at Newark EWR was crowded at 2:30 in the afternoon. Staff were screening people outside the lounge. Our boarding passes got us to the front of the line and granted entry. We found a space as someone was leaving and grabbed two chairs with a table, near the long counter bar, and made our homestead for 150 minutes before heading to the gate for our Milan flight. Walking for two hours in 35-degree chill in NYC had made us hungry again after the hearty breakfast dishes at Crowne Plaza HY36.
A full bar with a long counter and complimentary beverages made for good encounters.
The lounge near Gate C123 is large, yet it was crowded and I did not take many photos. We had plenty of food to meet our needs and the Peroni beer was free, so a happy time before our flight.
United Airlines Newark EWR – Milan MXP
Last row middle seat in middle section for me on 8 hour flight to Milan. Kelley had last row window seat. So much for my seat lottery luck on this flight.
Andy Warhol gallery exhibition poster display seen at Milan MXP..
We followed the sign for trains in Milan. Tickets were 13 EUR each for train to Milan. We were talking with a family from Southern California, first time travelers to Italy. They were nervous about getting on the wrong train to Milano Centrale and stayed behind to clarify with the ticket agent where they should go for their train. I saw the train track sign showing Milan Platform 3 and we went down the escalator and boarded the train.
We ended up at Milano Cadorna by the Cadorna Metro station.
One of the most interesting aspects of arriving in a city you have never been is talking to locals to get help. The lines at automated ticket kiosks were long and it turned out that we did not need the machines to buy Metro tickets. A Metro station worker told me tickets were available from the mini-market, just outside the metro entrance gates and cost 2.20 EUR each to San Babila Station, the closest to Hotel Indigo Milan-Corso Monforte.
Hotel Indigo Milan is about a five minute walk from San Babila Metro station.
We arrived at Hotel Indigo Milan around 10:30am to be told we would have to wait until about 2pm for our room. We deposited our luggage and took a stroll.
The vision of Milan’s Duomo in brilliant morning sunlight made the change of plan from Crowne Plaza MXP (13,500 points) to Hotel Indigo Milan-Corso Monforte (36,000 points) totally worth the extra expense in IHG points for a one night hotel stay in central Milan.