Magic of Miles in Italy: Transit Notes

a table set for two with white tablecloths and white flowers
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Trip Report Index:

1. Introduction
2. Transit Notes
3. Hotel Review: Bagni di Pisa Palace &a Spa
4. Visiting Pisa
5. Visiting Lucca
6. Hotel Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
7. Room Service Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
8. Day in Florence
9. Hotel Review: Hotel Laurin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
10. Day in Santa Margherita/Portofino area
11. Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Milan
12. Day in Milan
13. Room Service Review: Park Hyatt Milan
14. Retrospect

The day had finally arrived, and we were headed to Italy! Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I checked in at British Airways in Terminal 5. The destination was Pisa, connecting via London Healthrow. I would be flying British Airways in First Class, which I had redeemed 62,500 American Aadvantage miles for per person, plus $480 in taxes & fees.

Since I had hand luggage only, I was quickly given boarding passes and went through security. I went straight to British Airways’ Terraces lounge, which has a private dining enclave for first class passengers so you can have a good meal before the flight. The plan was to enjoy some dinner, and then go straight to sleep on the plane. Called First Dining, we had the quiet room to ourselves, and settled in for a meal far removed from the hustle and noise in the main lounge.

Dining Room
The evening’s menu

The meal didn’t disappoint, and the food was fantastic.

Roasted skate wing with creamy corn chowder. Yum!
Some wine selections

In the middle of an outstanding dining experience the announcement was made that that the crew had not yet arrived so the flight would be delayed.

With exactly one hour transit time in London to get from that flight to the connection on to Pisa, it would have been barely ok even with a terminal change. Now, there was only an estimated 30 minutes. Ah, the best laid plans…

What do you do when you know you’re going to misconnect?

The serenity vanished, and we whipped out our laptops to research alternate flights. After finding one on Swiss, we went to talk to the lounge attendant. Bottom line, she firmly stated that we would be required to fly across the pond on British Airways metal so she could not put us on a different flight.

Sometimes the options are thin and they were about to close the doors, so I stepped on the plane, and was immediately welcomed by an attendant and shown to my plush seat. I love that they come with their own window shades and reading lamp.

747 Seat 2K
Menu and amenity kit

After a wonderful experience onboard, the inflight director approached us and said that once the plane landed someone would be waiting to rush us across the tarmac via car to a different concourse of Terminal 5 and assist us through security to make our connecting Pisa flight. There is only one daily British Airways flight from London to Pisa, and if we didn’t make it the only alternative was to get to London’s Gatwick Airport where we’d catch an alternate flight.

After touchdown, we quickly gathered our gear and were ready to make a mad dash. Rushing off the plane…not a soul was waiting. Navigating to the connections counter, I explained the situation. They agent tapped on the computer and said we’d missed the connecting flight and had been rebooked on the flight out of Gatwick. There was no car waiting, they hadn’t been notified of our arrival, we’d have to take the 45 mile journey via bus. And pay 35 pounds each.

Ouch. Not the most elegant experience but we rode the bus to the other airport, and arrived in time to stop by the British Airways lounge. A representative came to discuss the rerouting, and actually admitted that British Airways does not handle award tickets the same as they do revenue tickets. If we had been on a paid ticket they would have re accommodated us on a different flight. Disappointing, to say the least.

Anyhow, we caught our flight to Pisa and had soon slipped the surly bonds of earth. The scenery above Pisa was gorgeous, and the pilot took a meandering route to the airport. Here’s a link to the video.



Landing at Pisa airport, I walked straight of the terminal and over to the rental car shuttle stop, just as a shuttle passed. There was a long line of people waiting for the next shuttle. The sign said it was just a 500m (550 yard) walk, so I opted to stretch my legs and walk instead.


A reservation had been made ahead of time with Hertz, for a compact sized car to take one-way from Pisa to Florence. As a President’s Circle member, we had been upgraded. The rental agent smiled and handed over the keys to an Opel Mokka, which is a small SUV. It was perfect for the trip, and came with an easily accessible usb port and bluetooth audio so we could listen to our tunes. I plugged in an iPhone, selected some music, and we were ready to roll.


We were now basking in the sunshine in the land of pasta. We got on the road, and using my phone’s GPS I entered in the address of the hotel. We set off down the winding road on our way to the hotel in Pisa.


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