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Easiest city airports for connecting flights... Wash DC to Athens

We will be taking the RS Greece Tour in Sept 2017. In searching for flights, I see a range.. some connect thru Toronto, Paris, Brussels and others. 2 questions: which are the easiest airports to make connections in and 2: how much time should we allocate between flights to change planes without fear of missing our next flight into Athens? Also we will have carry on luggage... must we go thru customs between flights... if so having enough time btw flights is even more critical. Thanks for any help!

Posted by
17990 posts

You won't have to go through "customs" at intermediate airports, just a passport immigration check at the first Schengen Treaty airport you land at. I'd look first at how many later flights they have to Athens. If you would miss a connection, is there a later flight they can put you on and still arrive on the same day?

Posted by
1065 posts

A lot depends on how much time your flights take, length of layovers, etc. Washington to Toronto seems an out-of-the-way trip. In addition it's a much longer flight from Toronto to Athens. It may be better to find a flight that lands in Europe which eliminates the long first leg of your flight. Then connecting flight to Athens would be rather short.

Paris (Charles de Gaul) gets some negative comments from posters here. I've been there and it's a rather large and spread out airport, plus some say security checks are extra long. That's something to consider.

If you can find a European connection like London or Munich that would be a better option.

I think a minimum of 1-1/2 to 2 hours for making a connection flight should be OK. It all depends on how much time you want to spend in an airport waiting for your next flight.

Check out Sky Scanner for flight info and if you find a flight that meets your need go directly to the airline's website rather than Sky Scanner or other third-party agencies. You may get a better deal or at least better customer service.

Posted by
1228 posts

I am under the impression there are two or three airlines that fly direct to Athens from North America. A direct flight is about 9 hours transatlantic. We live on the west coast and fly from Vancouver to Toronto in the morning and take the Air Canada Rouge flight directly to Athens. It arrives around 10:30 in the morning so you have a good part of the day available for you.
I am pretty sure there is a flight from Philadelphia that gets in around 9:30 in the morning.

We have also flown from Vancouver to Frankfurt, Munich and Heathrow. This type of route adds an additional 7 hours or so arriving in Athens around 5 or 6 PM.

We prefer to spends a couple of hours in Toronto for the connection while we are still fresh rather than 2 hours in one of the big European airports while suffering jet lag.

On our two Rouge flights we paid extra for Premium economy I call if Faux business class, however given the level of the US $ to the Canadian $ that cabin actually had more Americans than Canadians.

Posted by
24059 posts

I assume you are planning to get a through-ticket (single ticket) all the way to Athens and back. That puts the onus on the airline to get you there if something goes wrong on the first leg. You still don't want too tight a connection, of course.

I've gathered from reading this forum that London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle are not great airports to connect through, so I have tried to avoid them. Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Munich seem to be easier connection points, but I agree with the earlier comment that it is far better to change planes at an airport with a good number of flights going on to your final destination. That way, if the connection breaks down, you probably won't have to wait 24 hours for a replacement flight. For this reason I do not like to start my trip with a short hop to NYC, etc., because there just aren't that many transatlantic flights available if I miss the first one.

The other thing I do is Google "connection time XXX airport" to try to find out what the minimum connection time is, then I try to pick a flight combination that gives me at least an extra hour.

In the end, luck will be a factor; aside from the possibility of delays, flight schedules can be changed. Always, always give yourself some extra time before your tour starts. You'll need at least one full day to get over the jetlag, anyway.

Posted by
3142 posts

There are 3 nonstop flights from NOrth America to Athens -- all of them taking a fraction less than 10 hours (+ 7 hrs clock-change) -- American from PHL (4:15pm- 9:10am), Delta/NYC (5:15pm -10am), Air Canada (6:20Montreal-1030am). Flying from DC to connect with any of these, there would be almost Zero change of not making your connection, since so many flights per day to each airport. Also, ALL these have 99.9% on-time arrival at AThens, even if they depart an hour late from their N. American airports - because they have alllll that time over the ocean to make up the time. These 3 flights are the only ones reaching Athens before noon.

Other airlines coming from US and making a connection in Europe also arrive at the Europe airport on time (because of that ocean make-up trick). It is the next leg that can greatly lengthen the duration of your trip. Your layover must be AT LEAST 90 minutes (even with carry-on, you'll have security checks; don't risk less!!). And since your plane is taking off in heavy daytime traffic, the later in the morning it is, the more delay you'll encounter. Total duration of trip can rise from 10 + 7 )the 3 above) to as much as 17 + 7. Result = a much more tired you on arrival. Thus the only reason to choose a Europe-connection flight would be a much cheaper fare. If doing so, I agree with acraven's airport list, adding maybe Zurich to the feasible list.

As an economy passenger, if I lived in DC, and all 3 N American nonstops fares and connections were similar, I'd choose Air Canada ... feedback tells me the seating is fractionally more comfortable & food better (sigh, these days everything Canadian seems better). As a Philly resident I am an Am Airlines prisoner (it's AA now but same ole USAir planes). In my experience, no spymaster would ever need to "waterboard" -- just strap a suspect into a USAir seat for 9 hours and he'd confess all, just to be released.

About that jet-lag thing, sometimes I think it's over-stressed. You feel it more when you're flying to do WORK upon arrival. Whatever my trip duration to Greece, my adrenalin kicks in the minute I get off the plane, and lasts thru the day... and I usually just have an early night, and am OK the next morning ... have even scaled the Acropolis at 8 AM then.

Posted by
4991 posts

I fly out of IAD and my preference is to connect in a European city over a North American city. If you miss a connection in Europe, you can often get on a later flight the same day.

Amsterdam, Munich, and Zurich are all quite user-friendly for connections. I don't mind Heathrow because while it is large, there are many flights and when I have missed connections there I
have always been put on a later flight. I avoid CDG like the plague as I find it very inefficient for connections. I don't mind Frankfurt.

Of the airports you mention, I would choose to connect in Brussels.

I have friends traveling to Athens this summer and they chose Turkish via Istanbul for both best price and reasonable layover.

Whether you go through immigration or not will depend if your connecting airport is in a country that participates in Schengen. For example, if you change in London, you will not go through pass control. If you change in Brussels, you willgo through pass control.

Posted by
2020 posts

We have connected twice in Paris for Athens with no problems either time. Once we had just 70 minutes between planes & had time to spare. That was a Delta flight arriving before 7 am connecting with Air France to Athens.

So if the best price/schedule you can find takes you through CDG -- and if there are later flights in case you miss yours -- and if you have at least 90 minutes to connect -- I'd say go for it.

Posted by
1065 posts

We fly out of Boston when traveling to Greece. Some of our connecting flights have been New York, London, Munich, Paris & Rome. All of them worked out fine for us and we never missed the connection to Athens.

As I stated earlier a layover in a city in Europe will eliminate the long flight on your initial leg then just a short flight to Athens. However you'll have to go through security again in the European Cities.

From Boston-New York-Athens we just had to go through security in Boston, get on the plane in New York and landed 9+ hours later in Athens. Less stress at the airports and rather quick security check. The only issue was the extra time in the air.

It all depends on how long you want that initial flight to be and whether you want to go through security again in Europe.

Obviously budget is a factor along with number of layovers, length of layover and departure arrival times.

I have a Boston-Paris-Athens flight booked for Athens for October and even though a number of posters feel Charles de Gaul can be a nightmare I've had good luck there.

Do what's best for you and consider all comments here based on solid experience.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for your replies and great advice. Which airline are to flying for the trip you have booked in October? So far I am seeing flights on United, American and Lufthansa. I have no experience with any of these flying out of D.C. to Athens....

Posted by
1065 posts

We have Delta & Air France. Delta to Paris, Air France to Athens and the reverse on the way back.

We bought our tickets late Nov. 2016 for $468!!! with excellent departure and arrival times and 1 1/2 to 2 hours layover.

Obviously Boston is a lot closer to Athens so prices will be better but at $468 is unheard of. I check prices on a regular basis and for the most part they were under $700 but when I saw the $468 I jumped on it. Two day later the price was up $200 more!

You can start searching for flights about 10 months out from when you want to go.

I was happy with under $700 but felt since I had so much time I could keep checking and hope they came down. They did! but just for 2 days.

So when people ask when is the best time to buy tickets I always say whenever you find something that meets your needs. If you wait the price could jump or it could fall. It's always a tricky situation but buy when you are happy with the price.