We will be traveling in mid June of 2020 to Athens from the east coast. We live in the Washington DC area. Typically I book an overnight flight arriving early the next day. Previously we had to drive to JFK to fly non-stop to Rome. My preference is non-stop. If we are unable to find an affordable non-stop flight, is an hour and fifteen minutes layover enough time to navigate an airport and get to your next flight? We usually only take carry-on luggage. Which airport is the easiest to deal with: London Heathrow, Paris, Munich or Zurich?
I would want 3 hours minimum coming thru an International gateway. My minimum for a transit time in the US is 2 hours.
Would this be booked thru the airline and all on one ticket?
Coming in thru Paris or Munich you'll go thru Immigration as Greece is in the Schengen area so you enter "Europe" there. I've been in line at CDG immigration for times (not transiting but ending in Paris) ranging from 10 minutes to 1.5 hours so I'd do my calculations based on the 1.5 hours.
Not sure about London or Zurich on whether you pass thru Immigration but for Heathrow I'd still want 3 hours.
Any flights thru Amsterdam? I find this a very easy airport to transit thru and would choose that above Heathrow and CDG/Paris.
I’d much rather connect than drive to JFK. 1:15 connection would be tight; it would depend on the airport.
I would rank the airports as follows for ease of connection:
1) Munich or Zurich
2j London Heathrow
999) Paris CDG
Both Munich and Zurich are quite efficient for connections and either of these would be my choice. The last time I connected in Zurich, my plane arrived late leaving me only 45 minutes to connect and I still made the flight.
Some people hate connecting in Heathrow, but I don’t mind. See if you have to change terminals. Switching terminals and the huge size of Heathrow are why people don’t like connecting there. The good thing about Heathrow is that there are generally lots of later flight options if your inbound flight is delayed. I’ve missed connections at Heathrow twice because my inbound flight was delayed and both times I was put on a later flight the same day.
I find connecting at Paris CDG to be terrible. I never choose to connect there.
I usually book directly with an airline. Would you recommend booking one way from US airport to Amsterdam and then another flight from Amsterdam to Athens with various carriers? Or multi-cities or round trip with one carrier?
I'd go with multi-city or round trip with the same carrier on their website because if you miss your connection the airline is responsible for getting you to your destination. They will put you on the next available flight (which might not be the next flight if it's full).
I'd choose Munich or Zürich. Not only because they are good transfer airports, but because both Lufthansa and Swiss code shares with Aegean, so there is the possibility of your last leg being with Aegean, a really good airline.
Would you recommend booking one way from US airport to Amsterdam and then another flight from Amsterdam to Athens with various carriers?
Definitely don’t book separate flights. In order for your connection to be protected, you need to book your flight on one ticket (e.g., IAD to Athens). That way if your inbound flight is delayed and you miss your connection, the airline is responsible for getting you to your final destination.
What are your choices? While I think Amsterdam is a good place to connect, I usually don’t find it to be the best option out of Dulles. How much time to connect do you have on the Munich or Zurich options?
If you were willing to drive to JFK from the DC area, then I suggest checking BWI. We usually drive from Baltimore suburbs to Philadelphia to get nonstops when we can, but for our next year cruise from Athens to Rome, I did check BWI and found a British Airways flight with a 4 hour 15 minute layover at Heathrow before flying on to Athens. That layover is a little longer than I would prefer, but I would rather have too much time than not enough. It reduces some of the stress of flying internationally.
I know many people complain about Heathrow, but we have found it easy to navigate. I also take comfort in it being an English speaking nation. Certainly, most international airport staff speak English, but in times of a "flight connection emergency", the more people who speak your language the better. We learned this first hand when trying to navigate the very crowded Frankfurt airport when our initial flight had been delayed. After terrible stress, we arrived at the gate just after they had closed the doors of the plane and had to spend the night at a hotel and rebook for the next day. If I had been able to speak German that day, just being able to ask random other people in the crowd where to go might have made the difference. ( Just to be clear, I am not complaining that not enough Germans speak English. I am grateful every time we travel that so many people in other countries help make it easier for us to visit their homelands by speaking to us in English!)
What Laura said. Do not book these as separate flights. And book through the airline, rather than Kayak or Hipmunk. Our first RS tour we booked through one of that kind of services and had trouble at every single airport going and coming.
Thank you everyone for your advice! I look forward to booking our flights soon!
You don't have to drive all the way to JFK to get a nonstop flight to Athens. You can use Philadelphia (on American) or Newark (on United or Emirates). Both PHL and EWR are also accessible via train from DC, if you prefer not to drive (PHL requires changing from Amtrak to Septa; some Amtrak trains stop at the EWR station, while others will require a change to New Jersey Transit).
Or, you can fly from one of the DC airports to connect through North American instead of connecting in Europe. In addition to JFK, Newark, and Philadelphia, there are also nonstop flights to Athens from Chicago, Montreal and Toronto, although the flights from Canada are on Air Canada Rouge, which gets very mixed reviews.
However you do it, you definitely want to be all on one ticket. Look at Kayak or Google Flights for your dates, to see all options, before deciding.
I know my Greek friends often transit through Munich and say it is easy. If you go through LHR you won’t deal with with immigration as the UK isn’t in the Schengen zone and using the connections link on heathrow dot com will tell tell everything you will need to do. We have transited in LHR in an hour flying back to US.
In past years, I've flown through Heathrow on British Air, so same terminal, and it's taken 2 hours just to get from arrival gate to departure gate without passport control.
I flew from Dulles to Athens on Lufthansa in May. I'd want closer to an hour and 45 minutes for a layover in Munich or Frankfurt (I would avoid London at all costs, Paris is my second least-favorite airport to transit through).
I had hour and 15 minute layover in Zurich on way to Athens on same ticket and made it easily. I think Zurich is extremely easy to navigate.
I have changed a number of times in Heathrow and while I haven’t had any problems, it is much more time consuming than Zurich to navigate.
To me, a four hour drive, paying for parking, or even taking the train, kust to get a direct flight is way worse than a connection. Of course, I connect all the time except flights to a half dozen cities in the US, so I may be biased.
Of the choices, Munich or Zurich would be a breeze.
Thank you, Harold, for that very useful & detailed info. I'm also flying from D.C. area to Athens next April for RS tour & want no flight connection in Europe. I've just started researching the options & your reply sure added to the info I'd found so far. (-:
Wanderlust: there's a trick to getting the information I found. I learned it here on this forum, and it's been invaluable. To see who flies from nonstop from an airport, look at that airport's Wikipedia page. Here's the one for Athens: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens_International_Airport#Passenger
Of course, you have to double-check the information with the airline (although in my experience, the Wikipedia lists are updated quite regularly). Remember that when a flight is "seasonal," the season can be long or short, and flights are not necessarily daily (some are as infrequent as once a week).