Traveling for the first time to Europe. Looking for recommended cities to connect in...efficient customs etc. how much time is needed between flights? Thanks!
Toronto is a short flight from Chicago and has direct flights to Athens. but you may or may not find a price you like.
Or Philadelphia has direct flights to Athens. It depends on when
Personally, I would give Turkish Air a try - because it's a very good airline and the prices are very competitive. The connection would be through Istanbul. Every flight I took from the DC area has been a red eye flight that left at around 11pm, not sure of schedule from Chicago. I try my best not to fly US airlines overseas if I can help it, especially if the connection is in the US.
If you go to Google Flights or your flight website of choice and tell us what your options are, we can give our opinions on convenience of changing planes at each one. My policy about connecting times is to look at what is offered, find the minimum connecting time at the airport I'm considering, and add one hour to it. That's the minimum I want to book.
Picking a random November day, Google Flights shows Lufthansa connecting through Frankfurt with a 2.5 hour connection time, could be a little tight but probably OK, especially since it's the same airline. It's an overnight flight but so are the others shown. Turkish Airlines shows a 3.5-hour layover in Istanbul and a lower fare, also a good option.
Safer to use a single airline if you can, the connection will probably be easier. With one ticket for the whole journey (which could involve two airlines), you have some protection if an arrival delay blows up your connection.
jed, I gather what you want to do is have just TWO planes, not THREE, to reach Athens. Thus y ou have to find a flight from Chicago to a major European Airport where u connect to Reach Athens ... or Fly to one of the 4 N. American airports that have nonstops to Athens. If your visit to Greece will be quite short, for transit-efficiency many opt for the nonstops from US/Canada -- PHL/AA, JFK/Delta, TORONTO/AirCanada and (for now) EWK/ UAE (United Arab Emirates).
Why these? Because all 4 start in late afternoon or early evening, go overnight & land in ATH between 9 - 10:30 am or so. This gives you the use of half of the first day. If you plan to START your trip with an island stay and END it with your Athens time (which many of us "old hands" recommend), landing before 11 gives you a much better chance of catching a noonish or early aft. Domestic flight of 45 mins or so... and you could be lying on a beach on Day One! Another advantage is that these nonstops are almost always right on time -- because even if they're delayed on take-off they have all that loooong stretch over the Atlantic to make up lost time. Finally, except in High Season, arriving in the morning usually means shorter lines at passport control, so that you can get thru & pick up luggage within 45 minutes.
However, for an ATH connection to a domestic flight, leave 2 hours layover just to be secure; domestic flights require check-in 45-60 minutes before departure (and you may need to hit the ATM machines for a few Euro).
The downside of the time-efficiency of these 4 is that, usually, their fares are higher than a European connection.
By contrast, If you do connect in Europe, many of those flights connect in late morning, and you don't reach ATH until 2 - 5pm. In addition, the later in the day your Europe connection is, the greater the chances for airport congestion and take-off or landing delay. Thus the first day may effectively be "kaput." However, there are exceptions -- check KAYAK or other such search engine to find if perhaps there's a nonstop arriving in Frankfurt at 5 AM, and an athens-bound flight at 7 am ... yu could get lucky. Also check SKY SCANNER link, which covers all the European Domestic airlines, which KAYAK doesnt.
I agree with aCraven ... first tell us what airline options you have, and we'll compare from out experiences ... no point in raving on about the delights of SwissAir if it never flies from Chicagoland!
Not really sure what you are trying to do, avoid, etc. Personally don't think that connecting airport make all that much difference. Obviously, some are better than others but I feel it is mostly size related. Paris can be problem because of size while Amsterdam can work a bit better because it is smaller. The German airports are a toss up. Personally I would go with price and schedule and not worry about the airport.
I'd be comfortable with the 2.5-hour connecting time in Frankfurt that Dick uncovered. I didn't check other details of the flight.
Plugged in some random dates in April and filter for 'one stop'. Use this for info but buy direct from the airline