Traveling LA to Milan, Rome to LA in October. There are so many possible combinations -- and none of them direct flights -- it's driving me nuts. So I'm turning to you experienced travelers for your recommendations for airlines, flight times, best/worst airports for layovers, and any other thoughts you might have. Thanks.
My preference is to connect in Europe, preferably on the mainland. Here's why. In the halycon years gone by there were always empty seats on airplanes, sometimes whole rows at a time. If you missed a connection in the US, they could get you out probably within a few hours. Now things are different. Planes are always full or nearly so. So its going to take a while to get everyone out if they miss a connection; for example a flight from LA to the Northwest hub in Detroit, carrying 45 people going on to Amsterdam. Given that there aren't that many international flights, that could easily mean a day or more delay getting on a plane. And while planes usually make their connections, it isn't that rare for a plane to be a couple of hours late. And we're especially vulnerable to that on the West coast. Many planes start flying early in the morning on the East coast, make their way West, and then head back East. So that multiplies the chances for a delay in your 1st flight; delays along the route due to weather, a mechanical difficulty in Tulsa, and all of a sudden you're never going to make that connection.
So I do 2 things. First of all, I choose a direct flight to somewhere in Europe. If the plane leaves at all, its landing in Europe. Even if I miss my connection its a lot easier to get another flight from Heathrow or Frankfurt to somewhere else in Europe. And if I'm in Frankfurt then trains also become an option. Second, I give myself at least 2 hours between flights, and lean towards 3. Sure, I don't like wasting time in airports. But I'm much happier to spend an extra hour or two in an airport in exchange for getting to my destination at the scheduled time. It's all about opportunity cost.
So these are my preferences. Others play things differently, so you'll have to think it over and decide what's right for you.
Flying to Europe from the West Coast to Italy can be grueling. My goal is to reduce total trip time to the minimum. I go on Travelocity, plug in my destination/dates, then sort by duration.
You will find that from LAX, you can get travel time down to about 13.5 hours. I'm not sure the exact reason, but it seems the shorter duration flights all connect through Europe (London, Paris, Amsterdam), rather than the US (New York, Newark, ATL).
I have no idea if this will apply to you. But the only drawback I find with connecting through Europe is getting a customs stamp for a VAT refund. To get your customs stamp for the VAT refund, you need to get the stamp in the last country you visit.
Last time I went to Europe, I flew out of Milan via Frankfurt to Seattle. This required us to get our customs stamp in Frankfurt. Our flight from Milan to Frankfurt was delayed and our connection in Frankfurt was tight - so we didn't have enought time to get the customs stamp - so too my knowledge (unless somebody can provide me advice on this), a couple hundred bucks down the drain.
I just went through the nightmare of booking flights out of San Francisco to Italy. You are lucky (I think) because LAX is a better departure point than SFO. Anyway there are 4 of us going with one returning from Rome prior to the other 3 returning. All flights go through London's Heathrow airport. The flight that has to come home earlier is out of Rome and costs $993.00 on British Air. The other 3 are coming out of Milan and the cost is $715.00 (those are also on British Air). A big price difference to leave from Rome! You might try going to Milan and then taking a train down to Rome..........I bet you will save money plus see more of Italy. Just a suggestion...............oh yeah we are going in September if that helps.
Kind of funny because most people complain that they do not have enough options, not TOO many options. Anyways, this is my list of flight preferences. Disclaimer: I rarely get my ideal flight
- AM landing (easier for me to acclimate to the time difference if I am up and active that first day)
-Travel the same airline on all legs (for baggage concerns and easier re-booking if a flight is missed)
-Avoid midwest layovers in the summer (thunderstorms)
-Avoid NYC layovers (flight traffic)
-A 2 hour layover is a nice balance. But, I book shorter layovers if there are other flights later in the day as a backup.
-Saving a few $$ on a flight is nice, but not if the total travel time is too long. From the west coast, a 15 hr travel time is great, but it can go as high as 24 hrs with bad planning. I had a couple of those on frequent flyer miles, it was miserable.
In my earlier post I forgot to let you know that the flights are non-stop from London to SFO. From Rome to London my husband must lay over from 10 pm to 11 am (which is fine for him as his mom lives there) but for us returing from Milan we only have an hour and 15 minute layover in London. I agree that arriving at your destination mid morning or early afternoon is great for jet lag. Lets you get used to the new time zone a bit easier. Hope this helps!
Thanks to all of you for some terrific tips. BTW, that post from "Mike - Los Angeles" is another Mike. But his advice about a direct flight to Europe is something I agree with and try to abide by. And here's a tip for anyone flying from LAX to Heathrow: there's an AA 6:00 PM direct flight that puts you in England about noon the next day. It's my personal choice when England is my final destination.
I received a personal email about a BA flight that leaves about 5:30 PM and gets me to Milan about 2:30 PM with a two hour layover in Heathrow. That might work. And it's around $600 RT. Sounds good, though Travelocity shows it to be on-time only about 60% of the time.
I haven't looked at all of the details from LAX,
but if everything else is equal, I'd much rather change in Frankfurt than at Heathrow. Lufthansa has always been very efficient and a comfortable flight with friendly gate & flight attendants.
The other thing that I do is to not take the airline recommendation for the amount of "time allowed" to change flights. I always pick a second flight that allows more time to connect. United & Lufthansa are partners, so it's easy to mix them on flights.
Coming from LAX if you have to make a change of flights in the US, try Denver instead of Chicago.
Have a great time.
I recently bought tickets from LA to Italy for October. There are no direct flights. You will have to switch planes at least once.
I found the best price and shortest total travel time was through Swiss International Air Lines. I am flying into Venice and out of Rome. Swiss appears to fly over the polar cap and you will have to switch planes in Zurich both directions. From LA to Venice total travel time is 14 hrs 25 mins (1hr 55 mins layover included) and from Rome to LA total travel time is 16 hrs and 5 mins (1 hr 45 mins layover included). I got my ticket for $611.76 round trip.
In order to book an open jaw flight on Swiss, you must call them. Their website doesn't have the option to book open jaw. They waive the fee for booking by phone. Good Luck. Maybe they are having a sale and you can get a ticket cheaper.
from USA 1-877-359-7947
One option is Lufthansa out of LAX. On our last trip to Italy, United flew us to LAX. We retreived our luggage (they would have transferred it) and walked over to the Tom Bradley International terminal and checked in there. Flight departed LAX about 6:10pm and flew through the night to Frankfurt. Arrived about 10:10am. We walked over to the domestic area (luggage transferred, no luggage checks) and 2 hrs later, we're on our flight to Florence. IMO, unless you are going to Lake Como or Bologna, etc., Milan is not a great flight destination. Too much time to travel to where you are going (i.e. Venice, the CT, Florence). Venice, Pisa, Florence and Rome are better.
You can also do the same types of flights out of LAX on Swiss Air (Zurich), Air France (Paris), British Airways (Heathrow) and even Alitalia. As you have found out, even the U.S. carriers will often hand you over to a partner airline somewhere along the way to Italy.
We are going to Lake Como, so Milan will have to do. Thanks to all for the many helpful suggestions. Keep them coming; they have been most useful.