My travels around the US the last year or so have generally been a hassle, with overcrowded planes, cancelled flights, surprise charges and a generally unconcerned attitude. I can't imagine that foreign flights haven't also become more challenging. What I'd like to know, especially from those of you who have fairly recent experience with international flights, which airlines would you recommend and, maybe more importantly, which would you avoid. Would also appreciate any nuggets of wisdom you might want to share. Thanks.
I used to fly from LAX to CDG using UAL due to being a frequent flyer with UAL. The disadvantage is from LAX you have to either stop in Chicago or DC or use allaince partner Luftansa which flys you to Frankfurt with a short flight to CDG. UAL in coach has a 2-5-2 configuration which is good if 2 are flying together. After 2 major problems with UAL I now am a flying blue member and take Air France to CDG which is a direct flight. Due to my wife's medical problems we fly business class and love AF service including good meals.
If flying coach AF has a 3-4-3 configuration and fine if 3 are flying together.
The same problems with domestics exists with international flights. The only airline we will absolutely avoid is US Air. Recently have had good luck with Delta. We use United a lot because they are the main carrier out of Denver. We do enjoy economy plus on United. I think Delta is adopting something similar. Used to prefer the foreign lines -- British Air and Lufthansa as they still tried to provide some service. Not sure any more. A Lufthansa flight last years was as packed as any other plane. I think you go with price and not expect much so you will not be disappointed.
I always fly either Air France (good food and free wine) or US Air direct flights from Phila to CDG. Have never had any problems on either, although I've heard all the horror stories about US Air and the Philly airport. Most recent flight was 9/10 on US Air. No hassles. I tried Delta and British Airways several times for international flights, though not recently, and found them to be unorganized, rude, overbooked, and both lost our luggage.
In the last 4 years have taken Continental, United, Delta and the part of Delta that was Northwest ( they route thru MSP), and a funny all business class jet that KLM had from Houston to Amsterdam for a couple years.
I like Continental and the old NW for service. Was not crazy about the UAL planes looking worn, but the service was pleasant. I look at the plane type, and prefer a 2-3-2 ; that's 2 seats/aisle/3 or 4seats/ aisle/2seats- frequently Delta's configuration. Continental has mostly 3 seats on either side of 1 aisle, not a favorite. Price matters but sometimes changing planes in Houston instead of Chicago also does.
We've had good experience with Air France and Continental and ok with Delta, Northwest, and US Airways. Last year we had very good flights DC-Paris with Open Skies.
I'm from Atlanta so all of my Delta flights are great. I have recently tried KLM, AirFrance, Alitalia, and US Airways overseas. With the exception of a terrrorist suspect and diversion to JFK (another story) Alitalia was my favorite and US Airways was my least. Delta for me has always been consistant but I hear the about American too.
Avoid American, IMHO
Most time I use British Airways. I know some say they don't like them but I have yet to ever encounter a problem and they unlike other airlines let me use my points. Like Air France free wine, meals are ok, great in flight media ion. I have heard others on hear complain about Heathrow but if you are just using as I do for a connecting hub it isn't bad, no worse than any major airport and better than most US ones. If Air France had more than the 6pm flight out of Boston I would use them and go direct but they don't so I rather leave at 8pm and go straight from work giving myself plenty of time and not wasting taking any more personal time than needed.
I love the Air France flight from SEA-CDG. BUT, with any airline, you need to look at what planes they use for your route. This route uses big new Airbus 380s, which have a little area to stand and great entertainment options. I don't know that every AF flight from the US uses these planes. As a rule, I won't change planes in the US. I've especially disliked using US Air through Phillycustoms takes forever, I have to fly on a 757 from SEA-Philly, east coast weather (ie thunderstorms) have led to delays...
I would recommend any of the international carriers: Air France, British, Lufthansa, Iceland Air. It's nice to be able to fly non-stop from USA to Europe and change planes in Europe (if a change is necessary). Air France goes via CDG, British - LHR, Lufthansa - Munich or Frankfurt and Iceland Air - Reykavich. The international carriers also have a better reputation all around.
Last summer we flew SAS. Loved the service and the plane. Great food, free wine.
Flew Delta once last year - free wine but the tvs didn't work (in either direction) and we had horrible delays - though that may have been b/c we flew out of JFK. Other than that one time, we always fly Continental (live near EWR) and had pretty good luck across the board.
We like Air France. A little bit better food than most airlines, I think. My husband and I always choose to sit in the middle section (4 seats across) in the aisle seat and the one next to it. That way no one is ever climbing over you to get to the bathrooms, nor do YOU have to climb over anyone.
Last April my wife and I flew from Seattle to Paris on Icelandair, via Reykjavik. We had to change in Reykjavik in early AM but got to walk around the airport and also cleared EU customs and immigration. That meant we had no delay when we got to Paris early in the afternoon. The whole trip took longer than a nonstop, but we enjoyed the break and saved about $1000 on the roundtrip fare enough to buy a few dinners in France ;). We'd had some pre-flight anxiety because of the volcanic eruption just east of Reykjavik, but the ash was blowing east and didn't affect the airport there or in Paris yet. Several weeks later, though, as we were about to return, the ash had closed Rejkavik, Icelandair had moved its hub to Glasgow, and they had no available planes to serve Paris. We thought we'd have to get to Glasgow somehow, then Boston or NY, then home, but Icelandair's Paris office put us on a nonstop Air France flight the same day as originally planned. Based on the voucher they gave us, that flight cost them about as much as we'd paid them for our round trip. The Air France flight was great, as others have described, but what stood out to us was the dedication and thougtfulness of Icelandair's Paris staff. This is a can-do outfit. Icelandair's planes are narrow-body 3-3s, as comfortable as anything in coach these days. They offer stopovers in Iceland for very low additional cost. They don't fly from LA, but they do from Seattle, Minneapolis, Orlando, and other US cities, and to most parts of northern and western Europe. Highly recommended and, no, I don't own any stock!
I always choose a non-stop flight when I can. If I cannot get a direct flight, I choose based on connecting airport; I prefer to connect in Europe rather than in the U.S. Within Europe, I think Amsterdam and Munich are among the better airports for transfers. Each leg of a connection increases the likelihood that you will be delayed, that your bag will be lost, etc.
If your first flight is delayed and you are connecting in the U.S., you often will have no choice but to wait until the next day to get a flight to Europe. If your first flight is delayed and you are connecting in Europe, odds are that you often can get on another flight that same day. I typically fly United or one of the Star Alliance partners simply because I live near a United hub and these are typically my best and least expensive options. While I think that United is average among the airlines, I have never had any type of major problem with them.
I forgot about Icelandaira good way to go and less expensive. It's nice changing flights just over half-way across and being able to walk around. It's even better when you take a few days to see Iceland on the way to the Continent. One other thing to note is that according to European Union rules, the European airlines have to take care of you in case of a delay or cancellation. This became known during the volcano eruption last year. Ticketholders on European airlines were entitled to food and lodging. Not so with the US-based airlines. I take this into consideration when buying my ticket.
Thanks for so much good advice. Icelandair seems like a terrific airline. Too bad it doesn't fly out of Los Angeles. I'll let you know which airline we finally choose and how it works out. At the moment we're leaning towards Air France, largely based on recommendations made here. Again, thanks so much.
If I counted correctly, on this thread 11 separate airlines have received at least some favorable mention. A tip of the hat to the airline industry?
Whatever you do DO NOT fly US Air and transfer thru Philly. We we warned and did not heed the warning...... and paid the price. Never again.
My criteria is to try and get the longest leg possible within the fewest flying hours. Coming from the west coast, we used to take American and transfer through Chicago or New York. On our last trip we took British Air and transfered in Vancouver (using mileage award meant we had to take a stopover), but that still gave us a long stretch to sleep.
We tried Open Skies in 2010 and loved it. It is a little more expensive than coach, and a lot less expensive than regular business class. A real added bonus was that it flew into Orly, not CDG. We had our bags and were out on the street within 15 minutes of landing. CDG can take hours, depending on when the plane lands. On the way home, we had a GREAT meal, and I have NEVER said that about airplane foodit was duck with fingerling potatoes and a delicious sauce. Absolutely wonderful. The only drawback to Orly is that to make train connections (TGV) you have to go into Paris, which incurs the cost of a taxi. Open Skies is also beginning to offer flights to other cities, so check out the website!
Caveat about Icelandair: While it's great that people here have enjoyed their flights, to me, it would be a nightmare to fly overseas on a 3-3 configuration. That means either my husband or I are in an middle seat (unless we both get separate aisles, in which case, we have people crawling over us). Plus, a single aisle means there's no good place to stand and stretch your legs. I would never fly overseas on a plane that doesn't have a double aisle and the rows of 2 on each side, which nearly all of them, except Icelandair, do.