Does anyone have any suggestions/recommendations for best airlines to fly from San Francisco to Italy? Also, what's a reasonable/good price during the month of March and when would be the best time to purchase a ticket? Thanks!
Vivian, it depends on where you want to go in Italy. U.S. carriers or their international partners can get you to most any of the airports in Italy. For the U.S. carriers, you can get to Rome, Milan and in some cases Pisa. Via their international carrier partners or the international carriers by themselves, you will go through their home countries first and then to Italy. A bit more information on your itinerary would really help narrow this down a bit. For example, we normally fly United on our Mileage Plus points. United flies us to LAX (not SFO) and puts us on Lufthansa to Frankfurt. At Frankfurt, we can fly to most any airport in Italy (and do). Or, you can do the same from SFO on Lufthansa and skip United all together for about $1,250 round trip. Depending on the airport in Italy, Lufthansa may fly you to Zurich on Swiss Air (which they own). From Sacramento, you can also do this on U.S. Airways. They will fly you to Philadelphia and then fly you to Italy. From SFO, most any of the international carriers can get you to Italy via their home countries. British Airways, Air Canada, Air France, Icelandic Air, SAS - most any of them. Again, it depends on where you want to land in Italy and where you wish to depart. Take a look at www.kayak.com. Even better, I invite you to attend our upcoming Rick Steves Sacramento travel group meeting on Saturday July 20th at 10:00am at Panera's in Natomas (just off Truxel). We have our computers with us and we can help you personally with your searches. We have travelers ping in occasionally for assistance. We'll be at the large table.
There really is no "best" airline. All pretty average to miserable in economy class with min service. You go with price and connections. Expect to pay more with direct flights. The is no best time to buy either. Watch the price for a while to get a general idea of the fare and buy when comfortable with the price.
I disagree with what Frank says. In my mind Singapore airlines is awesome when compared to European and US airlines - in fact just flew on them yesterday between Frankfurt and JFK on my return from Africa. However, it won't be convenient unless you do something like SFO-JFK-Fra-Italy. Also heard good things about Air Newzealand. They fly to London but not sure if from SFO or LAX.
However, if you are looking for convenience then go with the best deal you can get.
Thanks very much for the responses! A lot of good info.
Larry, I see you are local...we may just take you up on your offer to join the Rick Steves travel group on the 20th. Thank you for the invitation. It sounds very informative.
Vivian, please drop by. All of this is a hobby for us and we enjoy assisting. We've had a few visitors in recent months and its been a blast helping them with their trip planning. Andrea has posted the monthly invitation for the Sacramento meeting under General Europe on this website. Along with my computer, I'll bring some of my Italy books and maps just in case you decide to join us.
Actually, I think both Frank and Arnold are right (which might seem impossible since they disagree). Frank's statement about all airlines providing a generally miserable experience in coach is generally true. But Arnold is also correct in pointing out that Singapore Airlines does aspire to provide a better experience than other carriers (and they often do) - they are often ranked as the "best" (or one of the best airlines) in terms of service and experience. Of course, sitting in a cramped seat in economy for 10-15 hours, no matter how nicely the flight attendants might smile at you, the experience can still be miserable, so even the "best" can leave you unhappy. I think the "best" airline (especially for long-haul fights to the other side of the world) is any one that you can escape coach and get into a forward cabin - where the differences between say, legacy US carriers such as United and the Asian national carriers such as Singapore (and multiple others), really shines. To a large extent, coach is coach (on a long flight) and these days that is usually not a happy place to be for 10+ hours. Most people burn tickets are extremely "price sensitive" so airlines have been relentlessly trying to cut costs, squeezing in more seats so you have less room than you thought could be possible, cutting nonessentials (pillows, blankets), and charging for things you expected were included (a checked bag, being able to choose your seat. etc.). For me, I now try to escape the economy section on any flight longer than 5 hours (my last few trans-oceanic flights nearly killed me, or so it seemed when I staggered off the planes). If you can't manage to swing a seat in economy plus or (better) business class, then try your best to limit the duration of your suffering by flying as direct as possible.