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Best nonstop flights from SFO to Europe for Greece + Italy destinations?

We are planning a trip now and it will include a Rick Steves Greece tour plus some of Italy on our own. We want to fly nonstop from SFO (San Francisco) to a European city. We want nonstop because 11 hours in the air is really our limit. From that city we will then fly after a day or two to Athens. The nonstop flights I know about and some key points are:

1) SFO -> Frankfurt (maybe best, Frankfurt is close to the airport, we haven't been in Germany, easy to get to Athens a day or two later)

2) SFO -> Heathrow (have recently been to the UK so not as interesting for this trip)

3) SFO -> Paris (have been to Paris in recent years)

4) SFO -> Zurich (more expensive city for a short stay)

So we are thinking maybe #1 is better for us. Do you know of any more nonstop cities or have thoughts on setting up a nonstop flight from SFO?

Posted by
16893 posts

It looks like Delta has a direct flight from SFO to Amsterdam. (Their Seattle-Amsterdam flight is a popular choice around here.)

Posted by
130 posts

I looked it up and yes, SFO -> Amsterdam is a good one. My wife would love to see some of the art in Amsterdam. We both do a lot of painting and tend to overdo art museums. :)

Thanks Laura.

Posted by
130 posts

I'll keep Dublin in mind for another trip. Thanks.

Posted by
14677 posts

These are all your non stop choices from SFO to Europe:
AIRPORT . operated by

DUBLIN . Aer Lingus
LONDON HEATHROW . British Air, Virgin Atlantic, United
AMSTERDAM . KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
COPENHAGEN . Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS)
PARIS CDG . Air France, XL Airways, United
FRANKFURT . Lufthansa, United
MUNICH . Lufthansa
ZURICH . Swiss Intl Airlines
ISTANBUL . Turkish Airlines

I don't think I missed any.

I tried them all except for Dublin and Istanbul (the latter, with Turkish, will start in April and last I checked they had a super introductory deal from SFO to anywhere Turkish flies. Lufthansa, Swiss (part of Lufthansa), and SAS are the airlines I prefer. Munich and Copenhagen are also very nice to visit for a couple of days, and their airports are some of the easiest to connect.

Also don't forget that you can also fly non stop from Oakland (OAK) to OSLO and STOCKHOLM with Norwegian Airlines.

All of the above airlines (or their partners) fly to Athens and to Italy.

Posted by
11294 posts

Another idea would be to fly to a city in North America, stay a few days there, then take a nonstop to Athens. Looking around on Wikipedia. it seems that Toronto, Montreal, New York JFK, and Philadelphia airports have nonstop service (in season) to Athens. If you want to spend a few days in any of those cities, this would also work.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for SFO; scroll down to get the list of airports served:

In addition to Frankfurt, Heathrow, Paris, Zurich, Dublin, and Amsterdam, I see Copenhagen, Munich, and - starting next spring - Istanbul. I will add that my experience with Turkish Air was VERY nice, and I'd gladly take any available opportunity to fly with them again.

EDIT: cross-posting with Roberto.

Posted by
130 posts

There are many more airports then I had originally found on my own. Thanks to all.

The idea of stopping off in the US and then going straight to Athens is interesting. I found one nonstop from Montreal YUL to Athens for our dates, but the flight time is 9hr and 10hrs. So we might as well get the long flight in at the beginning from SFO and visit Amsterdam (and vicinity) as well.

Posted by
1994 posts

I – with regret – second the recommendation to avoid US carriers and their European partners out of SFO. I have had two horrendous experiences out of SFO with Delta/KLM/Alitalia. Both times I paid a premium for a short flight time, and because of overbooking and schedule changes, I was forced to spend about 24 hours in transit. And I found that the planes of US carriers on SFO-European routes are often old, relatively small, and without amenities like seatback entertainment.

My preference out of SFO is Swiss, and I've gotten some really good prices with them. Next trip I'm thinking about Turkish, because I've heard such good things about them, and it would be a great way to get a chance to investigate Istanbul.

Posted by
130 posts

We are really excited to go into Amsterdam. My wife especially wants to tour around the Netherlands. The nonstop's (10.5 hours) are with KLM and/or Delta. Looking at the KLM site the plane is a 747-400. For Delta, they apparently use KLM personnel.

We could fly into Zurich with Swiss but we are more interested in the Netherlands right now. I suppose we could fly into Zurich and then after our Greece tour fly to Amsterdam and then go home from Zurich. Requires an extra flight Amsterdam to Zurich maybe? We will start looking into Zurich and what would be fun to do there and around there.

Our flight would be in late August. If we go with KLM and not Delta out of SFO, would that be a better experience? Or are both KLM and Delta to truly be avoided?

Posted by
102 posts

My vote too is Turkish Air. Excellent modern airplanes, super helpful staff, great meals and drink service, make me think they enjoy flying passengers. Compare this to the dreadful chore many US airline staff seem to believe is the passenger. No, that attitude is only the rule, thankfully I've had exceptions of fine attendants and desk folks who broke the before mentioned rule. I thank them. Blame what you will: business styles, economic ills, death of effective unions, on and on, have left US carriers with a bad odor, richly deserved. Lufthansa too, in all its brands, swiss, etc, is fine from Seattle or anywhere. The Scandinavian carriers terrific, but avoid Delta, like ebola. My last experience was astonishing. A return Delta flight to US from Amsterdam was forced to give us all an overnight and meals because the plane fuel door could not be opened! It had arrived late and we passengers were told there was a problem. The old "we'll let you know in ten minutes" scam followed through several repeats. No doubt some frantic calls, and much excitement went on behind the scene. Computers now control all issues aboard planes, which can not be overturned by wishful thinking, and so it was here. New software instructions were not available to tell the door to open...! Anyway we stayed over at no small cost, and the following morning, somehow the problem was resolved. Add one more reason to avoid US carriers. You'll pay slightly more, but enjoy the experience with european hospitality, service and quality.

Posted by
130 posts

Thanks for the recommendations on Swiss air. I'm looking into the flight and it looks good. We can get an evening nonstop flight into Zurich. Hopefully we will sleep a bit on the plane and arrive somewhat fresh.

Haven't been to Switzerland since a trip as graduated students in 1972! I got the RS Switzerland book out of the library.