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Frequent fliers, tell us your criteria for choosing a flight to EU, in list form:

  1. Non-stop or 1 stop
  2. cost
  3. Some airlines I will not choose from, so I exclude them
  4. Must depart no earlier than 10: 00 am, either way

I have only flown to EU 3 times in the last 6 years. I am less flexible when I go to my every-five-years alumni party, but for my last pleasure trip, I was more flexible in choice.

Posted by
5687 posts

I greatly prefer direct flights from the US to Europe, if they are affordable, practical. I'll pay $1000 instead of $900 for a direct flight, but I won't pay $1800 instead of $900. I don't like the risk of connecting in the US on the way over and being delayed - and maybe messing up the whole start of my vacation. Coming home I'm less worried about it; although I want to get home as promptly as possible, at least if I'm delayed I won't risk my whole vacation!

There aren't many airlines to choose from. I would fly any airline to Europe at this point, if all other criteria are met. One thing I do look at is the type of plane they fly. Most flights to Europe (at least from the US west coast) are jumbo jets, and I prefer those. Some airlines (IcelandAir?) seem to fly smaller 757s to Europe, not something I like if I have a choice - too small!

You are already constrained by the airport(s) you must fly out of in the US. So when planning a trip, start there. Head to Google Flights and do some searches. What real options do you have? Go from there. Your options for flights to Europe may be very different from mine.

Posted by
1094 posts

Living near Atlanta, I pretty much only fly Delta. I use SkyMiles for at least one of our tickets and sometimes both. If you know you're going to fly to Europe regularly (to me, that's once every year or so), it might be worth it to pick an airline and maximize earning points for that particular airline. I have a SkyMiles AmEx and use it for most spending. There is an annual fee of a couple hundred bucks, but over four years we've used points for several thousand dollars worth of tickets. I fly Delta for work and get segments domestically so between that and the AmEx spend I usually get at least silver status, which gets me on the plane early enough to have room for my carry on and a few other minor perks.

I prefer non-stop but that's not always possible if you only use one airline. Cost matters but points almost matter as much since at least one ticket is on points. I'll wake up really early to save $ or points.

Posted by
6873 posts

Safety Record is implied above all!
1. A specific airline w/ airline partners that I accumulate/use miles. (This priority may change in a few years.)
2. Cost
3. No flight connections less than 2 hours (non-stop is ideal!), especially for flights towards Europe. Reduces the risk of being stuck at an airport vs. the starting the vacation.
4. Decent seats available in the Economy Plus section.
5. I prefer landing in Europe in the morning.

Posted by
2767 posts
  1. non-stop or one stop with reasonable layover situation. Layover requirements:
    -significantly MORE time than strictly necessary (how much depends on the airport and if I have to go through immigration lines at the layover) but not ridiculously long. That said, I'd take 5 hours over less than one. I'd rather wait than be stressed about missing a flight.
    -in a reasonable direction not making the flight a lot longer (I'm not connecting in Istanbul to go to Paris)

  2. Ability to choose my seat at booking (I will pay for this but the cost is factored in)

  3. Cost

  4. Time of flights (not before 9AM, no layovers in the middle of the night)

Posted by
8322 posts

I am not sure if this is implied or included, but our choices are influenced by the short connecting flight we have to make to a gateway airport in N America first:

  1. preferred gateway airport - Minneapolis, Dulles, Detroit, Toronto versus ORD, ATL, NYC

  2. manageable connection time

  3. non regional jet choices

  4. direct flight from NA to destination city

Posted by
380 posts
  1. Direct flights only.
  2. JFK > EWR.
  3. Cost. I also prefer when first class upgrades are up for bid going over. Have done that successfully twice and it's spoiled me completely.
  4. Airline associated with the country I'm traveling to (gets the party going early, in a way).
  5. Red eye over, day flight back. (That's pretty much all that's available, it seems).
Posted by
3985 posts
  1. I look for Delta non-stops from JFK first as I live in NYC but if Delta doesn't go nonstop between JFK and the destination that I really want to visit, I'll take Delta to a major European hub and then take another airline to that destination. Delta is my transatlantic airline because I have miles and medallion status.

  2. Always cost. I don't live in a world without a budget.

  3. Yes, there are airlines I won't fly.

  4. Outside of London, flights to EU cities from JFK are at night so time of day is pretty much in the evening. I opt for the first flight of that evening.

Posted by
315 posts

After 30 years of flight I have been in many airports. Now, that I have stated that fact, I live in SLC. This is Delta country. Options for direct are AMS, CDG and London. After our travels in 2017, I swear, I am no longer going through JFK. New Jersey has been off the list for a long time. I may reconsider after obtaining Global Entry. There were two people in line at JFK for Global Entry. Second, no choice is ATL, unless I am traveling to ATL. It is a great city to visit. Detroit and Minneapolis are fine airport to sit in and find food. Seattle can be a bit busy. TSA employees are pleasant. Flying Southwest is not for me, even when it was cheap! Delta matches fares with Southwest. I have tried to make flying out of LA work for international flights but so far can not do. Hawaii, yes. There is too much time at night to get back to SLC from Hawaii. The only airport I lost luggage but returned 2 days later was Washington DC. On our next European trip I am flying out of AMS and staying a few days. I met a nice man on the trip from Faro to AMS. He has been hooked on tall nordic persons. Where I fly into has not been determined. Pre plans at this time include Viking river cruise in China and Sicily. Las Vegas has directs to Europe, plenty of motorcycle riders from Germany like to rent and ride the red rock of Utah.

Posted by
5407 posts

1) United Daytime flight IAD to LHR.
2) Non-stop
3) If no non-stops available, connection in an efficient European airport with a layover of no more than 3 hours. I'd rather rush on a short connection than spend 6 hours in an airport. I seem to be in the minority here on this.
4) Departing from Europe after 11 am
5) Star Alliance

Price is always a consideration, but I will pay more for a flight that meets the above criteria. I never attempt a same day connection with two separate tickets. I never connect in the U.S. if I am traveling to or from Europe. I avoid connecting in CDG.

Posted by
17286 posts

I travel to Europe (but not always the EU) three times a year

  1. Maximum 2 changes
  2. Minimum layover 1.75 hours
  3. Maximum layover 3.25 hours
  4. Not through Chucky D. or Moscow
  5. First Choice Delta even for 5% more
  6. Any airline but Aeroflot
  7. Upgraded Economy on at least the long haul flight
  8. Purchased through the airline which is the long haul carrier (usually Delta, sometimes KLM or Air France) to ensure seat selection.
  9. Aisle Window combination or Aisle + Adjacent seat on the center 4 seat section.

10 Cost: the cheapest that meets the requirements above. That usually means 33% more than the absolute cheapest flight.

Posted by
3171 posts

I'm less inclined to suffer as I might have done when younger. I have one way to fly to far.
1. BA day flight to Heathrow, aisle seat, front of economy cabin, pick seat with window seat already reserved as then the middle seat more often than not remains free for the flight, in my experience.
2. Overnight at Sofitel Hotel
3. Flight to destination about 11:00 AM on BA if possible (to collect as many Avios as possible). Otherwise, on airline that will get me to my destination nonstop.
4. Return flight at 11:00-13:00 direct to Heathrow, 2 1/2-3 hour layover so can walk, walk, walk, and also upgrade if reasonable price for transatlantic flight.
5. Flight price is my last consideration as I can usually find a reasonable price after studying the fares for a while.
I work this system for my transportation as it helps me to arrive alert, happy and healthy. I'm set in my ways.

Posted by
7048 posts
  1. Price
  2. Itinerary with decent connection times

That's it. I like having ample options so I try to keep my "musts" to a minimum.

Posted by
1393 posts
  1. Whichever airline I have the most miles with - BA or AA - hopefully enough miles for premium economy or business class. We've flown on miles for 4 of our last 5 trips. I pay ALL my bills with CC including my outrageous health insurance premium:)

  2. Direct flight

  3. Price

Posted by
3779 posts
  1. Delta (Diamond Medallion)
  2. Frequent checks on Delta website for discount fare (this year, Berlin $920 r/t, Zurich $665 r/t, Stuttgart $780 r/t -- all out of GSP, through ATL)
  3. Ideally, flight out of my home airport GSP (Greenville-Spartanburg, SC) to ATL and then non-stop or 1-stop to destination.
  4. Ideally, 2-hour or more for layover, but I've done 60 min in early morning at CDG and 75 min at AMS.
  5. Arrival time before 7 pm on return flight (usually go back to work the next day)
Posted by
9319 posts

Was this a secret message planted for Boris and Natasha on the Rick Steves forum??

I met a nice man on the trip from Faro to AMS. He has been hooked on tall nordic persons.

Posted by
14887 posts
  1. If you depart from the Central Valley (e.g. SMF, FAT) the non stop is not an option. If you can drive to the Los Angeles area or the SF Bay Area, then you have options to fly non stop to some European gateways. My preference is always to fly directly to Europe without stopping at an eastern US hub, it doesn't matter if JFK, EWR, ATL, ORD, or whatever. I will pay extra to fly directly from SFO/SJC/OAK (my home airports) to Europe without stopping in the US first.
  2. Cost is obviously a factor. But I place a value on convenience too. I will not go through 3 layovers and a 30 hour flight to Europe to save less than $100.
  3. I prefer to fly with flight operated by European airlines, primarily because they don't charge for alcohol. I usually fly to Italy via Germany. There are 4 or 5 non stop flights a day from SFO to Germany, half operated by United and half operated by Lufthansa (all in code share since they are partners). I will alway fly with the one operated by Lufthansa simply because of the free booze. Others give more importance to other things like seat pitch. I don't notice differences in seat comfort after the first bottle of wine.
  4. If you fly directly from California to Europe, all flights will depart in the afternoon or evening. If you fly via New York, Atlanta, or any other Eastern hub, you will need to fly out of California with a flight leaving before 8am. That is another reason why I prefer to fly directly from California to Europe. Coming back to the US, you may have to get up early. Most flights from Europe to America depart in the morning (generally after 10). However if your departing point is not the hub you take the flight to America, then you might have to take an early flight to connect at that hub.
Posted by
14430 posts


. Determining the criteria in flight choice primarily depends on what you are willing or unwilling to tolerate, put up with, and the level of your comfort zone. Apart from the obvious, ie safety record, I am not that picky or discriminating. Coming to London yesterday the layover in Seattle was over 4 hrs, the other choice was Phoenix. I picked Sea-Tac anyway.

Flying to Europe I look always for a direct flight (10 to 11 hrs) at the right price, agreeable depart times from SFO or OAK, landing in the morning ca noon or prior in Frankfurt FRA, Paris CDG, or London LHR, unless the price difference is so marked to be in my favor. Then one change per leg max, also depends where.

The ideal dep time from here 2 to 4 pm; from there returning be it FRA, London or Paris CDG likewise. Going over my choices have been (so far) BA, United, (on time or late), Air France, Lufthansa,....will consider Air Canada, Virgin, Norwegian as future possibilities

If the return is back to SFO, I don't care when I get in, be 4pm or midnight, if it's OAK, the latest is ca. 8 pm.

Posted by
9319 posts

Fred, curious as to why you wanted to avoid PHX to the point to take the long layover in Seattle.

Home for me being a secondary market (Tulsa), I can only dream of these "non-stop" flight requirements. It's simply not possible for us. That being said, I will basically look at all the options in and out of Tulsa with the exception of DFW. It's maddening to fly directly over your home on your way from Europe (or eastern US) and think that if you could only eject from your seat, you'd be right there with your loved ones while instead you have another 45 minutes of flying and descent into Dallas, 90-minute or whatever layover, and another 45 minutes before you actually can deplane in Tulsa. In other words, another 3 or 4 hours !! No fun when you can just see that mental sign flashing If you lived here, you'd be home now!

This summer I had to make kind of an emergency trip home and I do admit to plumping for non-stops to Boston and from LA on my international ticket, for which I paid 1400 euros (or dollars, I forget) - there was no bargain hunting to be had, and knowing that I would also have to add in flights from Portland Maine to Tulsa and then Tulsa to LA in between (each of which necessitates a layover) during the two weeks, I decided the money just had to be spent rather than nickel-and-diming and trying to save by flying into secondary airports. Thank goodness for Southwest which got me from Tulsa to LA with two bags for only $200!

I was going to see a sick friend, so I just could not deal with the idea of saving money by making a connection in AMS or FRA or wherever on my way to the States given that I still had to bus from Boston to Portland and then rent a car in Portland for another three hours. I needed to get to Boston as efficiently as possible (even if I cringed when my seatmates mentioned how much they had paid for their tickets on that same flight!! of course they had planned and paid for theirs far in advance of when I had bought mine. I made a decision to pay for convenience, and that's okay.)

Posted by
674 posts
  1. Cost is a huge factor. With the sales that have been going on, we've been visiting destinations based off what is the most appealing of the choices. It's letting us travel more often. Snagged this tickets to this fall's trip to France for $375 RT last year during Cyber Monday week. Hoping they do another sale! 🤞🏼

  2. Being in the middle of the country, we have to choose between 1 or 2 stop flights. Definitely prefer the 1 stop flights (direct would be a dream come true, so jealous!). Not sure how I'll handle getting us to 2 stop locations when we start visiting them.

  3. We have limited airline choices. Really have had good luck with AA and Delta. Would avoid United if at all possible. Bad experience with them.

  4. We definitely go for morning flights but again have limited selection.

Lastly, would HIGHLY recommend Global Entry if you don't have it. It just paid for itself on our return flight this fall. Everything was so backed up in Minneapolis we would have missed our connection without it.

Posted by
4175 posts

What Celeste said-but prefer Virgin premium economy to Delta's. Husband is platinum and airlines definitely treat their top category customers better. Prefer to drive to Atlanta-I don't like to be that close to home on the return trip and have to wait around the airport for final flight. We often fly into Heathrow and then fly another carrier, such as AerLingus or AirFrance or BA to get to our final destination in Europe.

Posted by
2527 posts
  1. Safety.
  2. General quality, realizing most available carriers are far less than ideal.
  3. Tie: price; schedule in fly-over country preferring afternoon departures from the local airport with at least one more flight that day if original flight is cancelled or significantly delayed; adequate connect times for the 1-2 legs remaining and again, at least one more flight if the original flight is cancelled or significantly delayed; one-stop to Europe if possible; avoid JFK airport and similar; depending on expected weather, may avoid airports that could be snowed in; availability of enhanced economy seats; and shy away from flights operated by a code share partner as communication problems inevitably ensue such as seat selections. Similar considerations for return flights and accept early morning departures.
Posted by
2767 posts

Oh yeah - I avoid codeshare on international flights! For example, I will book through Alitalia and have a delta flight from home to NY, with Alitalia running the NY-Italy leg. I would NOT book the same flight through delta code share. Too difficult getting seat assignments, special meals (allergies), or changes. I don't care too much about that for a short flight from Indianapolis to NY for example. But on a long flight it matters.

Same reason I only book through the airline, not discounters or agencies. Just easier in case of problems

. Best case is I can fly direct from another airport (I will drive a fair ways and combine it with work or visiting family in NY, Chicago, or Toronto)

Posted by
11613 posts

First, I check cost.
Second, I exclude JFK as a connecting city.
Third, I exclude Lufthansa.
Fourth, I look for a direct flight from DTW to any airport in Eutope.
Last, I check cost against other variables (connecting time if no direct flight works out, seat choices).

Posted by
1221 posts

Small airports in the Southeast flyer. I tend to exclude United because the daily Pensacola-Chicago-Pensacola flight doesn't seem to line up well for international connections and the remaining options involving going from Florida to Europe by way of Texas, which makes things rather clunky and would require a very good deal for me to bite on it. With no Texas connection, I'm down to using American to get to Charlotte as a pond jump point or Delta to Atlanta, and I do prefer the ATL as an airport, Delta's generally better customer service during IRROPS, and the good number of Skyteam and other partner European options parked and looking shiny at E and F concourses in Atlanta.

Posted by
2696 posts
  1. Non stop.
  2. If one stop that stop is in Europe.
  3. Minimum 3.5 hour layover, even 4.5 hours is OK. I'm in the minority but I like a stress free transfer-time for a meal, snooze, etc. Will get a lounge pass if possible.
  4. Economy plus-this has become a must as we age for long haul flights. Business class if not a budget buster.
  5. Prefer a European carrier but not a must have. We have UA miles so UA or Lufthansa is often our airline. We flew BA this summer on a 777. Was just OK.
  6. Arrival final destination no later than 4 or 5 PM. We like to shower, unpack, have a nice meal that first night trying not to fall asleep in our soup!
Posted by
293 posts

@ Julie - thanks for the Cyber Monday tip - I'll be looking for that!

Reading this is unbelievably enlightening to me, thanks to everyone for their answers.

Posted by
10811 posts

Fewest stops, long enough but not too long a layover and price. Business Class going to Europe, Prem. Econ returning.

Posted by
362 posts

1 - Fewest possible number of connections. (I live in an area without direct international flights at the present time. Only 1 connection is heaven. 2 is more usual.)
2 - Either Delta or AA. (Registered for the frequent flyer number, have the credit cards to help boost miles & cover luggage fees.)
3 - Cost for my preferred class of seat.

Posted by
14430 posts

@ Kim....I like Sea-Tac, even though PHX is all right. I am much more familiar with Sea-Tac . As long it was not cutting it close, I don't mind the long lay-over.

Those times I have flown back to SFO from CDG, the last night I spend at Roissy at the Campanille since the flight is in the early morning. Flying back from London or Frankfurt, I book a flight in the afternoon....more preferable.

Posted by
9319 posts

@Fred - aha, I see. I didn't know if it was something specific about PHX that I could learn from (sometimes I connect through there going to/from my brother's in LA). But personal familiarity with one airport over another (and therefore preference) makes perfect sense! I don't know either well enough to have a preference.

@Julie -- $375 RT Paris/Wichita?!! I'm in awe!!!! Gosh if I would pay attention and find deals like that I could go home and see my family more often (presuming that Tulsa would have almost equivalent availability to Wichita as similar markets; I could be wrong on that).

Posted by
2527 posts

Sea-Tac Aiport is much more familiar to me than Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. While familiarity can breed contempt, Sea-Tac is not so bad for a long layover. Within the secure area there are many restaurants, a book store and other shopping if so inclined. There's a left luggage service next to the baggage claim area if you want to lighten your load to explore the area near the airport or beyond. Several restaurants are a short walk from the baggage claim area and if you have time, you can hop the frequent, affordable light rail system to visit downtown Seattle (Westlake stop). If you wish, then connect with the nearby Monorail to Seattle Center.

Posted by
8886 posts

Looking for a bargain of course, but the destination and length of flight are all important points. For California, Icelandic Air fits the bill. That short hop from Iceland to Seattle works for me. Even though it means 3 planes, that 45 min. layover in Iceland is super short. At least you get to get off the plane for a little bit. Also like their plane set-up with just one aisle. Makes everything go quicker, drink service and deplaning. It is fun to walk around Seattle and the short hop to Sacramento is livable too. You get to bring your own food on Icelandic Air too, which can be fun to pick out food that isn't messy or smelly, but something you also enjoy.

When I fly to Col. Ohio, then Air Canada is the best choice since nothing international flies to this capital city. The quick commuter flight from Toronto to Col. is a treat. Their seats and their food are consistently good.

Posted by
4478 posts

I prefer to fly with flight operated by European airlines, primarily because they don't charge for alcohol.

A little puzzled by this comment as the only transatlantic flights that I am aware of without free alcohol are European airlines (Condor, Icelandair, Norwegian).

Also, nonstop and direct are not synonyms. Pretty sure direct is always the wrong usage in this topic, people mean nonstop.

Anyway I’m not changing planes more than once. Since price matters Icelandair and Condor get me most places with two planes. If Delta is having a sale that works too, and with Delta prefer to fly to Europe first. United and American mean ORD or Newark and I’m not doing that.

Posted by
3985 posts

Also, nonstop and direct are not synonyms. Pretty sure direct is
always the wrong usage in this topic, people mean nonstop.

That's right, Tom_MN. Nonstop means exactly as it says -- nonstop between Airport A and Airport B.

Direct flights mean there is a stopover at another airport while traveling b/w Airports A and B. In that stopover, passengers do not disembark the plane. They stay in their seats.

Posted by
4684 posts

1) Not Ryanair.
2) No departure that will require waking up before 7 am, or landing after 8 pm if I am not familiar with the destination.
3) Cost.

Posted by
8322 posts

I'm guilty of misusing direct and non-stop. I have always thought it was the opposite, using "direct" as the common dictionary definition, not as an industry-defined term. Corrected.

Posted by
1103 posts
  • Aer Lingus non-stop from my home airport (Hartford - Bradley) to Dublin, then connect to other places in Europe using Aer Lingus or Ryanair. On our last trip we took the Hartford-Dublin flight and stayed over for a couple of nights in a B&B outside Dublin. This was a good way to get over the fatigue associated with the transatlantic flight before starting the main part of our trip. At the end of the trip we spent another night outside Dublin before catching the flight home. This allowed us to take an afternoon flight from our main destination country (England) to Dublin on the day before returning home.

Dublin has many connections and has the additional advantage of allowing for US customs/immigration processing before boarding the flight back to the US.

Posted by
14887 posts

United charges for alcohol on int'l flight. Unless they changed policy recently.
I've never flown Icelandic or Condor, but all European airlines out of SFO don't (neither one flies to SFO).
Norwegian flies to Oakland, and I've had a chance to try it yet. However being a low cost, I'd expect they charge extra for stuff.

Posted by
5407 posts

United charges for alcohol on int'l flight. Unless they changed policy recently.

United has not charged for beer or wine on international flights for at least 2 years

Posted by
4478 posts

I didn’t realize that United (and American) charged for cocktails in Coach transatlantic, Delta does not. My experience is that Delta is the premier American airline.

Reading this topic it strikes me how much each city has different airlines and different best choices. United and Aer Lingus don’t work for me either on price or connections.

Posted by
14430 posts

Sea-Tac has one of the best food offers which I have seen in an American airport. I like it but flying to Europe, at least to LHR is under 9 hrs. OK, but I am more used to the 11 hr non-stop flights from SFO...more sleeping time.