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"Good" connecting airports / "Bad" connecting airports

I know this will very much depend on your personal experience and location, but a couple of recent threads about connections prompted me to wonder: Which airports do you consider to be preferable for connecting and which are considered ones to avoid if possible.

I see a trend that AMS is considered a good connecting airport, but JFK and CDG are not.

Posted by
1473 posts

Roubrat, I’m glad you asked this because I’m starting to wonder the same thing. 😊

Posted by
3361 posts

One of my favourites is Copenhagen. Nothing is far away, it is almost always just a very short walk from one gate to another. And immigration seems to be very efficient.

Posted by
170 posts

I wonder if connecting cities are somewhat carrier dependent. For example, I fly Delta or Skyteam partners almost exclusively since I live in Atlanta. If my flight isn't a non-stop, my connection cities in Europe are always Paris or Amsterdam. In the US, they're either MSP or JFK. (Definitely AMS >CDG, MSP >JFK.)
It seems like the United alliance often connects through Frankfurt and in the US, Newark. I think I've only flown American non-stop to Paris, so I don't know where their connection cities are.
I've only ever connected through Heathrow the one time I flew BA to Rome. I hear that Heathrow is a terrible connecting airport, but I don't remember having a bad experience there.

Posted by
3709 posts

connecting cities are somewhat carrier dependent

Adding to this that Delta is the oddball of the 3 American airlines that serve Europe. United partners with Lufthansa so connections are mostly in Frankfurt and sometimes Munich. American partners with British Airways so connections are at Heathrow.

Delta is different on both ends. Since it partners with both Air France and KLM connections are at either AMS or CDG almost equally. Delta also flies nonstop from many more US cities to Europe (I think 10) than either United or American which are about 6 each.

My sister recently arrived from Europe via JFK and was convinced the JFK federal staff must receive frequent training in making aggressive and nasty comments, and are trained to shout versus speaking in a normal voice. That's the only explanation she could come up with.

Posted by
1675 posts

Just because you book your flight through the airports you want, there is a good chance the airline will change your flight at least once.

So far since I booked my United flight PHX to LHR they have changed my flight three times. Original connection was through IAD, times changed twice. Now it’s through IAH, with a shorter connection time that I’m comfortable with. I figure they’ll change it at least one more time before Aug 31 so for now I’m leaving the flight as is.

Posted by
6025 posts

Yes, it is highly dependent on carrier, Delta for example certainly flies to other airports than AMS or CDG, but the deals are going to be using those main hubs, or you are limited to one or two options,

What makes good? Generally if you can use a smaller/mid-size hub, that is better. A hub mostly dedicated to your carrier is also a plus, Atlanta is huge and busy, but being mostly Delta, I really have not ever had many problems there, same with Minneapolis and Detroit (where Delta basically has it's own terminal, the other airlines might as well be at another airport).

Get into places like LAX, Newark, Chicago O'Hare, even JKF; it can get messy quick if there are problems. Even immigration can get bottlenecked as multiple carriers seem to land all at once, my experience at Detroit seems to be Delta spaces them out, somewhat.

In Europe? I won't hesitate to use AMS, I shy away from Paris CDG, only because of how spread out it is and that it is being used by so many carriers. If I do choose a flight using CDG, I aim for very early morning. Heathrow I generally only use if going to London, otherwise fees alone put it way down on the list for Delta options. Madrid and Rome come up often for Delta, and I fly there direct (unless a cheap ticket uses AMS or CDG), but direct flights will be somewhat limited to a few a day,

But overall, Schedule and Cost trump connections any day, it really is only a secondary concern.

Posted by
883 posts

I'll just toss a little nuance in the mix... I think it can depend on the carrier in part because it depends on the terminal the carrier/carrier operate from.

Posted by
1160 posts

Just because you book your flight through the airports you want, there is a good chance the airline will change your flight at least once.

True. I hope the likelihood of that reduces if flying hub to hub? ATL to AMS.

Posted by
5265 posts

Good nuance, Scudder. Good discussion, Paul, with actual information people can use. For me, based on limited experience:
AMS and Reykjavik good, EWR and CDG bad. Re LHR, I haven't had problems there, maybe because I fly BA and stick to Terminal 5.

What I've learned about connections is to try to fly straight over Greenland to Europe, then connect wherever I'm going. Take advantage of the Arctic shortcut (made possible by Columbus' discovery that the world is round) and land in the right continent so there are multiple options if I miss the connection. For me, starting from SEA, that means LHR, CDG, AMS, FRA, or Reykjavik. No recent experience with other European hubs.

Posted by
412 posts

Went to Portugal 2X during Covid. First experience, we went thru immigration in Lisbon. Close to 3 hours in line (hot and no air flow) after a very long flight. Not pleasant. Next flight, connection in AMS. Thru immigration in 15 minutes (the Netherlands) and once arrived in Lisbon, we were on our merry way. Now that was nice and that the connection was worth it.

I think it's also important to think about where you want to go thru immigration.

But to be honest, if I get a good deal on a flight, I'd be willing to connect in a less than ideal airport. Okay, I'm more about the price :)

Posted by
5538 posts

In sports there is the old saying that on any given day, any team can win. In travel you could switch that to on any given day something can go wrong....

There may be some airports that are statistically more likely to have connection issues than others, but that doesn't mean that a missed connection can't happen anywhere. One person may have a bad experience one time and feel that it represents the airport everyday.

I've only had one connection at JFK but it couldn't have gone smoother. In fact, the gate for my next flight was directly next to my incoming flight! I doubt that it would ever go that smooth again, but will it necessarily be bad? I don't know that you can make that claim.

Posted by
1160 posts

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I'm glad my upcoming flight is to/from AMS

Posted by
920 posts

We live in fly over state and can’t get anywhere with good flights. Usually three or four legs. So nowhere we go I like. We fly United because we get miles on our cc. Generally our route is Tulsa to Chicago to Newark then our final European location. I hate Chicago and Newark. I would rather go to Houston but I can’t see going south then, going back up and east.

I have been thru Dulles twice and always had a great experience but none of my flights have gone thru them in years. We use to have a direct flight to Newark and Dulles years ago.

Posted by
3259 posts

I'd take ATL over JFK any day but it's a lot more expensive.

Posted by
18384 posts

My first thought was for connecting airports in Europe. Although I've arrived or departed from four airports in Germany (FRA, MUC, STR, DUS), I've only connected in two (FRA and DUS). Düsseldorf was by far the easiest connection. Both my arrival and departure gates were on the same level in the same building, at opposite ends of a long hallway with emigarion (outgoing passport check) just a gate in the hallway. Easy-peasy.

In January 2002, I changed flights in Frankfurt (from MUC, to DEN). Everything was in Terminal 1, but we arrived at Concourse A and left from Concourse B. Thanks to the connecting tunnel and good signage, everything went smoothly, even with enhanced security (it was just 4 months after 9-11).

I've flown in or out of Munich multiple times, but never connected there. I like it's layout and wouldn't mind connecting through Munich.

As for the US end of a trans-Atlantic flight, I've flown directly to/from Denver multiple times but also had connections in Newark, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Chicago, and Detroit. Every connection had it's own hassles; I will fly direct from/to Denver any time I can.

My biggest problem with an arrival connection in US airports is that, because they want you to have access to your checked luggage at customs,, and therefore to things you are not allowed to carry on to the next flight, you are required to go back through security if connecting.

Philadelphia: the same as someone's comment about JFK, half the people in security seem to have no other assignment than to scream at passengers. And, the airport is huge, and linear. I arrived at Termainal E or F, and flew out from A. I don't think there was a shuttle at the time; at least I didn't see any signs to one. The good new was I had four hours to transverse the airport and make the connection. The bad news was I had four hours to make the connection.

Newark: So the next time I had an eastern connection to and from Europe, I used Newark (no more Philly for me). At the time we had to change terminals from arrival to international departure, and the shuttle is outside security. We had to go back through security to get into the international terminal.

Atlanta: I once flew to Europe through Atlanta (Delta had the only non-stop flight to Stuttgart). The problem wasn't Atlanta's layout. Connecting through Hartsfield was a breeze, but we had to fly for almost 2 hours to get over the New York/Philly area, which would have been about the same time to as Atlanta, on the way to Europe. So it added a lot of time to our travel.

I think as far as flying to Europe, not including a direct flight from Denver, I would prefer ORD as a connecting airport.

As for domestic flight connections, Phoenix has got to be the worst.

Posted by
18384 posts

the world is round

Dick, the earth is spherical. Round is a two dimensional shape.

Even the flat-earthers (I have one of their earth maps on my wall) think the earth is round, like a pizza, with Antarctica on the outside border.

Posted by
84 posts

Yes for AMS, MXP. NO no no no for LVS! I might have to add another NO. Others have been inconsistent ime. Hate LAX, but depends. SEA and SFO can be nightmares if you have to go back through security. The main reason I won't go out for 'air' if I have a long layover. I have not gone through JFK in a few years. It may have improved. But if not, I would put it down with LAX. If heading west (Australia, Figi...) HNL is lovely!

Posted by
56 posts

August 2021 returning home - Barcelona through JFK to Chicago ORD - At JFK we had to walk outside about a block and cross a street to another terminal over a sidewalk that was treacherous- uneven concrete sections due to freezing and thawing weather. There was also a section of missing sidewalk with just loose gravel as a walkway. Forced to carry wheeled rollaboards. It was a hot day but I was glad I was not making the trek through ice/snow/sleet/freezing wind! Long lines waiting for elevators with no escalator option. Most of us used the stairs. I was told that we had not missed a sign for an easier route to the other terminal. The connection earlier that month from ORD through CDG Paris to Lisbon was a snap.
September 2019 through CDG was also easy.
Madrid in 2019 was simple.

Posted by
13743 posts

Just because you book your flight through the airports you want, there
is a good chance the airline will change your flight at least once.

I guess that I am blessed. In the last 18 months I have been on 42 flights. None changed (well one had a 5 minute flight departure change), none were so late that making a connection was difficult (and I think I am forgetting a flight).

I know, I just jinxed myself

Posted by
914 posts

I think part of it depends on the airport layout and the transportation options within the airport. Madrid is a huge airport that is linear and has no transportation from one end to the other, or anywhere in between. You’re walking (or running) to your next gate. The walk is so long that there are signs telling you “x” minutes to gate “x” so you know if you’re going to make it. You finally get to your gate, then some of the airlines load passengers onto busses and drive out to the airplane on the tarmac. Then you line up again to climb up the stairs onto the plane.

I used to hate connecting in Seattle, until the added the train that connects the various terminals. Now it’s easy.

Posted by
2930 posts

My airport and terminal of choice for connecting in Europe is London Heathrow, Terminal 5. I also only fly British Airways to Europe so that could be a reason as well. This has been the case for at least the last 12 years of the past two decades. I have a sweet system and I am sticking to it. LOL

Posted by
1160 posts

Thanks for the warning about Madrid airport. I haven't been there (yet).

Posted by
1892 posts

From here on the West Coast, when flying to Europe, I like to connect over there as then I'm usually almost at my final destination.
Connecting in Canada, then again in Europe just adds on too many hours to the travel day.
I'll pay more for a flight to only have one connection, in Europe, on my way to Italy.

I'll take Amsterdam and Munich over Paris CDG or Frankfurt.
I also don't care for London LHR or Edinburgh.
The first is too huge, and the second always disorganised.

Posted by
891 posts

My absolute favorite on both sides of the Atlantic: Zurich. It is efficient and well-connected to the city and other destinations. You can take a train directly from the airport to Lucerne, without having to transfer at downtown Zurich HB.

AMS is acceptable, but the transit connection is not as good. Also, many of the train ticketing machines don't accept non-Dutch credit cards.

Posted by
1160 posts

Also, many of the train ticketing machines don't accept non-Dutch credit cards.

Thank you for this, I didn't realize that. Do the machines take cash?

Posted by
2054 posts

I have a choice of either Denver or Colorado Springs for departing and arrival flights as I live equidistant from each. My choice is almost always Denver because the last time I checked, (granted years ago) the Springs flights flew to Denver first anyway. Like Lee says I will fly nonstop Denver to Europe through Munich “any time I can”, making an easy transfer through Munich. It’s a considerably smaller, well laid out airport, so easy to maneuver through and a whole lot less confusing to me than Frankfurt. So my first choice is always Denver to Munich and return. I suppose this is considered airport choice!

Posted by
177 posts

pj--The last time we flew thru JFK we tried to use the shuttle bus to the other terminal building. The bus we were directed to simply made a circle around the terminal we arrived in, so we ended up following the same path you describe to our departure gate; it's strange that the gates for flights to Indianapolis are always at the end of the concourse. JFK was added to our list of airports that we will avoid at all cost. CDG is also on that list. Even though we have always booked flights with at least a 3-hour layover we have never made our connection. I would rather have my fingernails pulled out than fly through CDG again. It's apparent that we prefer airports with easy transportation (i.e., trains) or direct walking access to alternate terminals. We like Detroit and Charlotte and Washington National, and tolerate Atlanta and Chicago. In Europe Munich and Frankfort are OK. We're trying Toronto Pearson and Copenhagen this August. It's a good thing that adrenaline and endorphin levels are high at the beginning of a trip. And then at the end of a trip we are generally too tired to care much. . . . .

Posted by
3474 posts

“Good” - Schiphol- favorite
“Bad” - JFK- we avoid
“The ugly”- CDG- we avoid
All pre COVID. Just personal experience. We avoid JFK. Spent 3.5 hours in passport control line years ago. CDG, massive line 3.0+ hours. People were pushing & shoving each other. Delta held the plane for the 6 of us who were “running the mile” in record time. LOL.

Posted by
1160 posts

Munich seems to be another favorable airport that I keep seeing mentioned.

Posted by
18384 posts

I would think that, if you have one change of planes on your way to Europe, the advantages of it being in the US is 1) that it is earlier in your travel and you will be more alert, and 2) it's a shorter flight to your connecting airport and thus you are less likely to miss the connection, and 3) it is in an airport that uses English, your native language. On the other hand, there are a lot more flights from a connecting airport in Europe to your eventual destination, so if your first flight is delayed, you'll have more options.

With those things in mind, I should choose to make a connection in Europe, but it's not really been an available option for me. 1) there have not been a lot of direct or non-stop flights from Denver to Europe, so a lot of times, I have no choice but to fly via ORD, PHl, or EWR, and 2) my destination in Europe, early on, FRA, and more recently, FRA or MUC, are major arrival hubs with good rail connections, and do not require an additional flight in Europe.

But, whenever I can get on a non-stop flight from Denver to FRA or MUC, that is my preferred mode.

Posted by
3353 posts

If you’re flying on Delta, changing at JFK is not an issue because terminals 2 and 4 are connected via shuttle post-security and that is very convenient. Changing flights to other terminals however requires you to go through security again so that makes JFK a nightmare. In Europe, AMS is a great airport for connections.

Posted by
13011 posts

The only time I had to connect here prior to the final flight to Europe, this time, LHR, was in Seattle. It was SFO to SEA-TAC, then a four layover, before the flight to London.

Not bad. Would I do it again? only if the fare is an enticing incentive.

The only difference I noticed was this split up flight interrupted my sleeping pattern, better to have the non-stop 11 hour flight straight .

Posted by
2047 posts

I live in Atlanta. I would never recommend anyone try to connect here because we have a special. The rudest slowest immigration agents in the country. I’ve done JFK, I’ve done Boston, I’ve done Miami, I’ve done LA. We win in Atlanta

I once watched a agent quiz a flight attendant for 20 minutes because he had a lot of stamps in his passport. Are you kidding me? Does the idiot agent not understand what a flight attendant does for a living? I was harassed for quite a while because I had a visa to go to Russia and the agent wanted to know if I was a communist. He stopped when I said “can I have your name and badge number because I’m going to file a complaint” he threw my passport back at me and told me to get out of there