I'm debating between two different flight options between Chicago and Madrid. There is no price difference. A non-stop on a Boeing 757 with a 3-3 configuration (I will be traveling with my spouse) and no personal entertainment system OR A two hour layover in LHR with a connection for a transatlantic flight on a Boeing 777 with personal entertainment systems I've never flown on a 757 with that configuration, much less taken one to Europe. For those of you that have, how was it, good and bad? Is the non-stop flight worth the trade-off in comfort?
The two-hour layover probably means the door-to-door duration is probably four hours longer (even though London is a couple of hundred miles closer and assuming airspeeds are about the same for the two aircraft). Go direct. Get the flying done an over with.
Having flown both 757's and 777's to Europe, here is the difference: a 777 is a much larger aircraft. I preferred the 777! There are two sides to this: do you prefer to get their faster or do you like the break of laying over for a couple of hours? Although going through LHR with a 2 hour layover is really just enough time to stretch your legs and run to the departing gate for your next flight. My next questions are these: 1.) are both flights on domestic airlines or might be one be on an European airline? I have found the service on the European airlines (especially Air France) to be superior to the U.S. flagged carriers. 2.) do you have your seat preference; window, aisle, for that long a flight that is a BIG DEAL for me? As for personal entertainment, bring along a really good book and the time will (excuse the pun) fly by.
Madrid to London is on BA and the Transatlantic is on American. The non-stop is Iberia (codeshare with American). Ideally, I would like the the window and my husband would take the aisle.
As far as the personal entertainment goes, I'm assuming that means the touch screens in the back of the seats. They'll still show a movie on the non-stop flight, you just won't get to choose like you would with the touch screens. For me, it's 6 of one, half-dozen of the other. Non-stop means you won't get stuck in another airport in case of delays or cancellations. Going over, you'll probably be sleeping most of the time. Coming back you'll have more "awake time." With the 3-3 configuration, you'll most likely be sharing your row with another person.
While I prefer wide-body planes, I don't prefer them enough to spend an extra 4+ hours getting to my destination. I'm guessing that the direct flight is about 8 hours and the non-direct flight is at least 12 hours. As far as the personal entertainment, an Ipod easily fills that gap.
Laura, There is a downside to having the personal entertainment system: it keeps you from sleeping. IMHO, the best things to do on transatlantic flights are reading something (novel, magazine, guidebook) that relates to the trip and sleeping. I would opt for the direct flight. You can catch up on the movies when you get home.
I'm also of the opinion that the flight is the worst part of my vacation, the sooner it's over the better. I don't use personal entertainment at all on the way. I fly overnight and plan to sleep. On the way home, I usually watch a movie but, again, the in-flight movie isn't on my list of vacation must-sees.
A non-stop flight trumps everything for me. In addition to being faster (a huge plus), it reduces the risk of missed flights. I have practically no jet lag with a non-stop, which is generally not the case with a connecting flight. Personal entertainment systems are great, but I enjoy reading just as much. And most of my flights to Europe are in the evening when I'm going to be spending most of the time sleeping.
I've flown on both and have found that the airline matters more to me than the type of equipment they use. Some people have a problem with the single aisle of a 757, but Icelandair's service and new cabins more than made up for any inconvenience (as well as a nice break and connection in Reykjavik). I've just never needed more than one aisle to get up and stretch or use the lavatory. The 777 is great, but my personal experience has been that the service is subpar on BA. And their cabins were in pretty bad shape...TV monitor in back seat out of commission on two different 777s, rubber seal by window & overhead bin hanging out, and generally dirty. Last year, I flew Swiss from ORD to MAD (your route)...unbelievable service, amenities, and super clean/new A330s. The A340 on the way back was also great. Connections are in easy Zurich. I would pay a little more for the quality and experience, all other things being equal. Check out Swiss. In the meantime, if the non-stop on the 757 is with American as the codeshare partner, I would take that over BA. You'll still have movies/TV (just not personal) and you'll get there non-stop! I haven't heard great things about Iberia, but I've never flown them either. I can tell you that Iberia's check-in line at MAD for the flight home had hundreds of people in queue at 6 am...the Swiss line had us plus 1 or 2 others. Happy travels.
Well, it seems that my dilemma has been remedied. I did a bit more searching and I can leave later in the day and catch a direct flight on an airbus 340, which would get me into Chicago around the same time as the flight with the LHR layover. Plus, I won't have to worry about the awkward 3-3 layout that I was concerned about. Thanks for your thoughts though, they may certainly come in handy on future European trips.
If the 777 is configured with two seats on the side instead of three, I think it is worth it the extra flight time. I find airline seats very confining even though I am petite; I hate being cramped in that middle seat...... If you do get stuck with three in a row seating, book an aisle and window seat for the two of you, leaving the middle seat for some other passenger. If the flight isn't packed, you have a good chance of that seat remaining empty. If that seat gets taken, the other passenger will always be willing to switch with one of you. (At least I have never met anyone who actually prefers a middle seat!)......As to the personal entertainment on planes, it isn't worth worrying about unless it is the TIVO like system used on Virgin Atlantic which lets you choose between dozens of choices, letting you stop and start at will. However, the box takes up half of the underseat leg room. An engrossing novel is usually more fun.
I flew from Newark to Hamburg on a 3-3 configuration plane (that means 3 seats, an aisle, and 3 seats, right?). I liked it better than bigger planes with 3 seats, aisle, 4 seats, aisle, and 3 seats. I requested a window seat but got stuck next to a mom and her bored 4-year-old with no toys. It sounds like you made your decision but I would definitely opt for the direct flight, regardless of the entertainment system. You get there faster and don't have to worry about missing your next flight or losing luggage.
Laura, checking airlinequality.com for reviews of most airlines also might have helped you decide.
Always non stop. It eliminates the myriad problems that can occur with making connections. Ipads, netbooks and the alike can sub as pretty good personal entertainment devices.