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Old 25.04.2014, 16:17
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Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I am flying to the US for the first time after more than 10 years. I had a really unpleasant experience flying US-based airlines back then and vowed never to fly another US-based airline again. Given that things might have changed, would you suggest flying Delta / American / United from Zurich or is it better to fly Swiss / KLM / Lufthansa? Air France and Iberia as well as others are also not an option. Do Delta and United offer a good Service and good planes from Zurich to Washington or New York (airport does not matter).

I am looking for a reasonable price and a good connection. Preferably non-stop but one stop might be an option.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old 25.04.2014, 16:31
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I personally avoid American.

I'd go Swiss or Lufthansa. Swiss will give you non-stop from Zurich to JFK and Newark IIRC.
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Old 25.04.2014, 16:33
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I'm looking to go to the US from Zurich too. I'm assuming you're using something like kayak.com to do your comparisons? I find that I need to look every day as prices can change by 50CHF pp.

Also be careful when you look at prices to see who the flight is actually operated by, not just which airline you're buying the ticket from. Eg you might be flying on a Delta plane and with Delta aircrew despite a Air France ticket.

US airlines don't tend to be great in my experience and I've tried to avoid them but they tend to be cheaper so it is tempting. A US colleague yesterday thought US airlines are comparable to Europeans but I'd be interested in hearing from other seasoned travellers.

In my experience, Swiss, Lufthansa and BA/Virgin should be fine. United have also been alright. Air France can be iffy and I've not flown KLM for some time.
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Old 25.04.2014, 16:35
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

If you have an EU passport and are connecting at Heathrow T5, don't do the queue for transfer, go out and then upstairs and in if you have your onward ticket.

The queues for transfer are very good at showing whoever designed that part of T5 had no flippin' clue as to what was going to happen there.....
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Old 25.04.2014, 16:47
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

It depends upon where you are going in the US, but in general Swiss and Lufthansa are much better than the US airlines. Depending on the city you are flying to, it may be impossible to avoid using them though.

Dan
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Old 25.04.2014, 16:53
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

AFAIK Delta does not have a non-stop to the D.C. or New York areas. You'd have to change in Amsterdam, Paris, or Atlanta (really silly). United is okay but it's pretty cramped and the food is crap. United/Star Alliance still has about the best frequent flyer program for people that travel regularly back and forth to the U.S.

American and US Airways are now merged but still flying to both JFK and Philly. About equal on service, which is to say typical American carriers. They have a generous cabin baggage allowance, which I like when I am hauling stuff back across the pond.
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Old 25.04.2014, 16:56
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I would avoid US Airways. Depends on where you are going. I personally like British Airways. Last time I flew home to California I flew on brand new A380. Only drag is going through LHR, but other than that British Airways is the way to go! Good luck.

Mike
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:01
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I've flown United a few times between Zurich and DC. Not a bad flight since they use a 767 so if you are traveling with a companion you can get seats together on either right or left side of the aircraft. The service is typical US carrier crap though. My last trip back the in-seat entertainment was broken which really sucks on a 9 hour flight. They did give me a voucher for $400 but I still would have preffered to be entertained for 9 hours, especially on a westward flight when it is light out the whole way.

Good luck whichever you choose

Eric
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:09
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

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If you have an EU passport and are connecting at Heathrow T5, don't do the queue for transfer, go out and then upstairs and in if you have your onward ticket.

The queues for transfer are very good at showing whoever designed that part of T5 had no flippin' clue as to what was going to happen there.....
Does this work if you have the Swiss red and USA blue book too?
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:11
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

Rule #1 - avoid all US airlines. They can't do service.

Rule #2 - avoid Air France, Iberia, Alitalia

Rule #3 - try to avoid BA, KLM (they advertize here BTW ...)

Try to stick to Swiss, Lufthansa or Virgin, even if you pay a few bucks extra.
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:13
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

We fly BA. Though it's not the least expensive. We often fly premium economy. And get upgraded to business about half the time.


Klm isn't bad if it's a KLM flight. I'd avoid Philadelphia - the black hole of luggage. Waits are awful in the US for luggage. We fly into ORD, BOS, JFK most of the time. It sort of sucks.
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:20
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

Avoid Pan-Am...
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:26
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

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AFAIK Delta does not have a non-stop to the D.C. or New York areas. You'd have to change in Amsterdam, Paris, or Atlanta (really silly). United is okay but it's pretty cramped and the food is crap. United/Star Alliance still has about the best frequent flyer program for people that travel regularly back and forth to the U.S.

American and US Airways are now merged but still flying to both JFK and Philly. About equal on service, which is to say typical American carriers. They have a generous cabin baggage allowance, which I like when I am hauling stuff back across the pond.
Delta do fly direct to jfk. I have a flight booked with them in November. Never flown when an American airline before and am a little worried about it given the horror stories, but the price is hopefully making it worthwhile
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:33
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I have not had any major issues with US-based airlines in all the years I've flown around. Having said that, I really like flying Lufthansa as a matter of personal preference.

One word of caution about NY/NJ airports: if your final destination is NYC or New Jersey, fine. In any other case, my recommendation is: stay the heck away from Newark airport or JFK for connecting flights, if possible - every time there is something going on. Once it took my mom less time to fly from Milan to Newark than to wait at Newark airport for her connection, which was delayed several hours. It was awful. My absolute preference when I come to Europe from DC is Lufthansa or Swiss, either connecting in Germany or Zurich.

Regardless of the location in the US, in the absence of a non-stop flight, my family and I always prefer to take our connecting flight somewhere in Europe rather than in the US. On the way to Europe, first of all, if something goes wrong with the connection, at least you are already in EU. On the way here, you save yourself a lot of headache because you don't have to deal with immigration/customs/etc. at your connecting airport (and stress out about missing your connection) vs. only at your final destination.

On that note, before I learned my lesson, I missed more than one flight back to California when I was a starving student taking the cheap Newark or JFK connections from Europe because of long lines, general airport mess, etc.

I am coming to Europe in July and I am connecting in Munich on the way there, in Frankfurt on the way back, both flights with Lufthansa.
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Old 25.04.2014, 17:58
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

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Also be careful when you look at prices to see who the flight is actually operated by, not just which airline you're buying the ticket from. Eg you might be flying on a Delta plane and with Delta aircrew despite a Air France ticket.
Thanks for the kayak hint. I forgot about that one. I know that you have to watch out for who operates the flight. That is the problem with DC from Zurich. The Swiss flight is operated by United...this is actually one of the reasons for this post.

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If you have an EU passport and are connecting at Heathrow T5, don't do the queue for transfer, go out and then upstairs and in if you have your onward ticket.

The queues for transfer are very good at showing whoever designed that part of T5 had no flippin' clue as to what was going to happen there.....
See this is why I am scared about using LHR...what if I miss my flight? I only have a Swiss passport..

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American and US Airways are now merged but still flying to both JFK and Philly. About equal on service, which is to say typical American carriers. They have a generous cabin baggage allowance, which I like when I am hauling stuff back across the pond.
The baggage sounds nice, I agree . I will have to bring an empty suitcase instead ;-)

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I've flown United a few times between Zurich and DC. Not a bad flight since they use a 767 so if you are traveling with a companion you can get seats together on either right or left side of the aircraft. The service is typical US carrier crap though. My last trip back the in-seat entertainment was broken which really sucks on a 9 hour flight. They did give me a voucher for $400 but I still would have preffered to be entertained for 9 hours, especially on a westward flight when it is light out the whole way.
Thanks for this! United is one option. Final destination is Washington. Will bring my tablet to be prepared...

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I have not had any major issues with US-based airlines in all the years I've flown around. Having said that, I really like flying Lufthansa as a matter of personal preference.

One word of caution about NY/NJ airports: if your final destination is NYC or New Jersey, fine. In any other case, my recommendation is: stay the heck away from Newark airport or JFK for connecting flights, if possible - every time there is something going on. Once it took my mom less time to fly from Milan to Newark than to wait at Newark airport for her connection, which was delayed several hours. It was awful. My absolute preference when I come to Europe from DC is Lufthansa or Swiss, either connecting in Germany or Zurich.

Regardless of the location in the US, in the absence of a non-stop flight, my family and I always prefer to take our connecting flight somewhere in Europe rather than in the US. On the way to Europe, first of all, if something goes wrong with the connection, at least you are already in EU. On the way here, you save yourself a lot of headache because you don't have to deal with immigration/customs/etc. at your connecting airport (and stress out about missing your connection) vs. only at your final destination.
Thanks for that! Really appreciate it for several reasons. I think it's as with many things. It's fine unless there is a problem but if there is a problem...


DC is the final destination so was looking at transferring at JFK or Newark. Might reconsider now .


Will look into Munich or Frankfurt or try United!
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Old 25.04.2014, 18:25
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

Yes, baggage is important. I recently flew Air France from Paris, and the one and only piece of luggage I had cost me around EUR 30 - for a suitcase just a bit too big for the cabin. So, zero free luggage allowance. Interestingly, no charge on the way over.

Do check the small print - and safe travels
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Old 25.04.2014, 18:42
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I recently flew to US with Air Canada (via Toronto). The flights were good and the big advantage was getting to do US immigration during the layover in Toronto, so no queuing once you arrive in US.
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Old 25.04.2014, 18:54
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

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Rule #1 - avoid all US airlines. They can't do service.

Rule #2 - avoid Air France, Iberia, Alitalia

Rule #3 - try to avoid BA, KLM (they advertize here BTW ...)

Try to stick to Swiss, Lufthansa or Virgin, even if you pay a few bucks extra.
I find all airlines much the sameness and certainly wouldn't pay more or put myself out to fly a particular carrier. Having said that I do like BA because its a taste of home wherever you are in the world.
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Old 25.04.2014, 19:03
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

I think if DC is your final destination, it's worth flying direct. That leaves you with United or Swiss. Swiss is better (better entertainment system, generally better food, free wine/beer), but sometimes United is cheaper. Sooometimes, you can book a cheaper Swiss flight through the United website than you can on Swiss's website (just look who operates the flight). The downside of doing it that way is that you can't choose your seat until you actually check-in to the flight.

If you fly United, I find that signing up for the Asian vegetarian meal results in a better entree (generally some sort of Indian-like rice/beans), but it means you get a "healthier" dessert and snack Trying this trick on Swiss resulted in getting a plate of steamed vegetables and no protein, fyi.

If you find something significantly cheaper that flies to Newark, you can take an Amtrak train from the airport into downtown DC. (I think ~2.5 to 3 hours) I hate the Newark airport for connecting, so that would be my preference
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Old 25.04.2014, 19:05
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Re: Flights to the US - which airlines (not) to choose?

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I recently flew to US with Air Canada (via Toronto). The flights were good and the big advantage was getting to do US immigration during the layover in Toronto, so no queuing once you arrive in US.
I just flew to the US last week connecting in Toronto. The first time I did this, it was a breeze to go through US immigration in Toronto. Last week, though, it was a clusterf*, with people standing in line for ages, missing flights, blah blah. I appreciated that I didn't have to go pick up our bags and carry them over to re-check them in, as you do when you clear customs in the US and connect (we had a ton of bags), but waiting in line for 2 hours was ree-dic-u-lous.
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