Chicago r/t Spain flight advice/info please!

May 12th, 2014, 03:55 PM
  #1  
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Chicago r/t Spain flight advice/info please!

In looking at UA/Lufthansa flights mid October from Chicago/Barcelona and returning from Madrid/Chicago I see there are no direct. I plan to use miles to upgrade to Business Class.

Going to Barcelona the connections are through New York Newark (which I understand is undergoing runway repairs currently), or Frankfurt with change of planes and I assume a change in terminal.

On the return from Madrid, choices are a connection through Munich, an hour plus longer flight than Frankfurt, or again flying to Newark with a connection to Chicago.

Any advice as to which would be preferable for a solo senior female? Any input is appreciated. Thank you!
travelchat is offline  
May 12th, 2014, 04:30 PM
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What is your tolerance for long flights? If there's no difference in price, I would consider how long each flight is and layover times. I flew SFO to Barcelona, with a connection through Dulles, giving me a break between two long flights. IMHO
TrvlMaven is offline  
May 12th, 2014, 06:41 PM
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Your first question would be to see which flights HAVE an upgrade available with miles. And United now has miles AND an extra charge, or co pay.
newtome is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 04:34 AM
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It would be very surprising if you could find availability to upgrade to business class. There's a very good chance that the OP will fly in economy.

Munich is the easiest of the airports for transfers, by far. In Frankfurt, you do not have to change terminals, but you can have a long walk (or a short one -- can't be sure in advance). Newark is never fun.

A bigger question would be whether you fly on a United plane or a Lufthansa plane on the trans-Atlantic flight. (Doesn't matter if it's United flight number -- the key is the airline designated as "Operated by".)

United's Economy Plus (E+) is more comfortable than Lufthansa's regular economy, You get E+ only if you have elite FF status with United or if you pay extra for it. Lufthansa's reliability and service are much better than United's, so Lufthansa is the better choice if comparing regular economy to regular economy.
DonTopaz is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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Thanks for your helpful input. I checked with various carriers and have found what I think will work best for me. US Airways flight Chgo/Phil/Bcl. (I don't fancy changing planes in Frankfurt or Munich.) Then return on AA/Iberia Madrid/Chgo. I'm going to attempt to book it today and see if I can get an upgrade using miles just on the return flight.

I was wait listed last year on AA to Chgo/Paris, return from Lyon/HRW/Chgo both ways but was only able to get the upgrade on the return. I flew Economy Plus going to Paris and it was actually more comfortable than Business because if those weird dental chairs in BC.

Wish me luck!
travelchat is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 09:22 AM
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In terms of quality, Lufthansa is heads and shoulders above USAirways, and I'd almost always prefer to change plans in Frankfurt or Munich (especially Munich) over Philadelphia. Frankfurt is a big and busy airport, but it's not that hard to negotiate.
doug_stallings is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 05:12 PM
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DougStallings
I'm taken aback by your preference for changing planes in Frankfurt/Munich as opposed to Philadelphia.
My thinking is that starting out at 1:00 pm in Chgo with arrival to Phil at 4:00, changing to int'l flight departing at 6:00 pm for Barcelona, arriving there at 8:35 am would be the easier way to go in terms of not having to change on foreign soil after jet lag had set in.

After overnight flights through Heathrow on more than a few occasions to make a connecting flight onward, I shudder to think of doing that in an unfamiliar setting where I don't understand the language.

Newtome
I choose to do the upgrade to Business using miles and paying the big fat fee when my budget allows because the alternative is so ghastly. UA's Economy Plus and AA's Comfort Level are just tolerable, not great.

Thanks again, all, for your comments.
travelchat is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 05:48 PM
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Language is a non-issue in Munich or Frankfurt. All signs are in English, and all personnel who you encounter in the airport speak English.

2 other reasons to change planes in Europe on the outbound trip:

- Suppose your 1st flight is delayed by 90 mins or so. If you then miss the trans-Atlantic flight, it's likely the last flight of the day and you'll get to your destination a day late. But if instead your 1st flight is trans-Atlantic and it is 2 hours late, then you'll just take the next short-haul flight, which means for example you'd arrive at your destination in the mid-afternoon instead of late morning.

- When you fly to western Europe from the eastern US, you're likely to arrive early in the morning. If you arrive at Barcelona at 8:30 and are staying in/near the city, you likely won't be able to check in to your hotel until the afternoon.

Heathrow, btw, stands out as one of the most difficult airports in the world at which to transfer -- long walks, long lines, and even more aggravation when having to change terminals.
DonTopaz is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 07:02 PM
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Good point, DonTopaz. I guess I'll do more research before taking the plunge. I see during preliminary checking that Lufthansa flies some 747's which would up my chance to get into BC using points/fee, where the smaller planes don't have the same capacity. Thanks so much for your help.

I don't want to chance missing the int'l flight out as I'm purposely going in a day early to allow for rest/jet lag recovery before joining a Tauck week's tour of Spain on a rigorous schedule.

Argh.
travelchat is offline  
May 14th, 2014, 05:45 AM
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Don't be taken aback. It's always always easier to make a plane change in Europe (except at CDG). Even Heathrow can be better than many US Airports.

But for me, it's primarily a factor of airline quality. Almost all foreign carriers offer superior service to US airlines (USAirways in particular is bad in my opinion, though they are improving their planes. This flight seems to be on an A330, which is a pretty good plane to fly overseas in, so it might not be so bad. But I like Lufthansa a lot for service. Their seats, however, are a smidge narrower than on these USAirways A330s.

Ultimately, it's really your choice.
doug_stallings is offline  
May 15th, 2014, 06:50 AM
  #11  
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Thanks, Doug. Here's what I ultimately booked on UA/Lufthansa - Chgo/Munich/Barcelona outbound - Madrid/Munich/Chgo return, EP, wait listed in BC. Also, asked for wheelchair assist throughout which I do when not familiar with the airport in case of long walk/stairs with dicky knees. On return to O'Hare's Int'l Terminal I find I always need the wheelchair. After the long hours of sitting my knees are unreliable for walking that interminable distance and standing in what can be huge lines at immigration.

Appreciate all you Fodor posters! This time your advice/input proved priceless, as this is my first travel to Spain and I had no idea what would work best. Now I'm all set with this logical and comfortable choice and I can't wait for October to roll around!
travelchat is offline  
May 15th, 2014, 07:01 AM
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I think you will be very pleased at how easy the transfer in Munich will be. It's a great airport that has free Wi-Fi, coffee, and newspapers to while away your time, at least when you fly Lufthansa, which is the only airline I've ever flown there.

Lines and distances are both short (I made a connection there in 30 minutes a couple of years ago and had time to spare). And you usually don't have to go through security again to transfer on arrival ... you just walk to your gate.

The one thing you need to be aware of is that many intra-Europe flights disembark and embark directly on the tarmac, requiring you to climb stairs to get on the plane. You'll be taken out to the plane in a shuttle, so I'm not sure how the wheelchair service will work (whether you'll be met on tarmac or just in the terminal).
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May 15th, 2014, 02:44 PM
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Ah, good to know about tarmac disembark. I'll make sure to confirm wheel chair access during flight and just prior to landing in Munich. Again, thanks for all the detail, Doug.
travelchat is offline  
May 15th, 2014, 04:13 PM
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Those sound like good flights. Munich is a great airport for transfers.

I don't like transferring through Newark, so I avoid it if possible (not always possible, but I try). I also try to avoid US Airways whenever I can. Again, not always possible.
november_moon is offline  
May 16th, 2014, 05:35 AM
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I really lucked out with all the above excellent feedback on this question! Sometimes Fodor posters are immensely helpful but occasionally there's the sarcastic and flippant folk who chime in. This time not so.
I love this site when it's in benevolent mode!
travelchat is offline  
May 19th, 2014, 05:44 AM
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Should have said "much of the time" instead of "sometimes" in the above reply. Had to correct it as it's been on my mind that I had given the wrong impression. As this is the last entry on this posting it probably doesn't matter but.... ☺️
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