Help choosing an airline, please

Aug 15th, 2012, 09:50 AM
  #1  
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Help choosing an airline, please

Hi all, this is my first post on this forum, and am very much looking forward to all the objective advice I'm sure I'll receive!

We need help choosing an airline for our first trip to Europe. The last time I had a long haul international flight was a hundred years ago on Varig to Brazil; I was much younger then, excited, and couldn't have cared less about comfort . Alas, time has marched on and now such things are important to me, so here I am asking for your advice.

We live in Nashville, and have easy access to all major airports in the US, so I've been focusing on flights leaving from the NYC area as they seem to be best price wise. Oh--our destination is Rome (FCO).

We've narrowed the list down to four, and I'd very much like your advice/opinions on which YOU would prefer. Our goal is to get to Rome comforably, in as large an economy class (or preferred economy) seat as possible, with as few layovers as possible (less opportunity for lost luggage). Here's what we've come up with:

UA: pros: we can book straight through from Nashville, possible to upgrade to "comfort" economy, earlier arrival in Rome, heavier carry on luggage allowance. Cons: "comfort economy" still a bit smallish (not a true "premium"), longer layover in NYC.

Turkish Air: Pros: Beautiful looking/comfortable premium economy; cons: longer flight with later arrival in Rome, layover in Istanbul with only one connecting flight to Rome (if we're late we're stuck in Turkey), limited carry on allowance, and not so great reviews.

Alitalia: Pros: direct flight to Rome, affordable/attractive premium economy seating; cons: bad reviews, limited carry on weight

TAP portugal: Pros: super inexpensive coach fares to Rome, standard coach seat sizes seem larger than most; Cons: layover in Lisbon limited, concern for luggage transfer

Of these four, which would you choose? Are there others I may not have thought of? Thanks so much for your kind replies!
DiggerJack72 is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 11:25 AM
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Check www.seatguru.com to get an idea about seat width and pitch.

Go to the airlines website and see what amenities they offer. Do you watch videos during the trip, etc....

Turkish Airlines takes you way out of the way. It's slightly over 3 hours from Istanbul to Rome, about 10 hours from JFK-IST.

Also, consider taking an ope jaw flight. In at one airport and out of another. If you stay in Italy, then maybe in to Rome and out of Venice, as an example. An open jaw ticket costs no more, and will change the parameters of your airline choices.

With limited layover, as in Purtugal, if it's the same airline, there should not be a problem.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 11:26 AM
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How are you going to get from Nashville to New York? Are you really saving enough to make that worthwhile?
suze is online now  
Aug 15th, 2012, 11:37 AM
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When are you traveling, Jack? Welcome!
Gardyloo is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 11:37 AM
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Good info, thanks Rastaguy. I've been researching seatguru and watching vids on youtube. Honestly, Alitalia is appealing but I was concerned about the reviews they receive on skytraxx. As far as inflight amenities go...sure, a high tech VOD system would super, but we've got laptops/ipads/and even good old fashioned books to keep us occupied if there are no personal TV options. I agree with your advice on Turkish Air, thanks.

Suze: flights between BNA and NYC area aren't terribly expensive. Having lived in NYC I'm comfortable with transfers between the airports up there if need be (into EWR, out of JFK, etc). My main concern is the transatlantic portion of our journey, getting as much comfort as we can without having to pay business/first class prices.
DiggerJack72 is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 11:39 AM
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Gardy: not until April of next year, but I'm sure the time will fly by lol
DiggerJack72 is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 04:57 PM
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Respond to Gardyloo's post.

Gardyloo is the resident expert on all things air travel.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 07:04 PM
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No offense intended, but it's just insane to fly into EWR and out of JFK unless you have absolutely no choice. It's an expensive, slow transfer even at the best of times, and during rush hour can be double the normal amount of time or might require 3 different trains if done by public transit. So I just don't get that.

The transfer between LGA and JFK is ok ... not great and can be very slow.

My advice: Regardless of which airline you choose, fly into EWR and out, or only consider flying into LGA and out of JFK (and make sure you have no less than 5 hours between flights if doing this transfer). Six for EWR to JFK depending on the time of day when transferring from domestic to international. This is especially true in the afternoon, when thunderstorms can delay flights.
doug_stallings is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 07:21 PM
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First, it's way too early to book anything. You'll get more better priced options later.

Second, book everything on same ticket if possible. Schedules can change, flights can get cancel, so many things can go wrong. It's risky to book separate tickets unless you have a super super long layover betwee those tickets.
rkkwan is offline  
Aug 15th, 2012, 07:34 PM
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Why wouldn't you fly nonstop from the US? American,United,Delta and US Airways all fly nonstop to Rome and it is so much easier than changing in a foreign country to another flight after not sleeping all night.You can fly out of Chicago,Atlanta,Charlotte and JFK from Nashville. Just saying.
dutyfree is offline  
Aug 16th, 2012, 05:06 AM
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Agree with dutyfree wrt Delta and American. US not so much. Also, almost always a through fare right from Nashville is cheaper and has certain benefits rather than from NYC (or wherever) and then getting a separate ticket to NYC.
NoFlyZone is offline  
Aug 16th, 2012, 06:06 AM
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Well, one reason the OP might not fly nonstop to Rome is because those flights are 1) seasonal so they don't operate year-round (most stop in October). 2) often significantly more expensive (as in $400 or $500 more than connecting flights).

But there are some good points being made here. Unless the OP wants to spend a day or two in NYC on the way to and from Europe, it's not very wise to book an itinerary with separate domestic and international tickets. By having a single ticket on a single airline or group of partner airlines, the OP will be able to check bags all the way through to his/her final destination and will not have to have a very long layover in Europe on the way; typically connections are much faster when booked on a single ticket, and if a flight is missed, you can get on the next flight. With separate tickets, no such luck. The prospect of having to buy a new ticket either to Rome or to Nashville one way or the other is going to be a costly one. And having individual tickets will subject the OP to domestic bag check fees, which are waived by most airlines when connecting to an international flight on one ticket.

The OP doesn't fly much, so perhaps he/she isn't aware of this. But international air travel has really changed, so it's not just a simple matter of choosing the best seat (though that is important). There are other significant factors.
doug_stallings is offline  
Aug 16th, 2012, 07:00 AM
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rkkwan's suggestions are (as usual) spot on. First, even though it may be tempting to book now, it's too soon. Airlines often hedge against their own rising costs by setting the prices quite high for bookings made too far in the future; they have no way of knowing what their costs (fuel, labor, etc.) may be then, so you pay for the uncertainty.

Second, with all the dynamic changes in the industry, it seems (don't know the actual statistics, just a sense) that schedules and service destinations are changing more frequently than in the past. Just this week, for example, American Airlines announced that it's ceasing all service to Brussels later this year, after something like 40 years of flying to BRU (a nice and easy little airport.) Not saying it's guaranteed that anything you book now will change, but the risk seems a bit higher.

Third, buy it all on one ticket, even if you need to do so using Expedia or Orbitz. With separate tickets including a domestic "staging" flight you'll have to pay baggage fees that you probably wouldn't with a "through" ticket, and if it's all on one ticket it's the airlines, and not you, that will be responsible for getting you to your destination in the event of a missed connection, etc.

You're doing the right thing by researching the options. I don't know what led you to focus just on the airlines you mentioned, but there are plenty of other alternatives with different routings, change points, etc. You have plenty of time to sort this out. And again, welcome!
Gardyloo is offline  
Aug 16th, 2012, 08:30 AM
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I prefer to bring my own entertainment, but most laptops lack the battery capacity to run for more than a couple of hours. So I look for seats that have power. But then you have to be sure you have the right adapters to fit the airline's power port. My wife just brings a book.

I think the reality is that you will not find comfortable seating anywhere in tourist class. You just have to resign yourself to a few hours of discomfort, which is a good reason to look for shorter flight times. One trick my wife and I employed a lot was to find a plane with only two seats in a row (including a window seat, which my wife prefers). On most planes, you can fold up the armrest between seats, giving yourself a little more room. And exit row seats are very popular as you have more leg room. They are often held for frequent flyers, but sometimes they become available just before the flight, so ask if any are available when you check in.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Aug 16th, 2012, 10:17 AM
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Such great info, thank you all so much. I agree that booking straight through from BNA is ideal.

Some info that may clear things up a bit: the reason I was looking at possibly using separate tickets/bookings is because I am fortunate enough to have family and/or friends either in or very near most of the midwest/eastern international hubs (Chicago, NYC, Hoboken, Miami) and so I figured I could visit family/friends on the way for a day or so if need be, and transfers between airports would be no big deal(ie, free and well spaced apart).

I do actually fly a fair amount, but domestically, or short haul international to places like Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, etc. Enough to know that 9 hours in coach will be uncomfortable LOL.

The airlines I listed in my OP I found on skyscanner. I wanted to get a general idea of what to expect, how much to pay, etc. I convinced myself that premium economy/economy plus may be a good deal, and those were the lines that seemed to have that option at a price that wasn't obnoxious.

Again, thanks for the input. I know that when I plan a trip I get a bit OCD. Just want everything to go well. I'll keep obsessing and figure it out eventually, I have a few months yet before I'll book.

Delta...for some reason I'd crossed that one out, but maybe it warrants a second look.

See, there I go again LOL

Thanks!
DiggerJack72 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2012, 07:58 AM
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Hawaii will add very substantially to your costs. Fiji not so much but still quite expensive to stop there...

Especially since the OP is flying to Italy.
Gardyloo is offline  
Aug 17th, 2012, 08:35 AM
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I saw mention of an open jaw ticket. Am wondering how one gets that say flying into Rome and out of Venice... I have looked at all the sites for inexpensive flights and it seems going directly to the airlines website is about the same cost. We have to fly out of Miami, so there are not a lot of options and non-stop seems the best. Any suggestions or info. is greatly appreciated.
ticadonnita is offline  
Aug 17th, 2012, 08:46 AM
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Every airline site has an option to search for
"multi-city" (or some similar term) itineraries. That's where you go to book open-jaws. You can also do the same using the various online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz.

Venice has very few nonstop flights to US destinations, and those that exist are very often full of cruise passengers coming and going in cruise season. As a result, prices into and out of Venice tend to be considerably higher than out of other Italian cities, or itineraries that change planes someplace in Europe (either in Italy or some other country.)

From Miami, there is only one nonstop flight to/from Rome, operated by Alitalia. There are no nonstops to/from Venice. So if you want nonstop to Italy, you pay Alitalia's price or connect somewhere else.
Gardyloo is offline  
Aug 17th, 2012, 04:03 PM
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>>>The airlines I listed in my OP I found on skyscanner.<<<

Try searching on itasoftware (you can't book, only search).


I don't think you will find it to be cheaper to book r/t from Nashville to a city in the US and then book separate tickets from there. Too many things can go wrong when you don't book all on one ticket.

You really can't make your comfort selection by airline. I look at the type of plane although that can't change. Some planes I just don't want to fly across the pond.
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 17th, 2012, 09:23 PM
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The last two years I've scored very good prices on econ+ seats, for early spring travel, in November sales...
julia1 is offline  
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