BA or SwissAir to Rome?

Nov 2nd, 2005, 10:56 AM
  #1  
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BA or SwissAir to Rome?

Right now daughter's choice for flight to Rome in January is either BA or SwissAir (they have the best flex fare since she's unsure of return date after study program ends in April). This would be either LAX to London or Zurich and then on to Rome.
Thoughts out there? We haven't flown either one.
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 11:18 AM
  #2  
rex
 
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For an entire semester's worth of stuff, it might not matter so much
(as opposed to a 10-day-visit "tourist" trying to pack light and avoid checked baggage altogether)... but it's worth noting that BA strictly enforces its 6 kg (13 pounds) carry-on bag restriction (I think that's hat it is now; it used to be FIVE kilos).

That means no rollaboard onboard for all practical purposes, and she might want to choose her carry-on bag wisely (i.e., weight empty is important; under a pound would be good -- like a lightweight small-medium nylon duffel, for example).

Anytime there is a connection, there is the possibility of not receiving one's luggage for 24, 48 hours or more. It's wise to put sufficient quantities of EVERYthing (shirts, underwear, personal items) into a carry-on so that her "survival" would not be excessively cramped by failure of her checked luggage to arrive with her.

I assume that you checked www.studentuniverse.com or other similar web sites for best air fares?

Best wishes,

Rex
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 11:49 AM
  #3  
 
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Does Swiss Air fly out of LAX or is it some kind of share code (like you'll actually be on Delta or someone then transfer to Swiss at JFK, for example)?

What are the transfers like on either? Is one a non-stop flight?
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 12:03 PM
  #4  
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Rex, thanks - yes, she's going through a student travel site. The fares are comparable tho one has a more reasonable policy towards changing flights (this is for the return).
And both airlines fly out of LAX, BA to London, SwissAir to Zurich, both onto Rome. So only one change on either.
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 06:22 PM
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I would much rather change planes in Zurich than at Heathrow. Unless the layover timesis a lot longer in Zurich, I would go with Zurich. It is a much smaller airport, and she will have much less walking involved in getting to gates.

Most importantly, in Heathrow she will definately have to go through immigration and customs as she is entering the EU, which means she will have to get her luggage, take it through customs and re-check it, and may even have to change terminals to do this. This is not the case in Switzerland, she will be in transit and her luggage will be checked all the way through to Rome.

I am not a huge fan of Swiss Air but really they are pretty much all the same, and in coach I don't think it matters and the seats are pretty uncomfortable anyway. . .
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 06:26 PM
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Sorry, I don't think the UK is a signatory to the Schenghen Treaty, so she may not have to go through immigration and customs at Heathrow, but in any event, it is a much larger more complicated airport and she may haev to change terminals which can take a good bit and time, and will have some long walks to gates. I would stick with Zurich where I know her luggage would be checked through and even changing terminals if necessary would require one short train ride at most. Gates are close together.
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Nov 2nd, 2005, 07:05 PM
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The daughter can deal with transfers on her own, LHR or ZRH; and she will survive BA or LX either way. Go with the one with the more flexible return-trip policy.
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Nov 3rd, 2005, 12:33 AM
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It's simply not the case that your daughter will have to go through Immigration or Customs at London. Cicerone's just dreaming it up.

There's no terminal change at Heathrow on a BA LAX-LHR-FCO flight either. And, while Cicerone might be vague about whether bags are through-checked, BA and the airport system most certainly aren't. The bags get checked to Rome at LAX and re-appear at Rome. I've never had a bag transferred at LHR go missing or even delayed.

Actually, Heathrow Terminal 1 (where all this happens) is a great deal more compact than Zurich. Although many find Heathrow messy to transfer at, your case is unusual as it's a relatively rare case of a single-terminal, single-airline transfer. In this case - though not in most - Heathrow really is the easier place to deal with.

No tranatlantic economy flight is pleasurable: BA and Swiss are (99% of the time) competent, professional and pleasant. There's no way of predicting whether your daughter's going to hit one of BA's occasional fits of employee sulks over cost-cutting, or one of Swiss's occasional bankruptcies.

So take the more flexible.
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Nov 3rd, 2005, 05:07 AM
  #9  
rfb
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We recently flew BA Denver - Rome and must tell you Rex is wrong about them strictly enforcing their carry on weight limits. While our carry ons complied because I read this same misinformation before I left, virtually nobody else's did. We still saw people trying to stuff steamer trunk size carry ons in the over head bins. On the LHR to FCO leg almost everybody got on with two and sometimes three carryons. At every BA gate they have a little size device and scale to check your bags for compliance; EVERY scale was broken. So much for the carry on.

When you are travelling from the US to a point in Europe beyond LHR you do NOT have to clear customs in London; you do not have to claim and recheck your bags.

You will have to clear security again and this can take a long time if there are many flights arriving at the same time.

You may want to consider, however, that BA cancelled our flight from Denver and waited until three hours before departure to notify us despite the fact that they must have had at least twelve hours to do this. They do not offer the best alternatives either so you should have a second choice routing available if they cancel yours. Also be very wary of any food they serve. My partner's salad was covered with mold.

BA's "customer service" consists of a toll free number that is answered by a machine which tells you not to call them to write instead. They never respond to written complaints.

I am not a typical overweight American, but I've got to tell you these are the smallest economy seats I've ever been seated in.

This is the WORST airline I have flown on since Pan Am went out of business.

On the plus side, we had an hour to change planes from terminal 4 to terminal 1 and our bags made the connection. They were soaked because it was raining in Rome and they apparently let them set outside in the rain in the hour it took for them to appear at baggage reclaim after our arrival. The drinks are free; if your daughter is old enough she will definitely want to avail herself of this service.
 
Nov 3rd, 2005, 05:24 AM
  #10  
rex
 
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This is not the first time that varying experience with BA hand luggage enforcement has been reported. My experience was at JFK. Others have reported similar experiences, though I have never kept track of which airports were mentioned. I don't think I have ever specifically heard mention of Denver, nor Los Angeles, for that matter.

We did have the similar experience of seeing many rollaboards in the overhead compartments once we boarded the plane, and we felt certain that they likely weighed more than five kilograms. It was too late to protest.
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Nov 4th, 2005, 09:11 AM
  #11  
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Just to finish, in case anyone who kindly replied cares to know - after much discussion with the student travel people, turns out the best price and the best flex policy is with Lufthansa!

We had no idea they were a player in the equation until yesterday. Of course, on the way there she has to fly LAX to Denver, then on to Zurich and Rome, but coming home in June it's Paris to Zurich to LAX. Since she wants to travel after her progam ends and since at this point she has no idea where or with whom, we really wanted something flexible.
So thanks - I always like endings to quieries.
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Nov 4th, 2005, 09:27 AM
  #12  
 
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Lufthansa hubs in Frankfurt (FRA), and also Munich (MUC). Not Zurich.
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Nov 4th, 2005, 09:41 AM
  #13  
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OK, I had SwissAir on the brain, but somehow she's getting to Rome via Lufthansa - details, details.
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Nov 5th, 2005, 12:33 AM
  #14  
hsv
 
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I don't know whether Swiss is still an option, but I definitely like their LAX-ZRH connection.

The plane is a A 340, so fairly new and with individual screens in seatbacks. Service is pretty good.
The best thing, however, is that they leave at around 7.30 p.m. which is about the latest you can get out of LAX travelling to Europe, so getting sleep on the plane is fairly easy and arrival in Rome will be sometime in the early evening hours, too, resulting in an easy adaption to the new time zone. This is really worth something and possibly even a slightly higher price IMHO.

Finally, Swiss now is owned by Lufthansa and miles accrued on that flight will be transferred into LH's Miles & More programme on short notice. Thus, they will be usable on any future Star Alliance flight.
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