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Barcelona or Madrid -- Which is better airport to reach Pamplona, Spain?

Barcelona or Madrid -- Which is better airport to reach Pamplona, Spain?

Feb 26th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Barcelona or Madrid -- Which is better airport to reach Pamplona, Spain?

I'm flying out of Chicago and hope to book an open-jaw ticket for my trip to Spain in late May. In terms of both price and convenience, which airport do you think is the best one to fly into to access Pamplona (Barecelona or Madrid)? I'm not considering Bilbao since no United Partner seems to fly there. I'm going to try to book Lufthsana, or alternately, a partner with American Air.

After my conference in Pamplona, my boyfriend and I would like to visit a couple of coastal towns, or if it's cold for the beach, we are open to exploring more urban parts of Spain for good food, museums, history. Is there an airport closer to the coast that we should look to fly out of?

fishee is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 01:02 PM
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Veuling flies Barcelona/Bilboa. Take a look at www.whichbudget.com for the budget airlines in Europe.
kybourbon is online now  
Feb 26th, 2006, 01:14 PM
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Bilbao is served by United's code share partner, Lufthansa, which flies in from Germany. The airport in Pamplona is only served by Iberia (Air Nordstrom). You can check out the following web site (Iberian Traveler) on how to reach Pamplona (http://thescarletmacaw.com/it_getting_to_pamplona.htm)
Robert2533 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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If you wish to drive, check www.viamichelin.com for distances, drive times, maps etc.

For trains look at www.renfe.es (which can be frustrating in the complex way it's programmed) or - better - at


The quickest and easiest train is from Madrid-Atocha, the 07:15 departure goes direct, no need for a transfer en route, and only takes 3:40 hours. Others take longer.

The fastest direct train from Barcelona-Sants takes 5:29, the next-fastest, also direct, takes 6:00 hours, others can take a lot longer.

Flying to Bilbao as an alternative to taking a train from either Madrid or Barcelona is not worth it, the train from there takes 3:19 hours. (BTW - it's www.vueling.es, not veuling.)

Now it seems to me that you want to go to neither Madrid nor Barcelona, right? Then why fly there? Fly the cheapest you can find to London, then fly with one of the cheapies to the region and back.

Like with www.ryanair.com from London-Stansted STN to Biarritz BIQ, then take the train (roughly four to five hours), or - fly also from STN to Bilbao BIO with either www.easyjet.com or with the usually way more expensive www.airberlin.com (3:19 hours by train as stated).

I see fares of 31 Euros one way.

You don't have to fly back to London from the same airport, the fares are all computed for one-way (not like in the US), so you could make a bit of a trip after our Pamplona obligations.

To get there, first maybe fly into Bilbao because it's the closest to get there by train, and after Pamplona travel along the coast, San Sebastian to Biarritz, great beaches and great food and hospitality traditions (once upon a time a fabulous beach resort for Russian Czars and the like...) and fly back from Biarritz.

Or follow the coast the other way, look at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, hit some beaches, end up in Santander SDR and fly from there with www.ryanair.com to STN. I see chaep fares for 26 Euros (fees and taxes included).

There is usually only one flight a day, so you need to jot down London arrivals, transfer time to STN (not trivial), possibly even factor in a night in London - the same on the way back.

Just be flexible, but figure it out and book soon, ORD-LON (LGW or LHR) is usually cheaper than into Spain, and to Spain from there right now is cheap, but these budget airlines raise the fares as soon as they fill up, so make your booking after you've ascertained the right dates and times.

Also read up on the luggage restrictions, they are nothing like what spoiled US travelers are used to. Don't book tight connections, these cheapies are like buses, not beholden to punctuality, so leave tons of cushion.

But if the price comes out cheaper, and the adventure seems enhanced (and maybe you get to spend a night in London town...), why not?

Use www.skyscanner.com and a good map to work this out.

WallyKringen is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 01:36 PM
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Pardon my French, but that should be AIR NOSTRUM. Nordstromís is where I shop from time to time.
Robert2533 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Thanks for the great info everyone. WK, seems like you're suggesting I could fly United cheaply and easily (and get all my miles) from ORD-LHR and then grab a budget connecting flight into Bilbao. Then, depending on where we go after Pamplona, fly back into LHR. This sounds pretty ideal, particularly if I'm able to get a N/S flight from LHR to Bilbao. If the flights through LHR are booked, is there another large European city I can check out for connections into Spain? thanks again, very helpful.
fishee is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 06:38 PM
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The truth is that now, with the low-cost airlines, the airport which has the most connections with Spain, is Stansted Other cities can be Paris, Frankfurt or Milan, even Dublin has a lot of routes now which there weren't just a couple of years ago.
kenderina is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:02 PM
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I would actually like to avoid flying into London if it's at all possible. It's a very expensive city for me given the exchange rate and I'd rather stay in Paris for a couple of days. Which discount airlines could I check for flights out of Dublin or Paris?
fishee is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:14 PM
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There are a lot of discount airlines flying into Spain from England and Europe, but not all of the airports are convenient for most travelers. Iberia controls a number of regional airports: Pamplona, San Sebastian, La Rioja, Vitoria, etc., which makes flying into them impossible without going through Iberia.

Besides, airports like Stansted are hardly convenient for people flying in from the States. The flights are inexpensive because they do not originate from major airports.
Robert2533 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:34 PM
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Ryanair or EasyJet are the most useful.
Look their websites and see what they have, maybe they have something good for you.
By the way, Portugalia Airlines has a flight direct from Lisbon to Pamplona. Look that too. I don't know how the connections from the US are to Lisbon but it doesn't sound bad.
kenderina is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 09:50 PM
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The only flights listed for Portugalia Airlines to Pamplona go through MAD. They are offering a nice 93 euros special promotion, but their regualr flight is close to 700 euros and consists of two prop plane segments taking about 3 hours.
Robert2533 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:00 PM
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is renting a car from madrid airport any possibility?
after the airfare and taxi or whatever to other low cost flights abroad, you will have additional freedom to explore this great country before and after conference for LITTLE more ( for two people.)
lincasanova is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:13 PM
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Check out www.whichbudget.com . Look for Bilboa, Barcelona, and Gerona, and then work backwards from there to see what major European cities have flights to those places.
WillTravel is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 09:53 AM
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fishee, you summed it up right -

ORD - LON on United (cashing miles or paying cash), then on your own nickel to one of the Northern Spain airports I outlined and back to London, with all the "risks" and "inconveniences" I (and others) mentioned.

I looked at fares ORD-LON vs. ORD-Madrid or ORD-Barcelona - about 500 bucks difference.

For those 500 bucks you can stay the night in London, pay for trains and shuttles and flights to and from Spain and still come out ahead.

Ask yourself if you want to cash miles for such an inexpensive trip like ORD-LON. I would pay cash and keep those miles for a trip to some place where there are no cheap tickets ever, there are plenty of those. Or not bother with this London idea (I didn't know you had enough miles when I suggested all this) and use the miles for ORD-Madrid.

But: if you're cashing miles on United, their rules allow for an open-jaw OR (but not and) an extended layover.

Keep that in mind - that should enable you to look into partner airlines and come up with all kinds of scenarios to save you one of the flights within Europe.

Just one example: Spanair is in the Star Alliance and flies Frankfurt to Bilbao - if United or Lufthansa (its major Star Alliance partner) can get you to FRA and Spanair to Bilbao, and you wish to go home via London, you can possibly do that on your miles. You'd pay for the flight with whichever airline from your airport of choice to London to go pick up the home leg of our open jaw with United.

Instead of the open jaw, you could do ORD-FRA-Bilbao / Bilbao-FRA-ORD and request a layover in FRA to go do a Rhine cruise for a day or two, either coming or going.

And so it goes - the possibilities are almost endless. You may have to call United and discuss these, and suggest to the agent things like the Spanair link etc. - their screens don't always bring up every combination, but once you suggest one, they may suddenly find that it's possible.

If what you work out with the agent is not bookable on the web, you may have to pay a small fee to do it over the phone - still worth it quite likely.

WallyKringen is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 01:00 PM
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Wally, the Frankfurt-Bilbao leg is served by Lufthansa, not Spanair. Very reliable, and I think that your last rec sounds pretty good.

If fishee would like to fly into London, I would also check Iberia and BA. They have sometimes good offers.

Rgds, Cova

Ps. If you fly into Bilbao, the best way to get to Pamplona is by bus. And if I had to choose between Madrid or Barcelona, Madrid is much better to get to Pamplona.
cova is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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My employer is paying but it comes out of my research budget so it's in my interest to find a cheap fare although ideally I'd like United or AA miles. My boyfriend will likely use his United awards ticket unless we find a bargain, and he may go to Istanbul with me in July and could use miles then.

For May 16-25 (+/- 3 days) for 6-10 day trip here's what I've found so far:

1. ORD to Zurich, Munich, Berlin, Milan, Rome, Frankfurt are $800 and London is $700 -- too expensive to search for budget airline conections.

2. Aer Lingus: ORD-DUB and DUB-Bilbao
= $580 USD all in.

3. Cheapest all around: ORD-Barcelona on Continental is $557 all in. (but no mileage)

4. ORD- Pamplona $685 on AA and Iberia.

I'm thinking I'll take the last option since I won't need to buy train tix this way and I'll get the miles for my AA award, and I can get to work at the conference without too much stress. (Does anyone know how many miles this trip will log?)

At these prices, I think my boyfriend should use his United award ticket to get to Spain -- or should we wait and see if prices will drop to cities like Frankfurt, London, and Zurich? Do you think this is the best I can do?

Finally, is it difficult to drive around Northern Spain? I had a lot of trouble just taking over the wheel for a few hours in Tuscany so I'm not too keen on the car rental unless it's considered relatively easy to drive.

Thanks for the links and info, I wouldn't have known where to start without your help. (i like whichbudget.com -- nice site)
fishee is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 05:10 PM
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Signage is in both Euskara and Spanish, if the Spanish hasn't been blackened out, but generally, driving is fairly normal. The roads are in great shape; even some of the small country roads are better than they are elsewhere.
Robert2533 is offline  
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