Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   How traveler-friendly are these airports? (

Mark Aug 21st, 2001 05:52 PM

How traveler-friendly are these airports?
Next May, my wife and I will be traveling to Italy with three family members who are in their late fifties to late sixties. Only one of them has traveled to Europe before. All are in good health, but one has a partial handicap. The trip will definitely involve a transfer at one of the major international airports in Europe. I'd like to book flights that have the stopover at a "user-friendly" and easy-to-navigate airport. Let's assume the fares will all be about the same, regardless of airport(hah!). How would you rate the following: <BR>London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Zurich, Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen? Any others that I forgot? Many thanks in advance!

ger Aug 21st, 2001 06:18 PM

Mark: <BR> <BR>Given your concerns, I would suggest you should contact a travel agent that can map out and cost your options. <BR> <BR>I've been through LHR (about a 100 times and think it is a bloody awful transfer option), CDG ( not easy for a flight through another terminal), FRA (no transfer experience, so cannot comment), AMS (pretty good), CPG (the BEST- my very favourite airport), but use it generally when I am going east, not south). <BR> <BR>I have to ask why not fly through Rome (not that I suggest that it the best airport for a transfer) as that would be the obvious destination? <BR> <BR>If your ultimate destination is a major (international) airport, then you might be better to find a flight from NA that goes directly to that destination and take a short-haul to that airport. <BR> <BR>Generally, it is far easier to deal with a transfer at the start of a flight, when everyone is fresh and energetic, rather than the end of one! <BR> <BR>Advise: Try to do the transfer in NA and have a professional provide you with the cost of your decision and then decide if it is worth it! Also, book a wheelchair in advance for your companion for very selfish reasons as this will allow you to book the best seats in the house for your entire party. <BR> <BR>Regards .. Ger <BR> <BR>Regards ... Ger

Rex Aug 21st, 2001 06:22 PM

Does the handicap involve the use of a wheelchair? (I assume not, actually, or you would have mentioned it) - - or does the involved traveler simply walk slowly and tire readily? - - which would typically dictate the use of an electric cart to get between point A and B if it involves more than a hundred yards (meters) or so. <BR> <BR>I have not been in Copenhagen, nor Frankfurt, but "user-friendliness" is rather subjective for virtually all of the others. A lot of airports are in construction (or "re"-construction) almost constantly, so I don't know if information can be reliably trusted for next May. <BR> <BR>Still, these are my observations: <BR> <BR>I rate Paris CDG and Zurich "poor" because they use buses on the tarmac a lot to move passengers from place to another. But others might say that this is a good thing. they are quite different in size - - I think that CDG is at least 4 or 5 times the size of ZRH. <BR> <BR>I rate Munich as very easy to understand - - it is essentially all one long straight line - - although this means that there CAN be substantial distances. <BR> <BR>Amsterdam seems straightforward; Brussels okay; LHR is huge of course. Mt recollection is that LGW involved a pleasantly short ditance from gate to baggage claim to curbside (same is true for Munich - - but depends if you are going to the car rental which is far at one end). <BR> <BR>Hope this helps some. <BR> <BR>Best wishes, <BR> <BR>Rex <BR>

John G. Aug 21st, 2001 06:29 PM

Don't know why you'd go to half these places to get to Italy, but anyway, Amsterdam & Zurich are user friendly, Heathrow & Paris can be a problem.

JOdy Aug 21st, 2001 06:38 PM

Of the ones I know on a scale of 1-10, <BR> <BR>LHR-4, LGW-6 , Brussels-5, CDG-4, <BR> <BR>If there's no construction going on, maybe a little better, but there is always construction at LHR and CDG <BR> <BR>And order a wheelchair, it makes everything so much easier, even if they can get around prety well, why exhaust someone if the answer is so easy .I'm tempted sometimes myself!

ger Aug 21st, 2001 06:43 PM

Mark: <BR> <BR>Where are you flying from and what is you final destination? <BR> <BR>Rex is a master at finding flights at best cost, from what I have observed, and may be able to direct you to the appropriate URLS. <BR> <BR>Regards ... Ger

ellie Aug 21st, 2001 07:06 PM

We had a nightmarish adventure at the Frankfurt airport this spring involving missed flights, lost luggage, pilots strike, etc etc - I could not believe what a maze the place was to naviagate about - spent all sorts of time running up and down multiple flights of stairs. There were elevators available with hundreds of anxious travelers trying to cram on (hence the running up and down stairs). The airport staff was uniformly rude and non-helpful. We've traveled through Heathrow, Gatwick, CDG, Amsterdamn and Copenhagen under favorable conditions (i.e. no strikes or frenzied last minute calamities) and found all to be fairly civilized and easy to get about - have spent lots of time hanging around in the Amsterdamn airport and,other than boredom, it has always seemed pretty people friendly. Final note on Frankfurt: we definately felt connecting flights are legally scheduled too close together...a minor delay will easily cause a missed flight. <BR>Hope this helps and have a great trip!

Surlok Aug 21st, 2001 08:14 PM

Mark, <BR> <BR>I used Heathrow, CDG, FCO, Lisbon, Madrid and Frankfurt to make connections. As I didn't do this in other European airports, I cannot comment how difficult or easy they are to navigate, as far as connection flights, changing terminals are concerned. <BR> <BR>My worst experience was undoubtedly CDG. I avoid it at all costs, and so should you. The second most difficult is Heathrow, but still, even if you're using different terminals, the busses still work fine, even for partially handicapped travelers, besides, everyone will speak your language there, what doesn't happen in CDG. Frankfurt and Lisbon are smaller airports, there's no need of changing terminals. In FCO, there's an inside connection between terminals, a sort of metro train, and it works well, too. <BR> <BR>Of course, when I used Frankfurt, there was no strike going on, so everything worked very smoothly and easily. <BR> <BR>Madrid is also an awfull airport. Too long, and the staff working there are rude, and many don't speak English. I think you should avoid it, too. <BR> <BR>Surlok

Tony Aug 21st, 2001 10:21 PM

Having done most of the airports you mention with my wife in a wheelchair, I would rate Amsterdam best, followed by Zurich and Frankfurt. Forget the rest.

Sjoerd Aug 21st, 2001 11:50 PM

Miriam Aug 22nd, 2001 02:00 AM

Hello Mark, <BR> <BR>one poster referred to Frankfurt Airport as a nightmare..ok, when the pilots are on strike and your luggage gets lost, possible...but that is the fault of the Airline, not of the Airport. I would think that if you have to connect through Germany, choose Frankfurt. As Rex pointed out the distances in Munich are very long. Frankfurt on the other hand even offers a service where you`ll be picked up at the gate or check-inn with an electric car and are taken to another point. You shouldn`t be embarrassed to use that service, a lot of people do and they don`t charge you anything. Every sign is both in German and English, as well. <BR> <BR>Have fun <BR> <BR>Miriam

Miriam Aug 22nd, 2001 02:09 AM

Hello, <BR> <BR>I just read more carefully what Surlok has to say about Frankfurt. <BR>Sorry, you`re not right. In fact Frankfurt Airport has two Terminals and it`s not a small Airport, it`s the second largest Airport in Europe. You don`t feel it, because everything is organized very well. But it can happen that f.e. you fly in with Delta-you`ll arrive Terminal 2, your connecting flight is with Lufthansa or British Airways-that`s Terminal 1-so you`ll have to switch Terminals, but it only takes a couple of minutes. <BR>To the poster who said connecting times where tight in Frankfurt-that is an issue between you and your travel agent or the Airline-it has nothing to do with the Airport itself. <BR> <BR>Miriam

Mark Aug 22nd, 2001 04:11 AM

Thank you very much for all your helpful responses! Once again, I posted before fully engaging brain. We will be flying from the Washington-Baltimore area to Rome (our first destination), probably on open-jaw tickets and returning from Florence, Pisa, Genoa, or Milan (our travel plans aren't final yet). I've done a LOT of internet research on who flies to Italy from our area. I was amazed to discover that the only nonstop to Rome is out of Philadelphia on US Airways! I really want to avoid the entire JFK-Newark scene with all its legendary delays, mob scenes, etc. I also get the sense from our family members (all seasoned North America travelers) that if there's a flight delay on the second leg, they would rather be at an airport in Europe than the U.S. (they have SO been there, done that). So, it looks like it will be United, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Swiss Air, Virgin Atlantic, or Air Canada (I might be forgetting one or two), with a transfer at one of the airports I listed in my original post. By "user-friendly" I mean a lot of things: ease of transfer between flights, signage in English, size, distance between gates, history of flight delays vs. promptness (all relative, of course), etc. etc.

ellen Aug 22nd, 2001 06:07 AM

Mark, I don't know if you are deliberately avoiding Dulles, but United flies from there directly to Milan.

Mark Aug 23rd, 2001 04:46 AM

Any other thoughts or opinions?

Paul Aug 23rd, 2001 05:58 AM

In both Frankfurt & Brussels, you wind up walking a good distance from the transatlantic arrival gate to the Italy departure gate. In addition, it took over an hour to get through passport control in Frankfurt (about 5 minutes in Brussels). At CDG, as was pointed out, you get onto a bus. If you have a family member who can't do that much walking, this could be a good bet. You'll get off the plane in Terminal 2C, then follow the signs for "Correspondence", which lead you to a bus. It will take you to Terminal 2F, where you get your flight to Italy. All in all, less walking.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:57 AM.