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View Full Version : European airlines experiences, please share.



backpack
03-13-2012, 10:41 AM
Links to blogs about them, customer service experience, plane seat configuration, luggage allowance etc...

Share as much as you can!

Frank II
03-13-2012, 11:13 AM
There are dozens of European airlines. If you're more specific as to where you're going, I'm sure many can help.

For configurations, go to seatguru.com

For luggage allowances look at the individual airline's website as they are all different.

For many trips within Europe, the flight time is very low. Don't expect great service on a one hour flight. There isn't enough time.

The Traveler's Helpline at ricksteves.com has a 'transportation" section where people talk about alrlines as well as other forms of transportation.

Badger
03-13-2012, 11:29 AM
My preference for trans-Atlantic travel is BA, but that just might be because they steadily infuse me with gin and tonics.

Lani
03-13-2012, 01:51 PM
My preference for trans-Atlantic travel is Virgin Atlantic.

Watch out for Ryan Air and some of the low-cost ones. They are very cheap but you are basically in a public bus with wings. Not bad for short hops, but not as good for longer flights.

If I'm going to make any generalizations, it's that carry-on luggage allowances are much stricter... and something they often do that we're not used to with domestic flights--they also WEIGH YOUR CARRY-ON.

If you absolutely cannot meet the weight restriction for a carry-on, even after you've lightened your load as much as you could, the best solution is to look into getting a ScotteVest. They all have something like 43,000 pockets in them, and they are streamlined so you don't look like you're wanting to sell a bunch of watches on a streetcorner ("Pssst. Wanna buy a watch?").

We managed to travel with just 13 pounds each (The Ultra-minimalist packing list: How I packed for Europe The Travelite FAQ (http://www.travelite.org/?p=90)) for Virgin Atlantic, and it was a challenge even for us.

Badger
03-13-2012, 03:27 PM
We managed to travel with just 13 pounds each (The Ultra-minimalist packing list: How I packed for Europe The Travelite FAQ (http://www.travelite.org/?p=90)) for Virgin Atlantic, and it was a challenge even for us.

so I read your packing list article, and I realized that we must be related when you got to the part where you counted out how many Q-tips you were likely to need. I totally do that. I just wrap them up in a little piece of cling film, though--no fancy-schmancy craft store baggies for me. (Of course, I will undoubtedly procure them for my next trip . . .)

gmanedit
03-13-2012, 04:13 PM
Hi, Lani. I just read your article. Great job paring the load down. But I always carry a nail clipper—what do you do about hangnails otherwise?

kmcg
03-13-2012, 04:39 PM
Wait, what's this with a baggie - isn't there an organizer pouch sized for Q-tips? :)

backpack - I also endorse the Rick Steves graffiti boards for info on flying in Europe. I've had great success in the past with Ryanair. I got 3 tickets from southern France to Sweden once for half a Euro! But you do have to factor in baggage fees and the fact that the airports are often pretty far from the city you are heading to. Ground transportation adds to that cheap ticket price.

One tip I'll offer is that some airlines let you pay in advance for overweight bags, and it's much cheaper than it will be at the airport.

According to my husband, Skyscanner.com is a good website for searching for cheap tickets within Europe.

LJW
03-13-2012, 05:25 PM
I wonder how much weight can be saved if you trim the middle bit in between the Q-tip ends? :eek:

Badger
03-13-2012, 06:32 PM
I wonder how much weight can be saved if you trim the middle bit in between the Q-tip ends? :eek:

not enough to risk potentially lodging cotton in your brain matter.

I also know how many days I can get out of a travel bottle of contact cleaner, in three different brands. If I'm carrying crap across the world, I want it to be like Baby Bear's porridge for Goldilocks: just right.

backpack
03-13-2012, 08:13 PM
I have flown Ryanair before but for a very short trip and it was before they weighted things.

I will be willing to upgrade to premium economy, because I don't travel often from the U.S to Europe and I want to have a pleasant flight.

I need a aisle sit so I can get up and not get P.A.D.

I am nervous about the luggage weight, not for my husband but for me, I wear Plus Size clothes which are not available in great quantity in the U.S, let alone in Europe.

I am thinking of sending an Aeronaute with clothes, via UPS.

It is an informal trip but it would be nerve wracking if I "don't look right".

Frank II
03-13-2012, 09:14 PM
When you say you are nervous about "luggage weight," do you mean carry-on or checked?

I'm not sure where you're located, but if in the U.S., stick to U.S. airlines for your flight across the pond as they are the most lenient as to carry-on weights. American, Delta and USAir have a 40 lb weight limit. United has no weight limit. British Airways has no weight limit and Air France is 26 lbs.
All of the airlines now have Premium Economy for their international flights. You can check seat availability before purchasing tickets. (On BA you'll have to pay extra to reserve a specific seat.)

Here's a link to a chart with information on many airlines. It's still best to check individual airline websites to make sure:

http://www.travelsmith.com/wcsstore/images/TravelSmith/_email/Luggage_Guidelines.pdf

Lani
03-14-2012, 01:27 AM
Wait, what's this with a baggie - isn't there an organizer pouch sized for Q-tips? :)

When you're counting every ounce, a plastic baggie the size of a credit card to store your Q-tips is lighter than an organizer pouch.

When I carry nail clippers, I try to carry little baby ones. Gerber used to make one that was about half normal size, but I can't find them anymore (they stuck a huge handle on them).

Badger -- I'm so glad you count out Q-tips, too! ;)

JLE
03-14-2012, 02:10 AM
When you're counting every ounce, a plastic baggie the size of a credit card to store your Q-tips is lighter than an organizer pouch.

When I carry nail clippers, I try to carry little baby ones. Gerber used to make one that was about half normal size, but I can't find them anymore (they stuck a huge handle on them).

Badger -- I'm so glad you count out Q-tips, too! ;)

For tiny nail clippers, you could perhaps try a baby/early parenthood specialist store? Here in Australia they are relatively easy to pick up even from the baby section in a larger pharmacy (drugstore).

Badger
03-14-2012, 07:19 AM
Hmm. Baby nail clippers would not work for me. I need my ginormous goat-man clippers to do the job right.

Backpack, I would NOT advise sending your clothes through the mail. Even with UPS, delays can happen and you don't need the added stress of wondering where your stuff might be.

You didn't say where you're going, but my advice here would be to stay in a hotel with laundry facilities (or near a drop-off laundrette, which is way cheaper). Pack your clothes into compression bags if you're worried they'll take up too much room, and go for lightweight pieces. The clothes will get wrinkled as all hell, but you can relax them by hanging them in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, and then iron them. Also, pack more tops than bottoms, since tops tend to less tolerant of repeat wearings and are smaller anyway.

FrankII said you can't pick your seats on BA without a charge, but if you buy World Traveller Plus seats they are (and correct me if I'm wrong) grouped as pairs. I believe it's a 2-2-2-2 configuration, or a 2-4-2. So, even if you're in the middle, you will get one aisle seat. Also, if you register with BA's frequent traveller program, you can state your preference for an aisle seat. Finally, the best thing about BA is requesting the Asian Vegetarian meal. You get Punjabi-style food and some sort of Indian dessert. And gin and tonics.

kmcg
03-14-2012, 09:38 AM
When you're counting every ounce, a plastic baggie the size of a credit card to store your Q-tips is lighter than an organizer pouch.



Absolutely! I was just kidding about the organizer pouch. If I put everything I could think of in a cute little pouch, my bag would weigh 50 pounds. Funnily enough, right after this convo started I ran across a petite little sealed packet of 4 Q-tips, courtesy of the hotel we stayed at on a recent trip to Japan. Of course I brought it home with me, thinking "this could be useful on my next trip." Hmmm ... my family thinks I'm a bit eccentric about this packing obsession, which may be why I like this forum so much!

Backpack, I know you didn't post here looking for fashion advice, but have you ever looked at the J Jill Wearever line of clothes? They're really attractive, and people rave about how great they are to travel with. Sizes go up to 4X. The key is to take a few really basic pieces that can be mixed and matched. Keep it to a minimum and just take the Aeronaut if at all possible; it will make your trip so much simpler. (Now if I could only find a way to shrink all my preferred shoes. That's what really kills me on the packing light front.)

darbs
03-14-2012, 10:23 AM
kmcg - Have you tried the Merrell's barefoot line? I have the Pure Gloves and they are amazing. You could easily wear the solid black ones dressed up or down. I wear mine with long pants, skirts, and capris. They are super light weight and beyond comfortable. I have walked for hours in mine and even wear them to the gym for a spin on the treadmill and have worn them to work as well. They flatten down to nothing. I definitely recommend trying them on before buying because they fit close to your feet and you might need a smaller size than you think. They've got a few different options if you prefer a different look. They are seriously my new favorite shoes.

Badger
03-14-2012, 12:30 PM
Mrs B and I also wear barefoot shoes. She has a pair of whatever the women's version of the Trail Glove is called. One thing to keep in mind with minimalist footwear is that their comfort level depends on your fitness level and the terrain. First, you have to adjust to the new level of ground feel and may have to re-learn how to walk lightly, watch out for glass, and so forth. And then you have to predict how well the footwear will work for the terrain you will encounter. For instance, I can wear my Vivobarefoot Neos for hours on trails or pavement. I had a much harder time with them on Italian cobblestones (I kept tripping for some reason, too). Mrs B was wearing the Merrells and was just fine though--I chalk it up to the superiority of the Vibram sole.

darbs
03-14-2012, 12:52 PM
Yeah, I took a week of just wearing mine walking the block to work and back and then around the office. Since I spend 99% of my time either barefoot, in flip flips, or in thin ballet flats, it didn't take long to get used to them. As long as I am moving, they are great...not as much for just standing for long hours (3+). I love that the Merrells have the Vibram soles. And they are easy to slip in and out of which is a plus for flying. I've had mine for a month now and think they are perfect for travel and every day wear.

snowbot
03-14-2012, 01:14 PM
I'm thinking that we may need a Not About Bags post on women's barefoot shoes.

kmcg
03-14-2012, 01:21 PM
Sorry to have sidetracked the post from European airlines to shoes for packing light! But I'll just quickly respond before we return to our original thread topic.

I've been eyeing the Merrell glove shoes, as I'm a die-hard wearer of Merrells. But I've read that the level of cushioning in them is pretty minimal, and I think that's what I really need for running around Europe. I'll try them on next time I go to REI, though. They are definitely svelt and light weight.

Lani
03-14-2012, 01:30 PM
Backpack, I would NOT advise sending your clothes through the mail. Even with UPS, delays can happen and you don't need the added stress of wondering where your stuff might be.

I'm with Badger on this one, Backpack. The only time shipping stuff is preferred is when you've bought souvenirs you don't want to carry with you.

Although... if you are staying with people you know, or you are staying at a hotel with solid customer service, you might consider shipping a few extra pieces of clothing via air mail WELL in advance of your trip, and arrange it with the hotel that they will contact you when the package arrives. Whatever you ship, though, you have to be willing to have it not show up in time for your trip, in case it gets lost in the mail.

I'd say layer (with more tops than bottoms, as already mentioned), with access to laundry facilities (or laundry service). Even if your hotel doesn't have either, they may be able to tell you of a nearby launderette. Some people can manage to just rinse their garments in their own hotel room, although if it's not a quick-dry item, it'll be a bit of a pain (I typically roll them a la maki sushi style into a bath towel and then wring the towel before I hang the items on a line I bring with me).

Badger
03-14-2012, 02:24 PM
I'm thinking that we may need a Not About Bags post on women's barefoot shoes.

I think the topic is germane since backpack was concerned about carry-on weight. Going with more minimalist gear is a sure way to reduce that weight.

To follow up on my earlier question to backpack: if you are just going from the US to, say, LHR or CDG, it's worth checking your bag if you are concerned about weight. I don't doubt an Aeronaut, even if it's overweight, would survive a trans-Atlantic flight in the hold with no problems. It can be a huge pain in the ass to wait for your luggage when you arrive, but then you don't need to stress out that your bag will be subject to being weighed. (you can also then carry a teeny personal item and attract incredulous stares.) If you are taking multiple flights within Europe, then I wouldn't recommend it.

The last thing is that if you don't overpack, no one will give the Aeronaut a second look. When I was sitting in JFK with a fairly loaded Aeronaut, I looked around and noted how everyone's bags looked bigger than mine. Even teenagers' North Face book bags looked bigger. I slung one of the backpack straps over my shoulder casually as I walked towards the jetbridge and was waved through with no hassles.

backpack
03-14-2012, 02:38 PM
I would do only carry on, I was only thinking of shipping instead because of weight limit.

I was impressed to see Jmcrist pictures as well as finding out that his Brain Bag weighed 35.6 lbs and he was allowed to carry it on Lufthansa.

http://forums.tombihn.com/customer-pictures-video/4604-overpacked-brain-bag.html

The laundry would not be a problem, but I usually carry as much as 30 pounds on domestic flights as carry on.

Does BA always land at Heathrow?


I love everybody's suggestions, including light shoes and the new (to me) clothes line.

My husband can make an entire trip with minimal stuff, and as I said he has that lovely European build, so I can even buy stuff at that destination, if needed, even without him.

Badger
03-14-2012, 02:49 PM
No, BA lands at Gatwick sometimes, too.

Lani
03-14-2012, 03:26 PM
I'm with Badger on this one (actually, I think I almost always agree with whatever Badger says).

Rolling uprights are so ubiquitous in airports these days that someone bringing a shoulder-worn bag barely gets a glance from airline personnel.

kmcg
03-14-2012, 03:53 PM
I worry about weight mostly on flights within Europe. My next trans-Atlantic trip is on Lufthansa though, so I may change my tune after that. I'm planning to try to carry on my TriStar, which should be close to the carryon weight limit. On most major carriers, don't they just make you gate-check your bag if it doesn't pass muster at the gate? That's not such an awful result, IMO. Better than trusting overseas shipping, isn't it?

jeffmac
03-14-2012, 04:16 PM
Hey KCMG

I will be on Alitalia next week from Frankfurt to Rome with a Tristar and I will let you know how the carry on attempt goes!

snowbot
03-14-2012, 05:34 PM
I wasn't trying to imply that minimalist shoes were off-topic and therefore verboten. Instead, I was excited to devote a whole post to them!

Badger
03-14-2012, 05:58 PM
Hey KCMG

I will be on Alitalia next week from Frankfurt to Rome with a Tristar and I will let you know how the carry on attempt goes!

Jeff, the Tri-Star will be just fine. There were people on Alitalia with MULTIPLE bags and so one tidily-packed Tri-Star will be comparatively austere.

Have so much fun in Italy!

jeffmac
03-14-2012, 11:39 PM
Thanks for the well wishes badger...I have taken several of your suggestions and put them to good use!

backpack
03-15-2012, 08:30 AM
Well... I don't know.

I have heard of lost luggages in many travel shows, airlines reviews and forums so I am really nervous.

My preference of airline is for an European one, from the western part of the continent so Air France, Lufthansa, KLM are the ones I am most interested in. Any experience with either of those by forum members?

The stupid luggage weight limit is just really annoying as it forces anyone who wants to look nice and is plus size to check in a bag.

I am currently plotting a very light weight and stylish wardrobe.

If any forum members knows of a vegan, lightweight, lace-up shoe that can be dressed up, I am all ears! :)

Badger
03-15-2012, 08:50 AM
Please, please tell us where you are going, and when. This will help make answering your questions so much easier.

For instance, the choice of airlines is unclear to me. Are you going to France? If you are, Air France might be a good choice. If you aren't, then idk. Do you belong to a FF program in the US? If so, it might be best to travel on a partner carrier.

Most women's lace-up shoes are not conducive to dressing up. If you are planning on doing a lot of walking, I'd suggest a good pair of walking/light hiking shoes (wear on the plane) and a pair of sandals or flats, depending on location and climate (this is why where and when are important things to know!). Patagonia makes some vegan shoes, but I cannot vouch for their stylishness.

backpack
03-15-2012, 08:42 PM
I don't know when I will be going and the landing country will depend on the airline I end up choosing, I guess.

So far, the front runners are Air France and Lufthansa. Anyone flown them?

backpack
03-20-2012, 01:23 PM
kmcg - Have you tried the Merrell's barefoot line? I have the Pure Gloves and they are amazing. You could easily wear the solid black ones dressed up or down. I wear mine with long pants, skirts, and capris. They are super light weight and beyond comfortable. I have walked for hours in mine and even wear them to the gym for a spin on the treadmill and have worn them to work as well. They flatten down to nothing. I definitely recommend trying them on before buying because they fit close to your feet and you might need a smaller size than you think. They've got a few different options if you prefer a different look. They are seriously my new favorite shoes.

Thank you so much for the great suggestion!

Unfortunately, health concerns have put any planned fun on hold.

jeffmac
03-31-2012, 11:40 AM
OK, just as a quick report, I flew Lufthansa, Austrian Air and Alitalia while in Europe last week. Only Alitalia bothered to weigh my crammed Tristar, which was slightly over limit (8.8 kg) but all waved me on and I had no challenges at all carrying on.

Best service was Lufthansa (except for an extremely rude steward on a United code share on the way back home) but the wide body regional jets in Europe are far more comfortable than the regional jets here in the US. I would fly Austrian or Alitalia again without hesitation.

backpack
04-01-2012, 08:52 PM
OK, just as a quick report, I flew Lufthansa, Austrian Air and Alitalia while in Europe last week. Only Alitalia bothered to weigh my crammed Tristar, which was slightly over limit (8.8 kg) but all waved me on and I had no challenges at all carrying on.

Best service was Lufthansa (except for an extremely rude steward on a United code share on the way back home) but the wide body regional jets in Europe are far more comfortable than the regional jets here in the US. I would fly Austrian or Alitalia again without hesitation.

Thank you Jeffmac!

DPH
04-04-2012, 08:25 AM
Little info about Ryanair.

Im from Norway, and when im gonna fly, i`d allways pack for the Ryanair standard:) then i know i never will have a problem! It fun everytime when im gonna fly with SAS and so and im having panic for having to much weight on my cabin luggage(Yes they weight and check the size of the bag before entering the plan sometimes). Anyway i think longer than 4 hours flights with Ryanair is the maximum. And its far better than flying with a public buss.

Alot of people here in Norway are whining on Ryanair for bad service, and so. But there is a reason they are very cheap. If your reading their rules. and keep yourself inside the rules. You will never have a problem.

Was going on vacation to Spain with my family. and there was about 1200 dollars to save by flying with ryanair!(for 4 people) So i would recommand Ryanair to Anyone.

calel
05-17-2012, 09:39 AM
My preference for trans-Atlantic travel is BA, but that just might be because they steadily infuse me with gin and tonics.

Me too. I've flown both coach and business, and they are generous in both classes with the alcohol (but especially in business where you get plenty of champagne before the plane even takes off).

Braniff727
03-28-2014, 01:19 AM
Links to blogs about them, customer service experience, plane seat configuration, luggage allowance etc...

Share as much as you can!

In May of 2013 I went to Brussels and Nice. From a service standpoint. There was a baggage handler strike at BRU. Brussels Airlines (and United) knew this when we boarded as it started a day prior. NEVER told us UNTIL WE WERE ON THE GROUND! I got my bag 10 days later....big headache. Really bad service and communication. On top of it, I had to cab an hour to the airport to pick it up, as they would not deliver.

JFK - BRU: I flew Brussels Airlines. Not passing judgement on the crew -- they seemed exausted and not to talkative.
BRU - NCE: Brussels Airlines: No idea...was fast asleep. :-)

NCE - VIE: I flew Austrian Airlines. REALLY pleasant crews. Always smiling.
VIE - ORD: Really sharp crew. They sure seemed to love their job. Many beverages that they offered were native to Austria. I got a nice 2 minute presentation on the history of a particular beverage. Very professional in a friendly in an un-stuffy way. Would love to fly them again!

Swiss I flew three years ago to Italy from LA. Service almost as good as Austrian. Those flight attendants worked their butts off. They were ALWAYS up offering passengers something. Very impressed.

bchaplin
03-28-2014, 04:12 AM
I have flown Lufthansa and Swiss, and now I choose them whenever I can. They are wonderful, even in coach. Decent food (really), lots of drinks, attentive service, and both Zurich and Frankfurt are good airports with plenty of amenities, including showers. They have strict weight and size limits for carry on, though they are not the worst. However, they have never weighed or sized my bags, and on my last trip, I actually carried on three items and no one said anything. These airlines do not charge for the first checked bag, and as a result the overhead bins are not crowded. I've never had difficulty finding sufficient place in the overhead.

(Actual flights traveled: Lufthansa: Budapest>Munich>Boston, Amman>Frankfurt>Boston. Swiss: Boston>Zurich>Budapest, Boston>Zurich>Tel Aviv.) Yes, weird combinations. In both cases I ended up with tickets that flew me to my destination on Swiss and back on Lufthansa.)

Vecturist
03-28-2014, 07:57 AM
I flew Swiss last year for LAX-Zurich and back, coach on the way over, business on the way back. While the crew was not as friendly as Air New Zealand (flown them twice for LA to London), they were efficient and happy to get you whatever you needed, food was pretty good, and the planes had seatback IFE. I'm curious to see how Virgin when I fly them to London.

Generally, if I am flying overseas, I try to avoid the US airlines if I can.

Vertandor
03-29-2014, 09:10 AM
OK - quick hits and YMMV :) Most of my travel has been between UK and Dusseldorf (company HQ is there, the other part of my business section is not too far) and some other trips round Europe for business and pleasure.

Lufthansa - never had any problems with carry-on, even when I had the Targus backpack of doom as my work EDC. Good planes, helpful staff.
Swiss - only used them once, two words: free chocolate!
Ryanair - Western Flyer works like a charm. Not had it measured or looked at twice, even fits under the seat in front. If you follow the rules they do provide a very cheap option. Website is a PITA because of all those pages of would you like to add an extra...
FlyBe - generally ok for a budget carrier, but my German and British colleagues who use them a lot have taken to calling the Fly Maybe.
SAS - were as prompt as they suggested. Used them to get to Copenhagen and back once, no other experience.
BA - used them to travel across Atlantic - definitely worth getting Premium Economy for the bit extra leg-room, etc Good food options as was mentioned upthread.
Alitalia - loads of people with what appeared to be everything they owned, my one bag (pre-TB :( ) wasn't even looked at. Some delays, ok staff.

Can't think of any others at the mo, hope that helps a little.

K9TB
03-31-2014, 12:46 PM
I feel like European airlines strike more than US ones. Not sure if this is accurate, or if it's just my experience. Last week some of the German baggage handlers were on strike, knocking out a lot of Lufthansa flights to Frankfurt. Later this week Lufthansa and Germanwings pilots might strike for a few days. So in the "one more thing to worry about department" if you are neurotic like me google "name of airline" and "strike" and "whatever 'strike' translates to in the local language".

In recent Germanwings flights I have had a not-overstuffed S25 and a MCB. No weighing, no checking, no problems.

Moosezilla
03-31-2014, 01:06 PM
I flew with British Airways when I went to Berlin in October and on the way back in December. Good service and no problems at all. They didn't look twice when I carried on my over stuffed Aeronaut on the way there and I ended up checking my even more overly packed Aeronaut on the flights back (I was nervous the whole time) and again, no problems at all. My beloved navy/wasabi Aeronaut showed up safely in Chicago and again when I landed here at home. She was a little dirty, but nothing a little soap and water couldn't fix!

monkeylady
03-31-2014, 06:14 PM
British Airways lost my luggage for 5 days on my trip to Sicily. Even though it was probably 7 years ago, I have NEVER forgiven them (what does that say about me?). They also gave us erroneous information about how much personal carryon was allowed on a connecting flight from Heathrow to Milan. We had to dump a lot of stuff. (I guess I hold grudges.)