Choose Your Flight to Italy Wisely
Let’s face it – flying is uncomfortable, especially when flying internationally, and even more so when flying economy class. Between the expensive fares and the several hours of sitting with restricted movement, it is no wonder why travelers stress about flying, among other reasons of course. But after about 30 flights to Italy, I’ve learned ways to minimize the inevitable discomfort associated with flying by starting with choosing the best available flight.
How many Connections?
Depending on where you depart from and where you want to visit in Italy, connecting flights is commonplace. However, if it is possible to avoid a connection, I would do it in a heartbeat, even if it costs a little more. Flying to Italy with as little connections as possible (preferably none), has so many advantages that I never even consider flights with more than 1 connection (unless I do not have a choice). Once I rule out the flights with too many connections, I then focus on price.
What is the Cost?
The next thing I do when shopping for flights is compare prices. I typically fly from Miami to Florence, so the airlines I search are: Alitalia, Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss Air and Air Berlin. After I find the cheapest flight, I then move onto the next question to determine if there are additional (hidden) fees.
Can I Select my Seats?
The last thing I want to happen on an international flight is to be assigned a middle seat. One trip I sat in the middle of two people coughing the whole time causing me to be sick in Italy, and another trip I sat in the middle of two large men who took up both of my armrests causing me to be sandwiched between them for 11.5 hours. For any international flight I take, it is necessary that I have the option to choose my own seat, however, most of the time nowadays it comes with an added fee, even for a regular economy seat. Therefore, be sure to check these added costs so you can work the fee into your final number to compare. Keep in mind though that if you book a flight operated by one airline on another airline’s website, sometimes that frustrates your ability to choose your own seat. It is a good idea to confirm this information online or with an airline representative prior to providing your credit card information.
Is Wi-Fi Available?
The first airline that I discovered to offer Wi-Fi on international flights was Lufthansa, and for this reason I started flying only Lufthansa. Wi-Fi access during flights is important to me so I can work from my laptop and also text my family and friends using the WhatsApp application from my smartphone. Today, many other airlines also offer Wi-Fi, but the ease in which they offer the service differs. For example, some airlines make you pay a one-time fee for Wi-Fi access during the entire flight. Other airlines make you pay per the amount of data you use, often requiring several payments through the flight’s duration. Other airlines make you download an App prior to the flight, the absence of which will make it impossible to access Wi-Fi during transit. If Wi-Fi is important to you, it is a good idea to call the airline prior to booking to confirm its availability and get an understanding of how it works.
What are the Baggage Costs?
Some airlines charge for checked baggage. Some charge per bag, others charge to check only the second bag. Airlines also have weight limits for baggage, and if a bag is over the limit, they will charge you a lot of money. Be sure to call the airline prior to booking to get an understanding of their baggage policies so you do not start your trip off disappointed when the airline clerk asks you for more money. Depending on how many bags you intend on checking, this may also increase the cost of your flight.
Are there any Leg Obstructions?
Even if you are assigned an acceptable seat, there are always chances of being seated in back of a chair with a large metal box underneath the seat, substantially restricting your leg movement. I have seen airlines disclose these obstructions at the time of booking, but to make sure, it is a good idea to call the airline to confirm that your desired seat is free from any large metal boxes.
Is There a USB Connection?
No one wants to arrive in Italy with an uncharged phone battery, but with proper planning, you can be certain to have a fully charged phone throughout your entire trip. I personally always travel with a battery phone case and an extra portable battery pack, but even if you do not have these items, it is always a relief to see a USB port in the back of the seat in front of you. This will allow you to charge your phone during the flight so that when you arrive in Italy, your battery is on 100%. To confirm whether it is available, after you choose your flight, but before booking, call the airline to inquire.
Is the Food Good?
Experiencing different flights will allow you to build a preference of airline cuisine over time. I have my favorites (and least favorites), but I have never chosen an airline based upon the food that they serve. For some though, certain foods may be required due to the health or religious beliefs of the passenger. I believe all airlines are good with accommodating people with these types of needs, but of course you should call the airline first to confirm.
Is there a Rewards Program?
Once you decide on a flight, but before you book it, you should join the rewards program to begin accumulating miles. It my experience though, I have not been impressed. I am a member of a couple rewards programs, and it is always good to earn mileage credit on your flights, but every time I inquired about using my existing points on airline tickets, I got discouraged and gave up. For one, the airline makes you pay the flight’s taxes, so it never is free. Second, the flights they offer are not the ideal flights as they all seem to be in the off-season, and they all seem to operate during undesirable times, i.e., 2-3 connections. I have over 150,000 points on my Alitalia miles program and I have yet to figure out how best to use them. Nevertheless, accumulating points is better than nothing so I certainly recommend registering.
Is the Flight Infant Friendly?
Now that I am a father of a newborn, I am always conscious of the bassinet rules for children under 2 years old, especially because they seem to vary depending on the airline. For more information on how to make your flight as comfortable as possible while traveling with an infant, visit my blog post at: https://new.italianenthusiast.com/traveling-italy-newborn. Depending on the policies regarding bassinets, if you are a parent of a newborn, this concern may be more important to you than some of the other issues mentioned above.
Over all, traveling internationally could be tough so choosing an airline or flight wisely will maximize your comfort during flight, allowing you to be more well rested and less stressed upon landing so that your trip to Italy can start off positive. While the object of this blog post was how to choose an airline, there are also many items you can bring on the airplane to also promote maximum comfort, such as a neck pillow, earphones, earplugs, hand wipes, the proper attire, etc. – many of which I addressed in some prior posts.
If I missed anything, please feel free to comment and add.
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