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LON to SFO - Virgin, BA, Delta, AA or United?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 9:19 am
by andymartin
Hi all, looking for your expertise and advice on which airline to use for myself and partner on the above trip in March. We are on a budget so it will be basic economy/economy light, which airline/aircraft will give us the best in flight experience? Prices are similar all round. It will be the first time we have flown long haul together. I would prefer a stop over in one direction to get some extra spotting in! I like the thought of BA 747/380 or Virgin 789 but not so much United 772?? What are the Delta 330s or 764s like on a stopover leg?

My MAIN concern however is that as we can only check in 24 hours in advance on the basic seat price will we be seated together or will each airline do a Ryanair and split us up to try and make us purchase seat selection?
Any advice is very appreciated
Thank you.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:36 am
by PatrickZ80
If you're on a budget I would take one more airline into consideration, that's Norwegian. They have some extremely low fares on this route.

Few things to consider though: Norwegian flies into London Gatwick where all others fly into Heathrow. Doesn't have to be a big problem, there is a frequent and affordable shuttle between Gatwick and the city of London. But do keep it in mind.

Also, Norwegian is an LCC meaning they charge extra for anything optional. Obviously they charge for checked luggage, but unlike any other airline they also charge for meals on board. You got to pick your meal during the booking, and it's expensive! You can of course also choose for no meal, which is free but then you got to bring your own food on board. Drinks and snacks are also charged for and you need a credit card to pay for them.

Norwegian is usually kind enough to have two people on the same booking seated together, but they can't guarantee it. Norwegian requires you to check in at the airport for long haul flights, there is no online check-in. Make sure you check in early, at the last minute there might not be two seats available next to each other.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:27 pm
by andymartin
Thanks but I don't want to fly Norwegian, that's why I didn't list them in the title.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:46 pm
by klm617
andymartin wrote:
Hi all, looking for your expertise and advice on which airline to use for myself and partner on the above trip in March. We are on a budget so it will be basic economy/economy light, which airline/aircraft will give us the best in flight experience? Prices are similar all round. It will be the first time we have flown long haul together. I would prefer a stop over in one direction to get some extra spotting in! I like the thought of BA 747/380 or Virgin 789 but not so much United 772?? What are the Delta 330s or 764s like on a stopover leg?

My MAIN concern however is that as we can only check in 24 hours in advance on the basic seat price will we be seated together or will each airline do a Ryanair and split us up to try and make us purchase seat selection?
Any advice is very appreciated
Thank you.



I can say this last time I traveled Delta and was on this type of fare my party of 4 was seated together. I was really shocked to say the least because on my previous flight where I traveled alone I was given the worst possible seat. If you are going to use Delta make sure you transfer at Detroit perhaps a route with less traffic will give you more flexibility getting seated together. Atlanta is a complete nightmare as far as transfers go you are treated like cattle there and the CSAs probably will be less accommodating to your needs. That's my experience with Delta.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:49 pm
by longhauler
Have you considered either of Canada's two airlines on the route. AC from LHR and WS from LGW? The fare is the same as the airlines you quote with the added bonus of a transfer through either YVR, YYZ or YYC.

A transfer through Canada is as easy as can be imagined, allowing transfer times unimagineable in the United States. Baggage does not have to be carried/transferred in either direction and if you choose, you can remain in the secure area of the airport.

Your arrival in SFO, having been Customs pre-cleared at the transfer will be as a domestic flight.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:51 pm
by andymartin
Yes good point re Air Canada, what are their 773s and 788/9s like though?

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:01 pm
by longhauler
andymartin wrote:
Yes good point re Air Canada, what are their 773s and 788/9s like though?


At 17" x 31", (sadly), probably about the same as the rest. With a transfer also possible in YUL, perhaps you can snag an A330? AC offers nonstops from YVR, YYC, YYZ and YUL to SFO.

Meal service is about the same as most, with an extra meal (two meals plus a snack) on the LHR-YVR leg. Wine/beer is complimentary. The seat chart opens up at check-in, 24 hours in advance, on either the website or the app.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 7:09 pm
by n729pa
A pair of curved balls for you...

How about Air New Zealand via LAX. They have deals and sell SFO along with other West Coast points. No idea how the fares or schedules compare but might be worth a look.

Another one is Swiss via ZRH. Light fare for 1 week (just picked some random dates in March) £384 return on a Light fare. Good airline too.
I fly to ZRH 2-3 times a year and there's always US bound passengers on the flight, as they list the connecting gates on the inflight screens, so seems an unusual route but fares must be competitive and the service certainly is very good on them.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 8:24 pm
by flyingclrs727
PatrickZ80 wrote:
If you're on a budget I would take one more airline into consideration, that's Norwegian. They have some extremely low fares on this route.

Few things to consider though: Norwegian flies into London Gatwick where all others fly into Heathrow. Doesn't have to be a big problem, there is a frequent and affordable shuttle between Gatwick and the city of London. But do keep it in mind.

Also, Norwegian is an LCC meaning they charge extra for anything optional. Obviously they charge for checked luggage, but unlike any other airline they also charge for meals on board. You got to pick your meal during the booking, and it's expensive! You can of course also choose for no meal, which is free but then you got to bring your own food on board. Drinks and snacks are also charged for and you need a credit card to pay for them.

Norwegian is usually kind enough to have two people on the same booking seated together, but they can't guarantee it. Norwegian requires you to check in at the airport for long haul flights, there is no online check-in. Make sure you check in early, at the last minute there might not be two seats available next to each other.


The last thing I want to do on a long transatlantic flight is to have to order food a la carte at outrageous prices. The logistics are bad enough for long distance travel.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 10:03 pm
by bluefrog
just had a quick look 10days inmarch (13th-23rd) sfo from lhr via zrh with 4hour wait,travel state side on a swiss 777( 79cm leg room ) return through yyz or yvr on air canada 4hour wait roughly in both airports only 336euros return (£288?) 787 or 777 plane with 79cms never flown longhaul but theses prices are whaoh !!

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 8:26 am
by directorguy
Delta and Virgin have very good food and in flight entertainment on their planes.
If you get to fly an A330 or 767 then you can go for a pair of seats by the window with no third wheel-ideal if flying as a couple.
I recommend you avoid BA 747s-old and tired aircraft

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 10:04 am
by andymartin
Thanks for the advice, if transiting through Canada do we need a Canadian visa(ETA??) even if we are flying on to the USA? Those Air Canada fares look pretty good!

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 1:12 pm
by longhauler
andymartin wrote:
Thanks for the advice, if transiting through Canada do we need a Canadian visa(ETA??) even if we are flying on to the USA? Those Air Canada fares look pretty good!

As a Briton, I would guess one would only need a passport, but that is probably best checked before.

Both YYZ and YVR have excellent spotting areas, (as does ZRH mentioned above), so while 1 hour-ish transit times are possible, if you have the option of something longer, you won’t be disappointed.

LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:43 pm
by chepos
directorguy wrote:
Delta and Virgin have very good food and in flight entertainment on their planes.
If you get to fly an A330 or 767 then you can go for a pair of seats by the window with no third wheel-ideal if flying as a couple.
I recommend you avoid BA 747s-old and tired aircraft


I flew VS last summer between LAX-MAN on the 332. I feel as if they are way overhyped. Seats were hard as a rock and the food, well typical airplane food. Not much different to BA.

In my opinion, just go with the lowest nonstop fare.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Mon Nov 18, 2019 10:29 am
by Osiris
BA are a good option to SFO as one of their flight pairs is on the A380, which is probably the most comfortable plane to fly on.

To my knowledge, most carriers now unbundle the seat allocation cost from their most basic fares, so you will have to pay to assign seats more than 24 hours in advance.

Edit: Just saw you want to connect in the US somewhere... surely that'll make for a more uncomfortable experience, as you'll get a number of hours sat on a narrowbody shorthaul jet with no IFE, no food/drinks service, etc?

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Mon Nov 18, 2019 10:38 am
by Osiris
andymartin wrote:
Thanks for the advice, if transiting through Canada do we need a Canadian visa(ETA??) even if we are flying on to the USA? Those Air Canada fares look pretty good!


If you are transitting Canada by air you will need an eTA.

They are 7 CAD each.

Re: LON to SFO - Virgin, BA, Delta, AA or United?

Posted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 10:43 am
by andymartin
I did a dummy booking on Air Canada and whilst the fare was only £300 return LHR to SFO basic economy which is amazing, the seat reservation price was unbelievably expensive. I priced the leg from LHR to Calgary and the seat in economy was 68 USD each(2 of us want to obviously sit together) , then from Calgary to SFO another 38 USD.
This has changed a very good airfare into a pretty average one, which could make the difference between taking that trip or not.
Is it just Air Canada that charge such extortionate prices? How do these compare with AA, United, Delta etc?
If we don't pay seat reservation how amiable are the gate staff and/or cabin crew to moving a solo traveller to allow us to sit together?
Thanks

Re: LON to SFO - Virgin, BA, Delta, AA or United?

Posted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 3:28 pm
by longhauler
andymartin wrote:
If we don't pay seat reservation how amiable are the gate staff and/or cabin crew to moving a solo traveller to allow us to sit together?
Thanks

It's a bit of a crap shoot at best. But, IMO, that is why Basic Economy is so cheap. But, if you know the game, you can play it well.

You have to figure the flight will be full, (they almost always are). So, exactly at the stroke of 24 hours in advance you check in for your flight. You will be assigned random seats, but ... you have the option to change them at that time. The seat chart will be presented and it is unlikely there won't be at least a few options of two seats together. You wont get a window seat, but likely a centre and aisle seat together. This is even more likely with such high advanced seat assignment costs.

Also, you will be able to select seats for your YYC-SFO flight as well even though it is almost 36 hours before departure of that flight. Seats together should be easy. Make sure you have the Air Canada app on your phone. The seat chart is dynamic during the last 24 hours, so even if you have "OK" seats, you might be able to arrange even better ones if something comes up. This also includes during the LHR-YYC flight, as wifi is free for the app and you can scope out something better on the YYC-SFO leg. It's all about "playing the game" and lets face it, the average traveller will have no idea.

It sounds like you have the right approach though. Make dummy bookings on airlines and see what the actual bottom line will be. I'd be surprised if they differed much.

Also ... you mention YYC. It is a new facility and a very nice terminal, but spotting is limited. Not just what you can see, but also who goes there. Spotting is much better at YYZ or YVR.

Re: LON to SFO - Virgin, BA, Delta, AA or United?

Posted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 4:12 pm
by PI4EVR
Longhauler knows his stuff and has provided you wise advice. Trust this man knows his stuff from a lifetime of travel and readily advises the ease of travel through Canada. In his previous post above he's instructed you on how to manage your travel with a little bit of effort.
Great advice to use the in-flight Wifi and AC app to check for seats on your connecting flight while enroute. Seats fluctuate on day of departure. A new boarding pass is easy to print at a kiosk or at gate.
I know specifically that advance seat selection fees on AA and BA are higher for TATL flights than what AC is charging, so you're simply not going to get reasonable fees for advance selection with the Basic Economy fare until the 24 hour check-in time. And as suggested, literally have fingers on the keyboard and eye the clock to hit that magic 24 hour mark.
Good Luck and have a great trip.
P.S. longhauler thank you for always having friendly and concise information and help for many of us on this site.

Re: LON to SFO - Virgin, BA, Delta, AA or United?

Posted: Sat Nov 23, 2019 4:55 pm
by andymartin
Thanks longhauler and P14EVR for some good info, I didn't realise once seats are allocated at 24 hours you can change them free of charge if others are available.
Cheers

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 8:57 pm
by aeromoe
Osiris wrote:
Edit: Just saw you want to connect in the US somewhere... surely that'll make for a more uncomfortable experience, as you'll get a number of hours sat on a narrowbody shorthaul jet with no IFE, no food/drinks service, etc?


Just an observation: not EVERY flight within the US is on a narrowbody. There are widebody options to be had. Just sayin'.

Re: LON to SFO - Virgin, BA, Delta, AA or United?

Posted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 7:40 pm
by Schmave
For reference, I just flew LAX-CDG on Air Canada with a stopover in YUL on the way out and one in YYZ on the way back. We flew AC because the fares were about $300 r/t for basic economy. We had a group of 4. Overall it was fine, and I was happy enough with the AC flights. But I'll tell you the pros/cons:

Pros:
- Transatlantic flights were on a 77W going there and a 789 coming back. Both aircraft were in great shape. Even at 10 AB in the 77W I didn't feel cramped. However, I would prefer the 789 because the AC 77W configuration is economy heavy so there were a million people at the boarding gate and overhead bin space was tough to come by. Plus, the bigger, electronically dimming windows were cool on the 787.
- Even though we didn't select seats, our party of 4 were seated together as much as possible on all of the flights. We typically had 3 seats next to the window and one seat in the row behind.
- Food service on AC is perfectly fine and is comparable to other long haul airlines.
- IFE was good on the wide bodies (although was a little spotty on the A320s on the LAX to Canada legs).

Cons:
- I would prefer a non-stop for this distance of travel if cost was no concern. Our layover in YUL wasn't bad, but having a 4 hour flight followed by a 7 hour flight means you can't relax much until the second flight. Then, on the return flight I was super tired by the time we got on the plane from YYZ to LAX. However, non-stop on AF or Delta was about $450 r/t so we saved some money with the stop-overs.
- Coming back into the US we had a layover in Toronto. If you are connecting to a US flight there you have to do the US Customs & Border Protection there. While this is seemingly a convenience as you don't have to do it once you land back in the US, it was a total PITA in practice. If you check bags you have to wait for your checked bags to be processed before you can go through the CBP stuff. It took us about 2 hours to get through all of this in Toronto, and we barely made our connecting flight. From my experience CBP at LAX typically only takes 30-45 minutes.
- 4-5 hour flights on narrow bodies aren't as comfortable as on the wide bodies, especially with the older IFE that AC has on their A320s.

Re: LON to SFO - VIRGIN, BA, DELTA, AA or UNITED?

Posted: Wed Dec 11, 2019 4:46 pm
by Osiris
aeromoe wrote:
Osiris wrote:
Edit: Just saw you want to connect in the US somewhere... surely that'll make for a more uncomfortable experience, as you'll get a number of hours sat on a narrowbody shorthaul jet with no IFE, no food/drinks service, etc?


Just an observation: not EVERY flight within the US is on a narrowbody. There are widebody options to be had. Just sayin'.


I know.