Tim Foolery

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Non-stop Vs. Direct Flights

I often hear people using the terms “non-stop flight” and “direct flight” interchangeably.  These terms are very different and if you think they are interchangeable, you’re going to be in for quite the shock.

A non-stop flight gets you from Point A to Point B without stopping at another airport.  These types of flights will get you to your destination the fastest.  If, like me, you love taking quick weekend trips, non-stop flights are what you need to look for.

On the other hand, direct flights take you from Point A to Point B, but you’ve got stops in Point A.1 (or more).  Some direct flights, you’ll end up on the same plane and maybe even able to stay seated on board during your layovert – without a need to get off at Point A.1.  Several colleagues of mine take direct flights on Southwest and just stay seated on the flight.  While I haven’t had a direct flight in years, I have been on a flight where Chicago is Point A.1 and it seems more often than not that this direct flight requires you to actually change planes.  Your flight numbers are the same, but there is an aircraft change.

A recent flight (LGA-ORD) was non-stop for me, but several of my fellow passengers were going direct from LGA-DEN.  The connecting City was ORD and required an aircraft change.  That’s not it – it required a concourse change at ORD.

Before I knew the difference between non-stop and direct flights I purchased a flight from PDX to ORD (when I moved to Chicago in 2001), I decided to save nearly $300 and take the direct flight.  I didn’t realize it routed me through DFW and required an hour layover.  I should have noticed when the travel time was more than twice that of the more expensive option.  Luckily, this example all worked out for me (the PDX-DFW flight was cancelled because of bad weather at DFW and I was bumped to the non-stop flight).

Non-Stop vs. Direct. 39% greater distance traveled, but a savings of nearly $300. Is it worth it?

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may want to hop on a direct flight in lieu of a non-stop (possible cost savings) but if you need to get to you final destination quickly you’ve gotta go non-stop.

Have you ever accidentally booked a non-stop flight but didn’t realized it until you got to the airport and realized you have a surprise connection some unexpected City?


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